MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners plan a public meeting next week to discuss beautification plans in front of the administration building.
The meeting, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., comes in the wake of a controversial decision to remove all of the mature tulip poplars that had been in front of the building at 50 Park Ave. East.
When the trees were cut down and removed last week, commissioners said the decision was for safety reasons due to falling limbs from the aging trees, to help make room for a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, and to reduce the amount of crows and other birds nesting there.
Commissioner Tony Vero said new trees will also be planted as part of an overall new landscaping effort, work being done with Wade Gardens Landscaping in Mansfield.
"The plan, and maybe we should have done a little better job, is to coordinate all of these together. You have the Gold Star Memorial, with the new landscape design, we want to roll them out together. We want to get everyone in the room and coordinate the effort," Vero said during the commissioners' meeting this morning.
"Some people asked me yesterday for a timeline and I said we just don't know yet, because we don't know the definitive date on the (construction of the) Gold Star Memorial," Vero said.
Commissioner Darrell Banks said he also invited a representative from the Richland County Veterans Service Commission to attend next week's meeting discuss the number of flags that ordinarily fly outside the administration building.
Banks said the county paid about $9,700 to have the tulip poplars removed and hauled away last week. The work was done by Dolce Tree Service of Mansfield and the money came from the county's capital improvement fund, not an operating account.
Vero denied the decision to remove the trees was made in secret.
"This was discussed during multiple open meetings here. We had to go to the Mansfield Shade Tree Commission (which approved the decision). It couldn't be further from the truth that we did this in secret," he said.
According to minutes from the Jan. 31 commissioners' meeting, Jared Smith, committee chair for the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument, spoke about placing the monument on the front lawn. At that meeting, Chuck Minich, the county's building maintenance superintendent, expressed concerns about the tulip poplar trees on the lawn.
Minich said the trees should probably be removed and replaced with dwarf trees. He said trees are becoming weaker and are losing sizable limbs, in addition to the nuisance of the roosting birds that "cause a mess on the walks and monuments." Falling limbs could also damage monuments and memorials and endanger pedestrians.
Minich also said the new trees can be pleasing and complement the various monuments.