City leaders, not taxpayers, should pay for new trees

We realize that replacing 20 beautifully aged adult trees timbered from Warren’s historical district on a whim to make room for a bocce court, of all things, cannot be done instantaneously.

Still, we are pleased to see Warren leaders finally are making good on their promise to replant.

Twenty trees previously located behind the Women’s Park, near the Kinsman House and Warren City Hall on Mahoning Avenue, were removed in 2019 by the city’s operations department and a private tree-cutting firm, Gaumer Landscape Inc. of Warren, in an effort to make room for a relocated bocce court used during the annual Italian-American Heritage Festival.

Their removal sparked outrage from residents and groups in the historical part of town who said they weren’t consulted on a decision that altered the landscape and may have removed trees planted many years ago in this recognized historical site by the historic homes’ original occupants. Thousands of people signed petitions demanding that trees be replanted and the area be restored.

Even organizers of the annual Italian-American Heritage Festival said they had no involvement in the city’s unilateral decision to fell the trees.

Amid the outrage, Enzo Cantalamessa, former city service director and current Warren law director, apologized for his role in the tree removal without consulting with residents and neighborhood groups.

And, despite the tree removal, the bocce court never was relocated.

Now, nearly 18 months later, city officials told our reporter that Warren finally plans to plant 14 new trees to replace those taken out. Warren’s new Safety Service Director Eddie Colbert, who was not involved in the 2019 decision to cut down the trees but who is left to help clean up the mess, said not all the original trees removed will be replaced because some already were diseased or dying. Native trees being considered for purchase are overcup oaks, northern catalpas, black gums, sycamores, serviceberries, redbuds and Canadian hemlocks.

The cost to replace the trees is projected at $8,540.

The cost to remove the original trees in that ill-fated decision was $3,450.

Of course, we know money can’t bring the trees back. However, we believe it would be a good show of faith if the city officials involved in the poor decision to cut down the trees were to pay the bill for the tree removals or the cost to purchase and replant new trees.

Let’s face it ­– the move was insensitive and improper.

Enzo Cantalamessa, who gave the order, and his boss, Mayor Doug Franklin, should be held responsible. It would only be right for them to acknowledge the error of their ways and open their personal wallets. To leave the taxpayers footing the bill for such a needless and outrageous project is simply wrong.


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