May 30, 2018

Leaders of Carroll County and the City of Carroll are pinpointing varying methods of dealing with a meddlesome beetle that kills ash trees.

After the emerald ash borer, a pest that has been found in ash trees in almost 60 Iowa counties, was discovered in a tree in western Carroll County in April, the city decided not to treat trees but rather to remove them as they die, while the county supervisors elected to treat ash trees near the Carroll County Courthouse.

During their meeting Tuesday morning, the supervisors approved a low bid of $2,250 from Arborcare by Kluver in Urbandale to chemically inject 13 ash trees around the courthouse to protect against the emerald ash borer. The insect feeds on the tree and keeps it from moving nutrients within the trunk, usually killing it within two to four years, according to information from the City of Carroll.

A fourth company, Snyder Tree Service and Nursery in Carroll, offered a bid to the county that involved placing chemical-filled capsules into a tree, but County Safety Coordinator Zach Niehaus said the other method is proven to be more efficient in killing the beetles but not the tree.

Arborcare’s bid includes a two-year money-back guarantee if the chemicals do not work.

“There’s no guarantee that the tree is going to die, (and) you’re just going to get your money back if the tree dies,” Supervisor Dean Schettler said. “We’ve got some nice trees out here, and there’s a chance that it would work.”

By contrast, Carroll City Council members spoke with Carroll Parks and Recreation Director Jack Wardell Tuesday evening about a “wait-and-see” method for the almost 600 ash trees city employees have identified in Carroll.

The city has set aside about $150,000 to deal with the emerald ash borer and plans to use the funds to remove trees that are dead or dying.

Many city ash trees already are damaged from wind, ice storms and age and would need to be removed soon even without the presence of the beetle, said Wardell and Parks Superintendent Scott Parcher.

The removal process could extend into the coming decade, and the city will focus on response and removal rather than emerald ash borer prevention, a tactic city employees said is particularly significant when it comes to trees in public areas.

“With treating them — I think we have enough chemicals out there already,” Parcher said. “You’re not just killing the ash borer, you’re killing other insects too, and possibly other wildlife — birds and things like that.”

Ash trees that are removed will be replaced with other trees — a process that eventually will result in more trees in Carroll.

“I take one tree out, I usually plant five or six in its place,” Parcher said. “I’d rather spend that money on new trees that are going to survive than trying to fix something that’s inevitably going to die.”

Carroll’s ash trees vary in age. Parcher said the last time he planted an ash tree in Carroll was in 2002. More recent plantings have included maple, oak, sycamore and elm trees.

“As soon as I heard the borer was wiping out trees, I quit planting ashes,” Parcher said.

City officials pointed out that although homeowners can choose to preventatively treat ash trees on their property at their expense, the city has the option of removing a homeowner’s dying ash tree if it is in the right of way.

Basal trunk sprays can be applied from mid-May to mid-June, and trunk injections can begin when a tree has a full canopy, according to information from the city.

In other news, the supervisors set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. June 18 to discuss the upcoming Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa ride that will go through Carroll County on July 23.

The meeting will discuss applications for RAGBRAI vendors to set up stops either inside or outside the city limits along the bike route. Vendors planning to set up in an unincorporated area need to apply through the Carroll County Auditor’s Office. Those planning to set up within city limits apply with the city clerk.

And the City Council approved:

— descriptions of council meeting procedures that include how to close a debate during a meeting and how to waive an ordinance reading.

— a five-year police union contract that includes the following changes: allowing 60 hours of compensatory time in a year, rather than 40; opening the possibility of a health insurance plan adjustment in 2019; giving an additional 20 cents an hour to employees regularly working an overnight shift; and more. The contract implements a 2.5 percent salary increase for most employees, increasing the top of pay — the amount of pay an employee is paid after an introductory period, during which the employee receives a certain percentage of the top of pay — to $28.37 per hour in 2018-19. Salaries increase by 3 percent each year after that for the remaining length of the contract.

— 2.5 percent salary increases for positions included in the public works union, as well as non-union-represented city positions, and a payment for part-time referees, umpires and sporting officials of up to $25 per game.

— increasing the city manager’s base salary to 96.8 percent of the position’s top of pay, which is $128.378.44 after the across-the-board 2.5 percent city salary increase, bringing City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver’s fiscal year 2018-19 salary to $124,270.33 following an “excellent” performance evaluation in April, according to information from the city.

— street resurfacing projects to be tackled throughout the city during 2018, at an estimated cost of $633,192 plus hourly costs. The council should receive a schedule and contract information for the projects at its next meeting.

— a $16,135.58 contract with Seneca Companies Inc. to more thoroughly remove free petroleum product from an abandoned tank in an alley between Main and Court streets from U.S. 30 to Seventh Street.

— extending the city’s grant-application contract with Region XII Council of Governments through June 30, 2019, to allow time to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for housing rehabilitation.

— a change order to the U.S. 30 and Grant Road improvement project that involves adding pedestrian push buttons and relocating a water main, a change that adds $3,558.50 to the $1.5 million project cost and two working days to the project’s timeline.

— accepting a report from JEO Consulting Group evaluating the city’s water distribution system and identifying ways to improve water pressure and water age problems. The city could begin to budget for improvements as soon as next year.

— plans to remind residents in a variety of ways that although they can buy fireworks in Carroll, they can’t set them off within city limits, including through notices sent with water bills. The city also will suggest to fireworks vendors that they post a notice with the reminder.

the decision to uphold the Carroll Police Department’s vicious-animal determination related to a dog owned by Carroll resident Amy Kokenge, after the dog broke its collar and knocked down and bit a runner. Animals determined to be vicious animals cannot remain within city limits.