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updated: 11/1/2012 10:41 PM

Huntley devises hybrid ash tree replacement program

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Huntley trustees gave preliminary approval to a hybrid 50/50 ash tree reimbursement program for 2013 that, if approved at the next board meeting, would give residents a chance to pick their own replacement tree.

The emerald ash borer has destroyed 730 ash trees in Huntley's residential parkways and is on track to ravage the rest of the population within the next five years, Village Manager Dave Johnson said.

There are 2,288 ash trees in the residential parkways, he said.

The village has offered a 50/50 replacement program for ash trees in those areas since 2009.

A total of 233 such trees have been replaced with other species -- village officials budget $20,000 for the program annually.

Thursday night, trustees had the option of keeping the current program, paying the full amount for tree reimbursement or letting residents buy their own trees and seek reimbursement for half their costs, up to $200.

Right now, homeowners select replacement trees from between five and 10 village-recommended species.

Trustee John Piwko suggested keeping that program, but adding an element in which the village would reimburse for half the cost of replacement trees that residents choose.

Piwko was being mindful of two types of people: those who can't afford to replace a downed ash tree and want something cheaper than what the village offers and those who are picky about the sort of tree they want.

Local nurseries are having closeout sales, which gives residents an opportunity to save on trees.

But Trustee Niko Kanakeris said the village is not in the nursery business.

He wants the village to replace the trees in the existing program and be done with it so the village doesn't go years without replanting trees.

"You ask a person what they want, they're going say they want something that turns yellow, or red or (complain) these leaves are falling wrong," Kanakeris said.

Village President Charles Sass tried to lighten the mood.

"I'm glad we have a bunch of tree-huggers on this board," Sass said. "I'll tell you the truth, I don't care."

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