By Katie Dahlstrom
Suzane Sper has lived in the 1200 block of Pershing Boulevard for 14 years. Long before she got there, a gingko tree took root, a tree Sper fears she might lose because of a city of Clinton sewer project.
Sper isn’t alone in her worry.
About 20 residents attended a public meeting Wednesday night to learn more about the city’s 20th Avenue North pumping station and force main project. Many of them came with concerns for the trees.
The city project includes a new sanitary pumping station and a new combined sewer overflow pumping station, which will cost around $4 million. The city has two options for the force main sewer line component of the project: Roosevelt Street or Pershing Boulevard.
While it is less expensive, the latter would entail removing around 40 mature trees that sit in the city right-of-way. The trees would be replaced when the project is complete.
“I don’t want to lose my tree. One reason is I feel it adds value to my home. It also shades my home so if I lose it, my utilities are going to go up,” Sper said.
The Pershing Boulevard route would cost $1.23 million , running west on 16th Avenue North then down the east side of Pershing Boulevard to Eighth Avenue North.
The Roosevelt Street route would cost $1.39 million and run down the east side of Roosevelt Street from 16th Avenue North to Eighth Avenue North, then cross under North Second Street to its conclusion at Eighth Avenue North and Pershing Boulevard.
The roughly $170,000 extra the city would need to shell out to pursue the Roosevelt route is worth it in Sper’s and some of her neighbors’ minds.
“I wouldn’t mind the city spending a little more money and going down Roosevelt,” Sper said.
City Engineer Jason Craft told residents construction would last for three to four months and would likely begin in 2015.
Not everyone came to the meeting adamant about saving the trees, such as Nancy Smith, who has lived in the 1100 block of Pershing Boulevard for 50 years.
“I lost a couple a trees. I planted one. It’s large and ugly now. I’d just as soon get rid of it,” Smith said. “It sounds to me like it’s going to do the same thing whether it’s Roosevelt or Pershing so I really don’t care too much. I hate to see our street messed up for too long, but I’m not opposed to it.”
Some businesses also would be affected by the work. Two representatives from Custom-Pak attended the meeting and explained employees would still have two accesses to the facility. They were slightly concerned with the utilities that would be disrupted by construction.
Running the sewer down Roosevelt would involve reconstructing pavement that Craft classified in above-average condition while the Pershing route would mean reconstructing a sidewalk that is in poor condition.
“Either way will work,” Craft said. “Those are valuable trees, but the Pershing Boulevard route includes replacement of curb and gutter and sidewalks and ADA accessible curb ramps. That’s valuable infrastructure.”
Some who attended the meeting also wanted to speak with City Council members because they will have the final say in which route is chosen.
“We all sort of came thinking we were going to have a conversation with the people making the decision,” Sper said.
Two council members did attend the meeting, At-large Councilman John Rowland and Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann. Because bidding for the project isn’t slated for another year, Rowland suggested the City Services Committee hold meetings for members of the public to share their opinions with council members before the item moves forward to the Committee of the Whole.