Tree removal cost at overgrown West Ely Road residence will exceed city's $5,670 bid limit

When residents of Hannibal refuse to maintain their property the city has the authority to step in clean it up. Normally such abatement projects are handled by city employees or a private contractor hired by the city for a minimal fee. On occasion, however, the cleanup cost skyrockets. In recent weeks the city has been dealing with just such a site at 4109 West Ely Road.

With the cost of tree removal and trimming alone threatening to eclipse the city’s $5,670 bid limit for service work, the City Council on Tuesday night approved a bid waiver for this massive cleanup project.

“This is not an open-ended check,” said City Manager Jeff LaGarce in a memo to the Council. “Like certain demolition projects, this particular job simply needs to be done.”

In a neighborhood of well-maintained homes and manicured yards, 4109 West Ely Road stood out as an eyesore.

“This is one of the largest abatement situations I’ve ever experienced,” said the city manager. “The site is a virtual jungle; years of excessive weed, tree, and vine growth, compounded by decades of junk and appliances hidden throughout all this.”

The property was not just unsightly. It also represented a hazard to its neighbors.

“Trees have increasingly fallen and damaged neighboring property. There are many examples of this,” said LaGarce. “There are (other) trees on the verge of collapse onto neighboring property and fences. I wouldn’t necessarily define this abatement process as an ‘emergency measure,’ but I can say further damage was imminent when this initiative began, and it behooved the city to move forward to prevent that.”

Nearby property owners let their sentiments be known, according to LaGarce.

“There is no nice way to say nearby residents had reached the point of outright revolt,” he said.

After failed attempts by the city in June to get someone associated with 4109 West Ely Road to clean up the property, the city stepped in earlier this month.

Given the scope of work to be done the project could not be handled by bid.

“If the site were being clear-cut, we could bid it. If the scope required clearly defined tree trimming, we could bid it. There is no logical way to bid this mess in any clear manner,” said LaGarce, noting that Wilson Tree Service was hired for the “below-bid work assignment.”

The initial step in the abatement process was not difficult to determine.

“Abatement of this site first requires removal of excessive tree growth, otherwise, the contractor assigned to remove junk and appliances cannot gain access,” explained LaGarce. “Trees are being removed around the immediate home because they are damaging the home, in driveway and foundation areas, and along the periphery where adjacent residents have been financially impacted.”

While the city is pleased with the progress that has been done, as of Tuesday the contractor had “hit our bid limit for service work,” reported the city manager.

“Wilson is not done with its work, and it’s important we do this one time and correctly,” said LaGarce.

The Council agreed and approved waiving the bid limit.

LaGarce noted that “all abatement costs (totaled at 4109 West Ely Road) will be placed on a special tax lien against the property.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com