Spreading tree roots beneath the red concrete sidewalks have caused damage in several areas downtown. City officials plan to work with main street merchants to address the issues and make repairs next spring.
Downtown property owners own the sidewalks and trees in front of their businesses. However, downtown is considered a special improvement district where the city cares for the trees, and property owners are not allowed to remove them under city code.
The trees and sidewalks were part of a $1.5 million downtown renovation project in 1993. A majority of downtown property owners voted for the extensive beautification project, and they were responsible for the cost of sidewalks in front of their businesses, said City Administrator Zane Logan.
Just as the city and property owners joined together for the renovation project 18 years ago, they should share in the responsibility of maintenance and repair expenses, city leaders agreed at a Powell City Council work session last month.
“It’s a partnership with downtown businesses and the city,” said Councilman John Wetzel.
As such, Wetzel suggested that the city cover 75 percent of sidewalk repair costs and business owners make up the remaining 25 percent.
“Coming up with a compromise like John said honestly makes the most sense to me,” Logan said.
Councilman Eric Paul also emphasized the importance of the city and property owners working together. Paul owns Video Experience, a downtown business where two problem trees have been removed by the city in the past.
As a businessman, Paul said he thought it would be unfair of the city to ask property owners to fix sidewalks when the problems are caused by trees they can’t take down.
“If you can’t go after the root of the problem, that’s where, as a business owner, you raise your eyebrows,” Paul said.
Paul said this is an opportunity for the city and property owners to work together toward a shared solution.
Concrete must be removed and replaced in some downtown areas, and repairs also are necessary for a number of tree grates, said Gary Butts, city public services manager. Cost estimates will be available once the necessary work is determined.
Repairs will depend on what each area needs and will be considered case by case, Butts said.
During the sidewalk repairs, roots also will be pruned and some trees may be removed entirely. Where possible, trees will be replaced, Butts said.
“Obviously, being a Tree City USA, we try to keep as many trees as we can,” he said.
To further prevent future issues, the city also is looking at root retaining systems that would ensure roots grow downward rather than sprawling outward. Mayor Scott Mangold said he’d like to get input from city arborist Chuck Hewitt and the city’s tree board to determine the best course of action.
Some problem trees in the downtown area have been pruned or removed by the city in recent years.
Butts said the city will work with property owners this winter to determine which areas need to be fixed. Work likely will begin in the spring when the weather warms up, he said.
City leaders emphasized the importance of maintaining the downtown and making sure it is pedestrian friendly.
“We do have a beautiful downtown,” said Councilman Floyd Young.
“And we want to keep it that way,” Logan added.