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Ron Smith

It’s that time of year again.

November marks the beginning of leaf collection season, one of the biggest logistical challenges faced by the Public Works Department each year. In addition to garbage, recycling, yard waste and bulky items, city sanitation personnel collect approximately 3,300 tons of leaves from the curb every year, completing three cycles around the city from Nov. 1 through the end of February.

The Sanitation Division’s 22 full-time employees are joined by 13 seasonal employees to help with this high-intensity effort.

The efficiency and success of the leaf collection process is affected by several factors, including when the leaves fall, how and when they are placed at the curb, the performance of the city’s leaf collection equipment, and the weather.

The factor with the most influence over the success of the leaf collection effort is the one over which we have the least control: the weather. Temperature and rainfall patterns affect both the ease with which leaves can be collected and the rate at which they fall. Any sanitation employee can tell you which trees drop their leaves first (maples), which ones hold on to their leaves the longest (oaks), and which species of trees are most prominent in different parts of the city.

Once they are on the ground, rain and freezing weather can make leaf collection slow and arduous, and sometimes impossible.

One thing that can be controlled is how leaves are placed at the curb for collection. City code requires that leaves must be placed behind the curb and not in the street.

This helps avoid safety concerns arising from streets being narrowed by piles of leaves, and it also reduces the flushing of leaves into the city’s storm drain system during heavy rains. We realize this can lead to blocking sidewalks and smothering grass; we ask that residents do their best to avoid placing leaves in the street and we’ll do our best to collect them in a timely manner.

Hint No. 1: Bagging your leaves will typically result in a quicker collection time, as they can be collected by the weekly yard waste crew.

Hint No. 2: City residents can receive 10 plastic bags for bagging leaves at no charge — simply stop by the collections counter in the City Office Building and ask for leaf bags. Additional bags are available, while supplies last, in rolls of 10 for $1.

When placing leaves at the curb, please also avoid burying limbs, trash or other debris in the piles. These hidden “surprises” can hinder leaf collection and damage the collection equipment.

Regarding collection, the Sanitation Division divides the city into four areas and proceeds through these areas one at a time. This maximizes collection efficiency by keeping all the crews in the same area and minimizing their travel time. We understand that piles of leaves at the curb are inconvenient during holiday gatherings and other events, but the collection process runs more smoothly when our crews stick to their routes.

The Sanitation Division employs two types of leaf collection equipment: automated leaf collection trucks and flat-bed trucks. The automated trucks are operated by a single employee who uses a joystick to operate the vacuum hose. The flat-bed trucks are used to pull a leaf collection machine, which resembles a big yellow shop vac on wheels. The leaf machines are operated by a crew of three or four and vacuum the leaves into a leaf box on the back of the truck. We have been pleased with the addition of two new trucks this fall, bringing our leaf collection fleet to three automated trucks and two flat-bed trucks.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we strive to make this a successful leaf collection year. And please take a moment to thank the sanitation employees as they work to collect loose leaves and other solid waste. Their pride and dedication to serving the citizens of Statesville is evident.

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