Wheaton council agrees to spend more on ash tree removal
Wheaton's parkways will be clear of ash trees in less than four months, thanks to the city council's agreement this week to put more money toward combating the Emerald Ash Borer.
The council talked about spending an extra $800,000 on ash tree removal last August, but the budget amendment was never presented because city officials saw the program was moving along well and hoped they might be able to ask the council to approve even more spending before the fiscal year ended.
On Monday, the council unanimously approved increasing the amount spent on ash tree removal in the 2014-15 budget from $570,000 to more than $1.7 million.
"With this additional money it appears we will have all the ash parkway trees removed by May 1 of this year, with the exception of some trees that are being privately treated," City Manager Don Rose said.
The city's general fund has reserves available for the additional ash tree removal spending.
Forestry Superintendent Kevin Maloney said earlier this month that the number of ash trees on city parkways once totaled about 6,400. City officials estimate there are still 800 to 900 ash trees that need to be removed.
City officials said a significant number of ash trees died last winter, resulting in the public works department adding a second contractor to accelerate tree removals.
In August, when the idea of spending significantly more money than budgeted on tree removal first came up, Rose said he didn't think it was "necessarily that big a deal," considering the trees would have to come down at some point anyway.
Efforts to combat the invasive bug have been ongoing in Wheaton since 2008. A six-year replacement program that will result in the planting of about 5,000 new trees has begun.