Problem Solver: Delayed tree trimming a real horror

Would the city finally get chopping?

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Of all the horrors this Halloween, the one Rubi Roman feared most was that branches dangling precariously from the tree in front of her Albany Park neighborhood house would crash down on a passer-by.

On Dec. 14, 2011, Roman said, she called the city and asked for a tree trimming because the tree is on a city-owned parkway.

More than a year passed and a few branches fell.

This spring, Roman's 4-year-old daughter was playing when a large branch fell and missed hitting her by about an inch, Roman said.

"I'd been patient, except when that happened," she said. "If the branch had hit my daughter on the head, most likely she would have had to go to the hospital and then it would have been a greater problem."

Roman said she called the city repeatedly, and was repeatedly told, simply, she was "on the list."

She considered taking matters in her own hands but was told she could not.

"I called a company to have them come and trim the tree to prevent anyone from getting hurt … but I was informed if it was on city property, even if I paid, I couldn't get my trees trimmed because they would get fined," she said.

In early October, Roman went to the city's website to check the status of her request. To her surprise, it showed the city had trimmed the tree Oct. 3.

"As I looked at the branches hanging loosely on my tree, I started thinking: Then who got paid for a ghost job?" she said.

Upset, she emailed What's Your Problem?

"The neighborhood has a lot of dog walkers, kids playing on the street," she said. "I love my trees and I am even willing to pay for the trimming, but my hands are tied."

The Problem Solver contacted Molly Poppe, spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Poppe did some research and discovered that a crew from her department trimmed several trees on Roman's block Oct. 3, but not the one in front of her house.

The crew then accidentally closed out Roman's service request, Poppe said.

After the Problem Solver inquired about the case, a department forestry supervisor returned to her block Friday to confirm her tree had not been trimmed, Poppe said.

On Monday, a crew finally trimmed the tree.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful response," Roman said.

Poppe said that since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, her department has worked to improve crew productivity and decrease wait time for tree trims.

"The department has completed over 33,500 tree trim requests this year, which is a 32 percent increase from the total number of tree trim requests completed last year," Poppe said. "With the infusion of nearly $4 million from the mayor for forestry, graffiti removal and rodent baiting work, the department next year will be able to further improve the efficiency of our crews and better serve the residents of Chicago."

Roman is just happy her long wait is over.

"I don't have to worry about anybody getting hurt," she said. "I'm very, very happy."

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