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Ballwin approves $30K for removal of emerald ash borer-affected trees

A lot has changed in four months. Back then, Public Works Director Jim Link gave a presentation on the need for Ballwin to address its growing need for tree trimming and removals; especially in regard to trees damaged by an invasive pest, the emerald ash borer.

However, with the start of COVID-19, the subject matter was pretty much put on the back burner until Monday, June 22, when the topic came once more to the Ballwin Board of Aldermen meeting.

Tree trimming in June 2020 [Source: City of Ballwin]

 “In late February, we had requested authorization to solicit bids for tree trimming and tree removals in all four wards in Ballwin,” Link told the board on June 22. “We’re basically looking for direction since this item is not budgeted for 2020.”

For easement and right of way clearing (trimming trees away from streets and sidewalks) in about  30% of the city, Gamma Tree quoted $37,710 while Omni Tree’s fee was $113,400.

For tree removals, Gamma quoted $82,240 and Omni $76,375.  For stump grinding, Gamma’s bid was $29,430 and Omni’s $17,995.

Ideally, the city would like to spend $30,000.

“Just for clarification, we (would) award an unbudgeted contract for $30,000, and we’d take 127 trees off (the list of ash trees to be removed citywide),” City Administrator Bob Kuntz said. “The concept is similar to what we did last fall with supplemental leaf collection, understanding the economic climate is different by far. The number of outstanding work orders is in the area of ash tree removals. We have an additional 1,215 ash trees that need to be removed. So, the concept was, if we supplemented by contract rather than adding employees, we’d make a dent, and if successful, we could budget a different amount and continue it next year …”

Kuntz said taking such action would give Ballwin flexibility from year to year. He also noted that no one anticipated the current degree of economic uncertainty, but said it’s a matter of paying now or later.

“It was my recommendation that we get bids to try and knock out some of these (262) work orders,” alderman Mike Utt (Ward 1) said. “Obviously, with COVID, you want to watch what you’re spending. But we don’t want these work orders to continue to grow. The only way to knock it out is to appropriate something toward it.”

Mayor Tim Pogue agreed and recommended entering a contract with Omni not to exceed $30,000 for tree removal only.

“I would suggest we go with what the mayor said,” alderman Jim Leahy (Ward 3) said. “They’re going to give a better rate in the winter time when they need work. So, we give them this $30 grand now and if they do what they say they’re going to do, they come back in December, and to keep their crew busy, we bring them back for another $30 grand for January and February.”

The motion passed unanimously.

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