City prepares for tree-killing pest

2014-08-04T00:00:00Z 2014-08-04T00:17:04Z City prepares for tree-killing pestBy MIKE FERGUSON The Billings Gazette

Monday’s Billings City Council work session will include at least one unwelcome topic of discussion — what might be the inevitable arrival of the emerald ash borer.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

Council members typically take no formal actions during work sessions, which are designed for city staff to inform the council about upcoming decisions. A discussion, public hearing and possible decision on the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance is scheduled for the council’s next regular meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 11.

A presentation by Billings Urban Forestry will include an update on tree pests — aphids, mites, tent caterpillars, and the emerald ash borer, which is now present in 22 states and two Canadian provinces.

In Billings, 21 percent of the trees growing in city parks — and an estimated 40 percent of the trees outside park boundaries — are ash trees, susceptible to the brilliantly colored but voracious emerald ash borer.

If the 1,860 ash trees inside city parks die, it’ll cost more than a half-million dollars to remove them.

“Treating trees isn’t cheap,” according to Monday’s presentation, “but may be worth it.”

A workshop, “Preparing for the Emerald Ash Borer Invasion,” is set for 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Billings Public Library.

In addition to learning more about destructive, brightly colored pests, the city council has several other topics to explore Monday:

A new Billings Urban Fire Service Area (BUFSA) agreement. Under the agreement, the city provides fire protection outside city limits for which it is paid about $1.1 million annually by Yellowstone County taxpayers.

The city council will hear about proposed changes in the city’s handicapped parking policy. A public hearing and first reading of the revised ordinance will be held Aug. 11, with the ordinance – if it’s approved – going into effect Sept. 24.

The council will take in a handful of quarterly updates, including presentations on the Billings Industrial Revitalization District (BIRD), the Downtown Billings Partnership, progress made on city council initiatives, cellphone infraction warnings and citations, and citywide Park District 1 projects. According to a presentation by the Parks and Recreation Department, between May 2013 and May 2014, 1,800 people volunteered more than 8,100 hours in support of city parks. If those people were paid for their volunteer work at the rate of about $15.75 per hour, their work would have cost the city about $128,000.

The city has hired a new parking manager – Tracy Scott, who came to her new job Friday, Aug. 1, after 17 years with Billings Catholic Schools. According to Assistant City Administrator Bruce McCandless, she was selected from a pool of about 30 applicants.

Also included in the council’s Friday packet is a certificate of occupancy, dated Wednesday, July 30, for the Empire Parking Garage.

The city council is also scheduled to hear presentations on Alkali Creek drainage and the reconfiguration of North 26th Street, but the Friday packet posted on the city’s website contained no information on either topic.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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