The City of Hillsdale will save nearly $50,000 this spring as it transitions to private leaf collection by Modern Waste.
Jake Hammel, Hillsdale’s director of public services, estimated the total cost of his leaf collection procedure around $76,000, including labor, equipment, fuel, supplies, and raking.
“Rather than discontinue the service, we were trying to look at ways to save money with the service,” he said. “With Modern Waste, there’s a leaf collection option for $19,500.”
To save money, Modern Waste’s service requires residents to collect leaves and place them into biodegradable bags. Previously, residents could blow or rake leaves to an area between the sidewalk and the curb, without using bags, for pickup by Hammel’s staff. According to Hammel, wind and rain often blew leaves into the street, clogging sewers and making it more difficult for his staff to collect.
Since the announcement, residents have voiced their complaints to both Hammel and the city council. At the council’s March 18 meeting, resident Keith Myers spoke about the difficulty and cost of bagging leaves.
“I have 18 mature trees, six decorative trees, and a lot of other shrubbery,” Myers said. “When the city picks up my leaves, they use two truckloads. Not only is that a high cost for the bags, the additional time and effort to place the leaves in the bag will be astronomical compared to just blowing them to the curb.”
Instead of a new collection protocol, Myers suggested one pickup later in the fall instead of two in order to save money. However, Hammel said his staff needs all the time they can get for fall leaf pickup.
In the spring and fall, Hammel retools existing snow plow trucks for leaf collection, which means he needs to convert them back once it begins to snow.
“Once it gets to the point where we have cold temperatures, I have to put salt spreaders on all my dump trucks that I needed to collect leaves,” Hammel said. “So we struggle to get all the leaves picked up that folks want us to.”
The council also directed the Public Services Commission to explore expanding permits to residents wishing to “barrel burn” their leaves. At the council’s April 1 meeting, Councilman Bill Zeiser said the commission concluded this solution could cause more uncontrolled fires and present issues for residents with prior health conditions.
Hammel said he strongly encourages residents to compost their leaves, which can provide good nutrients for soil. Ultimately, he focused on the positive aspect of the change.
“That $50,000 in savings is money that can be spent on streets,” Hammel said. “I’m excited we can work on streets in the fall rather than collect leaves. Fall is an optimal time to get the streets in really good shape before the winter.”
Additionally, residents can no longer drop off leaves and grass to the city’s compost site. Hammel said he believes new state regulations controlling for organic material in runoff would drastically increase operating costs at the site.
Hammel and his staff will continue to do brush collection like normal. Residents should leave brush in the same area between the sidewalk and curb.
Modern Waste will pick up residents’ leaf bags on April 20. Hammel and his staff will collect brush on or before April 16. Hammel encouraged residents to make sure their leaves weren’t on the curb for a long time in case of a rainstorm.