Ash borer likely to cost Janesville big bucks
JANESVILLE City staff predicts Janesville will lose most of its 33,000 ash trees within three to five years, and the parks director recommends the city hire a forester or contract with an arborist to deal with the recently discovered emerald ash borer infestation.
Tom Presny, parks director, said in a memo that the city might consider managing the trees on street terraces rather than leaving the duty to abutting property owners.
The emerald ash borer was found on private property north of Craig High School in late June, and experts suspect the insect has been in Janesville for at least three years.
Presny will ask for direction from the city council Monday on handling the tree problem.
The parks department will present cost estimates for the recommendations as part of the 2013 budget process later this year.
No federal or state money is available to remove or plant trees, although federal and state employees play a role in public education, Presny said. The city must pay to remove infested trees and plant new trees on city property.
Janesville has about 3,100 ash trees on street terraces and 30,000 ash trees in parks and on private property, Presny said. That’s 15 percent of the 24,835 trees along 345 miles of public streets.
-- Residents remove trees when they are still green because they become brittle when dead and “explode/shatter like glass when they are dropped to the ground,” Presny said. It is also about 30 percent cheaper.
-- Staff work with the Janesville Shade Tree Advisory Committee to educate the public about trees and diversify species in Janesville.
-- The city hire a forester or contract with an arborist.
“The city will need to increase its level of service in regards to forestry to get through this infestation,” Presny said. “We will likely need to contract with private tree-service companies and arborists to work with city staff to remove ash trees on city-owned property.”
State forestry staff told Presny that Janesville is the state’s largest community without a forestry program.
“Tree-related decisions are left up to residents often without benefit of education as to proper site placement, tree selection, tree pruning and related care,” Presny said.
In the 1970s, Janesville had a forestry department with specialized equipment. The department was dissolved after the city finished dealing with Dutch elm disease. City ordinances were revised to make abutting homeowners responsible for the care and removal of trees on terraces, Presny said.
The parks division has 17 full-time employees seven months of the year. The operations division has 14. All are experienced in tree removal and operation of equipment, Presny said.
“We do not, however, have adequate forestry equipment for felling, loading, hauling, chipping or stump grinding for high-production tree removal,” Presny said. “Nor is current crew size and equipment capability adequate to handle all (ash borer-related) tree work even if distributed over multiple years.”
A person on staff could focus on removing and replanting thousands of trees throughout the community, whether that person is a city employee or a contracted arborist, Presny said. The city also needs equipment to identify insect damage and remove and replace trees, he said.
-- The council consider an ordinance empowering staff to order the removal of dead or hazardous trees from private property when the trees only affect private property. Current ordinances allow staff to order the removal of dead or hazardous trees near a street or sidewalk.
Based on a 2008 survey, 36 percent of Janesville’s potential street planting locations have trees, in comparison to generally accepted forestry goals of 60 percent of terraces having trees, Presny said.
“We need to invest in our community’s future and should not accept the loss of all ash trees without adequate tree replacement to heal what will be many bare parks and public roadways,” Presny said.
“Parks recommends the city provide funding for a tree-replacement program.”
The ash borer is fatal to untreated trees.
Residents can chemically treat trees—something best done in spring—at a cost of $50 to $75 a year.
To learn more
Janesville residents or business with questions concerning the emerald ash borer can visit the city website at ci.Janesville.wi.us/eab. The list includes questions and answers, photos and links to resources from state and federal experts.
Residents also can call Rock County UW-Extension at (608) 757-5696.
Handouts for residents encouraging them to proactively remove ash trees and plant diverse species will be available in the fall.
On the agenda
The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
Items on the agenda include action on a recommendation from the city’s sidewalk committee to build one additional mile of sidewalks this year and then close the 2012 sidewalk program.