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Huntley adding option in replacing ash trees

HUNTLEY – Starting next year, residents will have an added incentive to replace ash trees infected by the emerald ash borer beetle.

The Village Board directed staff to develop a reimbursement option in the 2013 budget to go along with the current 50/50 tree replacement program under which village workers replace dying ash trees on public parkways at a cost of $150 to the resident.

The new option that trustees decided on would allow residents to pick another variety of tree and do the replacement work themselves. The village would reimburse 50 percent of the cost, up to $200 per tree.

The decision to add such an incentive, however, did not come without debate.

“Mark my words,” Trustee Niko Kanakaris said. “In 20 years, guaranteed, there will be a subdivision with no trees,” because most residents will choose not to replace a tree, regardless of the incentive.

But Trustee Harry Leopold argued that a program that allows residents to replace infected trees themselves will do a better job of replenishing the ever-growing number of ashes removed by the village.

“It’s the least amount of work for staff and probably the fewest headaches ... if people make their own choice, they have nobody to argue with except for themselves,” Leopold said.

The green, metallic-looking ash borer beetle has wreaked more havoc this year on the village’s ash trees than in previous years. Since 2007, the village has taken down 730 infected trees. Two hundred thirty-two residents have opted to replace a tree; the rest have left the village right of way bare.

Village Manager Dave Johnson predicted that the village’s 2,200 ash trees will be so infested by the beetle within five years that the majority will need to be removed.

Johnson said staff now will research how much the new reimbursement option will cost the village. The village currently devotes $20,000 year to its tree replacement program.

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