Projects to help ensure public safety were at the top of the action list for the Bingen City Council last week.
In separate votes, the council members approved two contracts. One will cover the costs to replace the pedestrian crosswalks in the downtown area, and the other will pay to remove trees that are dying and could drop limbs. As part of the tree removal deal, several trees that are encroaching into the city's right of way will be removed as well.
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel said one of the trees that is dying and needs to be removed is in Daubenspeck Park, and he will be sorry to see it go.
"One of the very tall ponderosa pine trees in Daubenspeck Park has beetles in it, and the top of it is dead," Prigel said. "Unfortunately, it's one of the nicest trees in the park. But we need to get it out of there, and hope the beetle infestation doesn't spread to the other trees."
Bingen clerk/treasurer Jan Brending said taking the dying tree out of the park was unavoidable, but it wouldn't necessarily protect the remaining trees.
"Removal of the tree doesn't guarantee we won't lose more to beetles," Brending explained. "There are lots of trees infested; you can see them dying in the hills around here."
The city had two bids for the tree work, and Columbia Tree Services, a Hood River company, was awarded the $4,000 job. The contract calls for CTS to take out trees at six locations.
The trees to be removed include: a ponderosa pine in Daubenspeck Park that is beetle-infested and dying; A locust tree in the 200 block of N. Maple Street that has split and is dying; three small pines at 524 E. Franklin that are in the right of way; a cottonwood at 409 W. Lincoln in the right of way; an ailanthus tree at 109 W. Jefferson in the right of way; and three trees (two cottonwoods and a pine) at 218 E. Jefferson that are also in the right of way.
"The list of trees was put together by the Public Works Department," Prigel explained.
According to Prigel, the work will start soon, and will take just a couple days to complete.
The council voted 4-0 to award the bid for the tree removal work.
In an unrelated safety and beautification project, the council members voted 3-1 to authorize going ahead with reworking the crosswalks on Steuben Street (State Route 14) in downtown Bingen.
The attractive, wagon-wheel patterned crosswalks were originally inlaid into the asphalt in the spring of 2004, almost immediately after the repaving of State Route 14 through the downtown area.
"This was the first installation of this product in Washington state," Prigel said.
The manufacturer had claimed the work would last as long as the asphalt did, but within two years the signs of wear were becoming increasingly obvious. In many areas, the crosswalk pattern has been completely worn away.
"The manufacturer says it was the asphalt compacting that caused it," Prigel said. "The Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) says the asphalt was fine, but there are ruts. In any case, now that the asphalt has compacted, it should last a lot longer."
The work will be completed by Brix Paving, a company from the Portland metro area.
Dura-Therm, the product manufacturer, will share the cost of the replacement project with Brix, the licensed installer and the original contractor on the crosswalks in Bingen.
The city of Bingen will pay more than half of the total cost of the work, however.
"We're involved as well," Prigel said. "It will cost the city about $18,000. We're paying the labor and flagging costs. The materials will be donated by the manufacturer. That makes it about an even split, because the approximate cost for the materials is $15,000."
The city's share is expected to come out of the city's community development fund, which is provided through sales tax revenues.
Prigel explained that WDOT won't put any money into the project.
"We were hoping, but didn't expect them to," Prigel said.
Once the crews get started, the work is expected to take between one and two weeks to finish.
"They will start soon. Whenever they can get in here and do it. Maybe this week; that's likely but not confirmed," Prigel said. "They will do half of an intersection at a time, and flag around it."
Prigel pointed out that the contractor will also use double thickness on the new application, but noted that even with the second application, the company is not guaranteeing its work.
"My opinion is that this is a beautiful product, and everybody loves the look of it. But if it only lasts a few years, it's not worth the money," Prigel said. "If it lasts the life of the pavement, it is worth the money. We'll do it this time again, but if eight years from now it's wearing out, the council will have a tough decision about how to proceed."