Louisville City Council on Tuesday approved suspending work in the ongoing median improvement project because of concerns over tree remova and costs in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The project began in late 2018 with an evaluation of medians, many of which were installed 20 to 30 years ago, and was scheduled to be completed this summer. Work, which was scheduled to begin in March, will be suspended until further notice.
Originally plans called for plant replacement and enhancements, removal and replacement of unhealthy trees and replacement of outdated irrigation systems along Via Appia, Cherry Street and McCaslin Boulevard. However, revised cost estimates prompted the removal of Cherry Street trees to be eliminated from the project.
Director of Parks, Recreation and Open Space Nathan Mosley told Council if the project included all three streets, costs would increase to $900,000, $300,000 over the approved budget.
Because of concerns raised about the project, staff brought Council four potential options for moving forward. Among those concerns raised by residents and council were the number of trees slated for removal.
“I was surprised by the amount of trees to be removed along Via Appia,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Dennis Maloney. “This was not something, I don’t think, in our intent initially.”
One of the proposals brought to Council Tuesday included an amended design that reduced the number of trees to be removedby 40% on Via Appia and 25% on McCaslin Boulevard. The money saved would be used to plant additional and larger trees. It also calls for removal of 20 honey locust trees at the northeast end of Via Appia.
“There have been serious declines,” Mosley said of the honey locusts. “ Many have been hit, (some of) the medians are very narrow and don’t have irrigation. Due to those factors, the design calls for removing the honey locust trees and replacing them with stamp concrete.”
Another proposal included moving forward with the design as proposed. This option also would remove the 20 honey locust trees, along with 38 trees along Via Appia and 62 along McCaslin Boulevard.
The third proposal was to focus only on irrigation and flower beds, and the fourth option was to suspend the project.
Ultimately, councilmembers agreed to hold off on the project, which will be added to the 2021 capital improvements list, and to potentially take another look at the design.
“This is one of those city beautification projects, a quality of life project,” said Councilmember Jeff Lipton. “I think it’s a terrible signal to our community that we’re spending $600,000 to replace trees and we’re asking everyone else to make sacrifices. I think we can defer until next year.”
Councilmember Kyle Brown said he didn’t believe it was the right time to spend that amount of money.
“I’m willing to spend the $600,000, but I think it would be better spent on potential relief efforts and something related to the (coronavirus) emergency and the crisis.”