Emerald ash borers are damaging Geneva's parkway trees so fast the city is speeding up removal of trees the pests have killed.
The city council Monday agreed to spend the rest of the $60,000 in its tree nursery fund right now, instead of next year and the year after, on tree removal.
It also agreed to spend money budgeted for rebuilding the Manchester Course alley, as bids for that project came in $100,000 lower than expected; another $95,000 from interest accrued in its debt service fund; and $45,000 it planned to spend on street paving, out of its capital projects fund.
And if residents want to replace parkway trees, they will either have to buy the trees and do the work themselves or pay half the cost of having the city supply and install the tree. Until now, the city has paid the full cost of replacing parkway trees, out of the tree nursery fund.
Alderman Craig Maladra saw no choice but to charge residents for replacements. "If we don't do this, we won't be planting any trees," he said, as the tree nursery fund won't have any money.
Streets and Sidewalks Superintendent Steve LeMaire defended the city's requirements that replacement trees be at least 2.5 inches in diameter, when Alderman Chuck Brown asked why smaller, less expensive trees weren't used.
LeMaire also said his experience is that trees bought by the city through the West Suburban Tree Consortium tend to have better survival rates than those purchased elsewhere. A 15-foot, 2.5-inch tree costs about $300, he said.
The city's natural resources committee is working on a proposal to offer smaller trees for sale, but that plan would have to be approved by the council.
Alderman Dorothy Flanagan asked if this would rid the parkways of all trees damaged by the borer. The answer was no.
"We will be able to do a very good dent," LeMaire said.
The city does not canvass the streets for dead trees. It relies on calls from residents. If city workers happen to spot a tree they think is a hazard, the city first notifies the property owner.
LeMaire also stressed that just because a resident doesn't have a sidewalk in front of their house doesn't mean there isn't a parkway easement on their land, and that they should call; the city will determine if and where there is an easement, he said.
The extra spending is just to cut down trees, not to remove or grind stumps. Streets workers will continue to take care of stumps as time, weather and other job duties permit.
A 2000 tree survey showed the city owned 2,800 green and white ash trees. The first emerald ash borer was found in 2008, and the city has removed 561 trees because of it. Damage reports escalated in 2010, with 469 trees taken down since May 1, 2010. This fiscal year, 260 have been removed, and LeMaire expects that number could grow to 500, if the winter is mild and crews can work through it.