COLUMBIANA - A tree targeted for removal by the city about three years ago and only recently taken down has cost the nearby property owners $8,500, they claim.
Friend Street residents Melanie and Christopher Clark approached City Council this week requesting the city reimburse them a portion of what they spent fixing problems caused by the tree.
Mrs. Clark said the tree's roots grew into the sewer line in front of their house and resulted in their being without the utility service five days.
"It wouldn't have been as bad had the tree been taken out three years ago. The tree was so close to the city connection that it would have been your problem, but we had it fixed," she said.
She said she was told by former City Manager Keith Chamberlin the tree remaining up for so long was possibly an oversight because city workers couldn't see the "X" that had been marked on it.
The tree was taken down recently after the Clarks had the plumbing problems taken care of.
"I sunk $8,500 to the plumber. I'm asking for $3,300 from the city because the tree caused the problem and the tree belongs to the park. The piece that was under the sidewalk is what cost $3,300," she said.
The reimbursement is for the portion they had fixed from the road to the city sidewalk, she explained.
She added the sidewalk will be fixed as soon as the tree's stump is removed, although the remains of the tree are attracting ants to the area.
City Manager Lance Willard said the tree was removed by the city and the stump is targeted for removal soon, but the Clarks are responsible for the sewer line from the tap-in to their home.
"We typically do not reimburse anybody for this," he said. "The homeowner is responsible for that tap clear back to their house."
He also said the integrity of the clay tile sewer line allowed the roots to get inside in the first place, and is not an uncommon problem.
Councilman James King asked the Clarks if they had any other plumbers look at the problem, to which Mrs. Clark said they did, and they estimated roughly the same amount on cost.
Council President Lowell Schloneger said the price seemed "excessive."
Municipal Attorney Dan Blasdell agreed the city is not responsible.
"Everything Lance said is right. The property owner is responsible for the line from the tap to the house. It is very common for roots to grow into a line, and it is the property owners' obligation to route those out. Whether the tree is there or not, the line could have been routed out every year, and should have been. The city is not responsible for that expense," he said.
Mrs. Clark said they did clean the line every year but did not run into a problem until a sinkhole appeared.
She then became upset and told council the city would likely be losing some residents.
"I did speak to a lawyer and they said I could go back and it's my right to go back and sue who planted the tree, and that's the city park. We've lived here 17 years and I don't think it's fair to have to move out of my house because I can't pay my credit card bill," she said.
Mayor Dave Spatholt was the only one who spoke up then, and his only comment was, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry you might be losing a resident," she said, before walking out of the meeting with her husband.