Ash borer fight costing Wheaton an extra $855,000
The cost of taking down trees killed by the Emerald Ash Borer is costing the city of Wheaton $855,000 more than was anticipated.
City Manager Don Rose said the city is still in the process of removing about 1,700 ash trees that were listed in a 2013 study as a "priority" for removal.
He said if the city were to do a new inventory, there would likely be a great increase in the number of trees that need to come down now.
"We changed our approach a little bit, and while we're still attacking the priority trees, when we go into a given neighborhood we're taking down all the ash trees in that general vicinity, rather than kind of hopping around town," he said.
Rose informed the council that continuing to remove infected trees with three outside crews and the city's public works department will cost $855,000 more than what was allocated this fiscal year. Most of the council was in agreement to allow for the extra spending.
"These are trees that would have to come down at some point in time, anyway, so I don't think it's necessarily that big a deal," Rose said, adding that it would allow for the removal of an additional 3,900 trees this fiscal year.
In addition, Rose noted that participation is low in the city's shared cost replacement program for trees that are taken down on parkways in front of residents' properties. However, he suggested the city stay on course with the current program.
"If you do (eliminate the program), I think it would only be fair to refund all the money to people who have already purchased trees, and that totals about $65,000," he said.
The cost for participation for residents is $95 per tree. The city then plants a new tree in the parkway, covering the remaining cost, which totals to about $260 per tree.
But Mayor Michael Gresk and Councilmen Phil Suess, John Rutledge and Todd Scalzo said they want the city to take on the responsibility of all the tree removals and replacements.
Suess said he worries if the city keeps relying on the resident replacement program the work will never be completed.
"We waited around for years for people to do the shared sidewalk program, but it doesn't happen," Suess said. "I look at this just like roads, water, sewers. This is an investment we need to make in our community and the residential nature of our community ... this is important. We want to get it done, I think we should just do it."
Councilman John Prendiville said he would like to see the city work to increase residents' awareness of the program because it is a good deal.
Rose said it may take eight years to replace all the ash trees that are being taken down due to the bug.