The City Council has now met two prerequisites for Tree City USA recognition.

The council implemented the first standard in pursuit of receiving Tree City USA recognition established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters by passing into law a tree care ordinance that forms the foundation of a city’s tree care program. One branch of the ordinance requires delegating authority to a board or a department and establishing protection and regulations for public trees, the Arbor Day Foundation states.

For the city to implement the second standard, the council was tasked with passing legislation establishing a Parks Advisory Commission to serve Rolla, who will then act as the city’s Tree Board. The proposal was introduced by Rolla’s Parks and Recreation Director Floyd Jernigan, and while the City Council held the final reading on the proposed ordinance on Monday, July 1, a discussion emanated on what a Tree City USA designation means for Rolla, particularly in regards to money.

 “I see all of the trees, we have already. What kind of money are we getting to plant these trees?” Ward 5 city councilor, Jim Williams, asked.

Rolla obtaining Tree City USA recognition says the city is undertaking good tree maintenance to its existing trees, and by planting trees, the city is following generally expected recommendations, Jernigan said. 

“It doesn’t obligate us to spend any more money than what we are presently doing if we are meeting the threshold of the $2 per capita, which I am firmly convinced we are already spending that amount of money in our regular duties with what we do with our tree care throughout the city,” Jernigan said. 

Having the Parks Advisory Commission serve as the Tree Board merely allows the members to have the ability to give the city input similar to other boards and commissions that make recommendations to the City Council, Jernigan noted. 

“But doing this process doesn’t really obligate us necessarily to spend money,” Jernigan said. “By being a Tree City USA it increases our funding mechanism if we apply for grants. That basically says, at that point then, we would get 75 percent funding from the Arbor Day Foundation, and we the city would only have to come up with 25 percent.”

There aren’t additional stipulations that require the city to apply for grants as a Tree City USA community, yet the designation states the city can educate staff about tree planning that might be eligible for reimbursement through the program, if the city can show they spent a certain amount of money, Jernigan noted.

Mayor of Rolla, Louis Magdits, added, “It’s not just a plaque on the wall, but it’s providing some expertise now. I think that is the intent to have someone on the Tree Board that can help with making sure trees are adequately cared for.”

The City Council carried out the final reading and passed the ordinance that now authorizes six voting members to serve on the Parks Advisory Commission, granting the commission to act as the Rolla’s Tree Board and provide input on public tree management, with one member having additional expertise in tree planting and care.

Rolla’s mayor, city administrator and parks and recreation director may act as ex officio, non-voting members of the Parks Advisory Commission. Members are to be appointed by the mayor with the consent of the City Council under the ordinance.

The members of the Tree Board will serve three-year terms, or serve on the board until their successors are appointed, the ordinance dictates. The first appointees upon the formation of the board will serve in staggered terms, one member appointed for a one-year term, two members appointed for a two-year term and two members appointed for a three-year term. And only six voting members of the board will cast votes; a quorum is defined in the ordinance as a majority of the voting membership.

The city must now create an annual budget of at least $2 per capita for tree care into the city’s next fiscal budget, and implement an annual Arbor Day Proclamation and Observance. The Parks Advisory Commission, acting as the Tree Board, will provide input on the budget and the financial reporting requirements.