Flossmoor reexamines herbicide use, organic alternatives or no-spray approach

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Flossmoor reexamines herbicide use, organic alternatives or no-spray approach

June 14, 2021 - 21:24
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Flossmoor is discussing how to proceed with turf grass maintenance on village-owned properties after some residents challenged officials to think differently about how crews use herbicides.

Assistant Public Works Director Dan Milovanovic presented three options Monday, June 7, to the Flossmoor Village Board: maintain the current program applying traditional fertilizer and herbicides, switch to organic alternatives or discontinue use of them altogether.

Erika Schafer, of Flossmoor, said that last option would be her preference. She cited concerns about carcinogens in common herbicides and the dangers of Roundup. She also noted that while Flossmoor takes pride in pollinator gardens, the village is also potentially killing some of the very things bees would pollinate.

“What are we doing?” she asked. “It just seems like we’re having mixed messages here.”

Three comments were also submitted before the meeting and read during it. They asked for organic alternatives or that no herbicides at all be used, citing similar concerns related to the chemicals and damage to pollinator gardens.

Flossmoor currently uses a contractor to apply fertilizers and herbicides to high-quality turf, according to Milovanovic. But he noted 46 of 47 of the locations sprayed under the village’s jurisdiction are “not designated for recreational use.”

“In regards to the parks, that is a park district thing to maintain,” Milovanovic said.

He added that Flossmoor researched organic alternatives but said they come at higher costs, are often more difficult to apply and do not as effectively control weeds. That led Trustee Gary Daggett to question the point of that option.

“It doesn’t work,” he said. “So, we’re throwing money after nothing.”

Trustee James Mitros agreed.

“I’m all in favor of the environment, but it doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Milovanovic noted Homewood-Flossmoor Park District recently began moving away from using herbicides in some parks, accepting weeds in some of the turf grass. But he recommended the village stick with its current program because of the “high visibility” of village-owned property.

Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott said community proximity to herbicides is a concern, and wondered if Flossmoor could at least broadcast a message about when and where they are being applied. Flags are generally used to indicate where areas have been sprayed recently, but giving people a heads up would give concerned residents the option of staying away from those areas until they are completely dry, Daggett added.

“I think notification is really important on this one,” Daggett said.

Trustee Perry Hoag added that Flossmoor is a “pretty small property owner, frankly.” But to Schafer, that is beside the point.

“It is a drop in the bucket,” Schafer said of the village’s contribution of herbicides in the environment. “It absolutely is. But village governments are leaders. When any municipality takes stands on this, that sends a message. It says having monoculture lawn isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of being a good citizen.

“Why don’t you not spray? Why don’t you question and challenge what is aesthetically pleasing and what is good for our environment?”

Mayor Michelle Nelson noted she asked the village’s Green Commission about the possibility of getting volunteers to clear weeds in the roundabouts and sculpture parks, places where she sees contact with children as more likely. She said she thinks a program like that could be a good start.

“I think Erika made a good point of us being a leader in this,” Nelson said.

Other Business

  • The village board voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to claim $754,000 in previously announced grant money for its Hagen Lane/Evans Road and Douglas Avenue drainage improvements.
  • The village board voted unanimously to approve the Flossmoor Police Department’s purchase of two Dodge Chargers and two Ford Hybrid Utilities for administrative and patrol vehicles, respectively. With up-fittings and after trade-ins, the total cost comes to just under $144,000.
  • The Village Board voted unanimously twice to approve special use permits for two in-ground swimming pools at residences in Flossmoor. Both received 4-0 votes from the Plan Commission recommending the plans.