Tree trouble: Homeowner worried about sidewalk repairs

Help Me Hank to the rescue in tree trouble case

By Tony Statz - Producer

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. - Dearborn Heights homeowner Tom Osborn just knew there was trouble lurking underneath an elm tree near his property. He believed the roots of the big elm were pushing up the sidewalk because it had happened before. In 2008, he paid more than $250 to repair the same part of the sidewalk.

"I have to pay for a new sidewalk every time it buckles," he told Help Me Hank. The problem here is the City of Dearborn Heights requires homeowners to pay for sidewalk repairs on their property. In this case, Wayne County was responsible for this elm tree.

"I have been unable to get the city or the county to cut the tree," said Osborn.

Osborn says he called Wayne County about a year ago and was told the county won't cut down living trees and he's not allowed to do it himself. As the sidewalk started to buckle again, Osborn feared he would be cited by city inspectors for a "trip hazard" and he'd have to pay for repairs all over again.

Help Me Hank to the rescue

Fearing he wouldn't get anywhere with the county or the city, Osborn emailed Help Me Hank. The consumer unit contacted both governments on his behalf. In about 24 hours, the tree was gone, a county spokesperson saying the forestry department re-evaluated the tree, determined it was now dead and had it removed. A crew will return to grind the stump in the near future.

The mayor of Dearborn Heights, Dan Paletko, met personally with Osborn to talk about how to handle the sidewalk issue. The mayor says they'll wait until after the stump is removed to see if the sidewalk settles naturally, and will work with Osborn on additional repairs.

At this point, Osborn is grateful and relieved the tree is gone. "This is a savings that we do not have to pay. We're on a fixed income and every little bit that we can save counts," he said.

If you have a problem you'd like Help Me Hank to investigate, call 313-298-WDIV (9348) or send an email to

Tree trouble on your property?

Finally, if you have a problem with a tree on your property, you'll want to contact your city or township government to see what the rules are where you live.

The Wayne County Forestry Department tells Help Me Hank it will cut down "live" trees if it's in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the community. It also points out residents should not cut down trees, living or dead, without contacting the city or county, whichever has jurisdiction. A permit may be needed for tree removal.

If you live in Wayne County, you can reach the county at 1-888-ROAD-CREW (762-3272) or click here.

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