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City awards $1 million contract to cut down 2,000 dead and diseased trees

CITY HALL – In St. Louis, it’s time to clear away a bunch of old trees – a couple of thousand of them, to be exact.

The city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment voted on Wednesday to award a $1 million contract to remove about 2,000 dead or diseased trees, most of them from the rights of way between sidewalks and streets.

The contract went to the low bidder, Michael’s Tree & Loader Service LLC, a Memphis, Tenn., company that removes trees.

The work, in every part of the city, is in addition to the tree maintenance program of the city’s Forestry Division. The tree removal company will do the work from this fall to the summer of 2020. 

“I think this is something that most of our constituents will be happy about,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said. “These are trees, dead trees, that are dangerous and in need of removal.”

Certified arborists in the Forestry Division chose which trees should be removed, Krewson said.

“There are dead trees in every ward across the city,” Krewson said. 

A news release from the mayor’s office said that a lack of staffing and problems with equipment caused the Forestry Division to fall behind in removing trees in the last 10 years. The Forestry Division will work with the contractor to ensure the work is done smoothly.

When it’s possible, the city intends to replace the trees that were removed with newer and healthier trees.

Generally, aldermen said on Friday that they welcomed the opportunity to get more trees cut down. 

“I have over 300 trees on either the trim list or the cut-down list since 2010 that haven’’t been addressed, so I’m looking forward to it happening” said 12th Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz, who is from the south side. “It’s a good investment, since they can’t get enough workers to do it. People in my ward are looking forward to it.”

Alderwoman Pam Boyd of the 27th Ward, on the north side, said there was plenty of work to do in her ward.

“It’s past due,” she said. “It’s bad, because we had to contract out to private tree trimmers to get it done, because we didn’t have staff. So I don’t see a problem with it.

“I just think people need to understand it’s not for their personal trees, it’s city trees,” she noted.

Another north side alderman, John Collins-Muhammad of the 21st Ward, disagreed. He said he could think of 100 things better to spend money on than trimming trees.

And 23rd Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro questioned why a firm based in Memphis had gotten the contract.

“I think hiring an outside company is a good idea, because we’ve got all these dead trees,” said Vaccaro, whose ward is on the south side. But Vaccaro asked why the city had chosen a company out of Memphis. 

Jacob Long, director of communications in the mayor’s office, said the firm had been the lowest bidder by far out of four or five overall bidders. A city RFP (request for proposals) committee selected the company unanimously, he said. 

The city charter requires that there be an RFP committee for contracts of more than $5,000. That committee includes one person each appointed by the mayor, president of the Board of Aldermen, and the Comptroller, along with two members from the department doing the contract. That committee agrees on language of the request and then discusses and votes on how the department should complete the contract. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment approves the final contract.

“And what people don’t realize is, this same company has already been doing work for the city for the past couple of years,” Long wrote in an e-mail. “So they weren’t entirely a new vendor. For this project, it’s important to note they will be supplementing the good and important work of our Forestry Division.”

Residents who are worried about trees in their neighborhood should call the city’s Citizens’ Service Bureau at 314-622-4800.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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