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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gas money may save Fort Worth tree program

FORT WORTH — Struggling to close a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, Fort Worth City Council members are seriously considering using revenue from natural gas drilling to save the city’s community tree planting program.

The $338,000 program provides trees for public property, including parks and street medians. It’s on the chopping block as part of a wide series of cuts across several departments as officials try to make up for recent years in which spending has grown faster than tax revenue. The city has announced more than 100 job cuts, although many of those employees will be offered other city jobs.

Cutting the tree planting program would mean shutting down the city’s 71-acre tree farm in southeast Fort Worth and laying off six employees, said Richard Zavala, director of the Parks and Community Development Department. The farm plants and distributes about 1,600 trees a year and is growing about 5,000 trees of various ages and sizes, he said. The trees would probably be sold or given away, Zavala said.

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