Unique Loose-Leaf Pickup to Go to Vote
Town Meeting voters in Wenham will get a say on whether they want to eliminate loose-leaf curbside pickup in favor of bag pickup.
Wenham may have seen the last of its curbside loose-leaf pickup.
The program, a reactive rarity on the North Shore, allows residents to rake leaves to the curbside and a Department of Public Works vacuum drives through town, street by street to collect the leaves each fall. DPW Director Bill Tyack estimated that 95 percent of the town’s residents use the service.
On Tuesday, the three-member Board of Selectmen said it backed a plan to eliminate the loose leaf collect and shift to curbside leaf collection using bags.
“We strongly believe the town resources can be used in a better way,” said Roger Kuebel, chairman of the Finance Committee.
Tyack said the time workers spend doing loose-leaf curbside pickup can be spent better preparing for winter, including cleaning drains and culverts to avoid flooding. Each fall, DPW workers spend between four and six weeks completing the pickup, depending on the weather, he said.
“It takes the whole crew to do it,” Tyack said.
While the selectmen at first agreed to eliminate the loose-leaf collection, it didn’t take a vote. Later, while reviewing the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting in May, the board decided to put a warrant article before voters to give them a vote on it.
Moderator Paul Weaver suggested that the decision go before Town Meeting voters.
“That’s what Town Meeting is for,” he said.
Instead of loose-leaf pickup, residents would have to bag their leaves and leave them curbside, where the town’s hauler Hiltz would pick up the bags and take them to Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton.
Kuebel said he used to live in Beverly, where he had to bag his leaves or haul them to the city’s compost site himself.
“I got here and I said ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’” when told of the curbside pickup.
Selectman Harriet Davis said elimination of loose-leaf pickup has been discussed for many years, including by the former DPW Director Peter Burnham.
The Finance Committee also considered that some out of town contractors dump leaves along Wenham streets, knowing that the leaves will get picked up. Plus, in some cases residents rake leaves to the road when they could just an easily rake them into the woods, Kuebel said.
Kuebel said he didn’t know how many other towns still do a similar loose-leaf pickup, but he jokes that Wenham is the “last town east of the Mississippi” to still do it.
The vacuum that is used to pick up leaves is rebuilt every other year, Tyack said. Even if the loose-leaf pickup is eliminated, the vacuum would stay in service to be used in the parks and cemeteries. And for a fee, residents could still have the vacuum collect loose leaves curbside.
Under the plan, between Oct. 1 and the second week of December, property owners could pay $150 per truckload to have the vacuum pick up between 10-12 yards of leaves, the amount found on a typical small lot.
“If people really need this service they can have it but they will have to pay for it,” Kuebel said.