Despite voting against treatment for the majority of city trees infected by emerald ash borer, the Rolling Meadows City Council has agreed to try and save about 30 large, valuable ash trees in the city's downtown.
Council members voted last year against a major treatment plan because of its costs and concerns that it would only postpone the inevitable removal of trees infested with the ash borer.
But under staff recommendations, the council approved spending about $1,700 to treat 31 large green and white ash trees along Kirchoff Road.
"We are looking to do a little experimentation to identify some ash trees we could treat without spending a lot of money, given that some of the larger trees along Kirchoff Road have value and we don't want to lose them," Public Works Director Fred Vogt said.
There are about 1,600 city-owned ash trees that will need to be removed and replaced over the next few years, but since the infection is spreading slower in Rolling Meadows than in other communities, the removal will be spread over three or five years, Vogt added.
Some aldermen questioned spending any money at all on treatment that could instead be put toward replacement trees.
"Should we be spending money to try to save a tree that's going to die sooner or later anyway?" Alderman John D'Astice asked.
Public works removed 35 ash trees last month and anticipate another 50 or so removals in the fall. The bulk of tree removals will come over the next several years, said City Forester Jim McFeggan. Fall removals will begin the first week in September and be completed by mid-October.
An earlier estimate for the cost of removing and replacing infected trees was near $2 million.
"No one saw the emerald ash borer coming and Rolling Meadows is no different. We all overplanted ash trees," McFeggan said. "But some of these trees that are high-quality may be worth treating and worth saving."
Officials are allowing residents to treat parkway trees at their own cost. A resident must obtain a no cost permit form and turn it in to the public works department for approval. All EAB treatments on city-owned ash trees must be performed by a certified arborist, according to a letter to residents letting them know about treatment options.
McFeggan said Rolling Meadows has not had kind of large-scale treatment movement from residents that has been seen in other towns, and that only one resident has used the EAB treatment permit form so far.
"It seems like everyone is learning about this at the same time and no one knows what the right solution is," said Alderman Mike Cannon. "I think we should try a few different things and see what happens."