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updated: 9/7/2011 3:33 PM

Libertyville plan to replace ash borer-damaged parkway trees

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By Stephen DiBenedetto

The village of Libertyville will help residents remove and replace parkway trees killed by the pesky emerald ash borer beetle that has wrecked havoc on ash trees throughout the Midwest since 2002.

A village panel discussed the new program Tuesday, but officials said they are unsure if homeowners would be willing to fully pay for a replacement tree or opt to leave the spot barren. That area between the street and sidewalk is public property and not owned by homeowners.

The village will remove the ill tree for free, but residents will have to pay for a replacement -- a $254 price tag -- because of village budget constraints.

With the economy dragging, village officials searched for answers to why residents would replace a tree on a space that technically they don't own.

"I guess that's the best way I can put it: try to get more trees in the parkways," said Superintendent of Parks Jim Barlow. "We've been reducing the trees over the years, and we haven't been replacing them. We really have been losing more trees than we've been putting in."

Even though the village won't pay for the replacement, it entered into a discount program with Mill Creek Nursery, which will sell nine trees each at the reduced $254 price. The village will order and plant the replacement trees. Residents have until Oct. 10 to place orders.

The village will remove 27 trees that were infected throughout the year from now until March 31. The village will inform residents, who had infected trees removed during the last two years, about the program through a letter in the coming weeks.

Village officials also are aware residents may turn to Lowe's or Home Depot to buy cheaper trees than what Mill Creek Nursery offers.

Officials warned residents the village can remove any parkway trees that do not conform to the municipal code. Officials cautioned the Mill Creek Nursery discount is the safest way to replace trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer.

Village Trustee Richard Moras said he was worried residents would spurn the program and take the risk of buying a cheaper tree if they were aware the village won't help pay for a new tree.

"I think for the most part if we gave people the choice of 'would you like us to raise your taxes so we can pay for half the tree, or would you like to buy the tree? Most people would say, 'Don't raise my taxes. If I need a tree, I'll buy the tree,'" Moras said.

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