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Tree Crew Laid Off Day After Park Tax Passed (Letter to the Editor)

Two tree trimmers were handed lay off notices, along with seven other employees from different departments.

Letter to the Editor

I work for the city of Davis in the tree division. We have always been under the parks department and there has always been two tree trimmers, a small tree specialist, a part timer for half the year to help plant trees, an urban forest supervisor and an urban forest manager. 

In 2009, the part timer position was eliminated. On February 3rd 2012 the small tree specialist and the Urban forest supervisor jobs were eliminated. The small tree specialist was given the option to transfer in to the Parks Department as a Parks Maintenance II, which they did. The Urban forest supervisor was offered a lower paying job as a Crew working supervisor, which they declined.

Since then it has been two tree trimmers and the Urban Forest Manager. 

With the small tree position eliminated, we picked up the task of planting trees and stump grinding.  My title is Tree Trimmer II, my partner that I work with his title is Tree Trimmer I, On June 6, citizens passed Measure D to renew park tax for city services. At 2 pm on June 6, we both were handed lay off notices, Plus 7 other employees from different departments but all from DCEA. 

The letter states effective June 29, 2012 you are laid off from your position Tree Trimmer II. 

We were not given any options and no bumping rights, even though we were hired before other employees from the parks Department. Human resources told us we are in the tree series not the park maintenance series, and that the city is eliminating the tree crew. When I asked who will take care of the trees? She said she would have to talk to the Urban forest Manager it is up to him. I don’t consider myself a Tree Trimmer II; I’m a certified arborist. When I started 7 years ago, yes I was a tree trimmer. But I was given the opportunity to make myself better, I increased my tree biology, safety standards, job knowledge and skills. 

I have served the city for almost 7 years in August. I have been a dedicated employee. Although our call out procedure is voluntary, I have responded to all emergency calls regardless of time, weather, or date because I am a dedicated employee of the city and wanted to help the citizens of Davis when they needed me and I wanted to be sure the trees were also taken care of properly.  

Over the years we have dealt with hazardous trees with many different situations from storm damage, trees uprooted on houses, on cars, blocking entire streets. Our normal work day consists of citizens requests on city trees from pruning them to removing them.  

We also work with other departments in the city. We hang and remove the banner on B st. Install owl boxes, Installing the Christmas tree on E st., hanging ornaments, removing ornaments, dispose of  Christmas tree, installing reflective tape on structure at the train depot, help install and remove antennas on towers that were too tall to reach, install cable on a flag pole for the bomb squad, deliver wood chips for volunteer projects. We do more than just tree work. 

What I like about my job was I was able to please people by doing a good job, talking to the residents, finding out what their tree concerns were and help to resolve those concerns. My partner and I have always strived on doing a good job in representing the city. We use rigging and roping techniques to remove limbs and wood so we do not damage personal property. Clean up was important to us. When we left we wanted the property to look like we were never there. 

I have been in the tree industry for 17 years, My partner 12 years. I thought I was going to retire with the city. I never thought it would end like this. I have enjoyed my time at the City of Davis and made many friends. 

I wrote this letter for myself, But also for the people of Davis. I want everyone to know your City tree crew was eliminated even after the park tax passed, I would really like to know how the city will maintain the trees? If the city’s plan is to hire contractors, why didn’t they tell the citizens that even after you pass the park tax, we will still eliminate the city tree crew?  

-- James (Cory) Cooper

livin-n-workin-n-Davis June 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Tree guy-- Davis residents expect a higher level of service than do the surrounding cities. People in Davis actually care about their trees! Good quality work does cost more but you are also getting a highly skilled/trained and very experienced tree crew who cares about the trees and the customer. And people in Davis realize you get what you pay for...
Whodaman June 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
You guys don't understand The city did an illegal act and cost them 900 thousand dollars melesa channel caused this and yet she still has her job She is the one they need to let go of She has caused more disruption than any other She lost the city 900 thousand dollars through her actions
Justin Cox June 21, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Had you guys seen Pinkerton's response in the Vanguard: "The City has in place a tree maintenance program which calls for the general pruning of all City owned trees at least once every eight years. This annual general tree pruning has been done by our current contractor since 2001 ... So the bulk of the City's urban forest has been and will continue to be maintained by contract. Having a dedicated city staffed tree crew to perform tree maintenance is no longer a necessity to maintain the City's urban forest at its current level. Consolidation of maintenance functions city-wide and changing the way services are provided should actually produce greater service levels to the community." Any thoughts?
C.O.D. Tmr 1 June 22, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Pinkerton has been with the city how long? Tell me where your contractors have been the last 2 weeks while the city tree crew has cleaned up several broken limbs, hangers and regular scheduled maintenance. Greater service levels that is a joke! I can tell you for a fact the contractors haven't trimmed mistle toe in over a year while the city crew has.You call that a higher quailty of service.How often do you see the contractors in Davis? I would be concerned if I was a resident with a city tree because the Urban Forest Manager is. He doesn't know how the city will keep the city trees in compliance with the trimming schedule.Between the city crew and the contractors they barely keep in compliance now. Something most residence aren't aware of is the contractors budget was cut substantially last year and I don't know how the city could afford to give their budget back anytime soon. Looks like the Urban Forest Manager was right he's going to have to bring his gear out of retirement.Thank you Mr. Cooper for keeping the citizens of Davis informed about the up and comming changes. A special thank you to all the residence who have shown their support to the large tree crew.
Justin Cox June 28, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Hi all. Just wanted to let you know we did a followup on this story after Tuesday's councilmeeting: http://patch.com/A-vBhD

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