Newly re-elected City Councilman Bill Faber came to my office for a chat a few days ago and we discussed something that he feels very strongly about — planting more trees in the city. Faber indicated that cities need to think several generations ahead and he is concerned that the City of Decatur is not planting trees as it once did before the budget crunch the past several years. Faber told me that he was told by a member of the Forestry Department that city workers, in recent years, only planted one tree each year — on Arbor Day.
He also indicated that. at one time, there was about $30,000 available for tree planting in the city budget but the financial crunch has greatly reduced the number of city workers who, among other duties, planted trees. He said that is not good for future generations and he is in the process of rallying support from fellow councilmembers to study this issue.
“It’s a non-partisan issue,” he said, adding that he is concerned about the lack of newly-planted trees on public property. He indicated that, we have witnessed the removal of hundreds of trees in the past few years, and not much being planted to replace them. Faber has raised a legitimate issue, especially with our designation as “Tree City USA” and continuing efforts to make the city more beautiful.
• I TALKED with Randy Callison, Forester & Property Supervisor for the City of Decatur, and he confirmed that the $31,000 for planting new trees was cut in 2009 and only 1 tree has been planted per year in the decade since — on Arbor Day. He added that some 400 trees per year are removed because of disease, etc. Callison also said, “It’s not only the cost of plant-ing the tree, it will have to be watered weekly for at least two years” because new trees need lots of water. If there is a lot of rain in the summer, the number of waterings is reduced.
• FRANKLY, we should all be concerned that only one tree is being planted on public property to replace hundreds removed each year — and that has been happening every year since 2009! I’m pleased that we were recently designated as a “Tree City USA”, but I think we should take a closer look at doing something to replace a lot of the trees that have been destroyed. After all, during the last decade, the City of Decatur has removed three or four thousand trees and replaced them with a total of 10 new trees!!! Members of the city council should support Councilman Faber’s effort of looking deeper into our tree future and what we are going to do about it.
• I TOOK a closer look at the information printed on the City of Decatur’s website regarding the work of the Forestry Department and learned a couple of things about trees in our community that I had not previously considered: “If you look around the City now, you will notice that approximately one third of the area is occupied by trees. Yes, trees do drop leaves, and we need to take that into consideration, but the proper tree in the proper place can dramatically enhance our homes and our businesses. Trees also trap air-born pollution, which makes them an important part of the infrastructure of a city.
“A properly chosen and placed tree can not only shade our houses from the hot summer sun, it can serve to frame and add beauty to them. Trees can raise the value of real estate, by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. This can add up to an extra $5,000 in value to a home. A piece of property with well kept trees usually sells faster than a tree-less one.
“Trees can be an important part of a business location by providing not only beauty, but by providing shade to hot concrete and asphalt parking areas. They can also shade the building and air conditioning units, which improves the efficiency of the air conditioners and results in lower electricity costs.” Obviously, trees play a much larger role in benefitting our community than just being…trees.
• OPTIMISTIC — Councilman Faber, in our chat, also told me that he is “optimistic” about the work of the new City Manager Scot Wrighton — and the newly-elected city councilman Rodney Walker. That’s good to hear — because a few “rumors” were circulating that he didn’t care for the new city manager.
• FLAGS look great! Thanks to the efforts The Veterans Assistance Commission of Macon County, Help 4 Heroes and City Councilman David Horn, along with the support of several local citizens, U.S. flags are again flapping from utility poles on the main streets going through downtown Decatur. When new poles were installed during the streetscape changes a few years ago, the flags were not part of them.
• DECATUR FLAG? One of our readers asked me a question the other day about a “Decatur flag”. He asked: “Does Decatur have a flag? If so, what does it look like?” I really never thought about it. I’ll have to do some research. I don’t remember seeing an official “Decatur flag”, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have one.