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Grading Options Shown for Avery Dirt Pile

The School Building Rehabilitation Committee will give neighbors time to think over which option they favor before voting.

Neighbors of the new Avery School that are upset about the clear-cutting of 40 trees and a large pile of dirt in their backyards heard three options Monday evening for solving the problem.

The School Building Rehabilitation Committee will consider three options next month, when a vote is tentatively planned.

"I thought the last couple months have been designed to listen to concerns," SBRC chairman Michael Butler said.

The cheapest would extend the existing 11,000 square yards of material behind homes down to Walnut Street. The pile currently extends about halfway between the high school teacher's parking lot and homes on Whiting Avenue. 

The second option would call for the removal of 2,000 square yards of material and grading of the remaining pile evenly at the same length it extends now.

The third option would remove 4,000 square yards of the dirt and the rest would be graded. That choice would mean the pile would extend about half the length it is now.

"There is a fairly dramatic shift as far as what the height of that pile [currently] is," said Brad Dore, the Avery project architect. 

While neighbors have been outspoken about the size of the pile, several are more upset about the loss of trees in late October that has eliminated privacy.

"I'd rather have a little mound [of dirt] between me and my neighbor across," said Whiting Avenue homeowner Steve Coates. "In the summer, all the trees had leaves on them, so I could not see my neighbor, or the dirt pile for that matter."

The dirt hill would go be graded from property line to property line, with a swale serving as a catch basin for stormwater runoff in attempt to prevent it from ending up in backyards.

"Wherever [the pile] ends up, we are going to accomodate drainage," Dore said.

Several Whiting Avenue residents said they wanted to keep the pile in their backyard and have it filled with newly planted trees.

"If there isn't enough money left over for trees, it is going to be very problematic for a lot of us," said Jamie Simpson, a Whiting Avenue homeowner.

Superintedent June Doe, who is a member of the committee, added that the school department strongly desires landscaping on the pile and fencing between the pile and the teacher's parking lot. Neighbors are looking for assurances that teens and suspicious people won't roam the pile and peek into their backyards.

The committee has yet to reach a budget figure on how much they'll pay to rectify the situation as they await word on how much the state will reimburse from the project's contingency spending.

Extending the pile to Walnut Street would only require the committee to pay for new trees.

Removing 2,000 square yards of material would cost the committee roughly $120,000, according to bid estimates. Taking 4,000 square yards off site would cost about $225,000, according to bid estimates.

"Being that we lost all of our trees, if they were to take all the dirt away, it would be a clear shot to the [Hazelnut Place] neighbors," Simpson said after the meeting. "From my perspective, probably thinking the highest [material] level option."

A landcape architect will create a few options for the committee to consider before they vote on which grading plan to undertake.

The SBRC indicated they would try to mix the plantings with trees that provide privacy and ones that provide shade - much like the many of the trees axed in October.

Trees range from $900 up to more than $2,000, depending on the circumference and the species. SBRC members said they would plant mature trees.

"I'm nervous about it all," said Denice Kresnek, Simpson's wife. "I just worry that if we choose the cheap option for [the committee], we're not going to get as much [plantings]."

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