GENEVA – In a split vote as the Committee of the Whole, Geneva aldermen recommended approval Feb. 12 to spend nearly $48,000 for a parkway tree inventory that would create a computerized inventory of the city’s 14,000 trees.
The committee voted, 6-2, in favor with two absent. Third Ward Alderman Becky Hruby and Swanson voted no. First Ward Alderman Mike Bruno and 2nd Ward Alderman Donald Cummings were absent.
Graf Tree Care Inc., of Batavia, would create the computerized inventory of trees by location, species, diameter, condition, maintenance need and planning, officials said. The other aspect of a full assessment of the city’s urban trees is to know which ones need to be removed immediately, thereby removing hazards and liability, Public Works Director Rich Babica said.
“It’s really about asset management and being proactive instead of reactive,” Babica said.
The database Graf Tree Care creates would use the city’s existing GIS program, at no additional cost, and the information would be accessible to the public, said Nate Landers, superintendent of streets, fleets and facilities.
The last time the city did a tree inventory was in 2000 and at that time the city had 9,600 parkway trees, officials said. Babica said the trees used to be maintained and trimmed on a seven-year rotation, but because of the impact of removing ash trees impacted by the emerald ash borer, tree maintenance went to a 12-year rotation instead.
Babica said the city’s parkway trees are as much an asset to the city as its fire hydrants or roadways and should be maintained in a professional manner.
Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Swanson asked if a lesser assessment could be done more cheaply, perhaps using volunteers or college interns.
Babica said if volunteers or interns are used, there is no long term commitment after the project is completed.
With a professional inventory, if a problem develops with the data, the city can go to the consultant to get it right, Babica said.
Babica said interns were used in the past. “We had two college students, both highly responsible, who spent 16 weeks and got through a fifth of it,” Babica said.
In calculating the financial value of the city’s tree assets, Babica said it costs $274 to plant a tree with a two-inch circumference. City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins said at that rate, the city’s tree assets are worth about $3.8 million.
The City Council will take final action.