ST. LOUIS – Tree dangers are becoming a bigger issue in St. Louis and not just because of all of our recent storms.
City staffing issues are pushing back the removal of dangerous trees and limbs for months.
At present, the city’s Forestry Division has 19 job openings, meaning more than 17% its 109 jobs are vacant.
From large downed limbs waiting to be picked up, to dead danglers still teetering above, the city is having keeping up with tree dangers. Add that to issues with potholes, garbage, and gunfire.
Staffing shortages are common to the issues.
“Would you want to drive under it?” said resident Joel Belk, regarding half of a tree that’s still standing, arching over Sutherland Avenue in front of his house. The other half of the more than 25-year-old silver maple fell onto his truck in April, causing about $5,000 worth of damage.
A Forestry crew picked up the downed limbs but left the rest of the tree.
Half of the wood holding up the portion still hanging over the roadway was no longer there. What remained appeared to be cracked all the way through and ready to fall at any time.
People driving and walking nearby did not seem to be aware on Wednesday.
“If that limb falls and someone’s (driving) 40 mph, it’s going to kill them,” Belk said. “We’re going to have to have the same repeat that we had, what, a month ago, a month and a half at most. It’s going to be the same deal.”
Kate Koen, 33, died in her car last month after a tree fell on top of it in south St. Louis. It was not a “city-maintained” tree, but trees between city streets and sidewalks are owned and maintained by St. Louis City.
The city’s entire workforce of about 5,000 is now short about 1,200 people, from Forestry to Refuse to Police, a city alderman told FOX 2. The city has hired contractors to help with tree issues
“Can’t get no help,” Belk said.
What’s left of the tree on Sutherland Avenue was scheduled for removal in May, Belk said.
Three months later, it’s still there. Every day, it seems more likely to come down on its own.
A spokesman for the City of St. Louis gave the following statement:
The City of St. Louis Forestry Division works tirelessly to prioritize damaged trees that are obstructing sidewalks, in the streets or that have fallen on homes. Between a series of recent storms and a labor shortage like many organizations across our region, Forestry is prioritizing the most urgent and potentially dangerous service requests.
The Forestry Division is seeking to fill vacant positions. Those interested in applying to serve their communities can apply online at stlouis-mo.gov/jobs.