Tree issues dominate committee agenda
Sewer and road work require the removal of more than two dozen mature city trees according to a report going to the public works committee on Monday, but a ‘triple bottom line’ analysis says this will enhance environmental well-being. The same meeting will consider a funding request to continue a program that planted 5000 trees in parks and natural areas last year, while a third report calls for tree trimming to improve views of the harbour.
The planting request is being pursued by councillor Brian McHattie, who along with Dave Braden, launched the Trees Across Hamilton program last spring using volunteers recruited by councillors and community groups.
McHattie is seeking one-time funding which he hopes will be replaced in 2007 by support from a trees and park foundation being developed with the support of the Hamilton Community Foundation. Green Venture, Mountainview Residents and Environment Hamilton are collaborating with the city in the creation of the new foundation.
Thirteen trees are being removed on Edgemont between Cannon and Main to facilitate sewer and watermain work including reconstruction of the road and sidewalks. Eight more are in the way of watermain work on Parkdale near Lawrence Avenue. The report says the work can’t proceed without the removals.
Six more trees will be sacrificed to complete the escarpment stairs between the east end rail trail and Mountain Brow Boulevard. Three are also scheduled to come down because of work on Ferguson Avenue, but 24 saplings will be installed as part of that project.
The tree trimming report responds to complaints of a citizen that the view of the harbour from several city parks is being obscured by vegetation growth. Staff disagree with the demand for tree removal, but support some branch removal using trimming monies approved in last week’s budget deliberations.
On March 27 the council agreed to slowly begin phasing-in a regular maintenance program that will eventually see all city street trees in both old Hamilton and the suburbs inspected and trimmed once every five years. The move to a five-year cycle was originally approved just before the 2003 elections, but was denied budget monies in both 2004 and 2005, and appeared headed for a similar fate this year until provincial grants eased the city’s financial woes.
The lack of funding has meant the maintenance schedule slipped from a 12-year cycle in 2003 to a 20-year cycle today as staff have been forced to deal with increasing numbers of resident complaints from both the old city and the amalgamated suburbs. McHattie moved approval of a $477,000 expenditure to begin a phase-in of a five-year cycle over the next five years. He argued the lack of regular maintainence makes the city more liable should an accident occur such as the one that killed a young boy on the RBG lands last year. “If we’re at 20, and we want to be at five, that certainly seems like a significant gap,” he noted.
But his motion was defeated on a 6-6 tie vote. McHattie was supported by Phil Bruckler, Chad Collins, Sam Merulla, Art Samson and Bernie Morelli. Opponents were Dave Braden, Maria Pearson, Dave Mitchell, Terry Whitehead, Tom Jackson and Mayor Larry Di Ianni.
A subsequent motion for a seven-year phase-in was approved at a cost of $325,000 in 2006. That should eventually add three and a quarter million dollars to the forestry department operating budget by the time full implementation is achieved in 2012.
The agenda of tomorrow’s public works committee is posted at http://www.myhamilton.ca/myhamilton/Cit
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