Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leaves, Leaves, Leaves


I’ve just looked outside my window and see a 3-4” blanket of leaves that need to be removed…. and I wonder how many hours that it will take for me to accomplish the task this year.

Now that election day and all of its excitement has passed, many town residents are fully engaged in the fall ritual of leaf raking/ blowing and removal. For many years the town of Longmeadow provided a service to collect loose leaves at curbside but due to budget constraints, this service has been replaced with a fee based bagged leaves collection system (click here for program details).

As a long time resident of Longmeadow I remember that curbside leaf collection did not always work as planned. In some years, leaves did not always fall in a timely fashion and snowflakes arrived before all of the leaves were picked up…. as expected leaves and snow were plowed together resulting in one big mess. I even remember DPW “bucket loaders” + dump trucks removing frozen piles of leaves and snow from the streets in order to make them safe for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic. In addition, piles of leaves on both sides of some streets left one lane for traffic to pass- not a safe situation.

At the recent Special Town Meeting there was a warrant article aimed at reinstituting the service. Town meeting members speaking in favor of the article claimed that they were "entitled" to the service because they pay high real estate taxes. As the town navigated through past budget shortfalls, the leaf collection program was a casualty due to its lower priority as a town service.

The warrant article asked for the appropriation of $150,000 to reinitiate leaf collection starting next fall. Mike Wrabel- Director, Longmeadow DPW has provided estimates that suggest in excess of $300,000 (twice the proposed expenditure in the warrant article) may be required to reinitiate the program and that may not include the cost/rental of truck vacuum equipment that no longer exists in the DPW fleet.

I believe that curbside loose leaf collection is similar to other services needed by homeowners- driveway snowplowing, lawn service, etc. and to expect the town to provide this service as part of our normal property taxes is not justified given the other priorities of town services including police, fire and schools. The current bagged leaf approach is a user fee based system and makes good fiscal sense.

Here is a suggestion to property owners looking to regain the luxury of curbside loose leaf collection at a reasonable cost. Talk to your neighbors and work out a plan to have a group of 5-10 homes participating in a local curbside leaf pickup. With that number of participants you should have some negotiating power with local landscapers and be able keep the cost reasonable.

A “non binding” referendum or poll has been started on LongmeadowBuzz
. Take 30 seconds and voice your opinion on curbside leaf collection. Let’s not allow this topic to become a replacement for water fluoridation and waste of our valuable time at future town meetings.

Monday, November 3, 2008