Entries Tagged 'Project TRIM' ↓

City of Sioux Falls Foresty Division doesn’t even trim their own trees

Makes you wonder if it is cheaper to use an independent contractor then to have city employees do the work? If that is the case, all the more reason to use contractors to implement a free of charge Project TRIM.


Get rid of Project Trim


Sioux Falls City Councilors Karsky & Kiley approve of inefficiency and poor customer service in city government

During the December edition of ‘Inside Town Hall’ four city councilors had a discussion about Project TRIM (Or as we call it Project Tree Tax). Councilor Staggers of course believes like many cities throughout the Midwest (Brandon, Brookings & Kansas City for example) that the city of Sioux Falls should trim the trees in the boulevard. As a Brandon city councilor brought up in a joint meeting with SF city councilors, “It’s just more efficient and accurate.” then policing homeowners to do it. Councilor Erickson believes the way the city goes about policing the policy is cumbersome and could use improvement.

But councilors Karsky and Kiley think it works just fine (mailing out vague letters about the trees that need to be trimmed, sending out city employees to tag those properties but not identify the actual branches). Kiley goes on to say that it would cost to much for the city to trim the trees. That statement in itself is ridiculous. As the Brandon city councilor pointed out, they discovered it was cheaper to contract out a licensed arborist to just go out and trim those trees then to go through the ridiculous process of paying city employees to drive around and tag properties then send out letters when the time could be better spent at just trimming the violating trees to begin with. Then there is the matter of the adjoining property owners not owning those trees anyway because they sit on city property.

No surprise to me that Kiley and Karsky would find the process A’ OK as is.

Project T.R.I.M.

Here we go again, questioning Project T.R.I.M., or as I like to call it, forcing property owners to pay private contractors to trim city owned trees. I have touched on this TOPIC many times in the past, and my conclusion has always been to have the city work in cooperation with residents on the project;

Councilors have received calls and complaints from residents about how it’s difficult to know which tree in their yard or boulevard needs to be trimmed. Councilor Dean Karsky asked why crews don’t trim the trees during the inspection.

“It seems like a terrible waste of city time and equipment and people,” he said. “They just tell me I need to do it, when they were there, saw it, could have just done it themselves.”

This has often been my contention. In the time it takes them to inspect and generate letters they could just be trimming the branches themselves. This is where the cooperation could come in. If it is minor trimming the city could just do it during inspection, if anything major has to take place they could work with the property owner to get it done at a minimal cost to the property owner. This isn’t rocket science but of course MacErpenbach doesn’t think anything is broken;

Councilor Michelle Erpenbach said if the issue is communication between public works and parks and recreation, the City Council can’t fix it. She thinks Project T.R.I.M. works well and has made Sioux Falls look better.

“Right now, this is the way we’re doing it,” she said. “The cost involving (with Sioux Falls taking over) is an amazing amount of money … the system works. It’s not broken.”

She is right, the city’s point of view is that it is working just fine, because they are saving themselves $700,000 a year by pushing the cost off on the homeowner. But the city thinks a lot of things are working just fine, just ask the IT department about SIRE and web streaming of the council meetings, it seemed to work just fine to until I ripped them a new one for 45 minutes and suddenly it was ‘broken’. Sorry Michelle, but if we are paying forestry people to inspect trees, we might as well be paying them to trim the treems that are not in compliance. The system is broken, and has been for years. But of course all powerful and all knowing Lady MacErpenbach will reassure the public that we just are not educated enough on Project T.R.I.M. to understand it. Oh, we understand it Michelle. The city is screwing us.

Two SD cities get it, provide citizens with services they pay for with tax dollars

First Spearfish;

SPEARFISH — Tuesday’s general election in Spearfish settled a debate over snow-removal practices, but city officials said Wednesday that residents had better prepare for changes to when the streets get plowed.

The new ordinance prohibits city plowing crews from pushing snow into private driveways while cleaning streets after a snowfall. Currently, plows can push snow from the street, which can block driveways along the route. Residents frequently become frustrated when they shovel a path from the garage to the street, only to find the city has plowed it shut later during the day.

Maybe we should put it on the ballot in Sioux Falls – then we can stop hearing excuses from the Public Works department. Put up or shut up.

And in Brandon;

The Brandon City Council has decided that the city will take care of trimming trees that are in the boulevard; that is, between the sidewalk and the street. The council is so committed to this that they are reimbursing everyone for the last two years who paid for this service themselves, whether the city did the work and billed the resident, or whether the resident hired a private company to do the work.

The council reasons that the boulevard is city property; therefore, the trees are city responsibility.

That last line is important, it has been my reasoning all along. Don’t trim the boulevard trees and don’t pay the fine, the city has no constitutional right to charge you to take care of their property.

City of Sioux Falls, Project TRIM. Ignore it.

Duane, the Tree Trimming CZAR.

Watch Item #7 in the council meeting last night.

Due to three lawsuits against the city that the city lost, the city of Sioux Falls has no constitutional rights to force you to trim THEIR trees in the boulevard. The facts are simple;

• The city OWNS the trees

• The city CARRIES the liability insurance on the boulevard

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to force you to maintain their property

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to charge you for trimming

• The city has NO CONSTITUTIONAL rights to fine you for not trimming their trees

If you don’t trim the trees and the city does it (because it is their responsibility) and they send you a bill. Throw it away. Shred it. Burn it. They have no legal recourse. NONE.

Ironically, in many other cities like Kansas City and even Brookings, SD, it is ILLEGAL to trim city owned tress in the boulevard. It would be like the SFPD sending you a bill for responding to your police call or the city forcing you to mow the public parks. We pay taxes for a reason.

It is obvious that Project TRIM is a boondoggle by the tree trimming businesses in Sioux Falls. They needed the work.

End this stupidity. The city is responsible for their property, you are not.

UPDATE: I also encourage you to watch the snow removal testimony. $200 to remove 3 square feet of snow – NICE. The city acts like dictators, but they have no rights to be dictators. A word of advice; If you have to walk in the winter, wear the proper shoes. Duh.

UPDATE: Councilor Jamison offered fine amendments and it was a tie vote and the mayor had to break the tie, and he voted against the amendments, I’m sure it had to do with ‘being neighborly’ – What amazes me is that the city expects citizens to maintain their property in extreme weather conditions, but when it rains to much, they allow sewage to backup in people’s basements and blame the weather. Well guess what? This is a two-way street, if you can use the weather as an excuse, so can we.

70 citizens were fined over $100,000 for not maintaining city owned property

Project TRIM, something one of my friends coined ‘The Tree Tax’ is a failed experiment and should end. All of these people were fined and charged for not taking care of something the city owns and is on city owned property. Wanna talk about fascism? I encourage all the the citizens to not pay the fine. The city can’t sue you for not taking care of something they own and BY LAW are liable for. That’s right, the city is liable for the trees in the boulevard and carry insurance if one of the trees happens to damage snowplows, etc. They have no legal ground to stand on, and they know it. Don’t pay.


A friend of mine has been researching other cities when it comes to boulevard tree trimming, and the results are (not) surprising.

In Brookings they trim the city owned boulevard trees due to liability, and property owners are encouraged NOT to do it because of that liability.

Which got me thinking. If the city of Sioux Falls is responsible for the liability of the tree branches damaging vehicles (snowplows), why aren’t they responsible for trimming those trees? It’s like insuring your car, the insurance company insures the individual or individuals who drive and own the car and pay the insurance bill. So if the city is paying the liability insurance on the trees, and they own them, why aren’t they trimming them? Or fixing the sidewalks for that matter?

She also found out that Kansas City also trims boulevard trees and has basically the same policy of Brookings. Kansas city has approximately 500,000 people living in it’s core area, and 2.5 million in the metro area. If a city that is almost ten times the size of Sioux Falls has figured out how to budget for tree trimming, you would think we could. Oh that’s right, we need the money to build $170,000 crappers in McKennan Park instead.


I finally trimmed the CITY OWNED tree ON THEIR PROPERTY this past Friday, but the fun isn’t over yet. It only took me 20 minutes to cut down the branches, but it took me almost 2 hours just to move the branches to my backyard where I have begun breaking them down for disposal, which I estimate will take me another 3-4 hours.

So I’m still puzzled why I have to do this for the city? What do I pay taxes for? Football fields? Swimming Pools? Windows on the Pavilion? or do I pay taxes so the city can maintain WHAT THEY OWN. Besides the expense of a chainsaw I also will a lot of my own time into doing the CITY’s WORK. Ms. Stehly has coined this as a TREE TAX because if you are not being taxed by wasting your own time on trimming these trees you will be forced into paying an arborist $75-$150 an hour. That’s right, the city is in the business of promotiong tree trimmers. So now NOT only are they NOT using my tax money to do THEIR work, they are using my tax dollars to force us into using a private contractor.

As I have always said, the City of Sioux Falls motto “Special interests first – Citizens Second”

WATCH THERESA RIP THEM A NEW ONE LAST NIGHT. (April 6 Council meeting) (Also listen to the second speaker after that, Allen Unruh talks about his pet pig)

Project TRIM public meeting update

Have a tree trimming party and invite these guys

The longer I follow Sioux Falls city politics and government, the more I am convinced this city is run by ideologues. I got further proof of this last night when I attended an informational and Q & A meeting with the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation forestry manager (Duane) about project TRIM.

City department heads have their own ideas on the city’s appearance and growth, and most citizens have different ideas, and they are not sitting at the table and ironing out those differences. That was quite apparent last night during the meeting.

The SF Parks and Rec wants us to trim our trees to their standards. I’ll give them credit, they do make some good arguments. They have some liability issues with delivery vehicles, fire and rescue and snowplows getting damaged by low hanging branches. They also have stated cases of people getting knocked in the head by a low hanging branch while walking at night (I could go into a tirade about that, but I will keep it to myself). Yes, these things should concern us, but that is what the city has insurance for.

I also agree that trees need to be trimmed and maintained on a regular basis. I trim my boulevard tree all summer long, because water sprouts grow out of it like a weed. But after receiving the project TRIM letter from the city, I will be forced to cut off two gigantic branches from the tree. Fine,  I’m okay with that. But I disagree with how the city is going about project TRIM. I believe there should be a concerted effort between the city and the property owners to get the trees trimmed. But the city sees it differently. Here’s some highlights from last night’s meeting which was attended by about 10-12 citizens, including a very animated school teacher (funny stuff).


          Project TRIM was initiated by the forestry manager on his own, Duane. He admitted to it last night. Duane said there was no formal vote by the council to approve the project because the ordinance already existed, which troubles me. I’m certain when the original council approved the ordinance they felt it would be enforced on a complaint basis only. Duane claims that a complaint basis wasn’t working because people felt like they were being picked on. So the solution is to pick on the entire district instead? This should have been thought out better and approved by the council and mayor by an ordinance vote so the citizens could have had some input. Letting one sole individual in a city department who isn’t even elected make this decision is bad public policy but normal operating procedure for Parks and Rec. Remember, their board members are volunteer political appointments by the mayor and not elected, they also have no accountability to the public.

          If the city charges you to trim your trees, it will cost $150 an hour. They justify this cost because you are paying for the P & R person to drive to your house and get his equipment ready. This ignited the school teacher. He basically said that he doesn’t get paid for ‘preparing lessons’ and ‘driving to school’ he gets paid to teach. He makes a good point. We already pay P & R wages, they should be charging us for the trimming only. They (The P & R director, Don, was there to) admitted they charge that much because they don’t want to be forced to do it, and they hope it will persuade people to do it themselves and comply. Makes sense, but it is still highway robbery just the same.

          One citizen complained that the code enforcement/project TRIM letter that is sent out is threatening. P & R admits this was done purposely to intimidate property owners into complying, or as they said “getting to the point.” Many complained this was poor customer service, to say the least. I complained that I don’t approve of ‘blanket code enforcement’ since they cannot be specific about what tree(s) need to be trimmed. In fact that was the biggest complaint from most everyone there. Citizens don’t have a way of measuring and understanding the compliance. I also felt this was forcing some citizens into hiring private contractors to do the work, and I think the city should not be in the business of promoting private contractors with my tax dollars.

          Unlike project NICE they will not come by and pickup your branches after you trim them. I said I don’t have a problem with trimming the branches myself but thought it would be a nice gesture (since I am a taxpayer) to have the city come by and pickup the branches like they do with project NICE. The response was “That’s a different project” Well duh! But why not do the same thing. The reply? “We tried it and it doesn’t work.” So I guess we just give up? I think it didn’t work because it was not done in connection with the letter. I think if they send out the letter with specifics on what tree(s) to trim and give a date they will be in your neighborhood to pick up the branches it would work. I also think they could ‘assist’ with any branches you had trouble trimming on your own. This would also give them an opportunity to inspect. Lots of birds killed with one stone (I know, tough to swallow because beaucracies do not work that way).

          Some asked why the city can’t just trim the trees while they are out inspecting. There excuse was there is not enough ‘Manpower’. I pointed out that they had plenty of ‘Manpower’ to inspect the neighborhoods, write down the addresses, get out and measure, compile the letters and money to mail them out, but not enough to actually trim the trees? No response. I failed to mention they also have the manpower and funds to cut down all the nice birches in Yankton trail park and replant and water all summer, but no time or money for the citizens.

          Some solutions that were offered was reorganizing P & R budget money to project TRIM and trying to get prison trustees to help out the fixed income and elderly. P & R’s solution? We’ll give you an extention.  Woo Hoo! It’s like the IRS giving an extention, at the end of the day, you still have to pay your taxes.

          One guy showed up defending the project. No surprise, I won’t mention his name, but he works for a certain downtown non-profit and often shows up to defend the city at various meetings. He suggested a neighborhood tree trimming party. Yeah, because nothing goes together like BBQ, beer and chainsaws. Hey, you go for it, don’t forget to wear your Jackyl t-shirt. Nobody responded to his idea, and he walked out. That’s usually the reaction when this guy opens his mouth at municipal meetings. He probably had to rush off and make it to another brown nosing session somewhere else.

Towards the end of the meeting though it seemed that the Don and Duane were willing to help out a little and agree to come out and mark trees that needed it if we call, so I haven’t lost hope yet.

What do you think? Should the city work together with the citizens on project TRIM since they are the ones complaining about liability? I think so. Pretty soon they will have us maintaining our own road in front of our house if this keeps up.