The loss of five trees on Spaight Street that were damaged during a construction project prompted a Madison alderwoman to propose an ordinance fining contractors for arbor damage.
Alderwoman Marsha Rummel said she could not remember the contractor that handled the 2009 Spaight Street reconstruction, but was upset the city had no recourse after the project damaged five trees to the point of needing replacement.
“They apologized,” she said. “But having five trees unnecessarily damaged and lost was a shame, so we started talking with engineering and parks (departments) about changes.”
According to city documents, Madison last year contracted with Sauk City-based S & L Underground and Trucking Inc. for the project. S & L representatives were unavailable for comment.
But a resolution making its way to the Common Council would set fines for contractors that intentionally or negligently damage trees to the point of needing replacement.
The fines start at $250 and can increase based on the size of the trees.
The city’s average tree diameter is about 15 inches, said Eric Knepp, a Madison parks administrative services representative. If a contractor were to damage a tree of that size, the contractor would face a $2,110 penalty, under the resolution.
The city’s Board of Park Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved the resolution.
Ron Henshue, manager of the Madison office of Rawson Contractors Inc., said his firm is about to begin work on a one-block reconstruction of West Gilman Street. He said he does not know how many trees could be affected by the project, but city forestry workers have designated which trees the company needs to work around.
He said the company did not figure potential fines into its bid.
“There were not contingencies,” he said. “As long as staff works with us and there’s a reasonable job of inspecting trees, I don’t think it’s a big concern.
“We’re seeing projects with bid specifications about trees now. If a contractor is blatantly not taking care of the environment, there should be a penalty.”
The Board of Park Commissioners will request about $220,000 for new trees in the city’s 2011 budget, said Bill Barker, board president.
Barker said an ordinance fining contractors for arbor damage is an important step for the city.
“We have to tighten up our protection, because we spend a lot of money to put these things in,” he said.
“Hopefully, contractors will get the message, and the message is just: Take care of the damn trees. If it figures into their bids, so be it.”