Interwest Construction Inc. employees Nick Donovan, left, and Dayne House work next to the remains of a tree in the 100 block of West First Street in downtown Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Interwest Construction Inc. employees Nick Donovan, left, and Dayne House work next to the remains of a tree in the 100 block of West First Street in downtown Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Downtown Port Angeles trees being removed to be replaced

PORT ANGELES — Workers have begun removing 38 downtown sidewalk trees that will be replaced in a $119,490 project that will snuff out branch-bearing holiday lights on business-busy First Street until after Thanksgiving.

But at least light poles on First still will be strung with the decorations by Turkey Day, Nov. 24, Young Johnson, Port Angeles Downtown Association board president, said Tuesday.

Still, the tree-replacement project sparked consternation among entrepreneurs worried the dearth of lights would mute Port Angeles downtown’s holiday spirit.

“I was deluged with calls from business owners who were concerned,” Johnson said.

The project, which began Monday, stems from miscreant trees buckling sidewalks and creating safety concerns for pedestrians, Public Works Director Craig Fulton said Tuesday.

Planted in 1997 and 2008, and some designated Tuesday with pink markers, trees are being cut down on First Street from Cherry Street to Lincoln Street and the west side of Lincoln from First to Railroad Avenue.

They will be replaced with maples and Chancellor little-leaf lindens.

Work is occurring between 7 am. and 5 p.m. weekdays under a maximum 25-day contract the city council awarded Sept. 20 to Interwest Construction Inc. of Burlington.

Workers also are repairing tree wells and sidewalks near the trees, which will cause intermittent partial and total sidewalk closures until it’s completed by the first week of December.

“The whole reason for this was the extensive trip-and-fall hazards along First Street and Front Street,” Fulton said.

“This was due to the liability of the city, to reduce that.”

Assistant City Attorney Heidi Greenwood said Tuesday that the city insurance carrier is reviewing one or two liability claims involving people tripping on uneven sidewalks downtown.

She said she did not know if the claims were specifically related to the trees being removed.

The replacement project is a joint public works-parks and recreation department effort.

The trees that are being removed are maples and another species, which Fulton did not know.

The holiday lights are purchased yearly by the downtown association and put up by the Olympic Kiwanis Club members.

The decorations will be strung beginning this week on Laurel and Oak streets, Johnson said.

It’s one of the 178-member organization’s signature activities.

Kiwanis has been putting up the lights at least since the mid-1990s, former PADA board President Bob Lumens said Tuesday.

The PADA began making contributions in the early 2000s to ensure all the trees could be lit, former PADA Executive Director Barb Frederick said in a sharply worded email Monday to city officials.

Frederick, owner of Stage Right Vintage, sent the message to Fulton and Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West.

“I am outraged and completely dismayed at seeing trees coming down throughout the downtown,” she said.

“Notification a couple of months ago would have been appreciated, or even an article in the [Peninsula Daily News] letting citizens know what is happening would be more than appropriate.”

A brief about the project was in Sunday’s PDN.

The lights, Frederick said in her email, have “become a great source of pride for the PADA, downtown businesses and the public at a time we all need a boost in our spirits and our sales.”

Fulton said Tuesday his staff notified the PADA about the project in September and October.

“There might have been questions about the timing of it, but we’ll be working as quickly as possible to get the new trees in,” he said.

Johnson said Tuesday the PADA did not receive any emails about the project.

She said she received one email that was sent to her restaurant, H20 Waterfront Bistro, on Oct. 25 that she didn’t realize until Tuesday was in her inbox.

“It still wasn’t a lot of time,” she said of the city’s notification.

“Nevertheless, I did miss the email, and that was my fault.”

West explained the project to concerned PADA members at a board meeting Monday, Johnson said.

“Nathan did a great job of explaining what happened and why it happened and why they were doing it now,” Johnson said.

“I think it’s all going to work out in the end.”

A dispute also arose earlier this year between public works and business owners who were upset at not being notified they were losing parking spaces at the corner of Second and Lincoln streets.

“Sometimes, we misfire,” Fulton said.

But other times, he added, on projects such as the combined sewer overflow project and work on downtown parking lots, communication has been “extremely good,” he added.

“I agree that we have to work to ensure we do overcommunicate.

“We will continue to work to improve that.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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