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Elgin council to consider helping residents pay for ash tree losses

An emerald ash borer. | Sun-Times Medifile

An emerald ash borer. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: March 27, 2013 6:14AM

ELGIN — The city council this week is set to move along revisions to the Neighborhood Improvement Grant Program that could help residents who are dealing with tree infestations by the emerald ash borer.

Experts estimate about 18 percent of all trees in the Chicago metro area are ash, and the borer beetles eventually could destroy a vast majority of them. Professional arborists recommend that only 5 percent of all trees planted in any one place be of the same type.

In Elgin, according to supporting materials for the meeting, “staff administering the grant program has experienced an influx of requests from both private property owner and homeowners’ association asking for funding to help mitigate the tree losses caused by the emerald ash borer.”

The program currently only funds projects on public property. The change in policy would allow residents and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) to apply on behalf of residents for private property tree replacement related to the EAB.

The change would encourage HOAs and/or residents to apply as a group of multiple property owners together for volume-based price breaks. Funds may only be used for replacing ash trees cut down within the last three years.

Residents could be reimbursed 50 percent of the cost of a single new tree not native to Illinois and 75 percent of the cost for a native-Illinois tree planted on their property, excluding sales tax, delivery and installation.

Wide infestation

According to Elgin parks superintendent Jim Bell, a tree inventory completed in 2011 found the city had 6,789 ash trees on public land at the time. Bell said that as of December 2012, 2,152 ash trees have been removed, 1,694 are under treatment, and 2,943 of the trees still need to be removed.

“Elgin’s emerald ash borer infestation is severe. Basically, if the tree is not under treatment, it is infested with the insect,” Bell said.

According to the city’s Spirit newsletter online, if residents wish to begin a treatment program, they should contact a tree specialist. If residents find the borers on city-owned trees, they should contact the city of Elgin Public Works Department at 847-697-3160 for removal.

More information about the EAB problem can be found at the Illinois Department of Agriculture-maintained website

With the problem as large as it is, a conference to prepare and update municipalities on the latest science and economic effects of the emerald ash borer infestation is being held March 7 at the Northern Illinois University Hoffman Estates campus.

Hosted by NIU’s Institute for Work And the Economy and the Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University, conference speakers will include Ph.D.s Deb McCullough of Michigan State University, Fred Miller of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and Peter Creticos from the Institute for Work and the Economy.

Giving a clue to how widespread the problem is, those supporting the conference include the Illinois Municipal League; League of Wisconsin Municipalities; Metro Counties of Illinois; Morton Arboretum; Quad City Botanical Center; South Suburban Mayors & Managers; Starhill Forest Arboretum (Illinois College); Taltree Arboretum; University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum; and the Tree Care Industry Association.

Scientists believe the insects first appeared in North America through wooden packing material shipped from China into the Detroit-Windsor area in 2002. Most likely carried in by people bringing firewood from Michigan, the insects were first noticed in Illinois four years later in The Windings subdivision near Lily Lake in Kane County.

As science works to find ways to slow or eradicate the EAB, the problem is spreading across the country. About 40 percent of Illinois is under a quarantine related to the insects and trying to slow their devastation.

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