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CAO Hepburn explains costs for Picton Main Street trees

UPDATE OCT 3 – Mayor Robert Quaiff shared a letter from County CAO James Hepburn to clarify how the cost of the trees came about:

Good afternoon Members of Council,
I have received a number of inquiries from Council regarding the price of replacing trees on Picton Main Street, and I wanted to ensure that you are all aware of the rationale behind that expense. The cost of replacing trees was a line item in the tenders that five bidders provided. By contracting with Taggart Construction, we accepted the line item price of replacing trees as a component of the overall Tender. Of the original tenders, Taggart was the lowest overall and was awarded the $4.4 million contract. The price per replacement tree varied between bidders from approximately $2,200 to $8,000 (and averaged $5,540 for the other four tenders); however, as you are aware, the price per tree was only one line item of many. For example, the company that quoted the lowest cost per replacement tree ($2,200) was one of the highest overall bidders, with a tender proposal almost exactly $1 million more than that of Taggart Construction.
The original price per tree in the tender from Taggart was $5,400. However, this was for trees 2 inches in diameter. A decision was made during the summer to replace the trees with 4 inch diameter trees, which brought the per tree price up to $6,525. I would also like to note that this price does not simply include the tree itself—it includes the installation cost, a decorative tree grate, tree guards, root drains, root deflectors and a two year warranty.
I should also note that the only companies that are allowed to do work on the construction site are those that have been subcontracted by Taggart. This is part of the contract and as Taggart is in control of the job site it is standard practice given that it is a question of liability. If a decision was made to engage another company to plant the trees at a lower per tree cost, we would need to wait until Taggart had completed the project. This would likely result in a much higher per tree cost because it would involve damaging and replacing some of the sidewalks that are just now being installed.
I hope that this email has eased the concerns that you have regarding the price of replacing trees on Picton Main Street. I encourage you to share this information with any of your constituents that may approach you with concerns on the subject. Should you have further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
James Hepburn
Chief Administrative Officer
The Corporation of the County of Prince Edward
T: 613.476.2148 ext. 1003 | F: 613.476.5727

Picton Main Street trees will be replaced

Royal-Hotel-recentThe combination of damage and severe drought over the summer will result in the replacement of all the trees in the construction zone of Picton’s Main Street.

Mayor Robert Quaiff said the County expected some tree roots would be damaged during excavation work but the County had hoped to keep as many existing trees as possible.

“In view of the harsh conditions that we witnessed this summer and concerns around the proximity of certain trees to work being undertaken, we engaged a professional arborist to evaluate the likelihood of survival of all trees in the construction zone,” said Quaiff.

That report, received Tuesday morning, indicates the trees in the construction zone were significantly damaged and are expected to deteriorate over the next few years.

“If we do not replace these trees now, it is extremely likely that we will have to replace them in the next few years, which would involve damaging surrounding pavement and necessitate additional construction,” said Quaiff. “It saddens me to see the trees go, but faced with the alternative, I truly believe replacing the trees immediately is the best option available to us.”

Quaiff noted the trees add to the visual identity and ambiance of Main Street and contribute to its ‘sense of place.’
A secondary consideration of the full replacement is that replanting all of trees will give a consistent look throughout Main Street.

“We are nearing the end of the Picton Main Street construction project, and I am very thankful for the patience that our community has shown throughout its duration. Once complete, we will be left with a beautiful commercial centre that is prepared to meet the needs of our community over the coming decades.”

The $189,000 price for 29 trees includes supply of all material, plus labour and equipment cost for the following work:
1. Twenty-nine 4-inch diameter trees.
2. Installation of a pre-manufactured root drained system.
3. Installation of a pre-manufactured root director system.
4. Installation of a 1500mm high (5ft) black finished tree guard.
5 Installation of a one-meter square cast iron black finish tree grate flush with the concrete sidewalk.
6. Provision of a two-year warranty from the date of planting and, if necessary, the replacement of non-healthy trees during the warranty period.
7. At the end of the warranty period the contractor will prune dead or broken branches if required.

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  1. Chuck says:

    The Finnegan Council dithered, missed every funding opportunity and stuck a very small amount of users with a $30,000,000 poop plant. How did they ever expect it to be affordable? And to top it off they put it on a hill so that all the poop has to be pumped up to the plant adding significant energy costs. Now the Province and Feds are handing out $$ for communities to upgrade waste plants. We lose out again. Trees are a drop in the bucket compared to this fiasco.

  2. Marnie says:

    Jack, is it possible that they are planting money trees on Main Street? At their maturity we can pluck $50. bills from their branches to pay our water and hydro bills. Council may be wiser than we thought. Those trees are so expensive because they are expected to bear fruit in the form of fifty dollar bills.

  3. lucy says:

    maybe this is not tree related, but its money related.

    wish they could do something about WATER rates.

    the base rate is nearly double of belleville.

    i conserve ALOT and we were away on vacation and still have big ole bill

    twice that of my hydro

  4. Jack Dall says:

    It appears that some of our elected officials believe that money grows on trees.

  5. Susan says:

    Yep, they would look really cool Steve!Lol. Maybe you could get one large enough to block the view of the non heritage Beach Bum sign. Just kidding of course!

  6. Steve Staniek says:

    Sorry all. In my previous message I messed up the acronym for Eastern Red Cedars. It should have been ERC, and not ESR. Don’t know where that came from.:)

  7. Marnie says:

    We can actually walk and chew gum at the same time Fred. We know there is a water crisis and most of us are doing our part to conserve it. What else would you have us do? The water situation does not mean that other issues cannot be discussed.

  8. Fred says:

    Hard to believe you folks are so concerned about 40 year old trees in this Town when they are in the midst of a water crisis! People cannot pay the water bill and you debate over aesthetic trees. Out of touch anyone?

  9. mike says:

    Just a minor correction in Marnie’s Oct. 4 comment: Marie Antoinette did not famously say: ‘Let them eat cake.’ She did say: ‘Let them eat bread.’

    This correction is put forward in the interests of historical accuracy and in no way alters the intent of Marnie’s statement, whether one agrees or not.

  10. Hildagard says:

    Steve you are 100% correct! Dennis–it’s definitely not Lockyer’s providing the trees. The bill would not be over $6,000 per tree if our local tree supplier were providing them! Council has been so concerned about a yellow awning but this Heritage issue went right over their heads!

  11. Marnie says:

    Really Stan? How do you feel about heritage potholes and heritage sidewalk cracks? Surely a few of those disappeared during the reconstruction. They removed trees not historic buildings and you are not speaking of 100-year-old oaks here. Scrubby Eastern red cedars would really add a lot to the new streetscape – although they might be appropriate at Christmastime. Of course you could always go back to unpaved heritage streets with their accompanying heritage dust.

  12. Steve Staniek says:

    Knocking down and replacing living heritage trees for standard sized trees all in a neat little row just like a modern mall instead of heritage village, is more than folly, it’s gross mismanagement of our County resources as it wastes $190,000 of taxpayer dollars. It also trashes the underlying principle of protecting the heritage “DISTRICT” which includes private as well as public heritage elements like mature trees. Failing to protect living heritage trees is bad enough, but intentionally knocking them down to clear a space for new trees is the equivalent of knocking down that old church on Main in 2011 to put up a new building. That event triggered the overreaction by PEHAC to start hostile designation of any building that they covet and wish to control. As we’ve seen on Main Street, designation is not about protection, it’s all about control, and who gets to control what.
    There have been many financial blunders by past councils, including the enormous poop plant disaster, so how do residents get a handle on local government when it goes out of control, financially or otherwise? In the case of heritage elements like trees there are HCD punitive fines to be considered. Shire Hall is responsible for the wanton destruction and replacement of those heritage trees inside the heritage conservation DISTRICT. I’m sure heritage owners inside the HCD that are subject to HCD punitive fines would not hesitate to extend them to Council members who intentionally destroy heritage assets inside the HCD. Fines are one way to regain control over County government when it goes off the rails. Council should be fined for the full cost of replacement, and I would support a punitive fine of $190,000 against County Council members. Let’s see, $190,000 split 15 ways, is $12,667 for each councillor. Seems appropriate. don’t you agree?

    I’m a shameless tree lover, and if we’re going to replace the fallen, then maybe we should do so with local heritage trees that are unique to this part of southeastern Ontario. The Eastern Red Cedar (ESR) has been maligned by many, but is valued by those of us who recognize the uniqueness of certain native trees. Like the people in the County, ESRs are survivors. During big droughts like the last one, they hunker down and go dormant until the bad spell is over. They’re evergreen, (sometimes rusty brown) and their lower branches can be trimmed to provide space below. Next time you drive the 401, look to see where its range ends.
    I vote for punitive fines for Councillors who voted to destroy heritage trees, and to bring them back under control, and for the use of Eastern Red Cedars on Picton’s Main Street.

  13. Dennis Fox says:

    Gary – apparently a lot of people care about what is taking place around these trees. This issue in no way belittles the importance of the cost of the $30 million sewage plant – in fact it only reinforces the reality that our Council does not know how to stay within their budget and doesn’t think twice about buying trees at $6500 each!

  14. Steve Staniek says:

    To my knowledge, this County has never had an informed, public discussion about heritage preservation. Consequently, misconceptions and misunderstandings abound and continue to dominate the thinking here. When the HCD was being sold as a solution to the loss of built heritage and revitalization of downtown, the promoters only provided the up side, the pro side, and no one balanced it with the negative side, the down side that revealed the government takeover of private properties on Main Street. History informs us that whenever government appears to offer protection of anything, it’s a formula for more loss of rights and freedoms, and greater control over us.

    As for the trees they are/were as much a part of the heritage streetscape as the buildings, so intentionally cutting down these living heritage trees is like knocking down the buildings. The same heritage permits and punitive fines should apply.

    The leadership in PEC government has a lot to answer for, but the government has gone dark and silent, and refuses to be held accountable.

  15. Gary says:

    Who gives a tinkers d**m about a few non heritage trees when we have a $30,000,000 very critical poop plant crisis. Let’s get on with the real work!

  16. Dennis Fox says:

    If I am understanding today’s paper(Gazette) correctly, it sounds like the decision to replace these trees was an unexpected and made after the fact. Between the larger scope of the trenching and the impact of the drought, it was determined by an arborist (for unknown reasons given to the press), that the trees should be removed?? Which is all well and good – but it does not explain the exorbitant cost,nor does it support the idea (as some believe) that it was an approved line item in the approved contract. This $190K has to be above and beyond the budgeted amount for the downtown work. So where did this money come from and why wasn’t it discussed at a council meeting, with proper notification to the public? So who did make the decision to spend a $190K, without any process in place to assure accountability?

  17. Steve Staniek says:

    What are heritage elements?
    When defining what will constitute ‘heritage’, most communities have set real thresholds usually, an age which is used to sort their inventory and guide heritage preservation efforts. It’s absurd to try to protect everything old, and that’s why responsible heritage experts carefully evaluate buildings and elements, and grade them A,B,C,D, etc, so that efforts and resources are not wasted on Cs and Ds. Unfortunately, the people who administer the Picton HCD have failed to do that, and everything was designated holus bolus, inside the HCD, and in ethical communities that should mean everything.
    Most amateur heritage lovers use a century, a 100 years, as the cut off, but many communities use other standards like 70 years, depending on the mean age of their building inventory. The City of Toronto designated the CN Tower many years ago, and yet most people would consider it far too young to be included in the normal heritage inventory of vintage buildings.
    When County Council passed the HCD bylaw in 2013 they unwisely designated everything inside the HCD, even new strip malls, gas stations, restaurants, video stores, grocery stores, on Main Street, though they clearly have no real heritage value. Indeed, about 40% of the buildings inside the HCD are non-heritage, or non-contributing buildings but were forced to comply with the same HCD controls as the contributing heritage buildings. That’s why today, the HCD is a heritage swamp of confusion. All of the public places, and all of the physical elements in place at the time of designation were also included, but the County leadership is playing the old nasty game that these key items in the HCD are magically exempt from the onerous controls placed on everything privately owned. Councillors rely on the fact that the authors of the HCD Plan intentionally excluded these elements, providing the County an unethical loophole to change public elements at will, but not provided to the owners of buildings and properties inside the HCD.
    The confusion regarding the HCD has escalated to the point where County Council has been forced into silence by a bylaw, and will not discuss, in private or public, what went wrong in 2013 when Robert Quaiff and his heritage extremists bullied the HCD onto the business community. That’s why stakeholders on Main Street and the public are signing petitions to restore property and business rights to owners on Picton’s Main Street by demanding the repeal of toxic bylaw 3286-2013.

  18. Marnie says:

    Those trees were added to the streetscape circa the 1970’s and in no way are ‘heritage’. There are enough old photographs of Picton’s Main Street to tell us that. Landscapers have gussied up a lot of sites with only a nod to history. Proposed changes to Benson Park are yet another example of the town’s determination to concrete over as much grass as possible and introduce phony ‘historic tiles’ etc. The house at Benson Park is a jewel and what has been done with its setting – an ugly, seldom used tennis court was stuck out front and loads of sand were dumped behind it for a playground. One of the oldest houses in the county was allowed to fall into disrepair. The park could have been a true beauty spot with gardens and attractive benches but that did not happen. Sad that a property that has heritage authenticity and so much potential received such shabby treatment.

  19. Susan says:

    I don’t know how those trees would be classed as heritage. They weren’t 100+ year old maples, they were planted during the last main street upgrade.

  20. Steve Staniek says:

    Another Heritage Conservation District farce has emerged.
    Isn’t it amazing how ‘public spaces’ within the fake Heritage Conservation District (HCD) can be changed on a whim with no regard for destroying the heritage streetscape that provides a sense of place, ie: what heritage protection is really supposed to be all about, and what the HCD Plan and bylaw were supposedly passed to protect. Heritage streetscapes contain many physical elements, and are much more than a bunch of original buildings existing in isolation on a barren stage. A genuine heritage setting includes the original sidewalks, benches, light standards, and trees, but according to Shire Hall, these have no heritage value, and are easily expendable.
    New sidewalks with cafes that were never part of the original streetscape, fake light standards and benches made to look old, and uniform rows of expensive new trees and landscaping, are elements found in modern big box malls, not genuine heritage villages. This double standard for heritage preservation says the County can do anything it wants with its heritage assets, but private property owners who have been transformed into unpaid custodians of ‘heritage properties’ that they no longer control, have to submit to Draconian HCD controls. They are legally forced to preserve and pay for the cost of maintaining and their own buildings on their own, and face punitive fines if they refuse, or try to do the same things that Shire Hall does without heritage permits and at taxpayers’ expense. Owners in the HCD are being forced into unethical business practices when they are bullied into placing ‘heritage signs’ on non-heritage buildings. Mislabeling is deceitful fraud.
    Those mature trees are all heritage trees. The HCD Plan was imposed on the business community on Main Street without its consent, and Shire Hall trumped their property and business rights, ostensibly to protect the heritage streetscape, but we’ve been witnessing the many vagaries, flaws, and failures, of the HCD Plan, not honest preservation. One of the most significant failures of the HCD Plan is that it fails to respect and protect the original heritage streetscape. While the Plan claims that the entire street including public spaces are an integral part of the heritage scene that provides that illusive ‘sense of place’, it was written cleverly to only control private heritage assets. Public heritage assets get off scott free as we’ve seen with the recent destruction of heritage trees on Main Street. So much for honest heritage preservation by the County.

  21. Susan says:

    It is in the contract.

  22. Argyle says:

    Easy come, easy go. Council continues to feed its appetite for spending recklessly……spend , spend !

  23. ADJ says:

    According to my councillor and to him from Hepburn, Taggart controls who enters the work zone as a sub-contractor.That’s to say Taggart has the final say as to who will replace the trees and at what cost therefore it wouldn’t be tendered out. Poor negotiations on Councils part? Maybe but who would have thought at the time of bidding that all the trees would need to be replaced.

  24. Fred says:

    No more wondering than any other product in the contract. I expect the contractor has a reputable supplier that they have selected.

  25. Dennis Fox says:

    Has anyone wondered who the supplier of these trees is?

  26. Susan says:

    Silliness going on here. Part of the contract, will be done right protecting the Taggart work. Also protects the December 31 deadline for the funding portion which is crucial. If you are doing it, do it right the first time.

  27. Christine Elsbury says:

    I still thing that if business owner purchased the tree’s planted them and looked after them with all local people and business there would be well cared for and would have left that large sum of $$ to be used to replace part of the income say rents etcetera these businesses lost due to the construction. They took the biggest loss in over 45 years.

  28. Shawn g says:

    To Prince Edward County Council can we please get a break down of how they came up with the price for the new trees?

  29. Hildagard says:

    This is not progress–this is fiscal mismanagement!

  30. Hildagard says:

    There is a great discussion on the other 2 County Coummunity sites. This is a disgrace! On the other site, it was stated that this $189,000 was just part of the contract agreed to long ago with Taggart Construction. Then why is the mayor just announcing to the taxpayers last Thursday what ithe exorbitant cost of the trees is going to be?? I’m sure it could have been negotiated with Taggart to buy the trees locally and have a local company install them correctly for a much lower cost! With so many County citizens having great difficulty paying for necessities, we could have done with NO trees if that was going to be the cost.

  31. Susan says:

    We have to progress.

  32. Marnie says:

    Susan, you belong on council. Apparently money is no object. You love to spend the stuff and anyone who suggests putting on the brakes is just a miser. Your comments are offensive to those forced to live on a budget. Come down from your ivory tower.

  33. Susan says:

    Perhaps more concern about urban water than keeping a head above water! You don’t do a rebuild and leave out the trees. Ýou don’t seem to want to spend a nickel on anything. Have to loosen up a bit. Brinks trucks do not follow the hearse.

  34. Marnie says:

    Susan, the ‘appeal and comfort’ o those trees will be wonderful to behold I am sure but this council needs to wake up and realize that many seniors and lower income families are fighting to keep their heads above water. Trees are the least of it. It’s sort of like Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake” zinger to suggest that those gold-leafed trees are going to bring comfort and joy to the citizenry.

  35. Susan says:

    We will be better off for it moving forward. Now’s the time to get it done. I am sure it will turn out very nice and add appeal and comfort.

  36. Cindy says:

    Just one more example of how council has disgusted us. It was a sad day, yesterday, to see all those tress chopped and chipped in front of my eyes. I sure hope they had the proper heritage permits for this job!!

  37. Marnie says:

    Now that we understand why only $6000. trees will do are we supposed to applaud the decision? It is still an exorbitant price for something that is not an absolute necessity.

  38. Susan says:

    Not ideal or typical to do that Dennis.

  39. Dennis Fox says:

    Susan – you most certainly can and should pull out any items that are over-priced. Taggart can still do the construction work of asphalt and concrete work – the trees and protectors are purchased from another company.

  40. Susan says:

    It was a line item in the accepted lowest tender. That is good and fully reasonable. And you don’t pull an item out such as this and have someone else messing with the asphalt and concrete work. That is a recipe for real costly recovery work.

  41. Dennis Fox says:

    Dear CountyLive – I’m not sure why comments that were submitted to another article were attached to this news item. While the topic of the cost of tree planting is related to this article, the comments don’t fully apply. In my opinion such a practice could potentially confuse what was said and why.

    BACK to this article – the letter from the CAO doesn’t explain anything expect that this was the price that Council agreed to because by accepting the lowest overall tender, this particular line item for the tree price was automatically agreed to by accepting the over all contract. Did anyone think of separating this line item and tender it separately? A line item worth almost $190K is certainly worth investigating. Taggart Construction would just have to work with and accept such an arrangement – they are not in control of the finances – Council is! Like it or not – $6525 is a crazy price for ONE tree.

  42. Dennis Fox says:

    Sorry, to replace 29 trees at a cost of $6,525 per tree is a total disgrace. Obviously no thought went into saving them – when that should have been a top priority. To spend almost $190K on tree replacement shows just how little this Council thinks about real cost savings. Yet every year since being elected our taxes have increased yearly by 4.5%. Why think about cost savings when they can so easily raise our taxes instead? Lazy thinkers.

  43. Hildagard says:

    Maybe from one of their friends who owns a nursery????

  44. Fred says:

    Doesn’t cost that for a couple dozen trees. Where did you come up with that?

  45. Hildagard says:

    According to the local newspapers, the cost is over $189,000! Wow! What the food banks could do with that money! We have homeless people on the streets of Picton but we need these trees!! This is absurd, ridiculous and nonsensical. Council give your head a shake!

  46. wevil says:

    why plant more trees so they can upheave the new sidewalks does not make sense we do not need the trees in the sidewalks we will pay then to put hydro to them for decorations and then pay for pruning where does the waste end

  47. Dennis Fox says:

    I suppose that some believe that trees are important to our community and deserve to be respected and saved whenever possible. If saving them had been part of the original plan for this development, then it would not have been a factor – perhaps the amount requested could have included the saving of the trees? Plus a tree will be there 100 years from now, when the roads and sidewalks have deteriorated 3 or 4 times over – are we going to kill those trees every time we replace a road, sidewalks or storm sewers? It is time for a different approach and for new methods to be used – they do exist.

  48. Fred says:

    Saving trees is nice but not at a significant cost to this project. The focus would be on cost for construction and bringing it in on time so not to jepordize the grant with a 2016 completion date. Trees can be replaced, funding cannot! Look at all the wastewater funding available now and we find ourselves stuck with a $30,000,000 poop plant after all the dithering.

  49. Dennis Fox says:

    It is unfortunate that this happened. While on one hand it is understandable, but on the other it was avoidable. If the municipality had investigated, there are companies that specialize in excavating around established trees and their success rate is quite good. A little more labour intensive for sure, but well worth saving the growing time of many years. Hopefully Shire Hall will look into such companies whenever they have to do work again around established trees.

  50. Argyle says:

    You had to know that they would get rid of the trees one way or another……

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