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posted: 2/28/2013 5:30 AM

Elgin looks at giving grant money for private tree replacement

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Beginning next month, Elgin residents will most likely be eligible to be partially reimbursed by the city for the cost of replacing ash trees they lost to the emerald ash borer in the last three years.

The city council's committee of the whole on Wednesday night recommended allowing residents to apply for tree replacement funds from the 2013 neighborhood improvement grant program, which currently only allows funding for projects on public property.

The grant program will kick off shortly after March 6, when the city council is expected to finalize the change, Elgin management analyst Aaron Cosentino said. The grant program will consist of $50,000 in Riverboat Fund money.

Residents would be eligible to apply for the funds, but the city council will still have to pick which applicants ultimately will get the money as part of the grant program, City Manager Sean Stegall pointed out.

Past projects funded by the program include a Judson University educational video and Housing Authority of Elgin anti-litter campaign.

Councilman Richard Dunne said that in his subdivision, about one in five trees has been cut down because of the emerald ash borer. Councilwoman Tish Powell said she, too, lives in a subdivision affected by that.

"It's been a significant expense to take those trees out and obviously looking at replacing them is going to be expensive as well," Powell said.

Elgin Superintendent of Parks Jim Bell said there are an estimated 12,000 ash trees on private property in Elgin. Out of a total 6,700 ash trees on public property, the city has already cut down 2,100, and will have to remove about 3,000 more, he said.

Under the new provision, residents would be reimbursed 75 percent of the cost of native trees planted to replace ash trees on their property, but only 50 percent of the cost of replacing them with nonnative trees.

The reimbursement does not include sales tax, delivery, and installation. Also, residents would have to choose their replacement trees from the list contained in the city's tree preservation ordinance.

Residents who are not members of homeowners' associations would be "strongly encouraged" to band together with other homeowners to get a better bulk price for new trees, Cosentino said.

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