Joey Mahon watched Tuesday morning as Madisonville public works crew members ripped out ornamental monkey grass from in front of his house on Rampart Street and other workers raked up the remnants of a row of 18 mature ligustrum bushes that had just been cut down.
"I spent Saturday trimming them," Mahon, 63, said of the ligustrums and his crape myrtle and Seven Sisters rose bush. "I wanted them to be in their best dress when they met their executioner."
Mayor Jean Pelloat said the work in fact had been carried out at Mahon's request — that he had complained two months ago that the street needed to be cleaned, and removing the greenery from city property was in response to his request.
"He's a continual and constant complainer," Pelloat said.
The mayor described the situation as a quarrel between neighbors, with Mahon complaining that his neighbor across the street was encroaching on the roadway with his potted plants. The city responded by ordering the vegetation on both sides of Rampart to be removed.
"I didn't want to do it," Pelloat said of the removal, adding that he had delayed acting to see if the neighbors could work out their differences. "The other gentleman complied with our request. Mr. Mahon did not."
Mahon, however, said that he never asked for greenery to be removed but only that the road be cleared of obstructions.
While Pelloat called the neighborhood dispute a "Hatfield and McCoy" situation, Mahon said that his neighbor, Thomas Biernatzki, had called a few days ago to extend an olive branch.
"That was because of my efforts," Pelloat said. He said he had sent the city's building official and police chief to talk to the feuding neighbors.
But the mayor said he doesn't think Mahon and Biernatzki have resolved their dispute, and that he wasn't informed that they had.
Biernatzki declined to comment Tuesday.
Mahon had been given an official notice that the city was coming out Tuesday to clear vegetation on city property.
Crews had been out earlier marking the utility lines and the property line. A stake shows that the city's property line runs right through the steps to Mahon's front door.
He said the house, where he has lived for more than eight years, shows up on the tax rolls for the first time in 1880 and was built before the street. He has pictures of the property dating back decades that show the ligustrum hedge, which he estimates is 50 or more years old.
Pelloat said the city does not plan to remove the steps leading to Mahon's front door or his mailbox, which also is on city property.
The stumps from the ligustrum bushes will be ground down, and the area where greenery was removed will be planted with sod and maintained by the city, he said.
Mahon said he views the city's action as "purely vindictive."
"I am very disappointed that this town could be represented by people with such small minds," he said, calling it a shame that the city had removed established vegetation that had not generated any complaints.