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M. Scott Moon
Light filters through a large paper birch on the front lawn at Soldotna city hall Thursday afternoon. Of the nearly 500 trees the city has assessed, this tree - listed at $22,700 - is the most valuable.

Loot taking root

City assigns dollar amounts to area trees

Posted: August 19, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: August 19, 2011 - 8:33am
City planner Stephanie Queen gestures toward a map that shows inventoried trees as colored dots.   M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
City planner Stephanie Queen gestures toward a map that shows inventoried trees as colored dots.

Money may not grow on trees, but there's $22,700 growing out of the soil in front of Soldotna City Hall.

The triple-trunked tree - a 45-foot tall paper birch - was examined by a team of officials several weeks ago as part of Soldotna's tree inventory project, which assigned a monetary value to about 500 trees on city property.

The city received a $20,000 match grant - 50 percent comes from the state, 50 percent from the city - through the Department of Natural Resources' Urban Forestry Program for the project. The group of DNR personnel, arborist Jim Flott from Spokane, a software developer from the East Coast, and city officials convened for a week of training in July to prepare for the counting and categorizing that took place between July 18 and 22.

"The inventory is more than just counting trees," wrote Stephen Nickel, a community assistance forester with DNR. "The community forest is a valuable component of city infrastructure, much like fire trucks and police cars."

Seven people used handheld GPS devices to individually evaluate trees around city hall, the police department, and Soldotna Creek Park, accounting for species, location, size, condition, and age, among other things.

The data, once collected, was plugged into the city's computers and will be used to create a master management plan which will analyze "the city's tree population and provide recommendations for expanding and improving the health, safety and appearance of the forest," according to Nickels.

"Trees are the only piece of city infrastructure that increase in value as they age - this is, if they are properly maintained," Nickels wrote.

The computer program, TreeWorks, displays a cluster of dots which can be individually clicked and selected to represent one tree, or the data can be organized according to category. On the monetary value spectrum, the list ranges from a smattering of $0 trees to the more standard $100-$1,000 range, all the way up to the $22,700 tree in front of city hall.

"One of the things that this software does is assign a value to each tree," city planner Stephanie Queen explained. "There's an industry standard, accepted way of coming up with a dollar amount of trees. And by collecting all of this information, we now have that."

This can help the city in several ways, Queen and Nickel said.

"Should we have a natural disaster and part of all of our forest is destroyed," Nickel supposed, "FEMA can take the inventory data and tree value and provide funds for replanting the forest."

Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael pointed out that if a drunk driver were to hit and destroy a tree on city property, the information could help determine how much the driver would have to reimburse the city depending on "how much we might have paid for a tree if we had a construction project as opposed to that 14-inch (wide) spruce that might have grown for the last 50 years."

Queen stated that this new handheld GPS technology brought to the city via the grant can, and will, be used for other endeavors as well.

"This is something that we'll be able to use beyond the trees," she said. "We'll be able to go collect information on storm drains and manholes and use this throughout many of the departments."

Flott, the arborist from Spokane who speaks for the trees, is currently preparing a draft master plan which will make recommendations based on the data on how the city might be able to better manage its arboreal infrastructure.

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jimbob
74
Points
jimbob 08/19/11 - 10:56 am
0
0

Nuts under the Trees

More government waste and insanity courtesy of taxpayer money. Another example of how government could be cut and the average normal person would not be effected. Now we have an outside (Spokane) nut under the trees to "speak for the trees." The article strangely leaves out what total the bureaucrats came up with that the trees are worth. I suppose this "technology" could be used to survey all trees in town on private land and tax individuals based on the computers opinion of value. It is time to look at reducing the size and scope of all government starting with Soldotna.

robert white
378
Points
robert white 08/19/11 - 11:53 am
0
0

trees

My god, what have we become.....cut government waste!!

akdeb1
0
Points
akdeb1 08/19/11 - 10:07 pm
0
0

Monetary Value of Trees?????

I agree with the previous posters. This is way out of the realm of what government is supposed to be doing for taxpayers. If the local level can't cut govt. waste why expect
the federal govt. to start??? Crazy!!!!

dogfart
0
Points
dogfart 08/20/11 - 07:24 am
0
0

The future taxing.

This must stop. Goverment is out of control. If they start to asign a value on a tree, then they are going to TAX YOU ON THAT VALUE.

This is the start of what can happen. They look at the potional amout of revenue generation in a program in order to persue it.

At $22,000.00 per tree what is the value of a 5 acre parel to tax.

Property value up in order to tax it, thats money for goverment..

People will sell property to reduce there expences or worse clear cut the trees to reduce your future tax libility.

This must stop.Stop goverment programs like this, can you AFFORD IT ?

kenaibear2001
119
Points
kenaibear2001 08/20/11 - 08:16 am
0
0

Give me a break

Were spending money counting trees, and they want to raise our sales tax? Publish a list of the trees when compiled.... that way, the citizens will know which ones to cut and burn when they march on City Hall.

Can see property taxes raising. Next the value of the trees will be added to value of taxed property.

Wake up Kenai!

keeneye
10
Points
keeneye 08/20/11 - 09:26 am
0
0

New?

New handheld GPS technology? It's only been around for years. But we needed a grant to bring it here in Soldotna. You can go down to the hardware store and get one for $60.00 accurate to within a couple of feet.

"This is something that we'll be able to use beyond the trees," she said. "We'll be able to go collect information on storm drains and manholes and use this throughout many of the departments."

So it's come to this, we taxpayers pay for them to figure out where a manhole is? a storm drain? and yes, trees. If they need that to figure out where these things are, not only are we in trouble, we are truly LOST. Maybe they could use one of those GPS's to find their heads. But I hear you need line of sight to the satellites for them to work.

juicymoose
0
Points
juicymoose 08/20/11 - 10:02 pm
0
0

WOW

This is so ridiculous, who's idea was this? OOHHH!!! lets spend $20,000 and put together a system of evaluating a trees monatary value. Thats a really good way to spend time and money. Surly it will pay for its self with the increase in taxes and the off chance a "DRUNK DRIVER" will be cruzing by and kill them self on one of these high value trees so his grief stricken family can pay for the damages to our now precious tree....O.o REALLY? I agree with previous posts, what an incompetent waste of time and money.

907nomad
29
Points
907nomad 08/21/11 - 11:53 am
0
0

ARE YOU KIDDING???

JUST. WOW- RIDICULOUS.
That is all.

groutgirl
10
Points
groutgirl 08/21/11 - 02:08 pm
0
0

GREAT COMMENTS!

The greed and disrespect shown to us by our policymakers and others in this community by wasting money and bringing in "talent" from the Lower 48 for what could be done by someone who lives here, well, it's appalling. So, whose friend from the City or the Borough lives in Spokane and needed some cash? I don't normally post and add my thoughts on the Clarion's stories, but everything everyone said above is right on. How insanely ridiculous. I recently sent a letter to the editor about Borough property tax assessment increase criteria, and they neglected the part where I complained about their methods, and instead twisted the focus to appear that I dislike the breaks given to senior citizens on their property taxes. Perhaps there's more to the story than we're reading here (although I doubt it). Anyone interested in banding together at some City Hall and Borough council meetings, please send me an email: groutgirl@hotmail.com. We can interrupt policitical corruption effectively only through alliances within our own community.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 08/21/11 - 07:52 pm
0
0

Tree Census 8/21/11

Sunday 8/21/11 Yeah ! Right On !

Let's have a TREE CENSUS every 10 years !

Where do I sign up for that Job ?
Why just lookin' out my front window, there are so many trees it will take a Lifetime to count them all.

SPW in Sloooooooowdotna

Allen
551
Points
Allen 08/24/11 - 05:51 pm
0
0

Keep it in perspective?

I don't think this article merits the capital letters, exclamation points, screeching and whining of the above comments.

Doing an inventory of the trees on City-owned land, spending a very small amount of city funds, makes sense in light of what is coming. Let's keep things in perspective.

907nomad
29
Points
907nomad 08/24/11 - 08:01 pm
0
0

Really Allen?

First off, your comment leaves little to the imagination as to where your job is, the friends you keep or who signs your paychecks.

Secondly, it doesn't sound like a very small amount of city funds were spent on this project. The point you've missed, is that no one thinks that one thin dime should have been spent on this, or at the very least, it be kept it in house and paid local talent. That "very small" amount of money could have seen better use for school program needing help, or an abused women or children center or a 100 other things other than counting trees.

"This makes sense in the light of what's coming"? What could possibly be coming, that a tree census makes sense or the project vindicated as a "needed" expense? So far, the only thing people can see coming is increased property tax because of their trees, with no other explanation given to allay their fears.

What other perspective would you like us to have on this foolishness?

stuartw13
-10
Points
stuartw13 01/10/12 - 03:50 am
0
0

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