Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 19, 2018

Ash borer plan still a work in progress

By David Hotle | Aug 24, 2017



Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said he is not worried about city employees having to remove several trees in the city as part of the response to the reported emerald ash borer infestation, saying the workers regularly take trees on city property down.

While the change will be that many of the trees being removed will be in residential areas, he believes the crews will be able to adapt to the surroundings. Previously the crews had taken trees down in parks or cemeteries where there is a free area to drop the tree. He also said that if the crews deem it unsafe for them to remove a tree, a tree service would be hired. Hinson also said he didn’t believe having city crews removing trees would have any impact on the city’s insurance costs.

“What we are talking about here is a more specialized level where we would get some specialized equipment to take down trees along the streets which we have not done in the past,” Hinson said. “To do that we would seek all the appropriate training, have all the appropriate safety gear and we are not looking at that as 100 percent of the solution. We are looking at that as part of the solution.”

During the Aug. 15 meeting, the Washington City Council approved the tentative plan to remove 242 ash trees from city property as a response to reports of emerald ash borers in the area, and also to raise funding devoted to the task from $56,000 to $106,000 this year. A large amount of the money would be to purchase a used bucket truck at a cost of about $25,000; a grapple bucket for the end loader at a cost of about $10,000; and $5,000 for additional and larger chain saws and safety equipment. Discussion was also given to the city purchasing a stump grinder. he said the city would probably outfit a crew of four to take down the trees.

Hinson said having city employees take down trees would provide a cost savings, however more trees on city property would be contracted to be removed. He said the city crews would work on trees without power line issues or issues with being too large or too close to houses.

“Essentially, we would take down the easy trees,” Hinson said.

He said the EAB committee has already looked into purchasing the equipment that would be needed. Hinson said committees never recommend buying a piece of equipment without first physically testing it out.

In December 2016, arborist Andy Dahl told the council ash trees made up about 7 percent of the trees growing on public land. After the discovery of Emerald ash borers in Washington County, the pest is expected to kill all the ash trees in Washington over the next five years. He said that because of the nature of Emerald ash borer (EAB) infestations, based on the results from other states, all ash trees in town would be infested. Dahl stressed it is better for the city to remove the trees steadily as they become infested instead of waiting five years and trying to remove all the trees at once.

An EAB is a beetle and is metallic green, only about 1-1/2 inches long, making it difficult to recognize in the landscape. The larvae stage of the wood-boring insect tunnels under the bark of ash trees, disrupting the flow of water and nutrients, ultimately causing the tree to die.

Over the next five years, Hinson said the city’s push to remove the infestation was probably about “a $200,000 problem.” He also said the money would come from the city’s general fund and there was really no way for the city to gain any of that money back.

“The state of Iowa has done nothing on this,” he said. “The state requires us by law to remove any dead or diseased trees in the rights of way. It’s an unfunded mandate. it is just going to be our tax dollars to combat this. We wish it wasn’t that way. There are other ways we would like to use the money that to just take down trees.”


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