In response to neighborhood outrage, the Warwick Sewer Authority has abandoned its planned use of city land that was apparently cleared of trees without WSA approval as a staging area for equipment and supplies for Phase 3 of the Governor Francis Farms sewer project.
“We’re going to have to fix that site up,” WSA director Janine Burke-Wells said yesterday of the property on the north end of Lansdowne Road. The site is part of the John Brown Francis School property and adjacent to the school field. The wooded strip served as a screen to Lansdowne residents on the east side of the road.
Burke-Wells said the authority has secured another staging area across Warwick Avenue near the former Copperfields and Hoxsie Four Corners. She thought the site would be fenced in.
The new lot comes none too soon. A delivery truck carrying pipes for the project was turned away Monday morning by a neighbor before it had the chance to make a dropoff.
Burke-Wells said the word was being put out to contractors, and her focus now is on making right what went wrong.
“We’ll try to make lemonade out of this,” she said.
Lansdowne resident Tom Wisniewski, who with his neighbor Maury Ryan started making calls as soon as a crew began cutting trees – some believed to be more than 100 years old – said Monday area residents are looking for three things to happen. The first that appears to have happened is abandonment of the site as a staging area for the 18-month sewer installation project. Second, Wisniewski said, is cleaning up the site that has mounds of woodchips and limbs, and third is remediation of the property.
“We want it restored,” he said.
Burke-Wells said WSA consultant Charles Lombardi of CWL Solutions, who is serving as the lead on the sewer project, will be visiting the site today with a landscaper. She said Lombardi would follow up with a meeting on Wednesday with the neighbors.
Wisniewski reported that he and two other neighbors met with Lombardi and agreed to host the meeting at his home at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Burke-Wells said 32 trees ranging from eight inches in diameter to 30 inches were taken down.
When a contractor showed up and started clearing the area, Ryan said he was told it would be a playground for the school. Based on how a portion of the school field had been used as a staging area in earlier Gov. Francis Farms sewer projects, Wisniewski initially thought clearing would be limited.
That changed rapidly as in the course of less than two days all but a few trees were felled. There would have been more if the neighbors hadn’t intervened.
As best can be pieced together, as a courtesy the Warwick School administration granted the WSA permission to use the land. That request did not indicate to what extent the land would be cleared.
Furthermore, Burke-Wells said the authority is “very sensitive” to the removal of any trees, an issue it often has to address when installing sewers. She said last week that the authority would restore the property.
Who gave the contractor approval to remove the trees hasn’t been answered. Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley said Monday he still wants to know “who was the person who authorized the cut down.”
Corley also called the southerly end of Lansdowne Road where a pumping station will be a built “a big mess.” He said a resident of the area complained of equipment moving onto the site as early as 4:45 a.m.
Corley said he plans to attend Wednesday’s meeting.