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City Piles Storm Debris on Front Lawn, Angers Resident

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Residents across the metro are still cleaning up from last week's violent windstorm and most are doing it with little or no help from city services.

That has some people scratching their heads.

Unless these Urbandale neighbors buck up, their storm debris is going nowhere.

Same with West Des Moines, Johnston and Altoona, where city officials said last Tuesday’s windstorm wasn’t severe enough to merit a free pickup.

In Ankeny: “We saw record numbers on Saturday and Sunday,” says Tina Potthoff, communications director for the City of Ankeny.

The city chipped trees and branches for free, but residents had to haul it in themselves.

“On a typical tree and branch recycling day, we see about 150 total, but this time we saw about 800 cars come through on that weekend.”

The demand was so great, Ankeny will continue to accept debris until Friday.

You can't help but wonder if the record turnout made them wonder if the storm was severe enough to warrant free pickup after all.

Meanwhile, at Carol Lewis’s house in Des Moines, things got really messy.

“I’m not happy at all,” she said, staring at the towering, stacked mess in her front yard.

The storm dropped her giant sycamore branch across Center Street.  MidAmerican Energy cut it up and cleared it Tuesday morning, but on Friday, a city crew showed up to finish the job—kind of.

“Because it came from private property, they were putting it back on private property," she explained. "I told them ‘No, (you're) not.’”

Lewis’s neighbor, Dan Robbins, says she never lost control, but the police were called anyway.  Robbins shot video of the scene.

“She has great restraint," Robbins said, "and she was very reasonable I think, but angry at the same time.”

“They called the police because they were afraid that I was going to make a nuisance of myself,” Lewis said.

Lewis says she offered to pay the six-man crew to haul it all away.

"The only answer I get is they are not in the business of hauling debris away and they just don’t have the resources.”

Which seems like a strange answer to give when there are two dump trucks on the scene.

What were the dump trucks doing? "Sitting. Literally sitting idle. Nothing," Robbins laughed. "They had the resources, they had everything together, they did most of the work and then just created a new problem.”

“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of,” Lewis said. A costly storm alright--for pocketbooks and public relations.

Our calls to public works departments in Des Moines and Urbandale went unreturned Monday. Wind gusts hit 54 miles per hour in last Tuesday’s storm.


  • Mike Cee

    Lady, it was from a tree that you own that was located on your property. You are responsible. If you don’t want to be a responsible homeowner, go live in an apartment.

    • Ishmale Whale

      It was a privately owned tree that fell onto another property. Be happy you are not billed for the cleanup and movement of your property back onto your property.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    I can;t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to live in such a screwed up city like Des Moines really. welfare for the rich flows freely, and ordinary working class citizens get bent over routinely.

  • Sean

    It’s your tree, you take care of it. People seem to just see what is front of them and not the big picture. Seems like everyone is wanting special treatment and freebies anymore instead of stepping up and taking care of their business like every adult should!

  • Kim

    That’s your tax dollars at work. I wonder how much money it cost in wages and fuel costs to have them move it from one spot to another?

  • WDM Resident

    If the tree debris was from private property, why was the city cutting and moving it? Sounds like the home owner was willing to take care of it, but the city had to stick their nose in it.

  • Steve Jensen

    So I guess when the city owned trees lose their leaves / branches in the Fall or in a storm, residents can pile them back on the city’s property? When the snowplows break off a piece of the street curb, residents can toss the chunks of concrete out into the street? and so on and so on! Come on City of Des Moines! Since the city piled the debris onto her property, aren’t they now liable if the resident is injured as a result of the city’s actions? What does the city do when they don’t know where the debris comes from? Just choose a random resident’s property to pile it on?

    • Chase Gochnauer

      So what you are saying, is that you are fine contributing your tax dollars to pay the city to go down streets across the city of Des Moines and haul away everything that has fallen in the road. Yeah right. Personal responsibility. This storm was last Tuesday, the tree was already cut up for free, yet it still sat in the street a week after the storm.

    • Sally

      yep, her tree, her responsibility. if you don’t want to clean up after trees, don’t have them. At least they cut it up for her. The city is responsible for the public areas. she’s lucky they didn’t tell her that she has ‘x’ number of hours to move it, or they would do it for her, for ‘x’ number of dollars, just like when you don’t scoop the snow off of your sidewalk. ‘She has great restraint’. Like she should be commended for trying to get the city to handle her responsibilities. Maybe they should paint her house and re-roof it for free too while they are at it.

  • Randy Graven

    Didn’t you read the article? She offered to pay for hauling it away. Why did they waste fuel with 2 dumptrucks instead of pickups if they weren’t going to use them. My pickup doesn’t get very good mileage but it sure beats the mileage on my dump truck.

    • Sally

      And if every city employee starts randomly taking cash from citizens to do odd jobs around their house and yard, I think we will have a real problem. They can’t except money for a private job while on the city’s clock. She needs to arrange something like that through the city, not put the worker on the spot like that.
      Perhaps they were driving dump trucks because they had trees on public property that they were on their way to clean up.

  • William Denison

    The Des Moines area along with much of the rest of the state is turning into a cesspool. Instead of helping one another at all levels folks here now find fault with those who need help and then turn their backs on them. Its the new Iowa.

  • molly

    She did offer to pay.the city could of just gave her the bill and she would of payed it. Midamerica was out there Tuesday and they didn’t show up till Friday.Why did the city wait till Friday? There was no reason to call the police. Now they are racial profiling.wait till the winter if snow is in the street u better watch out it’ll be in ur yard and then be ur responsibility. If u tell the city about it they won’t care.when they plow, they plow it so it blocks ppl driveways.

    • Sally

      where do you see anything about racial profiling? And, how, exactly, do you expect the snow plow drivers to plow the roads without putting snow into your driveway? let me see, I guess we could hire 20 times more city employees and we could drop one off at each and every house to have them clear the bottom of every driveway after the plow goes through?

  • Jamal

    If they lady offered to pay the city to haul it away, why doesn’t she hire a private contractor to do it? Oh wait, because then she couldn’t complain to the media.

  • Dave

    The City should have hauled the portion of the tree away that was in the street. No different than if my neighbors tree falls in my yard or on my house, city code states, I am responsible for anything that falls in my yard / house and do not have recourse to come back on the neighbor. Her tree fell on city property and she should only be responsible for the portion that was in her yard. Anything in the street should be removed by the city.

  • Wespa

    It so happens, that a tree falling in a storm is considered an act of God. The responsibility of clean up does not completely rely on the owner. The City should have picked up the stuff in the street, because the act of God (Tree) fell onto city property.

    • Ishmale Whale

      What if the city does not believe in God? In fact, ANYTHING that happens can be called an act of God, and due to the “not responsible for acts of God” waivers in almost all insurance policies…None would even need to pay out a claim.

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