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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tree Maintenance Plan Proves to Be a Costly Municipal Undertaking

• Inventory of City’s Trees Is Complete n But Funds for Work Will Have to Wait

BY BILL KOENEKER


An impressive data program created by a consulting firm to keep track of the city’s trees was shown to the Malibu City Council at its meeting this week.
The council was scheduled to get an update on the fledgling tree maintenance program that has just got off the ground.
There are 7398 trees owned by the city either in parks or municipal right-of-ways, according to the consultant, who said they also counted 118 stumps, which are considered hazards.
The council was being asked to discuss putting together a budget for the next fiscal year for the actual maintenance of the trees.
The urban forestry consulting firm hired to do a tree inventory created a computer database for each tree that includes a photo, GPS location, assessment of the tree, current health, size and recommendation on how it should be trimmed or pruned and priority ranking or its urgency for attention, reported it would cost over $58,000 to carry out the first-time needed maintenance.
Just doing the most urgent pruning, trimming or removal would cost an estimated $29,000 or more.
Malibu Country Estates resident Marilyn Santman, who years ago had asked the city to start maintaining its trees, said she thought that was a lot of money.
She also suggested maybe the data program could be used in an expanded version, if the city enacts a view preservation ordinance.
Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich said she wanted to find a way to pay for the program, such as instituting fees on the many new parking spaces created in the Civic Center at Legacy Park. “Why not do that?” she asked.
Other council members praised the data program, but hesitated to talk about the costs.
The council took no further action on the matter, but understood that the staff would prepare some kind of budget allocation for their approval for the next fiscal year.
The staff has urged the start-up of the program since unmaintained trees can end up to be a liability for the city and can present hazards.
Now that an inventory is done, the second phase of the process is to develop a tree maintenance plan and schedule based upon the tree’s priority ranking and the city’s available budget to perform the work.

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