School District 57 trustee voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to $200,000 to remove beetle-infested trees from school properties, but with opposition from John Rustad.
The Education Service Committee recommended using $170,000 to $200,000 from the district’s annual facility grant reserve to remove between 2,500 and 3,000 infected trees from district-owned properties by April 1.
The district plans to piggyback the removal of trees with the city, which is removing them from its own property, and has already tendered the work out, secretary-treasurer Bryan Mix said, adding the move will prevent duplication of administrative services.
He added the district will benefit from the expertise of the city’s environmental services division.
“I think this is a good use of resources,” trustee Patricia Wick Thibault said. “If (crews) are in an area doing things for the city, they can do things for us.”
But trustee John Rustad wondered if there were any alternatives to the plan.
“The cost is pretty significant,” he said. “I wonder of we couldn’t be getting a better price.”
He suggested delaying a decision until two more contractors could be contacted for quoted.
Mix said the district’s chance to join the city would expire at the end of March.
“If we go into tender, it could take six months,” he said. “I’m fearful a delay would mean not removing any trees this year.”
Trustee Michelle Marelli said she believed due diligence had been done by the city.
“This is not something school boards usually have to deal with,” she said.
Trustee Fred McLeod cited studies that show each infected tree left unchecked could infect 13 more.
But Rustad insisted the project could have been completed at a lower cost, because when preparing quotes, contractors will average out their costs between flat land where it is easy to remove trees, and trees on slopes, which require more manpower and equipment.
“(School property) is the cream,” he said. “The cost per unit the city in incurring is higher than we would have.” He said the issue should have been brought forward in the fall, so the district could have tendered the project itself, and saved what he believes could be between $20,000 and $50,000.
A study found 21 schools in the district have mountain pine beetle-infested trees, with John McInnis, College Heights Secondary, Gladstone, and Edgewood the hardest hit. Over 2,600 infested trees were found.