Rotting Trees at Granite Park May Hit Taxpayers Wallets

FRESNO, Calif. The farm that delivered those trees has slapped a lien on everyone involved with the development.

The trees started arriving in August 2008, but they're all dead now -- just like the deal to turn Granite Park into a world class sports and entertainment facility.

A small forest of dead trees is the latest stain on the troubled legacy of Granite Park and it may also be a drain on Fresno resources.

Almost 1,000 trees came from Shady Tree Farms, but developers planted fewer than 100 and now none of them are getting watered.

"It's really a shame," said Gary Christy of Shady Tree Farms. "We wish somebody would've taken care of it. My crew was originally out there and we watered the trees."

The tree contract was supposed to be a dream for the Fresno-based business -- its second-biggest ever. Instead, it's become a nightmare. Developers gave them a one-time payment of $50,000 and a bounced check out of a contract worth nearly $2 million.

"In these times, the financial times as it is, you can imagine what $1.9 million does to any business, much less a small business," said Christy.

Shady Tree Farms has now filed suit against the developers -- Milt Barbis and Howard Young. It's also targeting the city of Fresno, which is in the process of taking over part of Granite Park because it co-signed on a $5 million loan.

But the city has delayed taking control of the property, waiting for this lawsuit and others to play out.

"We're responsible for about $5 million for the property, but the other liens is an issue we don't believe we're involved in," said assistant city manager Bruce Rudd.

Mediation has failed so far, so a judge will have to decide if the city has any liability.

"We've got a huge amount of money expended and everybody's like, 'It's not my fault.' Well, we'll see about that," said Christy.

Milt Barbis didn't want to talk much about the case or his own bankruptcy case, but he told Action News that with Granite Park, not everything is as it appears.

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