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City’s ash borer war approaching $3 million

– Parks Board members approved the final contract for removing dead and dying ash trees Thursday, raising the total cost of the emerald ash borer infestation to nearly $3 million.

The board voted unanimously to approve a $443,957 contract extension with Mudrack Tree Service to remove the final 2,447 ash trees on city property. When those are gone – officials hope by the end of next summer – nearly 13,000 trees will have been cut down and their stumps ground out. About 1,200 trees are being treated to prevent the ash borer and will not have to be removed.

The $3 million price tag does not include replacing nearly 13,000 trees.

“It’s like waging a war against that little critter,” board President Richard Samek said.

That war has costs besides the dollars needed to cut down the affected trees.

City arborist Chad Tinkel said the ash tree canopy provided about $1.5 million worth of environmental benefits a year, such as slowing and absorbing stormwater and providing shade that lowers cooling costs.

“Those benefits are gone now,” he said.

Treating ash trees makes more economic sense, Tinkel said, but the scale of the infestation made treating all of them impossible.

Board members also approved the contract for this year’s treatment of 647 trees, at a cost of $32,993. The treatment lasts for two years; next year the other half of the 1,300 will be treated.

Pond at Lakeside

The board voted unanimously to approve a bank stabilization project for the main pond at Lakeside Park. Currently, the parks department’s Alec Johnson said, the mowed grass goes right to the edge of the water, and the wave action erodes the bank considerably. He estimated up to 2 feet of shoreline has been lost.

The $210,195 contract with Heartland Restoration will replace that grassy edge with aquatic sedge plants, which will not only anchor the shoreline but will filter stormwater coming into the pond as well as water already in it.

In addition, the Canada geese that call the area home do not like the sedge because it can hide predators, and officials believe the geese will move on after the plants are established.

The project, which totaled about $240,000 with design costs, has been in the works for years, Parks Director Al Moll said, as officials tried to raise money for it. The department’s share of the cost is about $45,000, he said, with the rest having been raised by Friends of the Parks.

Community center

Officials also announced they had opened bids for the conversion of the McMillen Ice Arena to a community center and expect to have the bids for approval at next month’s meeting.