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Ash trees remain a major focus of Ballwin’s tree removal

Jim Link’s first of six staff reports at the Feb. 24 Ballwin Board of Aldermen meeting was titled, “Tree Trimming and Removal Services.”

But anyone might think the man, who serves as Ballwin’s director of public works and superintendent of streets, had something a bit more specific in mind. The report’s explanation paragraph: “In 2017, the city of Ballwin learned of the emerald ash borer and the effect it had left on many trees in the region. This required trimming and removal of many ash trees in the rights-of-way. We started with 2,437 ash trees and currently have 1,335 ash trees left to remove.”

People in the know are familiar with the emerald ash borer, a shiny green beetle that many think made its way from Asia to the United States in the late 1980s or 1990s by way of packing crates. It is an invasive species that, true to its name, has destroyed hundreds of thousands of ash trees throughout North America.

While Link’s report specifically called out the effect of the emerald ash borer, his numbers were for tree trimming and removal across the spectrum of trees within the city.

Alderman Frank Fleming [Ward 3] noted that the reference to ash trees confused him “a little.”

“I just wanted to be sure I [am] clear,” Fleming said. “This recommendation … it’s not really for the ash trees in particular?”

Link confirmed that to be true.

“We wanted to get a price for each one of those [tree types] when we put the bid out,” Link said. “So, that way, if it was more advantageous to do ash trees, or trimming … we could focus on putting the money in whatever direction we want to go.”

Link’s recommendation is the request of an additional $30,000 that was not originally budgeted for 2020. In his chart, he listed seven streets in each of the city’s four wards for both tree removal and trimming.

Another specific part of the focus is to remove many of the ash trees currently in right-of-ways and tree other trees in those areas.

“This will be a similar approach as we took with leaf collection,” City Administrator Bob Kuntz said. “It will be a pilot program. If you’re OK with it tonight, we’ll come back with a recommendation for an award, we’ll do the process, move forward and knock those work orders out.”

In response to a question from alderman Mike Utt [Ward 1], Link said believed the current number of work orders to be 217. He also said that the additional $30,000 will go toward that, plus there are in-house crews working on whatever parts of the process are most needed.

Link said he doesn’t think the extra $30,000 will get the city entirely caught up on the ash tree removal, but he believes it should cut the remaining number in half.

In response to an inquiry from alderman Ross Bullington [Ward 4], Link responded that the services performed will not include stump grinding.

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