Batavia Alderman Vic Dietz's eyes just about popped out in astonishment Tuesday night when he learned how many parkway trees the city is likely to remove this year, due to damage and death from the emerald ash borer.
Up to 600.
Streets division superintendent Scott Haines, asked by the city council's city services committee for an update on the EAB situation, dryly gave an understatement: "We still have it."
The city removed about 50 such diseased and dead trees each in 2008 and 2009, 150 in 2010, 250 last year.
In the first three months off 2012, crews have taken down 176.
"I feel like we will be at that for at least a few more years," Haines said. "It's definitely a shame."
The majority of the trees cut this year have trunks smaller than 15 inches in diameter, and city workers are doing the work.
However, one tree marked by white paint for destruction, in front of Alderman Eldon Frydendall's house, is so big it takes two people to reach around it. Trees that big are cut down by a tree-care company.
Residents are allowed to try treating diseased parkway trees to save them. Fifty-seven residents are doing so, Haines said.
Over-the-counter treatments, in his opinion, aren't working, but some professional treatments are having "some success," he said, at reducing the severity of an infestation.
Haines, a certified arborist, also lends his expertise to residents who want to find out if trees in their yards are infested with the borers. He spoke of a resident on Pine Street who Tuesday had 18 trees cut down, and will now have to change their shade-loving landscape plants to ones that like the sun.
Dietz asked if the city budgeted enough money this year to handle cutting down 600 trees.
Haines said he thinks so, but a complicating factor is a February ruling from the Illinois Department of Labor requiring contractors to pay prevailing wage rates for tree removal and trimming on all government jobs. Previously, the prevailing wage was required only on landscaping construction jobs.
Haines expects the department of labor requirement may raise the price of professional tree removal as much as one-third.