The Whitefish Bay Village Board Monday approved a revised natural turf care program in village parks that will cost $18,382 - or about $15,000 more than spraying herbicides.
The use of pesticides in public parks has been discussed at Village Hall for the past four years, culminating in 2010 with village residents protesting the use of pesticides in the parks before the village board. As a pilot program, the board agreed not to spray pesticides on and Parks last summer, and budgeted $20,000 this year for a pesticide-free turf care program.
The village's Environmental Advisory Commission recommended a comprehensive plan that includes aerating, spraying compost tea and adding nutrients to the soil in Buckley, Cahill, Klode and Schoolhouse parks, as well as to greenspace at Fairmount and Lydell. The carried a cost of $20,000.
The revised plan adopted Monday eliminates a pilot program to implement natural turf care practices in the median of Santa Monica Boulevard, cutting $1,605. Trustees also decided not to implement natural lawn care practices on triangular rights-of-way in the village.
If the village were to go back to a traditional turf maintenance plan, the village would spend around $3,500 to spray herbicides at all village properties.
In one motion, the board unanimously voted in support of the plan, but in a second motion, Village President Julie Siegel was the only board member to vote against funding the program.
In a later interview, Siegel said she supported part of the plan, but she did not want to fund the turf management aspects of the program that she disagreed with. Without funding, the village would not be able to implement aeration and other aspects of the plan, she said.
She voiced concerns about spending the extra money for natural turf care, citing e-mails she received from concerned residents.
‘We might be OK this year, but if you look at next year, we are losing a lot of money. Does it make sense to lose 20 grand this year if we’re not going to be funding it next year?” Siegel asked. “These are very tough decisions, and there are a lot of emotions involved, but $20,000 is a lot of money.”
Trustee James Roemer said there are residents on both sides of the issue that feel strongly about the pesticides issue.
“I think it’s prudent to go incrementally here,” Roemer said. “I would suggest a little moderation with how far we go with the program.”
Siegel's budget concerns reside, in large part, with state aid cuts. The village expects to face a $300,000 cut in state aid in 2012, with only roughly one-third of those revenue losses offset by savings through employee concessions on benefits.