Anyone who attended the Coffee with Council at E.K. Powe Elementary this month -- or anyone within a couple of blocks' earshot -- couldn't have missed hearing the most compelling and eloquent oration of the night. The pastor from St. John Baptist Church in Walltown spoke passionately, and convincingly, about the dangers of roots from certain street trees -- or as he boomed, STREET TREES -- that were slithering ever so dasterdly towards the edifice of his church.
He spoke of them in the tone of warning more associated with the Great Serpent. And he told a long and sordid history of how the roots from one of these trees had already caused about $40,000 in damage to the plumbing work supporting an addition to the church.
The roots, he intoned, were heading back towards the church. And, he noted, they already had made the sidewalk on Onslow Street buckle up from the level of the earth, creating a dangerous walking situation. He'd notified the City a couple of times, even the mayor's office, but hadn't seen a resolution.
There was loud applause when the Reverend was done -- not to mention the occasional "Amen" from the audience during his speech.
So I was driving down Onslow on Wednesday, on my way to a meeting, when, lo! what should I see, but the sight of what must have been a dozen Durham municipal employees out working along the sidewalk along half of the street.
I stepped out of my car and took the photo shown here with my smartphone's camera. Now, people understandably get nervous when a perfect stranger stops and starts photographing you, so the crew supervisor comes over and greets me with a friendly "good morning," and we fall to talking. I mentioned I was at the Coffee with Council and I asked whether the dastardly tree would meet its end that morning.
He smiled knowingly -- very knowingly. (City manager Patrick Baker had been asked by Bill Bell to follow up with the pastor that very night; like a gallon of WD-40 to a Swiss watch's gears, the municipal machinery had began to turn.) The crew was there to fix the sidewalk, the supervisor said. The dangerous strip of concrete would again be pedestrian-friendly.
I asked whether the whole tree was coming down. The supervisor smiled again, even more knowingly. No, he said. The tree would not be coming down. But the sidewalk would be fixed.