QUINCY -- Weeks after a memo from a plant specialist with the state agriculture department was released that said ash trees in the city had been damaged by a contractor, that contractor denies responsibility.
The contractor, Trees R Us, places blame for "cosmetic" damage on property owners.
Two officials representing Trees R Us spoke with members of the Quincy Tree Commission during a telephone conference call Tuesday. Also present was a representative of Midwest Arbor Supply, a vendor for the ArborJet product used by Trees R Us to inject a highly potent pesticide into the trees.
"When we first started treating trees (in Quincy), you had a certain amount of decay already there," Trees R Us Vice President Nick Willis said.
He described damage as pre-existing and caused by weed trimmers, lawn mowers and bicycles.
City and Illinois Department of Agriculture officials confirmed that the invasive emerald ash borer -- purported to have killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in the U.S. -- had been seen in Quincy in June 2017. Since then, city officials have sought bids from independent contractors to use pesticides to stop the insect's spread. The chemical has been applied to 400 of the city's estimated 1,200 ash trees.
Chuck Bevelheimer, Quincy's director of planning and development, said he was skeptical of the contractor's response.
"I am not buying the argument that the trees -- that I have seen that are damaged -- have been damaged by some other method or cause," he said.
Also skeptical were Tree Commission members Rome Frericks and Bob Terstriep, who both shook their heads in disbelief as Willis spoke.
"This damage was not caused by a Weed Eater or a bicycle," Frericks said.
Willis also disagreed with claims that the pesticide was not being applied properly. He said that even if a plastic plug used in the application does not stay in the tree, the pesticide has still been injected properly.
"This is something designed for municipalities and for contractors who work for cities," Willis said. "This system is tried and true and it will work."
Terstriep said he personally watched as crews attempted to inject the pesticide.
"That has been my concern for three years," he said. "The problem is that we are seeking these pockets either at or just below the injection site. So we are either seeing the bark swell or the chemical run out onto the ground."
Willis said Trees R Us managers will be in Quincy in May to better train employees and to meet with city leaders to discuss their concerns.