The city of Palestine needs a lesson in common courtesy and customer relations. If not, city council members should legislate it – after, that is, they compensate Steve and Wyma Missildine for butchering their front lawn without notice.
Wyma Missildine came home on Thursday to find a crew of city-contracted tree trimmers on the couple's property, 418 Coronaca St. Workers were in the final stages of removing a stately 80-foot Oak that started growing a century ago. People have been shot for less.
By the time Wyma Missildine could stop the crew, all that remained was a naked, pitiful and forlorn-looking stump about 60 feet high.
“I'm sick about it,” said Steve Missildine, 72, who climbed the tree fronting his childhood home as a kid. “I don't think I'll ever be whole again,” he told the Herald-Press
The day after the incident, Palestine Public Works Director Tim Perry told Missildine the city could, legally, without permission or notification, remove a tree that it deemed dangerous within 25 feet of his street.
By knocking on the door before starting the chain saws, Perry said, the city did more than it had to.
That's the law, but with city resources and records at his disposal, Perry could have at least called Missildine, or put a note on his door, asking him to call city hall within 24 hours.
With notice, the couple could have appealed the order – and possibly won. Arborist Buster Robinson, district forester for Texas A&M Forest Service, told the Herald-Press the tree was structurally sound,despite some scars from age.
When reporter William Patrick asked Perry who decided the tree had to come down, Perry, without hesitating, said he did.
You gotta love Tim Perry. He's very good at his job, and no politician or public official in East Texas is more open, honest, or transparent. Asked the same question, most department heads and elected officials would have equivocated for 60 seconds, before throwing the city contractor or one of their employees under the bus.
Perry's refreshing candor, however, doesn't excuse this blunder. Missildine, a retired insurance executive, called it “a tremendous error in judgment.”
Making matters worse, a May 25 storm toppled an even older Oak on his property that stood next to the one the city took down.
Commons sense shouldn't require another law. If the the Department of Public Works, however, doesn't commit to acting with more wisdom and discretion, council members should revise the statute to require the city to notify property owners before removing trees.
Council members can't make this entirely right, but they can issue a formal apology at their next meeting. They also can authorize the planting, as Missildine suggested, of two 20-foot Oaks in his front yard to restore some of the beauty, and property value, the city took from him.
Finally, the city needs to finish the job it started and remove the towering stump. As it stands, it's just an eyesore, and a monument to the city's thoughtlessness.