Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Newport's miffed over tree removal

Courthouse caretakers cavalier

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Campbell County officials didn't ask the Newport Tree Board for permission to cut down some trees at the courthouse, and now the city's code enforcement division may take on the Court House Committee.

        Newport City Commissioner Beth Fennell Monday night voiced her displeasure with a reply from William White, chairman of the Court House Committee, to a letter from the city explaining that proper procedure was not followed in removing the trees.

        The Court House Committee, appointed by the Circuit Court judges, basically governs what happens to the physical plant at the Campbell County Courthouse.

        Mr. White explained in his letter to code enforcement officer Doug Roell that the trees were removed because they had severely damaged the sidewalks and curbs in front of the courthouse along York Street.

        He went on to point out that the trees were planted 15 years ago as a favor and at the request of then-Mayor Steve Goetz and then-City Manager Dennis Phalen when city government offices were in the courthouse. He said the committee is obtaining bids to repair the sidewalk and curb damage and was “not interested in incurring any other expenses than those already incurred and do not plan to plant any trees in the sidewalks.”

        “I was really bothered by the tone of the letter,” Ms. Fennell said after Monday night's city commission meeting. “It may not seem like a big thing, but I was upset by the lack of a spirit of cooperation.”

        Commissioner Ken Rechtin said he felt the Court House Committee was “thumbing their noses at the city.”

        City attorney Mike Schulkens informed the commissioners and Mayor Tom Guidugli that the city does have recourse and could take action against the Court House Committee.

        “The proper approach would have been for (the committee) to contact the Tree Board and request permission to remove the trees, citing the problems,” Mr. Schulkens said. “The city can still cite the committee for the code violation.”

        Mr. Guidugli said he would have Mr. Schulkens contact Campbell Circuit Judge Leonard Kopowski to discuss the situation and seek a resolution before any further action is taken by the city.

        Commissioners also approved an ordinance on second reading Monday setting the city's property tax for the year at $2.87 per $1,000 of assessed value. Thanks to continued development in the city, the property tax has remained stable for 10 years.


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- Newport's miffed over tree removal