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City playing catch-up on tree pruning

Added funds will allow all dead, dying trees to be felled soon

Sept. 27, 2011

It takes the Forestry Department twice the recommended time to prune the city's trees.

Industry standard is a seven-year cycle to ensure optimal forest health, but Wauwatosa's schedule creates a 14-year cycle to prune 30,000 trees at this point, Parks and Forestry Superintendent Ken Walbrant told the Budget Committee last week.

He would like to split the difference.

"We're staffed at an optimistic 10-year pruning cycle," he said.

There are several reasons for the delay, he said. Understaffing is one. The more than 1,000 tree maintenance requests coming in from property owners is another. In addition, the farther behind crews get in pruning, the more likely it is that trees will become diseased or die, requiring attention.

Alderman Michael Walsh, committee chairman, ranks tree maintenance as one of the top three constituent concerns he hears.

The city must respond to calls about downed trees and branches that could be a danger, but the majority of requests are of the non-emergency variety, Public Works Director Bill Porter said.

By going from call to call, an employee can attend to six or seven trees in a day. If property owners could be patient and allow crews to handle one neighborhood at a time, productivity could increase to up to 20 trees per day, staff said.

To free up forestry workers' time, administrators put an extra $20,000 in the budget to contract tree removal. Walbrant estimates all the trees that need to come down should be taken care of within two weeks, and they will be replaced in spring.

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