Article Comment 

Downtown tree replacement draws scrutiny in Starkville

 

Tim Pratt

 

The city''s citizen-led beautification committee is upset over the recent replacement of downtown trees and bushes.  

 

Committee members in November were surprised when a contractor removed Savannah Hollies, Dwarf Red Nandinas and Indian Hawthorns from dozens of sidewalk and corner planters in downtown Starkville. The committee knew of preliminary downtown beautification plans, but hadn''t been consulted on what new plants would fill the planters, what the project would cost or when the project would be completed. 

 

"If we''re not going to be consulted, then what are we doing here?" committee member Milo Burnham said during a committee meeting Monday at City Hall.  

 

Jennifer Gregory, manager of the Starkville Main Street Association and a member of the beautification committee, said the Starkville Main Street Association hired a consultant who recommended trees which would provide more canopy along Main Street. Perennial flowers, such as pansies, also would liven up downtown street corners, she said. 

 

Pansies and Autumn Blaze Maple trees, among other items, then were planted Thanksgiving week, roughly two weeks after existing trees and shrubs were taken from planters and relocated to the Starkville Community Market site at Lampkin Street and Jackson Street. 

 

Burnham and other members of the beautification committee, including Clyde Williams, Jim McKell, and Jane Loveless, said Monday they were frustrated by the lack of communication between the Starkville Main Street Association and the beautification committee. Williams said he wants to disavow himself from the project since city funds will be expended without a vote by the committee. Aldermen approved a preliminary plan for the project in September as part of their consent agenda, but didn''t have specifics for the endeavor. 

 

Gregory, who helped spearhead the project, apologized repeatedly to the beautification committee Monday and said she thought the group would like the switch to perennials such as pansies because they have in the past with at least one other project. Gregory also said she followed the recommendation of a consultant, Gene Merkl, and others on tree selection downtown and didn''t know when the contractor was going to show up to complete the project. Additionally, Gregory said she didn''t realize the project would draw such heated reaction from the committee. 

 

"There were no back-room dealings going on," she assured the group.  

 

The committee agreed to discuss and vote on any matching funds expended by the city for beautification committee projects in the future. The vote was symbolic, Burnham said, because the group already is supposed to vote on any beautification projects involving city funds. 

 

Gregory said the downtown tree and flower replacement project is estimated to cost $6,000 to $8,000. A portion of Starkville Main Street Association''s share of the city''s 2-percent tax moneys will go toward the project, Gregory said, while other funds will come from private donors.  

 

The committee meets again Jan. 3 at noon in City Hall.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment feduptaxpayer commented at 12/8/2010 7:31:00 PM:

Someone needs to go to jail over this. The real fight will be when trees need to be removed to put in new sidewalks. Then we will need a resolution committee to resolve the tree/sidewalk dispute.

 

Article Comment interested in starkville commented at 12/8/2010 11:46:00 PM:

"Perennial flowers, such as pansies, also would liven up downtown street corners"

Yes, pansies will be lovely on the street corners, but call them what they are....annuals. In the south, pansies are annuals and will have to be planted every year. Will we need a Pansy Committee to oversee this?

 

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