STOCK_Highland Town Hall

The Highland Town Council has highballed the payments it has pledged for the West Lake Corridor extension project to stretch the South Shore Railroad to Dyer.

HIGHLAND — The list of boards and commissions working under the Town Council has branched out to include the Tree Advisory Board.

It was officially created in February after being recommended by the 2017 Highland Urban Forest Management Plan.

A passage in the related ordinance says the board "will serve as an advocacy and advisory group to become a catalyst for active urban forest resource management within the community."

Combining its own opinions with research, forestry experts and Highland department heads, the board will make recommendations to the Town Council for annual updates of the forestry plan.

Among its functions, the board will monitor the enforcement of codes that regulate trees on residential parkways and town-owned property, said new board member and former Highland Town Manager Richard Underkofler.

A recent tree inventory identified sick trees and has resulted in 349 diseased ash trees being removed with another 79 slated for removal between now and next year.

The lowest bidder, among 14 contractors invited to offer bids, was Russell's Tree Care, which has three certified arborists, Underkofler said, adding the firm has been paid $25,550, as of July 1, for diseased tree and stump removal.

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"Highland got a $10,700 urban forestry grant from the Division of Forestry, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, to acquire and plant replacement trees this year," he said.

Possibility Place Nursery of Monee made the lowest bid for the trees this year for species that include blue beech, Illinois pecan, hackberry, Ohio buckeye, Chinquapin oak and white oak.

A total of 57 were planted in the spring and another 51 will go into the ground this fall, Underkofler said.

The Public Works Department contacted residents next to proposed parkway planting sites and consent was received for each site and species.

"As a condition of receiving a replacement tree, each homeowner pledged to seasonally water and care for them," Underkofler said.

The inaugural board members are Underkofler, Constance Sherbondy, Terry Krooswyk, James Colias, Ron Jakowski and Chairman Bill Vargo. A seventh member will be named at a later date.

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