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Tree-pruning budget nipped by price hikes

– About half as many trees as usual will be pruned this year after the price shot up, officials said.

Parks Board members voted unanimously Thursday to approve a one-year contract with low-bidder Mudrack Tree Service to prune about 3,000 street trees for $141,600. Those contracts are usually for three years and that amount will usually cover about 6,000 trees, city arborist Chad Tinkel said.

Tinkel said the city has benefited from the price holding steady for about 10 years, but that has changed with rising gasoline prices and the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that has decimated much of the city’s tree population.

“The emerald ash borer has flooded local tree services with work, so they’re not as hungry for that contract,” Tinkel said.

Pruning half as many trees means the cycle on which street trees get trimmed is lengthened – which means more storm damage, more falling debris and harsher pruning when they do get trimmed, he said.

Officials said the city was on a six-year pruning cycle, and this could push it back to a nine-year cycle.

Parks Director Al Moll, however, said there may be a funding solution for the 2014 budget that could restore the pruning cycle, but he’s not ready to talk about it yet. He said he hopes to bring the idea to the board in June or July.

Trail use on the rise

Parks Board members also heard an update on the city’s 70 miles of trails. More than 480,000 people used the trails last year, officials said, and they hope to reach 500,000 this year.