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There is trouble with the trees in Monongahela

| Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Jim Bindy serves as chairman of Monongahela's Shade Tree Commission.

So he was surprised to see that several of the trees that lined the downtown streets were recently cut down.

“It's disturbing to me that those trees were removed without our committee being consulted,” Bindy told city council recently. “I thought that's why we're here.”

Bindy said a representative of the Penn State University Urban Foresters spent a day in Monongahela recently and was impressed with what he saw.

“He praised the amount of trees here,” Bindy said.

Mayor Bob Kepics said the city received a number of complaints about the effects of the trees. He said residents complained about objects from the trees falling on cars. People also complained of slipping on wet leaves on the sidewalk. The mayor said the trees roots were getting into sewer lines and buckling asphalt. But Councilman Ken Kulak said he too was “disturbed” when he learned the trees were being removed.

“The morning I learned that, I put a halt to it,” said Kulak, who is employed by CM Services, Architecture, Engineer and Construction Management out of Peters Township.

“I'm an architect who designs revitalization projects. They all include trees in them.

“It's hard to ask MARC for money for (more) trees when 18 trees are removed. Why not consult us?”

Monongahela Area Revitalization Corp. is a nonprofit organization “made up of volunteers living, working or interested in the sustained development of the greater Monongahela area.” Kulak noted that MARC helps steer revitalization in Carroll Township, Monongahela and New Eagle.

MARC meets at 7 p.m. the third Monday of each month.

MARC's involvement includes everything from planning the “pooch parade” to purchasing trees for the downtown or emergency equipment for volunteer responders.

Tom Ruschak, who formerly owned West Main Pharmacy, said 10 of the city's living trees were removed from the downtown. Ruschak claimed that in only one area was the asphalt cracked.

Ruschak said he canvassed the downtown, talking to residents and business owners about the trees.

“I only had one complaint and that can be corrected with the right tree,” said Ruschak.

Ruschak asked what the city plans to do to improve the streetscape.

“The fact is it's done,” Ruschak said. “So where do we go from here?”

Kepics said he favors replacing the trees, a sentiment shared by Ruschak.

“I want Mon City, not cement city,” Ruschak said.

In the aftermath of the council meeting, Kulak said he plans to ask MARC Monday to consider mapping the downtown area, deciding the best places to plant trees. He will ask MARC to work with the shade tree commission on that plan.

“We knew some of the trees were becoming difficult the way they were growing and how they growing,” Ruschak said. Some were not surviving in their environment.

“We definitely want to reinstate trees in game plan.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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