Board of Public Works approves greenway plan--with no changes

The Board of Public Works in session on 4/21/10

On April 21 at 6:30, the public hearing portion of the meeting began in the City-County building, and ended at about 9:00 pm. The board actually began their meeting at 4:30 pm, considering the “non-hearing” items before 6:30. What a marathon! Hey, running the city is hard work!
Attending were seven board members (some of them Alders), about 4 city engineers who presented projects to the Board, and at least 10 citizens. There were three citizens who made statements about the greenway.

The format for review of each project was
  • Presentation of the project by an engineer
  • Technical questions by board members
  • Technical questions by citizens
  • Comments by citizens (limited to three minutes each)
  • Discussion among board members.
  • Motion to approve the project (sometimes with a few modifications), then a vote.
The greenway project is presented

Engineer Lisa Coleman (above) made a verbal presentation of the project, using the maps we have seen plus some photo enlargements. She reviewed the history of the project and the opposition, stating that the whole project began after some residents along the greenway complained about the erosion.

Lisa said that the landscaping plan was just finished, and pointed to a number of symbols on the map, showing locations of trees and shrubs to be planted. As far as I could tell, the landscaping plan involved only the planting of 79 trees and shrubs. A list of trees and shrubs to be planted is available. There was no mention of any terracing, but with a subsequent question, we learned that the “cliff”--the badly eroded bank at one place on the Upland side--would be restored by filling with earth, grading, then seeding with grass.

The original plan for four dams has been cut back to three because one resident objected--probably Mr. Ozanne, because later he commented that he was opposed to dams because of the mosquitoes that plagued his family when he was young.

One board member confirmed that it is now City policy to hold contractors responsible for damage to trees outside planned area, and Lisa confirmed that they would delimit the construction area with fencing (except for the lateral sewage lines). I believe I heard that the project will be bid for natural fieldstone riprap.

During technical questions, we learned that the Vactor trucks can work with hoses up to 600 feet long, but that they cannot operate from Upland or Hillcrest because of the 90 degree bend that would be required in a hose coming down from either street. So the gravel road to the first manhole from the east end is still required--the gravel will be covered with topsoil, as in Westmorland park (where it still looks a little ratty).

Comments from residents on the plan

Peter Mitchell asked about disturbance to residents from construction, talked about the large size of equipment, and his fears about expected collateral damage to trees. He questioned why large trees couldn’t be planted; Lisa replied that, after they lay down the riprap, heavy equipment won’t be able to come in to plant large trees. Board member Phillips agreed that he, too, is concerned about collateral damage to trees.

Mitchell said, rather pointedly, that residents were concerned that--even at this meeting--there weren’t enough details provided for residents to fully understand what was planned.

I have to agree. I still cannot understand why a rain garden at the east end cannot be built to take runoff from South Owen Drive. I have looked at the lay of the land there, and can’t see a valid reason against it.  You might say: "Citizens should just trust city engineers to do their job."  The problem is, people report that project details are sometimes modified in mid-stream, so they don't turn out as presented in public meetings.

Responding to Mitchell’s critical tone, board member Michael Rewey defended Lisa, saying twice that in the ten years he has served on the board, hers was the best presentation he had ever heard.

Alder Paul responded that, putting things in perspective, sewers were important, and there would be s*** in people’s basements if something wasn’t done. Trees were important, but it was unavoidable to lose some, and they would grow back.

David Thompson said:
  • The original cause of damage to the greenway was excessive runoff from upstream. 
  • It would be better for both the neighborhood and the city to solve the runoff problem, but this project does nothing to address runoff issues, despite the fact that just upstream is a park where runoff could be moderated. 
  • The city would be better served if runoff were solved at the source--an example being the need for an expensive project underway to prevent flooding downstream on University Avenue. 
  • In summary, the Board of Public Works should give greater weight to watershed issues. 
Mr. Ozanne said he, too, was losing trees--three to be precise. He said he approved of the project--the only improvement he could think of was to have MG&E put the power lines underground, so they would be safe from falling branches. He said that, when his grandparents owned the property on S. Owen Drive, mosquitoes were a serious problem.

The project is approved

The Board approved the project as presented, all 7 members voting in favor.

In my last blog posting, I said I expected the greenway plan would be “rubber-stamped by the board.  After seeing them in action, I don’t think the Board gives all projects a rubber stamp approval.  For a number of projects, there were numerous comments and questions from board members, and even some minor modifications requested for a project before it was voted on.

That said, the Greenway plan was passed with no modifications, and approved unanimously. Two Board members actively supported the plan in the face of criticism from residents. I suspect Board support reflects the fact that Lisa Coleman and Chris Schmidt have worked so hard on this project, going through three neighborhood meetings.

In short, all the juice has been squeezed from this lemon--there’s no more lemonade to be had.

What more can we do?
  • Work to reform the Board of Public Works--give it a greener perspective.
  • Remember and vote for Adlers and Mayors who back green infrastructure.
  • Review the landscaping plan.
  • Watch construction and sound the alarm if any trees outside the fence are touched.
  • Find out how trees along the lateral lines will be protected--that's still up in the air.
  • Make sure natural fieldstone riprap is used, as promised.
  • Attend and register to make comments at the Common Council hearing on May 4.  Let the City know the process isn't "green" enough.
  • Make sure redevelopment of the Mt.Olive Church property reduces stormwater runoff from the current levels.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, David, for this full and clear report! I did not attend because it was EXTREMELY unclear what this meeting was to be about from the notice that we received. Some of us who care deeply about the greeenway but who did not attend believed that this would simply be a "pro forma" meeting to approve the recent assessments on our sewerelines.


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