Winamac Council Approves Additional Payment to Resolve Tree Dispute

Entrance to the Winamac Town Park
Entrance to the Winamac Town Park

The Winamac Town Council has taken action to resolve a dispute with a contractor hired to remove ash trees from the Town Park. Last week, the council voted to withhold $1,650 of the town’s $20,000 payment to TD’s Tree Service. Park Manager Dave DeLorenzo had reported that the firm cut down some trees that the town planned to remove itself, while four other ash trees were left standing.

During a special session Thursday, council members voted 2-to-1 to pay that additional money to TD’s Tree Service without requiring them to remove the rest of the trees, following a discussion last week between representatives of the town and the company. Council Vice-President Tom Murray moved that the payment be made, noting that the contractor did a good job on the trees that were removed. But council member Dan Vanaman opposed the measure. “I don’t think it should be because it wasn’t the right trees,” he said. Murray defended the motion, saying, “But they were all ash and they needed to be cut. And his bid was $5,000 cheaper than anybody we had.”

The confusion stemmed from the system DeLorenzo used to mark the trees for removal. Yellow tape was supposed to signify that the tree would be cut down by the contractor, while blue and silver tape meant the town would cut down the tree. Murray said that might not have been the best system, “I know there was an issue about some yellow tape that got taken off from a tree or two, and I’d think in the future, something we can do: we’ll paint on those trees, rather than put tape on it. You know, kids can tear the tape off. You can put tape on it today, and the tape would be gone tonight. I think in the future, if we’re going to have this again, we’ll just paint a big orange X or something on the tree, a couple X’s. They can’t take that off.”

Town attorney Justin Schramm also recommended that in the future, these types of things be specifically stated in the bid process, “Sometimes our bids go out and our heads of departments do a good job it, but sometimes if you’re not at the meeting or misunderstand something, they have a more generalized bid and I think we need to have a little bit more specific bids. That was maybe some of the issue here. Now, Dave did a good job of sending something out quick, and we got it cut real quick, but maybe if bids can go through out town manager – I know Brad [Zellers] might have been open to that – or if someone looks at it before they’re sent out, it may cut down on some of the issue in the future.”

Another contractor will cut down the remaining ash trees in the Town Park by June 15, for a cost of $1,650.