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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2004

Program in Michigan aims to cut cost of ash-tree removal

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAYNE, Mich. - Over the roar of a city-owned wood chipper yesterday afternoon, Mayor Abdul Haidous lamented over the more than 1,850 ash trees that have been killed in this suburban Detroit community by an Asian pest that has destroyed 12 millions such trees in 13 southeastern Michigan counties since 2002.

Workers toiling at the city's Attwood Park were surrounded by about 30 barren ash trees marked for removal after they succumbed to the emerald ash borer. The removal process - 850 trees have been taken down so far on public and private land - has been costly, Mr. Haidous said.

But help is on the way.

Members of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration were on hand yesterday at the park to announce a program they say will cut the cost of ash tree removal. Under the program, vendors will register to join the state's tree-removal list. In turn for being put on the list, the vendors will offer a reduced rate for tree removal.

"We recognize the financial hardship [the emerald ash borer] has placed upon homeowners and local governments," said Patricia Lockwood, who directs the Granholm administration's ash borer policies. "We are very pleased to offer this program, which is just one step in a growing partnership to aid homeowners and communities while fighting this destructive pest."

To date, millions of dollars in state and federal funds have been spent trying to eradicate the pest, which was first observed in July, 2002. Ms. Lockwood said there is no money available for communities and homeowners to remove ash trees that have died, which is why the program was conceived.

Mr. Haidous said that of the 850 trees removed in Wayne so far, half of them are on private property. He believes the state's new program will cut the cost of removing the additional 1,000 trees by about half.

"I feel it's a good team effort and definitely the right direction,"

he said.

Officials have set Nov. 9 as the due date for vendors to submit bid prices, with the final list of vendors being released on Nov. 22, Mitch Irwin, management and budget department director, said.

All the vendors on the list have to charge the same agreed-upon price for tree removal, Ms. Lockwood said. Each municipality will be responsible for facilitating tree-removal jobs for it and homeowners, who will pay the municipalities for the work.

Ms. Lockwood said the program is a volunteer initiative but believes many municipalities will sign on.

"I know some people who have paid up to $1,000 to take one tree down. Who can afford that?" Ms. Lockwood asked.

She said that once all infected trees are removed and the pest eradicated, the state will begin a tree-planting program that will include schools and civic organizations.

"It will involve a diversity of trees, so it's not one species," she said.

Monroe and Lenawee are among the 13 Michigan counties affected by the ash borer. Quarantines have been established to keep people from moving ash wood out of the infected counties.

Nevertheless, the pest has spread into Ohio, with ash trees in Lucas, Fulton, Defiance, Wood, Henry, and Franklin counties affected.

Yesterday, the Ohio Department of Agriculture said it will begin marking trees within a half-a-mile radius of Greenwood Park - on Jackman Road in Toledo near the Michigan border - where a number of ash trees have been stricken. The trees will be taken down sometime this fall, agriculture department officials said.

A public meeting will be held before removal to answer questions Greenwood Park residents have, the officials said.

Contact George J. Tanber at

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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