The Ceres City Council was urged at its meeting last week to resume the city’s tree pruning program on a grid-by-grid plotting which has resulted in fewer emergency tree trimming and removals while decreasing the overall costs of tree maintenance.
“It is beneficial to keep our mature trees healthy for the environment, the residents’ pleasure and decreased utility costs,” said a report to the council from Public Works Director Jeremy Damas.
The city spent $16,358 in 2019 for the services of West Coast Arborists to deal with tree emergencies at 10 locations throughout Ceres. They ranged in price from $938 to $3,755 based on tree size.
“Emergencies are going up,” Damas told the council. He added that “quite a few trees” were lost the weekend prior for the winds that swept the Valley. Trees are more susceptible to blowing over when the branches are not thinned out and catch more wind drag.
“The more we push off doing the maintenance to the trees the more emergencies that we have, the more liabilities we have, trees falling on cars, houses and those types of things,” he said.
The company helped the city complete an inventory of all street trees in 2013 and ordered a five-year grid pruning schedule. Two of the grids have been finished but the contract with West Coast ends on June 27.
Because the grid tree pruning program had been discontinued in 2016 because of budget reasons, Damas estimated that 257 mature older trees valued at $1.2 million were lost over the past four years.
The city estimates that its tree inventory of 10,924 is valued at $22.8 million.
Damas said West Coast has provided excellent service since 2014.
The costs of the five-year tree pruning grid by grid are as follows:
• $195,920 to trim 2,449 trees in the center of Ceres in fiscal year 2020-21;
• $246,560 to trim 3,307 trees in southwest Ceres for year 2021-22;
• $178,720 to trim 2,234 trees south of Whitmore Avenue between Central Avenue and Mitchell Road during 2022-23;
• $202,240 to trim 2,528 trees north of Hatch Road during 2023-24;
• $245,120 to trim 3,064 trees in Eastgate during 2024-25.
Damas said by not continuing with the contract the city would have to go to a formal request for bids, risk losing quality tree maintenance services and lose access to the tree inventory database and history.
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno said pruning does not necessarily save on the cost of an emergency removal.
The council took action to approve the fee schedule but may not execute the grid work contract if the budget does not allow the funding.
Mayor Chris Vierra was absent at the meeting.