That old saying about being a day late and a dollar short seems to apply to Lawrence city commissioners’ concern about trees being removed in and near Watson Park.
It’s been more than a month since Westar Energy officials announced plans to cut down up to 20 trees along the north side of Seventh Street and around the corner to the north along Kentucky Street. However, it wasn’t until the chain saws were powered up and seven trees came down on Tuesday that commissioners decided to spring into action.
At their meeting Tuesday night, commissioners directed the city manager to contact Westar immediately and ask it to delay any further cutting in the park. Westar officials now have agreed to discuss the matter with city commissioners next week before continuing with the project.
All the city manager could do is ask because the trees are in Westar’s right of way and are being removed because of the potential hazard they pose to power lines in that area. The lines are particularly critical because they carry power to downtown. The city had asked Westar to consider burying the power line so the trees could be saved, but the $1 million price tag apparently ended discussion of that option.
Maybe city commissioners assumed that Westar couldn’t or wouldn’t remove the trees without further consulting with city officials. If so, they were wrong.
It will be interesting to see whether city officials are able to reach any agreement that will save the rest of the Watson Park trees. Their chances of doing so would have been far better if they had taken a proactive approach to the issue rather than waiting until the cutting began. Westar probably will be unwilling to bury the line unless the city is willing to pay a significant portion of the cost. At this late date, it will be difficult to negotiate other compromises.
City commissioners have a lot of important issues on their plates, but it’s disappointing that they allowed this one to slip through the cracks. Westar is justified in being annoyed with city officials, which will only lessen their willingness to compromise on removal of the trees, regardless of the community’s wishes.