Public debates city forester position in proposed budget

The Lincoln City Council opened its doors just two days before they vote on the budget to get public input.

It was an open meeting to talk about anything in the budget, but one issue kept coming up.  The city forester position.

In the proposed budget,  that job would be eliminated.  It pays $81,000 a year.  If cut, it would be replaced by a community forestry plan that would focus on getting more volunteers to help plant and prune trees.

Parks Director Lynn Johnson was at the meeting and supports the proposal.  “Right now, we need the new community planner position more than we need the city forester position.  We've got to be looking ahead.  I've talked about the need to bring some new abilities, experience and knowledge to the team and that's what this is about.”

Those against the cut say it's a safety issue and with the potential of the Emerald Ash Bore, which has already wiped out thousands of trees, on its way to the Capitol City, someone with experience needs to be in charge.  Shannon Rosauer from Lincoln says, “an infestation of the Emerald Ash Bore, or EAB, is on its way to Lincoln.  It is not a question of if, but when, this invasive pest will attack our Ash trees.”

Some at the podium said they feel like the parks department is bearing the brunt of the budget woes while some council members said everyone's making cuts.  Doug Emery says,  “people somehow think that this is personal, that we can't wait to cut trees.  This is what happens when there's a finite amount of money.  This is exactly the dilemma we're in.  This is not a leadership issue, it's the fact that none of us can figure out how to make nine go into five.”

The council will vote on the budget on Wednesday.  If approved, it will be adopted on August 23.