By Beth David, Editor
The Board of Public Works road project for Green Street has been modified to save some trees. After an uproar by residents, who said they were blindsided by the plan to take down 18 trees because there was no public hearing or notice published in a newspaper, the BPW worked with neighbors and changed the plan.
The BPW held a joint meeting with Tree Warden Brian Bowcock on 7/26 (see 7/28/16 issue). The board agreed to meet with a few neighbors as representatives to try to compromise.
On 8/24, the BPW released an update that was posted on the town’s website.
The project will reconstruct Green Street from Washington Street to South Street, about 1800 feet. It includes drainage improvements, sidewalk construction, curbing and re-paving Green Street. The cost of the project is $652,650, using Chapter 90 funds, that come from the state.
The new plan will take down six trees, not 18.
Tree Warden Brian Bowcock never held a hearing to announce the removal of the trees for the project. The BPW held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the project, that was noticed to abutters only, not advertised in the legal notices.
Town Counsel Tom Crotty said that the project would compromise the trees and make them a danger, allowing the tree warden to bypass the hearing, using the part of the statute that allows for removal of trees that are a hazard.
The tree warden is not holding a hearing on the six trees to be removed. The project has already started and should be finished by the end of the year.
Department of Public Works superintendent Vincent Furtado said the compromise plan will allow the project to go forward, and will keep most of the large trees on Green Street.
He said the BPW hired an arborist to look at each tree.
“He actually wanted us to take down more than the original (number) because of the current condition of the trees,” said Mr. Furtado.
But because neighbors and other residents were so intent on saving the trees, he said they opted to take down only those absolutely necessary for the project, and to change the project in places to accommodate the trees.
Trip hazards will be ground down, where possible, and ramps built in other spots on the sidewalks, instead of taking it all up and installing new ones. The road will narrowed by two feet from Washington to Union, and by one foot from Union to South Street.
In at least one spot, the road will be narrowed by up to two feet.
“It was a good collaborative effort,” said Mr. Furtado. “I think it worked out well for everybody.”
He said he would still prefer to take down more trees because, from a “fiduciary” stand-point, it makes more sense.
“In the position they hired me for I’m supposed to spend the money the best way we can, no more no less,” said Mr. Furtado, adding that he feels the road or sidewalks will need additional work in a few years or 10 years, not the 20 he was hoping for.
“I don’t know if we will have funds available at a future date,” said Mr. Furtado. “So we may have to go back and replace sidewalks. So be it, there are worse things in the world than that.”
The engineer on the project recommended taking down the 18 trees, so they simply took his advice, since the town is paying him “handsomely,” said Mr. Furtado.
“It should be noted that, per the professional opinion of a hired arborist by the Board of Public Works, several trees that will be saved are compromised and/or diseased and may require replacement in the future,” reads the update.
See below to download the arborist’s report and the BPW update from 8/24/16.