City’s upkeep of downtown at issue
GLOVERSVILLE – The Business Improvement District is dissatisfied with the way work and maintenance has been handled by the city in the downtown area, officials said.
City officials talked about the concerns Monday at the Common?Council meeting.
Over the last couple of months, BID President Karen Smith has been speaking to city officials and the council about what the BID membership has mentioned it would like the city to do to improve the downtown area. Some of those ideas included placing benches, watering flowers, trimming or removing trees and cleaning the streets.
Smith previously said many flower baskets died this summer due to the heat and insufficient watering so replacements had to be purchased. BID members told her the watering was inconsistent and the baskets were not given enough water.
Kevin Jones, the director of the city Department of Public Works, said he isn’t sure what happened to the flowers because the city has been watering the baskets the same way they did in the past and this year one basket would live while another one wouldn’t.
However, he said, DPW employees are on top of the watering situation, which now includes having flowers watered on the weekends.
Smith said the discussion at the Common?Council meeting Monday started after she emailed Mayor Dayton King about how seldom the streets are being cleaned in the business district – not just swept, but washed.
Furthermore, she said, many negative comments were made about how long it took to get the benches placed on the sidewalks.
Smith said the email reflected the comments made by BID members.
Jones said DPW has consistently used a street sweeper in the downtown area, although the newer sweeper is currently under maintenance requiring the department to use a older model that does not do as good of a job.
He also said the city has not taken a sprayer to the streets since the 1980s, when it had a washing tanker.
Smith also said in the email business owners, not those on the board, have asked who is in charge of having the trees trimmed, as well as shaped, since some are covering signs on buildings.
City Attorney Anthony Casale said during the meeting chapter 212 of the City Code requires the property owner to be responsible to maintain or remove vegetation in front of their business and if the city removes the vegetation it is permitted to charge them for the abatement.
Former City Court Judge Vincent DeSantis said during an interview Friday that he and other business merchants used their own money and volunteer labor to purchase and plant new trees after the original vegetation died in the 1980s.
“Sometime in the ’70s [the city] put in new sidewalks and curbs on Main Street and planted these trees that all died,” DeSantis explained. “Before the BID was formed, there was a different group of merchants that were talking about Main Street and improvements and that’s when we got the idea to plant those trees. We excavated all of the squares and put fertile soil in every one of them and planted the locust and maple trees there now.”
Jones said the trees planted downtown aren’t ideal for the location anyway because the roots and height don’t have any limitations, which means they will continue to grow taller and the roots will spread.
He said National Grid will donate specific trees every year that are ideal for a business area because the roots are more confined and the growth is limited, which is an option the city could consider in the future.
Jones said trimming or removing the trees would take a considerable amount of time to complete. Because the utilities are underground in the downtown area, he said, stump removal would be difficult.
Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said some of the trees presently obstruct the view of the new and existing surveillance cameras at the Four Corners intersection.
King said everything downtown is privately-owned except the streets, which the city consistently sweeps.
Members of the council said Jones should look at each of the trees in the downtown area to determine which have to be addressed immediately and what can be planned and taken care of at a future date.
“How much better treatment can we give them?” King said. “We need to be impartial and we can go cut a tree down in downtown, but then will we have to go cut a tree down somewhere else? We have to be fair.”
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org