By David Bungert, DuPont
The residents of Northwest Landing, a Quadrant Planned Community, have been plagued with tree issues creating sidewalk problems. The wrong trees were approved by the City of DuPont’s planning and permitting process. Quadrant then planted approved trees in the park strip. These trees have caused sidewalk failures to include; raised or depressed sidewalks, cracked and fractured sidewalks, and many other defects. These defects can cause a major liability for the City and the adjacent property owner. Many citizens during the past decade have asked, “Who owns the trees; who is responsible for the trees?”
Over the past decade, tree codes and ordinances were written with none claiming or defining tree ownership. There is a tree planting and removal application and during March 2012 the City of DuPont published the City of DuPont Citizens Tree Care Manual. During the Special City Council Meeting concerning Policy on Ownership of Street Trees that was held May 20, 2014, Public Works Director Peter Zahn stated “Currently, sidewalks and street trees are owned by the City.”
Presently, after a year of study sessions, workshops and a test area removing the trees in the park strip and replacing sidewalks, the City has come to the cost realization that to fix the tree issues and the sidewalk problems throughout the entire city will cost well above one million dollars. Some believe/think that the cost will be in the multi-millions of dollars. The new issue is not about who owns the tree but the fact that the City of DuPont doesn’t have the funds to pay for their planning and permitting approvals from years ago.
The City of DuPont is going to update its present 1950s timeframe sidewalk ordinance. Both the old and new ordinance puts the costs for maintenance and repair of City owned sidewalks on the adjacent property owners. Included with the new ordinance are updates that concern/address: inspections, sidewalk definitions and repair criteria, permitting, resolution issues and many other subsections.
Councilmember Michael Gorski is the only one that is addressing this issue. Councilmember Shawna Gasak, during July 28, 2015 City Council meeting, thanked Councilmember Gorski for taking on this issue alone. One must ask what has Mayor Michael Grayum, (Council member since 2009), Councilmembers Penny Coffey (2003), Roger Westman (2003), Kathleen Totter (2 terms), and Michael Courts (1 term) done on this tree issue and sidewalk problem? Why has nothing been done to manage this concern? In Councilmember Gorski’s first term he is addressing a major issue that has plagued the city of DuPont for over a decade. However, no plan has yet been presented. Is the City’s plan to approve the ordinance, conduct inspections and then issue repair notices? All the while hoping no residents take legal action against the City. Before the council approves the new ordinance, please present a plan forward that will:
- Unite a divided city.
- Manage the tree issue and sidewalk problem.
- Create an opportunity to minimize liability against the City and hope for the adjacent residential property owners.
A very rough and quickly written plan forward that invites others to crowd source or present other options.
Suggested Paradigm Shift
City of DuPont: Accept the fact that the City approved and permitted the planting of the wrong trees. Accept the fact that the City has over the years maintained the damage sidewalks by grinding, placement of asphalt and other methods to minimize liability. The 2015 DuPont City Council did in fact instruct City staff to continue this ongoing practice:
- Hold the second reading of the sidewalk ordinance Chapter 14.01 till a later date.
- Develop a Policy: The City of DuPont will no longer own trees in the park strip of residential property. This policy will include residential park strips for multi-family, single-family, apartments and condominiums. Define tree ownership for retail commercial and industrial areas.
- Create a funding source: 2015 City Council raises the Mineral Extraction tax or create a new mining tax. During the 2016 budget plan/fund a proposition for November 2016 ballot. January 2016 City Council raises the Mineral Extraction tax or increases the new mining tax. June-July 2016 present a proposition for November 2016 ballot. Citizens vote to increase mineral extraction or other new mining tax by 4/10, 5/10, 6/10, whatever is needed. Council continues to raise mineral extraction or new mining tax annually.
- Plan and budget in 2016 to purchase needed safety items, tools and fund project consumables. 2016 purchase the Sidewalk Sucker (YouTube Demo), rescue saws, chainsaws, and chainsaw pruners.
- Labor Classification of Technical and Non-technical project work.
- Tree pruning, cutting and stump removal with Hydro-jet is non-technical except Palisade Village.
- Filling of holes, compacting, placing sod or seed non-technical.
- Cutting of concrete sidewalk non-technical.
- Concrete debris removal by hand non-technical, with loader, technical.
- Sidewalk Sucker operations, technical.
- Placement of new concrete, technical.
- Tree removal in Palisade and Historical Villages, technical.
- Locate and identifying utilities, technical.
- Non-Technical work can be done by CERT members and volunteers. Technical work to be completed by public works or contracted out.
- 2015 ASAP, Public Works Department trains CERT members on vehicle operations (pickup trucks and trailers), rescue saws, chainsaw operations, portable generators, etc.
- Define Project scope. (This is a quick and rough scope) City of DuPont will provide a one-time opportunity for the removal of the present tree and fixing/replacing of damage sidewalk for the adjacent residential property owner. (Per the new City policy: If the adjacent property owner will take the responsibility and the liability for having a tree in the park strip the property owner can plant an approved tree in the park strip and assume all liability.) The project will take three to four years. Starting in Bell Hill, then move to Hoffman Hill followed by Yehle Village then move to the most technical phase Palisade Village finishing in Historic Village.
- Trim/prune all tees.
- Cut down all trees.
- Locate and identifying utilities.
- Remove tree stumps with Hydro-jetting. Debris is taken to four acre site across from DuPont Civic Center for chip grinding at later date. (CERT Team leadership training and team building)
- Cut and remove sidewalk debris.
- Employ Sidewalk Sucker as needed.
- Place new concrete sidewalk as needed.
- Plant sod or seed.
- Adopt Chapter 14.01
- Inspection, identification and permitting.
- Schedule, coordinate with citizens. Start project.
Depending on the training of DuPont CERT the City could have Bell Hill completed in 2015 with minimal costs to the city. If the Sidewalk Sucker is needed in that area, it can be scheduled in early 2016. By employing/training CERT members the City lowers the cost for all the non-technical labor. The CERT training provides the project workforce and trains the CERT team to react in a crisis or disaster. The non-technical work will simulated disaster clean up such as trimming and cutting down trees. Digging stumps is the same as digging out after a flood or land slide.
The City of DuPont has a gravel mine. The gravel mine is a diminishing resource that City of DuPont has failed to manage. Throughout all of recorded history; civilizations that are successful manage their diminishing and renewable resources. This won’t fund the entire project but it will get the project started.
During last City Council meeting on July 28, 2015 during public comments DuPont resident Don Dresser referred to the City tree issue and City sidewalk problem and stated to the council that, “They were voted in by the public, you serve the public. Yes, the council has a responsibility to the city. But, the city is not an entity of its own. The city is represented by the public.”
DuPont City Council members, please produce a plan that minimizes liability against the City and brings hope for the adjacent residential property owners.