But the answers from Bayor and Ybor City Development Corporation (YCDC) leader Vince Pardo only spurred more questions.
Bayor apologized for the seemingly random act, but said his department was in regular consultation with the YCDC for more than a year regarding the plan to replace trees in the historic district. He said the removal was necessary due to disease and decline, and that some trees were causing the sidewalks to buckle.
Bayor said the hope was to replace all of the trees with olive trees, but there weren't enough available, so crape myrtles and palm trees will also be planted.
The total cost for removing and adding the new trees is $111,006, and comes out of a dedicated fund for trees.
Last week, City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern asked Bayor a series of questions regarding the incident, but she wasn't satisfied with what she heard today. She wondered why the money came out of the separate tree fund, when it could it could have come out of a TIF (tax incremental fund) for Ybor City.
"Plenty of places need trees," she said, adding that she wasn't convinced that all of the trees needed to be replaced.
Councilwoman Lisa Montelione wasn't convinced either. She showed pictures of trees that were standing before Sept. 26 that clearly needed to be replaced, and also some that didn't. She quoted from a tree survey prepared by the Parks and Recreation Department that stated some of the trees were "fair" or "good." She called that "sketchy."
Pardo said he had an "excellent communications system" with the city, and that news of the tree transplants was reported in monthly newsletters and YCDC meetings. But obviously not that many people were reading those newsletters or spreading the word, because it appears that few people knew about the plan.
City Councilman Frank Reddick, who represents Ybor City, said it was embarrassing to take calls from the news media and the community about the incident, when he had no clue.
Montelione said city officials might think of using social media to spread the word in the future.
Bayor will return before the Council on Nov. 1 to answer more questions that were proposed today.