Wauconda considering ash tree replacement program
Four years after the emerald ash borer was discovered in Wauconda, village officials may create a replacement program for parkway trees damaged by the destructive beetle.
But whether the effort -- which would evenly split the cost of new trees with homeowners -- launches depends on whether Illinois lawmakers slash tax revenue for municipalities in the next state budget.
An estimated $7,500 is included in the village's budget for such a project, but it's on hold "until we figure out what the damage is going to be from Springfield," Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said during a public discussion this week.
Nearly 700 ash trees have been removed from village-owned parkways in residential areas since the devastating bug was discovered in Wauconda in 2011. That's more than half the 1,198 ash trees that were on parkways at the time.
The rest -- more than 500 trees -- will be removed in the next four or five years, Public Works Director Brad Fink said.
The proposed tree replacement program would divide the cost of replacing a damaged ash tree on a public parkway with a new tree of a different species. The village would cover half the cost and the nearest homeowner would be billed for the balance by the company doing the planting.
The total price -- estimated to be between $250 and $300 -- would include purchase at an area nursery, delivery, planting and a one-year warranty, Fink said.
Trees would be available of a first-come, first-served basis. Only trees removed from parkways because of ash borer damage would be eligible, Fink said.
Damaged ash trees on private property don't qualify, nor can people who simply want to add a tree to a nearby parkway get money from the fund, Fink said.
The village launched a similar program in 2012.
Trustee Tim Howe called ash-tree replacement a top concern for residents.
"It is a huge quality of life (issue)," Howe said.
But the uncertainty surrounding the state budget means the project can't be implemented now, officials said. Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to cut tax revenue normally reserved for municipalities, and that means Wauconda officials don't know if the money will be available for new trees or if it'll have to be spent on something more critical.
If the legislature adopts a budget spoon and money is available, tree replacement could begin this fall, officials said. If a budget decision comes later, the effort may have to wait until spring 2016 -- assuming tax revenue isn't too heavily cut.
"At this point, I can't really gauge what will happen with the state budget or predict the level of revenue that may be cut," Fink said. "I will closely monitor the situation in Springfield to hopefully have either a fall or spring program."