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March 13, 2014

City to weed out red cedars at lake

EDMOND — The City of Edmond has found a useful way to minimize the invasive Eastern Red Cedar tree population of Arcadia Lake. A Red Cedar Harvest project created by the Urban Forestry Department is set to begin at the lake on city-managed property, said Ryan Ochsner, Urban Forestry coordinator.

Ochsner noticed last year that some mulch was needed for the city’s mature trees to help them retain water on medians and landscaped areas. Water retention is needed to offset periods of drought that Edmond has experienced in recent years, he said.

“I included in this budget we’re working with some funds to buy mulch for this year,” Ochsner said. “In thinking about it, I knew we had a need to remove some cedar trees at the lake.”

Producing mulch from the Eastern Red Cedar at the lake will save the city money, he said.

“I had anticipated the mulch expense to be around $14,000,” Ochsner said. “We should get the mulch produced for around $10,000.”

Aerial photographs of Arcadia Lake reveal a substantial amount of land is being taken over by the Eastern Red Cedar, Ochsner said. The change is significant during the past decade.

The cedar trees spread quickly across the terrain. So when an area is not maintained to limit the spread of the trees, it allows for them to mature and reproduce, Ochsner said.

“Since they do so well, they really compete with our other trees that they get in amongst and certainly the grasslands that are out there,” he said.

Eastern Red Cedar trees can become a fire risk in areas where surrounding grass lands have not been mowed. Fires generally do not cause the cedar trees to burn unless tall grass spreads flames to the combustible branches, he added.

Fire spreads from them more quickly when they combust, sending sparks through the air.

Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Lenz said the Eastern Red Cedar hinders fire prevention.

“They are very problematic,” Lenz said. “… Any time we get any kind of stand of the Red Cedar near an exposure, near something we need to protect, it’s an issue.”

He said the tree does not actually explode but will burn rapidly in dry conditions.

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121

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  • Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage

    Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
    Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
    The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
    The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
    According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
    About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
    The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
    So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
    Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.

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