As of press time, yesterday, Tuesday, the fate of 50 mature trees in Pettisville was not fully known.
The trees were scheduled to begin coming down after school yesterday, Tuesday, to make way for new sidewalks in the unincorporated community.
Barbara Sears, state representative (R-Monclova Township) said Tuesday she had asked Todd Audet, Ohio Department of Transportation District Two deputy director, to “send some folks (to Pettisville) to talk to local residents, look over the situation and evaluate whether anything can be done that would allow them to save some of the trees.”
She suggested that perhaps sidewalks could be “serpentined around” the trees.
Theresa Pollick, ODOT District Two spokesman, said Tuesday afternoon she could not say what the exact status of the project was.
“I would say we’re looking into it to see what can be done,” Pollick said.
Deb Neuenschwander, a Pettisville resident, said homeowners there began receiving notices left in doors of homes on Wednesday and Thursday last week informing them that the trees would begin coming down Tuesday.
The notices were left by the project contractor.
Pettisville residents were aware there would be trees taken down for the sidewalk project, but no one realized there would be that many trees removed, including all of the trees on Main Street, she said.
She said she contacted Sears via email on Thursday.
Sears’ office responded on Friday, May 23, and then Sears herself called Neuenschwander at 7:45 am, Tuesday morning (May 27).
Neuenschwander said Sears told her that the treecutting would be delayed “for a couple of days.”
The sidewalk project has been discussed off and on for years.
Its origins date back to 2004-2005.
Fulton County commissioners applied for the sidewalks to be funded through the Ohio Department of Transportation “Safe Routes To School” grant program.
The project was approved by ODOT, and $440,000 was allocated.
There were two public hearings at which several Pettisville residents voiced opposition to all or parts of the project, but the county commissioners recommended the project go forward in February 2012.
Pollick said at the two public hearings, plus a presentation to the commissioners, residents were told about the project, including removal of trees.
The project was set for construction in 2013, but was delayed for one year by ODOT.
Pollick said she did not know why the project was delayed.
Steve Switzer, Pettisville school superintendent, said school officials did not ask for the sidewalk project but did work with the county, providing information requested and granting permission to do construction on school property.
Switzer said the district is not in a position to delay, stop or otherwise control the project.
“You hate to see trees taken out, especially nice, larger trees, but if you look at some of those trees, it’s probably appropriate,” he said.
Toni Schindler, director of marketing and communications for the commissioners, said, “The Fulton County commissioners are working to make contact with as many involved parties as possible to better understand the issues at hand, including residents of Pettisville, German and Clinton Township trustees, DGL Consulting Engineers, Pettisville schools, ODOT, etc.”
Neuenschwander said some Pettisville residents suggested drastic measures, such as tying themselves to the trees, camping out underneath them, or parking cars around them to protect them.
Sears noted that a project like the Pettisville sidewalks, which has been several years in the making, “could be a tough one to stop.”