SHOVELS and chainsaws were shelved after the reconstruction of Merrigang Street was cancelled on Wednesday afternoon; hours before work was due to begin.
Councillors delayed the entire $4.36 million project indefinitely after some residents expressed anger about tree removal planned as part of the $1.9 million first stage of the upgrade.
A council spokesperson said the delay would come with “substantial costs” which were not yet fully known, with payment for the work of contractors such, as gas company Jemena, made up-front.
He said the move to cancel the work came “out of left field” for council staff. Deputy Mayor Cr Larry Whipper raised the issue as a matter of urgency, with only Crs Duncan Gair and Holly Campbell voting against the decision to delay the work.
Cr Gair urged councillors to “bite the bullet” and allow work to begin.
The reconstruction, he said, would make Merrigang Street “one of the best landscaped streets in the shire”.
He said the council’s arborist’s report labelled some of the trees as “at-risk” and the council could be liable if any of them caused damage to people or property, because the report was not acted upon.
“It’s been four years in the making. It’s one of the most critical roads in Bowral and in the shire to be remediated. It’s not as though it has not been advertised,” he said.
“Mr Bowmer has told us that there is a life expectancy with these trees. They are not decades away, they are coming into a terminal position. So even if we save them, in five years’ time they’re going to come out anyway.”
Cr Whipper said the trees were an important part of the street’s heritage.
He brought the matter up in the chamber on Wednesday after a public meeting was held between residents and council staff at Merrigang Street on Monday morning. The residents expressed anger at plans to remove trees from the street to allow an underground gas line, water mains and storm water drainage, as part of the work.
“I understand it’s a tough budget but some things go beyond dollars and cents. God forbid everything is going to be based on saving five bob here or sixpence there,” Cr Whipper said.
“It is tantamount to a crime (removing the trees). It is abuse of our streetscape. I think there’s wisdom in delaying.
“When I hear people who live in the street and beyond that they are affected by the work the council does and we don’t listen, I would ask ‘what are we doing here?'”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.