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Colfax once again declines to help pay for tree removal on East River Street

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Village Board has once again declined to help a homeowner on East River Street pay for cutting down trees in the boulevard planted after the tornado in 1958.

Sarah Teele, 610 East River Street, appeared before the Colfax Village Board at the August 13 meeting to ask if the board would reconsider and help the Teeles pay for the removal of four trees on the boulevard in front of their home.

The tree roots have infiltrated the sewer lines and have caused backups at houses around the corner on Evergreen Street, said Rand Bates, director of public works.

Sarah and Jordan Teele had asked for the village’s help in paying for removing the trees at the July 23 board meeting. The village board had declined to provide financial assistance, citing the village’s ordinance, which makes removal of trees in the boulevard the responsibility of the homeowner. That night, after the July 23 meeting, Sarah Teele said she began searching for contractors to remove the trees.

Teele said she had called Jim’s Tree & Home Services and left a message, and  “Jim” had called back yet that evening.

While Teele did obtain other bids, Jim’s Tree & Home Services had offered a “great deal” to take down the trees for a total cost of $850.

Considering the origin of the trees, “we would like the village to help,” Teele said.


Gary Stene, village president, noted the village board had two options: help the Teeles offset the cost, or not help the Teeles offset the cost.

The village’s ordinance says trees in the boulevard are the homeowners’ responsibility, he said.

“I’d like to see us give them some compensation (since the village planted the trees),” said Village Trustee Mark Halpin, noting the Teeles did indeed get “a great deal” on the tree removal.

Village Trustee Margaret Burcham pointed out the village has 67 standing trees in the boulevard, and 11 of them are new trees.

“If we don’t follow the ordinance, we will (eventually) have 67 more trees,” she said.

Since the village planted many of those trees after the tornado, “we will run into this problem over and over again,” said Anne Jenson, village trustee.

Halpin wondered how the Teeles had found out the village had planted the trees by their house.

A resident who lives across the street had lived in the Teeles’ house when he was a child and was there when the trees were planted, Teele said.

Tree roots

Since the tree roots are causing problems in the sewer line, will the removal of the trees solve the problem? asked Keith Burcham, village trustee.

Cutting the trees down does not resolve the issue because the roots are still in the sewer line, Bates said.

The Teeles had originally planned to replace the sewer line, but they are now holding off on that project and want to get the tree roots out of the sewer line, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

At the July 23 meeting, an estimate of over $5,000 was included in the village board packet for the repair of the sewer line.

The tree roots are blocking the whole pipe. There are no problems with the water lines. The issue is the sewer line, Bates said.

Stene pointed out the village board could either make a motion to help pay for the tree removal or do nothing and follow the ordinance.

Village Trustee Dave Wolff said he did not like the idea of not helping, but if the village board went against the ordinance, the board would have to start making judgements in all kinds of situations.

“I can see people coming with lawyers,” he said.

Perhaps the village board could consider offering help for trees impacting the sewer mains, Stene said.

The tree roots “go to the nitrogen,” but the tree roots could be coming from a house across the street, Bates said.

In the absence of a motion, the Colfax Village Board once again declined to provide financial assistance to the Teeles for the tree removal.

“I hope you can follow our reasoning,” Stene said.

Sarah Teele said she did, indeed, understand the village board’s reasoning.

“But I will always try to get any advantage I can get,” she said. 

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