Wyomissing To Replace Red Oak Trees

Editor’s note:  Now this is a well thought out street tree philosophy.  Imagine the idea that trees have a “life-cycle” and need to be replaced at a certain point.  Wyomissing also employs two certified arborists to maintain their trees!

Driving through Wyomissing, one immediately notices the tall, sturdy trees that line the streets, providing shade and suburban character.

But Jim Babb, borough public works and property manager, wants to make it clear that some of these octogenarian red oak trees are nearing the end of their long lives.

Soon, they will have to be replaced by baby red oaks that will take decades to reach the height attained by the current trees.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=367538

Curb Tree Damage Around Pottstown After Weekend Snow

Free lance photographer and occasional Roy’s Rants contributor Jody Rhoads snapped a few pictures around town showing curb tree damage after Saturday’s freak October snow storm.  I suppose a certain Citizen For Responsible Government, aka the PAC man, on Chestnut Street is mourning the loss of some of his precious babies.

Irene Causes Damage In The Hylton State Forest aka Pottstown

Sixth Ward Councilor and Man of the People Jody Rhoads was out and about this morning assessing storm damage in our fair borough.  Here are some photos Jody took around Pottstown showing the tree damage caused by Hurricane Irene.  Some of it is extensive.  Notice the curb tree damage.  Many thanks to Councilor Rhoads for sharing his photographs with our readers!

Sidewalks On King Street vs. Curb Trees – The Trees Are Winning

While covering the Slumlord Rally today, I could not help but notice the horrible condition of the Thomas Hylton Memorial Sidewalk in the 400 block of King Street  In addition to slumlords ruining the neighborhood, the curb trees have overtaken King Street and the sidewalks are in dangerous condition!  Here are some pictures for your viewing displeasure!

Pottstown’s $86,602.64 Question

With the recent abolition of the Shade Tree Commission, a lingering question remains.  What should be done with the $80,000+ remaining in the Trees Inc. checkbook?  There was some debate in council about this money and it was mentioned that since the borough made donations for several years, that money should be returned if it was not spent.  The problem is that taxpayer money was commingled with other funds and Mr. Hylton has not provided an itemized list of how the taxpayer’s money was spent.

Council would like to use some or all the remaining money to set up a tree fund.  It would seem right that this money be turned over to the borough now that the Shade Tree Commission is no more and the borough will be responsible for tree maintenance in Pottstown going forward.  What exactly does Trees Inc. need this money for now?  Trees Inc. and the Shade Tree Commission seem, to many people, to be the same entity.  For example, by clicking on the Shade Tree Commission link on the borough website, one is redirected to the Trees Inc. website.  Mr. Hylton was in charge of both entities, simultaneously.

Trees Inc. received $104,970 from Pottstown Borough between 2003 and 2007, according to what is published on their website.  Yet looking at a screen print from the Trees Inc. website there was a paragraph that stated beginning in 2001 the borough began contributing about $21,000 annually.  Another curiosity is that under Financial Info there appears to be no record of any contributions between 1988 and 2003?  I must admit to being rather mystified that either no records were kept or no fundraising was done to keep adequate reserves for the maintenance of over 2500 trees for more than a decade!

Councilor Rhoads sent emails to former Shade Tree Commission Chairman Thomas Hylton requesting copies of all the original donations to Trees Inc. showing specifically what the money was used for, per contributor.  This information would pinpoint what taxpayer money was or was not used for.  Councilor Rhoads also requested a copy of the Trees Inc. budgets for 2001 and 2002 regarding the above mentioned paragraph stating Trees Inc. received contributions beginning in 2001 from the borough.  Mr. Hylton has never responded to Councilor Rhoads’ request for this information.  Also, the paragraph mentioning borough contributions starting in 2001 was removed from the Trees Inc. website.

The Trees Inc. website claims that “Pottstown has among the best maintained street trees in Pennsylvania at no cost to the taxpayer.”  Since public funds were contributed this appears to be an inaccurate statement.  Having sat through the last several Shade Tree Commission meetings, I can attest to the fact that taxpayers were treated very poorly when they approached the Shade Tree Commission for financial help with shade tree problems.  Taxpayers were repeatedly told there was no money to aid them with tree problems.  This cavalier attitude left homeowners to make choices like paying their property taxes or having a problem tree removed.  I would say there was certainly a “cost” to the taxpayer.  Trees Inc. had money available but refused to help residents claiming if we help you we will have to help everyone and then all the money will be gone.  Did it ever occur to anyone to raise more money???  Fundraising should have been a continuous process thereby ensuring adequate money was available to maintain thousands of street trees.  Again, what went on between 1988 and 2003???

Like the Shade Tree Commission, it would seem there is no longer a need for Trees Inc.  Taxpayer money was given to Trees Inc. so unless Mr. Hylton can produce an itemized list showing specifically what the $104,970 was used for, he should give the remaining Trees Inc. money back to the people of Pottstown for the establishment of a tree fund.  We are a financially challenged community, so do the right thing Mr. Hylton.

Treevenge, Hylton Style

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia


Yes folks, another paid utterance from our favorite Shade Tree Czar, Thomas Hylton, appears in today’s Pottstown Mercury.  This pearl of wisdom drips of acid after the last Pottstown Borough Council meeting rendered Mr. Hylton’s precious commission irrelevant with the passage of a new Shade Tree Ordinance that shifts authority for street trees to the Borough Manager.  

We are treated to another Jody Rhoads bashing and the same old tripe that Mr. Hylton bloviates time and again (see also hand waving).   

This will be short and sweet as I have exhausted myself on this subject.  

Tom, you lost.  Go away gracefully and stop making a colossal fool out of yourself.  You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind with your infomercials.  The deed is done dude.  You had your ten minutes before Council.  Obviously they don’t believe your hype either.  

Hopefully Pottstown will become a Tree City, USA and benefit from association with the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters.  I think they are qualified to assist us so we can manage without your “expertise” from here on.  

Shade Tree Commissioner Tom Hylton Gets A Root Awakening

It appears that Tom Hylton is about to get the rug pulled out from under him on his Shade Tree Commission.  As someone who has followed the monkey business of this kangaroo court and reported on the last several “meetings” I say it’s about time.

Mr. Hylton and his “tree policies” have done a disservice to the people of Pottstown long enough.  Sitting on a bank account of nearly $100,000.00 and crying poverty constantly is ridiculous.  His answer to everything has been we have no money, it’s your responsibility.

The condescending treatment of homeowners with serious tree problems may soon be at an end.  I have never seen taxpayers treated with such contempt by a group of people who are supposed to be in charge of something.  In this case, trees.

I think the budget can be adjusted to fund tree problems.  I believe I read somewhere that a very small 1/10 of a mill, or some figure around that amount would be sufficient to create a tree fund.

Hopefully, after Monday, Mr. Hylton will be no longer involved with anything tree related in Pottstown.

Next step, the school board!

Two thumbs up to Jason, Jody and the rest of the Council for taking the tree by the branches and doing right by all Pottstonians!

Trees are not more important than people and trees do not pay taxes!

Why Isn’t Pottstown A Tree City USA Community???

I have wondered about this for years.  I did some research to see what is involved with a community becoming a Tree City USA.

Since Pottstown is the recipient of the Thomas Hylton Memorial Forest, one would think we would be at the top of the list!  There are 114 Tree City USA communities in the state of Pennsylvania.  They include: Boyertown, West Chester, Wyomissing, Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Lancaster, Lower Merion, Philadelphia, Phoenixville, Reading, Pottsville and the list goes on.

Communities of varying sizes are on the list.  The largest to the smallest municipalities are all represented, so size is not an issue.

There are four criteria:

  1. A Tree Board or Department
  2. A Tree Care Ordinance
  3. An Annual Budget of $2 per capita
  4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

I believe we have a tree board, a tree ordinance, we probably spend $40,000+ a year on tree care and we could always throw in an Arbor Day Observance.

The benefits are framework for action, education, public image, civic pride, financial assistance, publicity and there is a list of 15 more reasons to become a Tree City USA.  The Tree City program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.

IMHO since we have all these trees why don’t we use them to our advantage?  Just sayin…..

For more information:  http://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/index.cfm

Borough Council Moves Closer To Approving Grant Application To Aid Pottstown Homeowners With Tree Problems

Well slap me silly and call me a monkey’s uncle.  It looks like we might have found some grant money to help with tree problems. WOW!  How the heck did that happen? You mean somebody on the Shade Tree Commission actually found some money?

Thanks be to God Council is handling this themselves.  $200K might be more than Trees, Inc. needs to add to their whopping $92,000 kitty.

Council will vote to approve the application at the April meeting. This money would provide for asphalt sidewalk repairs cased by curb trees.

Pottstown Shade Tree Commission Meeting

Shade Tree Commission Meeting

February 22, 2010 – 7:30 pm

City Hall, Third Floor meeting room

I attended my second Shade Tree Commission meeting Monday evening.  I arrived a few minutes late.

Commissioners attending the meeting were Thomas Hylton (Chairman), Sherry Sweeney, Jody Rhoads, Kathleen Bortz and Kari Rising.

When I arrived Councilman Rhoads was requesting that the minutes from the last meeting be amended to include some additional information.  He was reading my notes from the last meeting and requested that they be included.  The committee voted to include this information.

There was discussion regarding the asphalt sidewalk project.  One of the audience asked Mr. Hylton if he received the necessary permission from Borough Council to install asphalt sidewalks. Evidently Borough code only provides for concrete sidewalks in Pottstown.  Mr. Hylton stated that he received permission from Ray Lopez, former Borough Manager, Jason Bobst, current Borough Manager as well as the Codes Department.  Mr. Hylton also explained the epoxy coating process that is used to color the sidewalks.  There has been a request made to amend the borough sidewalk ordinance to include the use of asphalt.

Another member of the audience asked for an explanation regarding Tom Hylton’s relationship to Trees, Inc. and the Pottstown Shade Tree Commission.  The question was never really answered.  Instead we had another lengthy rehashing of the history of Tree’s Inc, and the Shade Tree Commission by Hylton.

In the 1990’s Trees, Inc. decided to take care of all the trees on High Street feeling that it would be more cost effective to care for the shade trees in bulk.  A maintenance plan was created, following a 5 – 6 year cycle and running throughout the borough, to provide care for shade trees.  The hope was the $100,000 fund would provide sufficient interest each year to pay for any necessary tree maintenance, replacements etc…  This has not proven to be the case.  Between 2002 and 2008, the Borough of Pottstown gave Trees, Inc. approximately $21,000 per year to assist them financially with tree maintenance.  In 2008 this practice was stopped.  Since then Trees, Inc. has only done “tree triage” and has no money to fund the needed maintenance.  However, it should be noted that $92,000 still exists in the Trees, Inc. fund.

Since Pottstown is no longer contributing funds, audits are no longer being done on Trees, Inc.  Reviews are currently being done on the money coming in and going out of Trees, Inc.  The reviews are less comprehensive than the audits and cost substantially less money.  Since Trees, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization and no public money is being given, they do not feel the need to provide any information to the public on their finances.

Another resident complained that his sidewalk is raised 4 – 6 inches from the curb trees on his property.  The property owner wants to know who he can get permission from to remove the trees.  He was told to call Tom Hylton, they will discuss and then Mr. Hylton will send him a letter regarding the disposition of his tree problem.

Yet another borough resident, a senior on a fixed income, spoke of a Ginkgo tree on his property that poses a huge problem in terms of seeds and the vomit smell the tree gives off.  The gentleman has asthma and can’t even open his windows in the summer time.  The Ginkgo tree is pulling the French drain away from the house, lifting up the sidewalk, clogging the sewer and pushing up the curb.  The street is also sinking as there is a dip in the street.  Hylton stated residents have blanket permission to cut down Ginkgo trees.  The resident stated Hylton refused to give permission to cut down the tree in the past.  Of course, Hylton stated the resident is responsible for the cost of removing the tree and any repairs caused by the tree.  According to Mr. Hylton, Trees Inc. never planted any Ginkgo trees. They were planted prior to the creation of Trees, Inc.

Another resident asked what the average cost of tree maintenance would be.  She was quoted some statistics and left to do the math herself.

Councilman Rhoads stated he is working with the Borough Solicitor to change the tree ordinance.  The new ordinance would make it necessary to plant a tree no less than 10 feet of a utility and 50 feet of an intersection. 

Councilman Rhoads also read a letter from a resident regarding a curb tree that had been hit by a tractor trailer 5-6 years ago in the 800 block of N. Charlotte St.  The tree was embedded with a piece of metal and the tree is leaning into the street where it is continually struck by trucks and the sidewalk is raising up.  The resident was quoted $1800.00 to remove the tree by Todd’s Tree Service.  He had to make a choice to remove the tree or pay his property tax.  He chose to pay his taxes fearing he would lose his home.

Councilman Rhoads revisited a tree problem from the last meeting.  An inquiry was done by Councilman Rhoads regarding a tree in the 200 block of N. Keim Street that was leaning into the street, causing a traffic hazard and needed to be removed.  Again, the property owner is retired and on a fixed income.  The property owner was at the last Shade Tree meeting to ask for assistance and was told he would have to pay for the removal himself.  The property owner was told the Shade Tree Commission had no money to pay for the tree removal.  Within two weeks after the meeting, the tree was mysteriously cut down.   The property owner did not pay for the removal.  Mr. Hylton denies any money came from Trees, Inc. or the Shade Tree Commission to pay for the tree removal.  The inquiry response stated that the tree was removed at no cost to property owner.  Who paid for the removal??

The question was raised about the new Trees, Inc. website.  The shade tree inventory appears to have been condensed and is not as comprehensive as it had been in the past.  Mr. Hylton maintained that information was still on the website some where. 

Councilman Rhoads asked what criteria were used to determine the 30% estimate on sidewalks damaged by trees.  Mr. Hylton replied that a study was done by a State College firm on what percentage of sidewalk problems in Pottstown is directly related to curb trees.  He estimates 30%.  Hylton stated the block survey, which took 2 years, was never completed and is inaccurate.

Councilman Rhoads also brought up two tree problems from the last meeting that Mr. Hylton stated he would look into:

1. A tree was replanted in the 900 block of High Street four feet from a utility.  Mr. Hylton maintained that since an existing tree was already there, a new one was planted in its place.  He has not looked into the matter as he stated he would at the last meeting.  Councilman Rhoads again asked that this matter be looked in to. 

2. A tree was replanted over a storm water arch in the 60’s block of N. Roland Street.  At the last meeting Mr. Hylton said he would look into the matter and has not done so.  Hylton argued with Councilman Rhoads about the size of the storm water arch and the threat this tree posed.  Councilman Rhoads brought up the $400,000 repair on Walnut Street of a storm water arch and that it was a potential liability for the borough.  Hylton again said he would look into the matter.

Councilman Rhoads asked Commissioners Sweeney and Rising to explain to the newly elected Commissioner Bortz what they had done in the last year as a member of the Shade Tree Commission.  Mrs. Sweeney said she attended a meeting.  Mrs. Rising said she takes calls from home owners and she visits locations with tree problems.  She said she had visited 5 – 6 different locations checking out tree problems.  Rising also stated she holds the rod when Hylton measures the trees.  Councilman Rhoads echoed Mrs. Rising’s answer.

Councilman Rhoads brought up Mr. Hylton’s ties to Preservation Pottstown and the property at the corner of Beech and Charlotte Sts. where the European Tree Park was developed with a $60,000 private donation.  This was the site of an abandoned gas station and had become a loitering area for drug dealers.  Mr. Hylton maintained that he stopped attending Preservation Pottstown meetings 5 years ago but was involved with the transfer of the property at the 272 Beech Street from Preservation Pottstown to Trees, Inc. in 2007.  The property owed two years worth of back taxes.  Trees, Inc. paid the back taxes and currently pays the property tax for the European Tree Park located at 272 Beech St.

We were then treated to another tree propaganda speech by Mr. Hylton regarding the economic value of trees.  Specifically that they have increased the property values in Pottstown by 3% of $36 million dollars and so on. 

Councilman Rhoads brought up the fact that our tax dollars were put into the Trees, Inc. bowl of money.  He also stated that this Trees, Inc. money is being used to pay the county, local and school taxes, along with the insurance on the property at 272 Beech St.  This money is also being used to pay a subcontractor of Trees, Inc. to shovel snow, pick up leaves, twigs, branches and trash on the property at 272 Beech St.  At this point Ms. Rising stepped in and claimed that donations to Trees, Inc. specified what that money was to be used for.  There was nothing to back this up.

Councilman Rhoads requested all documents showing the discussion, motion and approval from the borough to give Trees, Inc. our tax dollars.

It was suggested that a fund be developed (as other towns have done) to provide assistance to homeowners with tree problems.  It was suggested to Councilman Rhoads that Borough Council spearhead this project.  Polly Weand suggested that money be raised somehow to pay for these problems to help shoulder the burden with property owners.  Councilman Rhoads indicated that Council is seeking $200,000 from Montgomery County. 

The meeting was adjourned.

As usual people left shaking their heads in disgust because we heard the same old song and dance from the Chairman Hylton and his bobble-heads on the commission.  There is still a 3 – 2 majority of Hyltonites on the Commission which impedes Councilman Rhoads from effecting more positive changes to benefit property owners with tree problems in Pottstown.

The Hater-Aid Continues Against Councilman Rhoads

I read, with much disgust, a letter to the editor in today’s Pottstown Mercury lambasting Jody Rhoads.

This is getting old folks. 

1.  Jody does not hate trees.  He wants us to be responsible with trees.  Trees have their place but not at the expense of taxpayers in this borough.  Sorry if this does not compute.

2.  Mr. Hylton, rules the Shade Tree Commission with an iron fist and is arbitrary in his treatment of taxpayers with tree problems.   Trees are NOT more important than people.  They are wonderful and I am glad we have so many BUT they should not present a hardship to homeowners.  Trees do NOT pay taxes!!!!!!!!!

3.  The Shade Tree Commission has entirely too much money and too much power to be controlled by Mr. Hylton.  Until Jody came along, the rest of you were like bobble-head dolls and went along with whatever the Shade Tree Czar commanded from on high. 

4.  I believe this letter was “encouraged” as it smacks of a paid political announcement during campaign time.  Frankly, I dislike paid political announcements.

A new day is dawning in Pottstown.  Let the elected officials run this town and shut down these agenda lobbyists while there is still time!

Pottstown Shade Tree Commission Update

In my Pottstown Herald article covering the last Shade Tree Commission meeting I reported that a property owner on Keim Street was having a major tree problem.  

The property owner was told by the Shade Tree Commission that he would have to foot the bill to have a tree removed from his property.  The offending tree was ready to fall onto Keim St. and had been hit twice by vehicles.  The property owner is retired and did not have the funds to pay for a tree removal.  He asked for assistance and was turned down by Mr. Hylton.  The property owned said he could either pay his taxes or cut down the tree, but he could not do both.

Now the tree has been cut down and mysteriously paid for by an unknown source.  I find that very interesting.  Don’t you????