For their part, the neighborhood leaders asked for more budgetary accountability from MDHA regarding the exact line-item costs. They expressed their frustration that there was a delay last summer that was partially caused by Ragan Smith's occupation with a minor design element in the crosswalks that was eventually eliminated anyway in order to save on costs. Other causes of delays that could not be helped by either MDHA or Ragan Smith was an October-December 2008 misplacement of the streetscape applications at Metro Public Works and the heart attack of the lead architect earlier in 2008.
Taken together the delays caused the project to past a state deadline for a grant that would have planted trees across the neighborhood. Leaders also expressed their concern that MDHA failed to follow up with meetings when it became apparent that elements, including non-grant trees and shrubs for the traffic-calming curb bumps-outs, were going to have to be eliminated. To paraphrase one leader: MDHA and Ragan Smith put our project on the third-class backburner instead of stepping up to insure follow through.
While MDHA staffers defended their shepherding of the project, they did concede that they could have communicated with us better last year when higher than projected costs (as negotiated between MDHA and Ragan Smith in the absence of neighborhood leaders) became evident. They also announced to the CAC members that they were working with landscape architects on an arrangement to pool remaining funds with some late breaking Ragan Smith donations to go ahead and purchase smaller caliber (2") red bud trees for the curb bump-outs (instead of blue juniper shrubs). They expect to have a proposal to bring to the CAC in July regarding the possibility of trees.
The meeting seemed to end cordially, although the post-meeting conversation among leaders was still critical, guarded, and realistic about expectations. If Ragan Smith comes through with the extra effort to put trees in the bulb outs, they will have made some progress toward relieving hard feelings caused by what some of us felt were major fumbles of our streetscape project.