Grants to help property owners fend off spotted lanternflies


Palmer Township's "trees of heaven" are now targets of the United States Department of Agriculture's drive to kill the spotted lanternflies that threaten Pennsylvania agriculture.

The USDA will start killing about 1,485 trees on township property this week because the trees are the favored nesting spot of the lanternflies, according to information presented at Monday's Palmer Township Supervisors meeting.

The tree-of-heaven, scientific name ailanthus altissima, and the spotted lanternfly are both from China. The tree has been in the U.S. since the 18th century, while the lanternfly appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014, according to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

The tree of heaven has been used to bring greenery to urban areas because it's hardy and grows fast, according to Penn State. The spotted lanternfly was introduced by accident, and now counties throughout southeastern Pennsylvania are under quarantine in an attempt to keep the insect from spreading and damaging the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry.

Township Manager Robert Williams distributed maps at the meeting that showed where herbicide will be applied: 25th Street, William Penn Highway, and off Anthony Court. The herbicides will kill smaller trees, but those with diameters exceeding six inches may have to be cut down.

The USDA will pay for the treatment, and the township will be responsible for tree debris that results.

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The supervisors also heard complaints Monday about a man-made affliction to its residents: warehouses.

Harry Graack Jr. said cars speed by his Van Buren Road property at speed as fast as 80 miles per hour, and large trucks use the road because "their GPS tells them you can go that way."

Graack said a traffic light is needed at Newlins Mill and Van Buren roads. Van Buren is becoming a traffic corridor, he said.

"I think it's the people that work at warehouses," Graack said. "This didn't happen when we didn't have warehouses there."

Supervisor Chairman David Colver said PeddDOT dictates where signals go.

Engineer Brian Dillman said the intersection is close to meeting PennDOT's traffic requirements for a traffic light, "probably in the not-too-distant future."

Deputy Police Chief Wayne Smith said the township has raised the issue at the nearby Inc. warehouse because increased traffic coincides with shift changes there. Smith said the police have reviewed records of traffic and speeds, and not recorded cars going at 80 mph.

The supervisors approved contributions to two pension funds. The township will pay $587,077 for the police pension plan, and $197,582 to the defined-benefit plan for its non-uniformed workers. The contribution to the defined-contribution plan for non-uniformed workers will be voted on at a later meeting.

Some residents attend the meeting to address the proposed warehouses on Van Buren Road, but that issue was taken off the agenda. Township solicitor Charles Bruno said the developer sought a delay, and the warehouses may be on the agenda in November.