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Rotten, damaged trees pose safety issues for Augusta

Funding limits removals, city official says

Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013 8:53 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013 1:48 AM
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Augusta’s shortcomings when it comes to inspecting and removing rotten and damaged trees could be setting the city up for a disaster, according to Roy Simkins, the city’s tree commission chairman.

The city has done a better job recently cutting down trees that pose a potential danger, but tree inspections are performed “haphazardly” and many more dead limbs or entire trees need to come down, Simkins said.

“We’ve had some disasters waiting to happen in Augusta,” he said.

On Thursday, a Savannah woman was awarded a $12 million judgment against the city for injuries suffered when a tree limb fell on her while riding in the passenger seat of a truck. In 2010, a live oak tree limb fell on Shanta Greene, 31, causing her to lose her right leg and pelvis as well as suffer related physical injuries and a brain injury.

Greene’s attorney, Howard Spiva, faulted the city with not taking care of Savannah’s trees, The Savannah Morning News reported.

The city’s attorney, Malcolm McKenzie, told jurors in the nine-day trial that the fallen tree was “an accident.”

The Savannah incident and lawsuit will hopefully add a greater sense of urgency to take down trees in Augusta, said traffic engineer Steve Cassell. The engineering department oversees tree removals on city right-of-ways.

“It’s a huge concern for us,” Cassell said. “Liability is always there when you are dealing with the government.”

The city needs a better management plan for assessing the health of trees, Cassell said. Many of the large oak trees in the city were planted in the early 1900s and are past their 90-year life span, he said.

Simkins said he routinely inspects trees across the city and many of them are at risk of dropping a limb or falling. The city needs a staff member that is dedicated to inspecting trees, he said.

Cassell said funding limits the number of trees that can be removed. In the past 18 months, the city has used $1 million from special purpose local option sales tax monies to remove trees, but more money is needed from the city’s general fund or the next SPLOST, he said.

Recent work addressing the most problematic trees helped during summer storms, Cassell said. No trees fell on the city’s right-of-ways.

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CricketSeranade
593
Points
CricketSeranade 08/27/13 - 10:11 pm
2
1
Savannah got off easy.

12 million is a drop in the bucket considering the injuries Ms. Greene suffered. I know that Augusta says that they can't afford to give the trees the attention they need, but where is the money going to come from for Augusta's Ms. Greene?

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/27/13 - 11:02 pm
3
0
Budget

Don't worry, Ms. CricketSeranade, Augusta government budgets so much money for lawsuit payouts you wouldn't believe it. They have a history of losing lawsuits, so they budget heavily for it.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 08/27/13 - 11:06 pm
3
0
Special Purpose

The city violates state law by spending SPLOST money for cutting down trees. SPLOST money is supposed to be for capital expenditures, not for maintenance expenditures such as tree removal and/or cleanup.

Maybe this is what Commissioner Marion Williams was referring to when he called city attorney Andrew MacKenzie a bald-faced liar. Why would the city use capital money to remove trees?

Riverman1
83621
Points
Riverman1 08/28/13 - 07:06 am
3
0
The city is not responsible

The city is not responsible for damages unless the falling tree is dead, diseased or listing.

floridasun
310
Points
floridasun 08/28/13 - 07:50 am
1
1
When is Augusta Going To Plant More Trees

I agree Augusta needs to remove dead trees but they also need to replace the trees they remove.
Street trees greatly improves the city's aesthetics and Augusta after all is the Garden City

thetruth1
35
Points
thetruth1 08/28/13 - 09:47 am
1
2
The City is responsible when...

The City is liable when a jury says it's liable.

Do you think a jury will be sympathetic to a government entity or an injured victim?

Riverman1
83621
Points
Riverman1 08/28/13 - 03:11 pm
2
1
Court Abides By the Law

The COURT will abide by the law.

thetruth1
35
Points
thetruth1 08/28/13 - 07:09 pm
1
1
Court

Indeed, and the law is subject to interpretation, my friend. Just go ask the nice young lady from Savannah.

Riverman1
83621
Points
Riverman1 08/28/13 - 07:59 pm
3
0
Healthy Tree vs. Dangerous One

I believe most future lawyers learn their first year of law school that a healthy tree that falls does NOT leave the owner liable for damages. On the other hand, if an owner has good reason to believe the tree could fall due to disease, etc. he is responsible. I mean what's the alternative, cut down all trees to prevent lawsuits?

rebellious
20685
Points
rebellious 08/29/13 - 12:21 am
1
0
No room

for logic or law in this forum, Riverman. What's the law got to do with anything anymore? Nope, Logic and reason were both killed by a falling tree named Obama. Funeral was last year. Sorry you missed the service!

seenitB4
86829
Points
seenitB4 08/29/13 - 07:36 am
1
0
Some probably would do this..not me!

I mean what's the alternative, cut down all trees to prevent lawsuits?

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