Neighbors anxious for plan to restore lot cleared of trees

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Construction has started on Phase 3 of Governor Francis Farm sewers, with the deepest trench to be dug on Lansdowne Road where a pumping station will be built.

But while it will be about 18 months before the system is completed, Janine Burke-Wells, executive director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, expects one unplanned aspect of the project to be fully resolved by the end of the year. That’s a satisfactory restoration of an area cleared of more than 40 trees on the north end of Lansdowne. The site, a part of the John Brown Francis School grounds, was targeted as a staging area for materials and equipment for the sewer project.

That abruptly changed when Lansdowne residents, who had not been notified of the plan or that the trees would be taken down, acted to stop the clearing. While the school department had granted use of its land, the extent to which the contractor, C.B. Utility of Bristol, was seeking to clear trees wasn’t communicated to the sewer authority.

Last week, the authority ruled out use of the site as a staging area and directed the cleanup of cut branches and piles of wood chips. Also, the contractor reached an agreement for a staging area on the west side of Warwick Avenue near Spring Green Pond to the rear of the former Copperfields at Hoxsie Four Corners. A portion of that area has been fenced in for equipment. There is a stockpile of gravel deeper within the lot.

Last Wednesday, Charles Lombardi of O&M Solutions, who has been retained to assist in coordinating the construction project, met with neighbors to address the tree issue and talk about how the area could be restored.

Tom Wisniewski, who lives across from the cleared lot and hosted the meeting, said Sunday he still doesn’t know who was responsible for giving the go ahead to cut the trees.

“Someone came out here and marked those trees,” he said. “Somebody had a plan.”

Regardless of how it happened, Wisniewski doesn’t think the cost of remediation should be borne by the sewer ratepayers.

“We’ve paid our price. We’ve had it in our backyard already,” he said.

Neighbor Anthony Russo said he thought the school was making a path when he saw a crew clearing the area when he left for work in the morning. He said by the time he got home the trees were gone. Both Russo and Wisniewski are anxious to see the restoration plan the sewer authority comes up with. Working with neighbors they intend not only to comment on the plan but, if necessary, present a plan of their own.

Lombardi did not offer a timetable for development of a plan. He said Lansdowne residents have been helpful in suggesting what should be done.

Burke-Wells said once a restoration plan has been “sketched out” it would be shared with the school department and the neighbors.

“We’re all collaborating on a fix,” she said.

Asked who would pick up the tab, Burke-Wells said, “I’m hoping the Sewer Authority is not going to pay for it.”

Presumably, that would leave the contractor.

Burke-Wells acknowledged if the authority takes on restoration, it would need to put the project out for bids. That would delay efforts to restore the property apart from putting the cost on the ratepayers.

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Bob_Cushman

Incredible that there has been no call from the Mayor, City Council, or the WSA board to convene an investigation to determine how this occurred. Burke, hoping “the Sewer Authority is not going to pay” for the restoration isn’t an acceptable answer.

Just like the screw up that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollar in steel plates being rendered useless in the project to increase the levy at the WSA plant and countless other projects over budgeted by millions and delivered well past planned deadlines, the WSA rate payers will continue to pay for ineptness from WSA management.

It’s high time that a new director be named and either WSA board members be elected by the Rate payers or the body be disbanded entirely and let the City Council serve as oversight authority. At least we the rate payers can fire them if we don’t like how they are doing their job.

Tuesday, April 24