By Denise Lana,
For the Record is part of a series of informational articles aimed at helping clarify some of the hot-topic issues currently facing the city of Decorah.
In this edition, Jeremy Bril, City of Decorah Enginner, discusses the City of Decorah’s recent changes to the leaf collection program for city residents and businesses, where leaves can no longer be placed in city streets. Bril clarifies and explains the new procedures.
DL: What preempted this leaf collection change?
JB: “It was several concerns that made us reevaluate how the city collected leaves. Decorah has collected leaves in the streets for decades, although most towns do not follow this process for numerous reasons: localized flooding, plugged intakes, cars parked in the street on top of the leaves, children playing in the streets.
After every rain event, we must clean out all the grates in town, and we have intakes that have caused flooding in the streets. Most of the time, it’s because of leaves and grass clippings. Our goal is to get the leaves out of the street, and a leaf vac is the tool to do that. Also, we collect a LOT of leaves, and we wanted a system where our staff could collect as much as possible with the least amount of labor involved.
DL: What is a leaf vacuum?
JB: “We purchased a used Cat leaf vacuum earlier this year for $87,500. It has a 30-cubic-yard capacity, roughly the capacity of three dump trucks. Vacuuming leaves is the most common way a lot of towns in Iowa remove leaves, but lots of equipment is very rudimentary — picture a chipper machine with a hose.
By using this leaf vacuum, fuel savings and equipment maintenance will be a little more quantifiable. I think wear and tear on the roads will be hard to measure, but staff time will be cut. I think we’ve estimated a 10 to 15 percent fuel savings, and 200-plus hours saved in just staff time alone.
DL: Are there benefits to the leaf vacuum?
JB: “There are some ancillary benefits. It won’t be so hard on curb lines. With leaves in the street, we ran our loader right over them. Our streets are in rough enough shape as it is, and we don’t need to put more wear and tear on our trucks and our loaders, which are not meant for picking up leaves.
Also, using the street method, it takes five or six staff members to pick up leaves — one person running a loader and four or five people operating trucks and following the street sweeper.
The new system using the leaf vacuum will have a one person driving a dump truck and one person serving as an operator who will sit on the side and controls the vacuum with a joystick-two people. Even if it takes a couple of days longer to collect leaves each time, we will save a significant number of staff hours, which is a substantial savings. We collect a LOT of leaves over a six-week period, and we want a system where staff can collect as much as possible with the least amount of labor involved.
Decorah has done it this way for decades. We must make a change that says what we can and cannot do with the leaves and with fall coming it’s going to be a substantial change. We’re still picking up the leaves, we just want them placed in the boulevard right behind the curb — off the street. It’s an experiment, we haven’t done it this way before, it’s certainly going to be interesting. I think this is going to be a major improvement in a lot of ways.
DL: What will be the leaf collecting schedule?
JB: “We are expecting to start collecting leaves sometime in the next couple of weeks, but we don’t have an exact schedule yet. We will have a schedule soon that will include days and locations.”
The leaf collection dates with map of collection, to include one ward each day, will be announced via radio, City of Decorah website and watch for the schedule in future issues of the Public Opinion Newspaper.