Trees crowding sidewalk on town chopping block

Nearly a dozen trees along Main Street in Southwest Harbor might have to be cut down because they are too close to the new sidewalk. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Nearly a dozen trees along Main Street in Southwest Harbor might have to be cut down because they are too close to the new sidewalk.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Up to 11 trees along the east side of Main Street might have to be removed to prevent future damage to the recently reconstructed sidewalk, town manager Don Lagrange told the board of selectmen last week.

He said there is no question that two trees must be taken down, and four others at the edge of the sidewalk probably should go, as well.

“The other five are going to grow into the sidewalk, and in five, 10 or 15 years, you’re not going to want them there,” Lagrange said.

Several board members expressed frustration that removal of the trees was not included in the overall plan for the Main Street reconstruction project.

“It’s not acceptable to me that it wasn’t part of the bid,” selectman George Jellison said. “I feel like we’re being put on the spot to pay for something that should have been included originally.”

Selectman Tom Benson agreed, saying the town hired the engineering firm Olver Associates to plan and oversee the Main Street project because of their reputation for attention to detail.

“They were down here for weeks gathering information,” he said. “I feel they should accept some responsibility.”

Lagrange said the engineers have acknowledged that they erred in not designating some of the trees for removal.

“But I don’t know if that negates us paying the cost for their removal,” he said, pointing out that the town would have had to bear that cost if tree removal had been part of the original plan.

“I’m not sticking up for Olver,” Lagrange said. “I’m just saying you would have paid for it front or back.”

But Benson said that paying for things “on the back end” is always more expensive. He said tree removal likely would have been an “incidental” expense in the general contractor’s overall bid.

“Now, looking at it as a change order, you pay full price for it,” he said. “And getting those stumps out is going to wreck the sidewalk. They’ll have to be fixed, so that’s another cost.”

Lagrange said he didn’t yet have a cost estimate for removing the trees.

Selectman Lydia Goetze said that, like Benson and Jellison, she didn’t understand why it wasn’t clear from the start which trees should be removed.

“And if it wasn’t clear when they first did the whole plan, at least it should have been clear before they put in the curb and laid the sidewalk,” she said.

Referring to the replacement of water and sewer lines beneath Main Street, she said, “When you’re planning what’s underground for the next 50 or 100 years, you’d think you’d try to plan what’s above ground, at least for a good 25 years, and not have trees growing in the sidewalk.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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