Middlebury selectboard backs ash borer preparedness plan

MIDDLEBURY — At a Tuesday evening meeting, members of the Middlebury selectboard unanimously endorsed the inclusion of $5,000 in next year’s capital improvement budget to begin protecting the town from an inevitable incursion from the emerald ash borer, a voracious beetle that attacks ash trees.
The Middlebury Tree Committee has put together a preparedness plan to contend with the ash borer’s expected onslaught. That plan calls for, among other things, a $60,000 investment over the next decade to cut down damaged or fragile ash trees and to eventually treat larger ash trees with organic pesticides to deter the insects.
Roughly one in 12 trees in Vermont is an ash tree, according to tree committee member Judith Wiger-Grohs. Each tree provides around $130 in annual value to the state, through storm water mitigation, aesthetics and other benefits, committee members said.
Emerald ash borers hail from Asia and are believed to have made their way to North America through the shipping of lumber products, according to Wiger-Grohs. The beetles have been confirmed in 27 states, including all the New England states — except Vermont. The bugs are initially tough to spot because they attack trees from the top-down, according to Wiger-Grohs.
Significant loss of ash trees could affect the local ecology, in terms of affecting soil composition and reducing animals and insects that are partial to such trees, committee members said.
Town workers have already begun taking down ash trees on public property that are in poor condition. Officials said such trees are easier to remove before they have been stricken by ash borers.
Local residents should also gird for an ash borer influx.
“We have got to get this information out in as many forums as possible,” Wiger-Grohs said.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard:
•  Formed a committee to develop a new plan for attracting businesses to town and supporting existing businesses.
•  Heard about staffing changes at Middlebury Community Television (see related story on Page 1A).
•  Approved a $50,600 contract with Green Mountain Engineering to do design work on a project to improve water main, sewer infrastructure and storm water drainage on South Street and in Chipman Park.
•  Rejected an offer by real estate investment advisor David White to lobby on the town’s behalf in what is a multi-town effort to get the 2017 Legislature to lift the state’s current cap on creating new Tax Increment Financing Districts.

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