They've been jutting from the ground like knotty, unfinished totem poles since May, when their branches were chopped off. But before the trees along a stretch of William Street go, new water lines will be installed.
The dozen or so trees the city of Cape Girardeau says must go will be ripped from the soil within about three weeks so the street can be widened, according to contractor Vince Kelley of Nip Kelley Trucking and Equipment Co.
His firm is spending this week burying 12-inch PVC pipes as new water mains down the three blocks of William from Sprigg to Main Street.
The entire project is expected to cost about $500,000.
Laying down new water lines before the trees are removed doesn't make much sense to homeowner Jack Proffer, who has lived in the house on the southeast corner of William and Lorimier for the past 10 years.
"There's no efficiency to this project here at all," he said. "It makes no sense to lay down pipe, only to have to remove the trees later."
However, Abdul Alkahdry, a civil engineer for the city, said there is no risk to the new lines.
"The removal of the trees will not affect the new water lines," he said. "The trench dug for the pipe is about 2 1/2 to 3 feet wide and 4 1/2 deep. Anything that was close to that line, like a tree root, is already gone."
After the trees are removed, the new water mains will be tested to ensure they work properly, Kelley said. The new mains are at least double the diameter of the old lines, some of which are more than 30 years old, he said.
Plan developed in 1995
The street widening plan was originally developed in 1995 when a proposed casino gambling boat was expected to draw more traffic downtown. After the casino was canceled in 1997, merchants asked the city to move forward plans to widen William to provide better access to downtown.
City officials have also since reasoned the widening will alleviate traffic congestion created when the River Campus and the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge are completed.
But Proffer, who has not been satisfied by official explanations for the widening, questions the merits of continuing.
"They're trying to save their little downtown district, but it's been gone for years," he said. "There's no point to this."
Bigger water lines means more protection from fires, said Paul Lufcy, a battalion chief at the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.
"I don't know if it will mean more water pressure for hydrants, but there will be more volume coming through," he said.
After the trees are gone, new curb and gutter work will be laid out, along with new sidewalks and driveway entrances, Kelley said. About 8 feet of extra road width will be added, to be covered with asphalt in the spring. Parts of the project will be closed to traffic during daytime hours, at about a block at a time.
A frustrated Proffer, who has voiced his concerns at city council meetings, said despite a decade of making home improvements he may abandon his house out of spite.
"I want to ruin their tax base," he said of the city leadership. "Let it all fall in, I don't care anymore."
335-6611, extension 160