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City of Troy boards up

Charmaine Berina
Publications Specialist
CCG Systems, Inc.
Norfolk, Virginia

In the summer of 2002, about 700 million ash trees were discovered to be infested or dead in the State of Michigan. The culprit was a new exotic insect from Asia, the Emerald Ash Borer. According to the state's Department of Agriculture, the metallic wood-boring beetle (not native to anywhere in the United States) has also decimated ash tree populations in Windsor, Ontario. Experts believe that the beetle has been in Michigan for as long as five years due to the age of the trees affected. They speculate that the borer entered the United States through wood packaging from China, Japan, Korea or eastern Russia.

In the midst of the Emerald Ash Borer outbreak,[0] the City of Troy joined the State of Michigan's efforts to enact a statewide quarantine preventing further spreading of the infestation and to implement strategies for eradicating the problem. One individual also came up with a creative way of making something out of nothing.

"The City of Troy is in the heart of this whole area," said Superintendent of Motor Pool Sam Lamerato, a member of APWA's Fleet Services Committee. "The City decided that it was in its best interest to cut all the ash trees down so we can begin replanting diverse types of trees so something of this magnitude can be prevented [in the future]."

In September 2004, the City hired a contractor, J.H. Hart Urban Forestry, to remove some 20,000 infested, city-owned trees. Those that could be salvaged were stored at the Department of Public Works yard or hauled out by the Crook-Miller Co., which hauled about 50 tons and paid the City approximately $18 per ton. However, the City was left with the responsibility of disposing of any unused or unwanted logs.

Lamerato said the idea struck him while he was doing his rounds as he stared into the piles of logs that were sitting at the DPW yard. He said that the more he thought about it, the arrangement made no economic sense. He felt something had to be done and began researching. In no time, Lamerato was on the phone to log companies and found an aptly named company called Last Chance Log Company.

With a fleet size of 500, the City of Troy has approximately 10 trailers with wooden beds and 40 dump trucks with wooden floors and sideboards that periodically require refurbishing. In the past, the City has paid about $50 per board for this project. Now, instead of purchasing boards, the City pays Last Chance Log Company $70 per hour to cut what they need from the salvaged wood. Lamerato estimates that this has reduced their cost to around $12 per board.

"They come in and we give them [wood] dimensions," said Lamerato. "And they cut to our specifications...now we have a trailer full of wood that we can use for City projects."

Aside from the wood refurbishing project, the City-owned maple syrup farm also benefits by utilizing the slab wood as fuel for the fire needed to make maple syrup.

"We are saving the City thousands of dollars," said Lamerato. "But the whole story is that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade."

Charmaine Berina can be reached at (757) 623-1700 or at charmaine.b@ccgsystems.com. For additional information about the Emerald Ash Borer, including photos and frequently asked questions, visit the Michigan Department of Agriculture's Emerald Ash Borer website at www.michigan.gov/mda.