Harrison council votes to remove over 20 trees; accepts Timbro work bid for drainage project

Council obligated to accept lowest bidder, despite controversial history in Village

CORRECTION: This story has been changed to reflect a correction in information shared by Village of Harrison CAO Madeline McDonald, who did not say the Village is legally obligated to accept lowest compliant bidders, but says awarding a tender to someone other than the lowest compliant bidder could expose the Village to legal action from an unsuccessful bidder.

Harrison’s new council had hardly gotten its sea legs before facing some difficult decisions at Monday night’s council meeting.

An infected tree near the Harrison post office is one of 23 to be removed in the Village. (Photo/Christine Douglas)

The first meeting for councillors Ray Hooper, Michie Vidal and Gerry Palmer saw the newly-formed team contend with a motion to accept Timbro – the contractor behind the controversial quarry proposal near the Village of Harrison – for a job constructing a drainage line near Emerald Avenue.

The project itself wasn’t questioned much by council, but the company proposed to undertake it was put under a microscope.

Timbro Contracting Ltd. placed the lowest bid for the project – $110, 319.27. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Madeline McDonald says the Village could expose itself to legal action from the unsuccessful proponent if it were to award the tender to someone other than the lowest compliant bidder.

Councillor Hooper said he would like to see a “clause that only permits contractors that have the best interest of the community and the Village”

“This to me, is like saying ‘thanks’ to a bully that just punched you in the face. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” he said.

Councillor Piper supported awarding Timbro the tender, but emphasized her hesitation.

“I reluctantly and with extreme reservation feel my hands are tied and I must unfortunately support the issuance of this particular project to this particular company,” she said.

Councillor Vidal, who is well-known as the leader of the community’s quarry opposition group, said she had been wrestling with the recommendation.

“I believe both council members and everybody here tonight’s knows my feeling about…the company involved in the bidding,” she said. “However…it does appear that councils hands are tied. So I would also like it be noted that very reluctantly and with deep regret I will be recommending approval of the motion.”

Ultimately, Palmer, Vidal and Piper approved the motion while Hooper opposed.

The project is scheduled for completion by Dec. 11.

Related: Application sent to province for quarry operations between Agassiz and Harrison

Related: Hundred of Agassiz, Harrison residents gather to oppoze quarry application

Trees to come down near post office, fire hall

More than 20 Harrison trees will be removed after council gave the green light to staff Monday evening.

A scarlet oak, growing at 191 Lillooet Avenue is apparently suffering from a fungal infection that will slowly kill it.

“Once a tree has this fungus, it will die,” stated infrastructure manager Troy Davis, when asked if there was a chance to save the tree. He said safety concerns were a factor, since the tree is in a high-traffic location and has lost branches in the past – most notably during a 2016 wind storm.

“The tree parts become weak in the branches and trunk, wind puts pressure on the tree and it fails in those locations,” Davis said. “We could have the canopy thinned – it will not save the tree, or extend the life.”

The tree was initially set to be removed July 25, but council sought a second opinion from an independent arborist – seemingly in response to public backlash. The second report, from Scott’s Tree Care Ltd. confirmed the tree was infected and would eventually die dependent upon the stage and progress of the fungus.

Hooper was irritated that a second opinion was sought at all.

“We had a report saying [the tree] is dangerous and it’s dying and yet we went after another report,” he said. “I know there was a kickback of [people] trying to save these trees, but the same people who want to save these trees are the same people saying, ‘if it dropped and killed someone and we knew it was dangerous, we should have removed it.’”

Vidal also supported the tree’s removal.

“Because those two reports are saying exactly the same thing, I support the tree being removed,” she said.

But the oak isn’t the only tree coming down.

A number of trees with proximity to Harrison Elementary, the Harrison Hot Springs Fire Hall and public pathways are set to be removed too. The trees have risk ratings between seven and 10 out of a possible 12, according to a staff report.

“Risk is based on the probability of failure, the size of the part that may fail and value of the target,” it reads.

Then, based on the higher winds anticipated once those trees are gone – staff recommended the removal of two nearby trees: one birch and one cottonwood that “present a threat to public safety.”

Finally, seven more black walnut trees were proposed for removal as “they are an invasive species that kills the understory vegetation such as ferns and trilliums on the forest floor.”

All in all, council approved the removal of 23 trees. But councillor Piper’s vote came with a recommendation for staff.

“I’d like to see us become a leading community while supporting sustainability and implementing a tree protection bylaw and a forest strategy,” she said. “Additionally, that we undergo public consultation and engagement to maximize public awareness about our local tree canopy inventory and foster community partnerships.”

Facio raised the point that there is already a tree protection bylaw to which Piper responded it clearly needs improvements.

“There’s been issues in the community… we keep coming back to it. I just think it needs to be strengthened,” she said.

Related: LETTER: Save Harrison trees

Related: Story of beloved Harrison tree isn’t over yet


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