Mayor Gary Soiseth hopes to tackle growing tree and sidewalk issues with a low income tree maintenance program, per his budget recommendations, however a possible change in sidewalk maintenance policy has local realtors up in arms.
While Turlock is very well known for the beautiful trees that line the local roadways, those trees can also become a nuisance when they are in need of a pruning or begin to lift sidewalks.
Currently, it is the responsibility of local property owners to tend for the trees and sidewalk in front of their home or business and they are expected to foot the bill for any necessary maintenance.
To help mitigate the cost of tree maintenance, Soiseth is recommending the Turlock City Council adopt a low income tree maintenance program in the budget. The $10,000 in the program’s fund annually would help low or fixed income residents pay for necessary maintenance.
“We realize it’s a pretty modest amount, but we really would like to be able to have something set aside to assist these low income families,” said Director of Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Allison Van Guilder.
The City of Turlock already has a similar program through the housing department to help low income families with sidewalk repairs, so the tree maintenance program would be the missing link in the City’s policy, said Van Guilder.
“I’ve been addressing this issue for a number of years, so I’m very excited to see us allocating [money for trees], even if it’s a small amount,” said Scott Snyder, a local resident. "It’s a good step in the right direction."
However, just funding maintenance isn’t going to solve the issue many Turlockers have with the sidewalk and tree policy.
“I do think we need to alter our current policy, as a Council, regarding sidewalk repairs and tree maintenance,” said Soiseth. “I think all too often we have constituents calling us because the broken sidewalk catches them off guard."
Soiseth is proposing Turlock City Council alter the sidewalk and tree policies to require inspection at a property’s point of sale.
This proposal, however, was met with large opposition by many local realtors who were in attendance at Tuesday’s budget workshop.
“When you’re talking about point of sale, you’re involving the repair, inspection, and the whole process into a 30 day period, typically, that is very stressful for both the seller and for the buyer, for the title officers, for the people who are instituting other repairs that are indicated in inspections, etc.” said Turlock Realtor Lloyd Blackman. “And now all of a sudden, we’ve done everything that we need to do to get this transaction finalized, but we are waiting for clearance from the City of Turlock."
Blackman, who was joined by 14 realtors in solidarity, called the point of sale constraint “unbelievable.” He added that property owners should be notified of sidewalk issues when they are observed, as the policy currently stands.
Turlock City Council did not take action on the policy change, but is expected to at a later time. Mayor Soiseth told Blackman that he will ensure the realtors are well informed when the decision comes before Council.
The low income tree repair program will however be seen by Council very soon when they vote to adopt the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal year budgets on Tuesday, June 9 at 6 p.m.