Nothing says Tree City USA like the miles of leaf piles that you’ll see being vacuumed up by the City’s 6 leaf trucks around town from November 2 to December 18th. As you attempt to navigate streets that have been narrowed down to almost a single lane due to the ginormous rows of leaves raked into the curb lanes you can see that the City deserved the Tree City USA designation that it has received each year over the last 2 decades.
In the old days, these leaf piles would be a 10 year old’s dream come true — run and jump to your heart’s delight. Of course today with a lawyer lurking around every corner, liability issues have sucked the fun out of leaf pile diving so kids please stay out of the piles in the street.
Leaf collection is one of the most popular services offered by Public Service. Each season the City collects hundreds of loads of leaves that are passively composted and then made available to residents later in the next year to be used as a soil supplement for landscape projects.
Leaf service is an expensive public service — as anyone who has ever raked leaves knows it’s very labor intensive, and labor costs money. It doesn’t help that leaves aren’t always the most cooperative bunch; they blow, they freeze, they get mixed in with other debris and they get so matted down that the turbo-vacs have a hard time sucking them up, so we resort to good old fashioned hand labor. Hand labor at your own house is hard enough but hand labor over miles and miles of streets can get crazy — and it’s that crazy that gets expensive.
It’s been an early leaf drop this Fall and over the first month I’ve watched those neighbors with mature trees out raking and blowing leaves every day; seriously every day. I love trees as much as the next guy but that kind of raking is a bit insane. The tree canopy around town is gorgeous during the summer but you pay the price, and at this time of year it’s a curse.
Which I guess is why Kent residents love the City service. It gets the leaves off their back and on ours — and we’re happy to take it. In the interest of trying new things and experimenting with different leaf collection procedures, Gene Roberts, City Public Service Director, reports that the crews are going to a more diversified method of collecting leaves this year. Rather than focusing all the crews in one neighborhood at the same time, this year they’re trying to spread the crews all over town so that no street has to wait too much longer than any other for the service. Time will tell whether it works but I applaud the effort and the willingness to stick their necks out in the hopes of providing a better service.
Through the years, the sights and sounds of the City’s leaf crews have become a part of the landscape that mark the passage of autumn. The changes introduced each year are intended to ensure the success of the service for generations to come. Here’s a more detailed description of this year’s change from Gene.
MEMO FROM GENE ROBERTS, KENT PUBLIC SERVICE DIRECTOR
This year Gerald Shanley, City Arborist, recommended and I concurred that we change the pickup schedule. In the past all trucks would be sent into a specific area of the City (typically a quadrant or half). This year one truck is assigned to each quadrant of the City with a fifth truck assigned to work in the quadrant that has the most leaves down. Additionally, this year Gerald removed the street by street assignment given the crews in past years and instead he is working with each crew in an attempt to allow for greater productivity.
The reason this schedule was selected was based on complaints from past years when the leaf matter fell early and no truck was assigned for up to three weeks in one area of the City while at the same time 4 or 5 trucks were working across town collecting leaves; residents complained that they were being neglected in favor of others as their leaves went uncollected for sometime. Additionally we have been advised of residents’ concern that their tree lawn grass would be killed if the leaves were not picked up the day that they placed them at the curb; I must state that I have seen some brown colored grass after a delayed pickup but in every case the grass has returned to normal growth the following spring.
During years when the leaves fall late we have spent considerable time collecting little leaf matter from one quadrant of the City while maintaining our published schedule. However, during years when the leaves fall early we spend the full scheduled time in a specified area of the City only not to finish and then not returning for up to three weeks to complete the area. In either case collection efficiency was not at the highest that it could have been resulting in an increased cost to collect leaves. The efficient delivery of service is directly related to cost; by example in past years City staff would work overtime on weekends and holidays in an attempt to finish one area in order to maintain the schedule for the following week.
This year most of the leaves dropped relatively early and as such most residences have cleared their lawn resulting in a lot of leaves at the curb earlier as compared to past years exascerbating the collection problem. Crews work main City streets first pass and then back into the neighborhoods — the logic being more cars with faster average speed blow more leaves around resulting in more work for residents and more return trips for our crews. Sometimes residents call stating that they have been missed when in reality what has happened the truck fills with leaf matter and must by dumped, crews typically return collecting the balance of a block.
In past years I have followed our crews around and have found that after they have cleared a street of all leaves at the curb some resident will call advising that we have missed them and that we need to come right back to get their leaves. We never call them dishonest and do try to get back in a timely manor but honestly it always comes at a loss of productivity and disadvantage to another resident waiting to be collected. The current process in place is reported by Gerald as being more successful in terms of productivity as compared to previous methods tried.
You can guarantee residents that call you that we will not stop until all leaves are collected that are placed at the curb or the program is suspended due to winter. In the event that you have specific locations where a resident is reporting that we have missed picking up their leaves please let us know so we can contact them directly to advise an approximate time they can expect to receive service. As always we are open to suggestions but at this point I believe that Gerald is doing a great job given the resources available to provide the leaf collection service citywide.
Hopefully this short narrative answers your questions, if I have missed anything please advise.
Fall Leaf Collection Service Guidelines
- Please rake leaves into a pile at the curb. When the leaves are in piles City crews can move more quickly through the neighborhoods.
- Where possible, avoid piling leaves where cars are parked or where tree limbs make access difficult.
- Please remove tree limbs, rocks, bricks and any other debris that might be mixed in with leaves. These materials damage the equipment and will cause service delays.
- If you have bagged leaves, place them at the curb and call the Leaf Line at 330 678-8105 to schedule pick up.
- The vacuum motor on the leaf trucks generates noise and a certain amount of dust. The City replaces dust filters as often as possible, but if the season is dry it is nearly impossible to eliminate dust. We apologize for the inconvenience and we will continue to do our best to control dust.
- To prevent fires, please avoid parking cars on leaf piles.
- The crews work on a tight schedule, so once they complete a pass in your neighborhood they cannot come back until the next scheduled pass. Each neighborhood as many passes as possible during the 6 weeks of collection.