Homeowner: City contractors almost killed tree he planted 35 years ago

Problem Solvers

Damaged tree in Thornton, Colo

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A homeowner in Thornton said a mistake by city contractors nearly killed his favorite tree and nearly cost him hundreds of dollars. But before giving up hope he called the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Fred Surganty planted his cottonwood tree when he moved into his Thornton home 35 years ago.

“It was about as tall as me when I planted it,” Surganty said. “There’s a lot of memories. I planted it when my kids were little and of course they’re all grown.”

But he began to worry about his tree after beginning to see branches die and leaves fall last year.

Two tree care companies confirmed the dying branches were due to root damage that happened on the other side of Fred’s fence when the City of Thornton dug a sprinkler line for Holly Park. The tree services said his tree could be saved but each gave him a quote of more than $700.

“Being retired and on a fixed income, this is definitely something that could, you know, incur quite a dent for us,” Fred said.

He said an initial call to Thornton's city forester was encouraging.

“I mean at one point he even told me, 'If they don’t do something I’ll get you a tree myself,'" Fred said. “We didn’t actually need a new tree we just kind of wanted ours to be fixed.”

But he got a very different response when he submitted a claim to the city’s insurance.

“Based on my investigation we must respectfully decline your claim,” Fred said, reading from the denial letter.

The letter informed him that he had waited too long to file a claim.

After waiting two weeks without another word from the city, Fred decided to call the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

“We see the Problem Solvers helping people out and we thought, OK, we need some help here,” Fred said.

When the Problem Solvers called, the city of Thornton declined an interview but city leaders were responsive. Fred got a call the very next day.

“He wanted to let me know that the city had all intentions, regardless of the insurance letter, of going ahead and taking care of (the tree)," Fred said. "I told him that I really appreciated that.”

That’s not all he appreciated.

“I wanted FOX31 to know how much we appreciated them bringing this issue up to the city," Fred said. "So that it was able to surface up at the top rather than getting lost.”

According to the city of Thornton, Fred's tree will be trimmed and cared for in the next two to three weeks.

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