- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - The city of Franklin is trying to decide how it can cover the hefty cost of removing nearly 150 trees killed by an invasive beetle.

Over the next few months, 147 trees need to be removed from Province Park and Greenlawn Cemetery, Franklin Parks and Recreation Director Chip Orner told the (Franklin) Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/22UgZmU ). About 90 percent of those trees were killed by the emerald ash borer, an insect that digs into and lives inside ash trees, he said.

The emerald ash borer isn’t native to North America, so the beetles don’t have natural predators in Indiana, according to Purdue Extension agriculture and natural resource educator Sarah Hanson. The bug’s presence in North America was first recorded around 2002, and the species has become a bigger problem for ash trees in Indiana and other states in recent years, she said.

City Council members suggested that all 147 trees be taken down at the same time.

But the city likely will have to seek bids for the project and wait another month or two before the trees can be removed. Orner doesn’t want to have to wait that long because the dead trees could pose a public safety risk.

“It’s going to be difficult to find a contractor that’s going to want to tackle 147-plus trees,” Mayor Joe McGuinness said. “That’s going to dominate the first two-three months of their season, I would guess.”

Since it costs $2,000 on average to remove a tree, the city might have to pay up to $300,000 to remove all 147 of the dead trees.

“I just don’t know if we’ll be able to invest $300,000 in this right now,” Orner said. “This has been an ongoing issue with us for years, but I probably have to be a realist about it.”

Councilman Joe Ault proposed hiring part-time tree experts and renting equipment to save money.

Orner has started planting 30 trees in Province Park as he waits for the dead ones to come down.

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Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net

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