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Morris council addresses tree issues

City officials have said some trees will be removed in the Green River as part of a drainage improvement project. City manager Blaine Hill said March 14 the city's tree board has been, and will, be involved in the removal selection. Rae Yost/Morris Sun Tribune

The city of Morris stopped cutting down trees before the March 14 city council meeting but city officials said they were pleased to hear from the roughly 13 people who spoke for the trees that night.

 It makes me feel good to know you want to be involved...," council member Brian Solvie said to the tree supporters. Solvie said he appreciated that those who spoke were not accusatory and offered helpful suggestions.

Council member Kim Gullickson later in the meeting volunteered to be a council representative on the tree board. She was concerned, however, that the meetings could conflict with an already regularly scheduled meeting she has.

Other city committees have council representation the tree board should have the same, Gullickson and council member Kevin Wohlers said.

 "...it was not a very well-thought out plan (tree removal)," Gullickson said. "I can see why people were (upset). Yes, it's water under the bridge but we don't want it to happen again."

Tree supporters who spoke said they were concerned about the more than 40 trees that had been cut down by the city over the past few months. Not all the trees were Emerald Ash or Dutch Elm trees which are vulnerable to Emerald Ash Borers or Dutch Elm disease, and did not appear to be damaged, the advocates said. Also, not all the ash or elm trees appeared to be diseased or damaged.

The tree supporters also said there appeared to be lack of communication between the city's tree board and the city as well as between the city and the neighborhoods in which the trees were removed.

Morris City Manager Blaine Hill said there was a lack of communication. "The whole communication process will (improve)," Hill said. The city's public works director, Jim Dittbenner, is a non-voting member of the tree board and was not regularly attending tree board meetings, Hill said. Dittbenner will now regularly attend those meetings, Hill said.

Hill said he was not aware the tree board was working on a policy that included guidelines on tree removal and trimming. He did attend the most recent tree board meeting.

The tree board will be more involved in tree care including the removal or trimming in the city, Hill said.

Vicki Graham said it will be important to have the tree board involved in any tree removal in the Green River drainage project. The city plans to remove trees as part of an infrastructure in an area that include Court Street and the surrounding area.

 "...I was dismayed to see so many trees going down in a concentrated area," Graham said of areas of tree removal in the city. "I am concerned about the Green River area."

 Hill said the tree board has and will be involved in the removal of trees in the street infrastructure project and tree removal in Green River.

"I'm not clear if the trees were marked," Cheryl Rempel said of removed trees. The neighborhood may not have realized trees were set to be removed until the trees were actually removed, Rempel said.

"In the future, will there be distinctive marking?" Rempel said.

 Later in the meeting, Hill said marking the trees selected to be cut down was a good idea.

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