Home owners will be asked if they'd like trees planted on their property

In order for construction to take place in the South Ohio Street Project, the removal of a number of large street trees near the roadway, sidewalks, and underground utilities, was required.  Many of the large trees had root systems compromised by sidewalks and drive ways.  Council incorporated funding in the project for tree replacement with an established budget of $50,000.   The construction plan called for the replacement of 52 trees at a cost of $44,110.  
At Monday’s Augusta City Council meeting,  City Manager Josh Shaw shared news from a recent progress meeting with the contractor to discuss the timeline for completion of landscaping and installation of the trees.
Shaw explained that “street trees” have shallower root systems, branches higher off the ground for visibility, and an outward foliage spread that is narrow.  In order to meet the budget for tree replacement, 2” caliper trees in a variety of species would be approximately 8 feet in height and would require multiple growing seasons in becoming a substantial looking tree.
The 8 ft. trees would require at least 18-24 inch holes excavated to install the root ball and the hole would be up to 36 inches deep if the city upgraded to 3-4” caliper trees 12-15 feet in height.
Shaw told councilors that in many places throughout the project, especially the south three blocks, the top of the brand new storm sewer pipe is only 18-24 inches deep.  Many of the trees would be installed almost directly on top of the new infrastructure.  Fully grown, some of the species reach 40-80 feet in height, meaning there would be tremendous pressure sitting directly on top of storm sewer and other underground utilities.
The city engineer and staff recommended 11 of the 52 trees remain in the project and the remainder be removed from the public right-of-way.  The action would require a change order to be approved by KDOT.
“We need to know how you want to proceed.  Remove the trees from the project?  Work directly with homeowners to see if they wish to plant trees on their property?” Shaw asked.
“I’m all for talking to the homeowners.  There’s not a lot of room in those spaces (right-of-way) for a big  tree,” said Council member Jamie Crum.
Councilor Tom Leffler said that he would support canceling the order for trees altogether and go with a local contractor.
“We can pull out of the contract completely and go local.  And maybe get better prices,” advised Shaw.
Leffler proposed rejecting the 52 trees and have staff look at putting some trees on private property and working with a local contractor.
Councilman Eric Burke asked if the homeowners would be able to select the species of trees.  Shaw advises that they could be given a list of preferred types of trees.
City Attorney Austin Parker drafted an agreement that can be used for the City to enter into direct relationships with property owners to have trees planted on private property adjacent to the project instead of within the public right-of-way.  The action will likely require the City to negotiate new pricing with a subcontractor independent of the KDOT project.  
Council approved Leffler’s motion, 6-1, with Councilman David Bates voting against the measure.
Change order discussion
A new triangular-shaped concrete island in the entrance to the new Garvin Park Concessions Facility was planned, but without construction of an actual parking lot, the channeling of traffic on the one-way street may prove to be ineffective.  City Engineer Mike Stump prepared two options for consideration to provide clarity to the contractor before construction begins.
“The placement of the island may create confusion for vehicles entering and exiting the park.  Without any recognizable driving lanes or parking lot indicating traffic flow, the island appears to channel cars directly into the side of the new planned parking stalls,” Shaw said.
The recommendation to Council is to narrow the width, and extend the concrete down to the planned ADA parking stalls, which would create a more natural traffic flow, and allowing the drive entrance reduced and removal of the old damaged asphalt that currently exists in the location.
Shaw advised that alternatively, the city can just remove the planned island and make further improvements when and if a new parking lot is ever considered for the complex.
Following some discussion, council members were asked to deduct the planned island from the project, tear out the old asphalt, re-grade and put in gravel.  This option would cost considerably less and allows for future planning of a parking area.
Before voting on the option, Councilman Cale Magruder stated, “I want you to know that I’m voting yes on this option and that we’ll have further discussion down the road on a parking lot, but philosophically we wouldn’t  allow a citizen to gravel their driveway.”
Council unanimously approved leaving the island out of the plans, tearing out the portion of old asphalt, and putting in gravel.
Also approved was a strategic retreat work session at 6 p.m. on April 9, 2018, to discuss the annual  utility abatement program, preliminary budget planning, and goal setting for the 2019 calendar.