September 19, 2014

Medina
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Area homeowner fights to save red oak tree

MEDINA — Debbie Knurek said she doesn’t call herself a “tree hugger,” but is fighting to save an old oak in her backyard at 715 S. Court St.

Knurek, who lives in Atlanta, has rented the home to a family for about five years, she said.

A 70-to-80 year-old oak tree in the back yard of a Medina residence was damaged during sewer-line work last fall. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DANI ORR)

A 70-to-80 year-old oak tree in the back yard of a Medina residence was damaged during sewer-line work last fall. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DANI ORR)

The red oak, which is 70 to 80 years old, sustained major root damage during a project by the Medina County Sanitary Engineer’s Department in the fall of 2010.

County Sanitary Engineer Jim Troike said it will be sad to see the tree go, but it is unavoidable.

“It’s a gorgeous tree, but it is right next to the manhole in the backyard of the home. There was nothing we could do to avoid it, unfortunately,” he said.

Troike said about 60 percent of the tree’s roots were damaged.

The ongoing sewer upgrade project throughout the county began last fall, and Troike said workers are installing fiberglass liners in clay tile sewers.

“This one project had a tree, a really nice tree, right next to the manhole. He got into the roots of the tree, the contractor did, and we had some concern about the tree and its stability,” Troike explained. “We offered to the owner of the property to take the tree down for her, at a pretty significant cost. She doesn’t want to see it go, and we don’t want to take it, but we have a liability to protect ourselves. We also offered to replace the tree.”

Troike said two local arborists have said to take the tree down, and a third examination is scheduled for next week.

“The roots are cut on the west side of the tree, so any west wind would take it directly into the home. We’d love to not have to take it down, but we feel as if we’re responsible if anything happens,” he said.

“The job was done last fall, and as far as I knew nothing had come up during the project that I needed to be made aware of … until June,” Knurek said.

On June 13, a letter from county design engineer Jeremy Sinko was sent to the renters.

“I have been a Georgia resident for a large number of years now. They know my address and my phone number, so for them to send this to my renters was a sticking point for me,” Knurek said.

The letter, which Knurek said she did not receive until June 18, read:

“Our office recently completed a construction project in your area consisting of sanitary sewer lining and manhole replacement. During this project, our inspector noted potential root damage to a tree located on your property. Root damage may impact the overall health of the tree and will make it more susceptible to being blown over by strong winds. We are offering to remove this tree, located in your back yard, at no cost to you. We will extend this offer until June 30, 2011.
Please note that should you choose to keep the tree, Medina County Sanitary Engineers will not be liable for any future maintenance of the tree or for any damage that may be caused should the tree be blown over or cause any damage to your property after June 30, 2011.”

“As far as I knew, the project was done in the fall, and nothing had come up from it. They did not offer another opinion, a second opinion, or a third opinion,” she said. “They also did not offer a replacement … until I started asking questions and called my neighbor Bill Lamb. He has the contacts that I don’t, especially since moving to Georgia.”

Former Medina Mayor Bill Lamb said he has assisted Knurek throughout the process of finding an alternative to cutting down the tree.

“There are some issues with the way that everything happened. We don’t know if there was a way to do the work and not damage the tree,” he said.

Knurek said she is interested in the outcome of next week’s third examination.

“If the tree is deemed to come down, it’s an unfortunate situation. I understand that it may be damaged, but will it take two weeks to die, two years, or 20 years? The risks should have been given to me on the very first phone call, and maybe this could have been avoided,” she said.

Ward 4 Councilman Jim Shields said Friday he was made aware of the tree situation late Thursday night and “will be looking into it.”

Contact Dani Orr at (330) 721-4049 or dorr@medina-gazette.com.