Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC)
Misstating the purpose and need for tree removal
A primary reason cited by the township for cutting the trees was that it was receiving money to pave and ditch the road from the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC), which provides grant and loan funding for infrastructure projects.
In person and in township minutes, trustees claimed that tree removal on Sperry Road was mandated by OPWC.
Yet Abby DeHart, assistant chief financial officer for OPWC, stated in a phone call that OPWC is "like a bank." She said the agency requires estimates of projects, but decision-making about the scope of projects is done at the local level. The OPWC does NOT require the removal of trees or vegetation in connection with the projects its finances, according to Ms. DeHart.
See Ms. DeHart's email below where she states the Geauga Engineer's office explained that "the Township unintentionally misstated the purpose and need for the tree removal."
Below are minutes from township officials and the road superintendent stating OPWC has tree and ditching requirements:
From April 12, 2018 minutes:
From Aug. 2, 2018 minutes (read full minutes below):
On Oct. 25, 2018 trustees passed a resolution to pursue OPWC funds for the Sperry Road paving project and designate Trustee Joseph Mazzurco as the CEO /contact for the OPWC application:
On Feb. 23, 2019, Trustee Mazzurco stated that the reason trees on Sperry Road had to be removed was because of OPWC regulations. He also stated that tree removal was being funded by the OPWC. He is the designated trustee for the OPWC Sperry Road application so I assumed this information was accurate. Only after I called OPWC did I learn it was not. See email chain below.