Council members unanimously agreed at the Jan. 17 meeting to redesign the new police department's secured parking lot to save two oaks trees that were scheduled to be cut down because they are in the path of the lot's driveway. The redesign will cost $69,000 and take up to nine weeks.
"These are both healthy, terrific trees," said council member Rick DeGolia. "I think we should make the change and save these trees."
Some council members, however, expressed dismay that they were making the last-minute changes to the civic center's plans.
"We knew these trees were here, and we knew the community values these trees," council member Bill Widmer said. "It's a shame that we're this far down the line" and making the changes, he said.
Council member Elizabeth Lewis said that even though she was on the Civic Center Advisory Committee, she and other members had not been informed by the architect or landscape architect that such important trees were slated to be removed.
"We should have been notified long before," said Ms. Lewis. "I honestly believe that the town should not bear the entire burden of the redesign to save these trees," she said. She said the town staff should negotiate some cost-sharing with the architects, WRNS Studio.
The council was divided on the fate of two other trees in the path of a redesign of the intersection of Dinkelspiel Station Lane and Maple Street. Dinkelspiel Station Lane is now offset into two separate sections by a short section of Maple, requiring through traffic to make two sharp turns in close proximity. The plan was to remove the trees and change the street to replace the offset with more gentle curves.
The change is needed for safety, said nearby resident Alex Keh. "The offset is the reason why it's unsafe," he said, adding that the trees also limit visibility.
"I don't want to compromise a public safety concern," said Mayor Cary Wiest.
Council member Bill Widmer said those two trees aren't as valuable as some of the others the council was considering. "If they're heritage trees, they're barely heritage trees," he said. "I'd rather for safety's sake not bother with this."
But other council members said that if the town can save the trees while making the intersection safer than it now is, they want to do so.
The architects will work to shift the street enough to improve the Dinkelspiel/Walnut intersection and retain the trees. If that's not possible, the trees will go.
The fifth tree is a very large old oak that sits near the planned entry to the new library, close to another oak that is to be preserved, surrounded by the library's deck.
Cost to move the tree is estimated to be $60,000 to $75,000, with a 60 to 70 percent chance of survival, the staff report says.
Plans show the tree will move to the courtyard near the new council chamber and city hall building, where council member Rick DeGolia said it would be "a statement tree."
Council members said that before moving the tree they want to have an arborist make sure digging it up won't damage the oak tree that is to stay in place.
The cost of moving the tree will be charged to the library project.
The redesign costs and time estimates are greatly reduced from the architects' first estimates, and WRNS Studio's Pauline Souza said it's possible that the redesign could be done concurrent with the bidding process, which is still scheduled to begin in March, so it won't delay the project.
The council also heard that the cost estimates for the civic center construction have increased, but only because of a significant increase in the cost of the library's microgrid battery system, which would store energy from the library's solar array.
Paul Beamer of Mack5, which is managing the town's civic center project, said the cost of the microgrid battery system for the library had increased by $4 million since the last estimate. However, he said, he believes that number will soon drop by $2 million. Total construction cost for the library and civic center is now estimated at $41.5 million, up from $38.7 million at last estimate.
However, the cost estimate for the city hall complex has actually decreased by about $500,000 since the last estimate, Mr. Beamer said.
The library and the city hall complex are funded by two separate pots of money, with the funds much tighter for the city hall.
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