With trees shedding their leaves, homeowners and municipal public works departments battle Mother Nature as they attempt to keep yards and streets clear.
Equipment failures have some departments falling behind in that battle. The Athens Sanitation Department said it is about a week behind schedule and the Decatur street department is about a day behind, according to officials.
“We’ve got three trucks dedicated to the pickup of leaves, and one of those trucks has been in shop,” said Earl Glaze, Athens Sanitation Department director. He said the two trucks in use each have four people, including inmate labor from the jail, working on leaf pickup. Glaze said his staff tries to pick up leaves in each neighborhood at least once a month.
“If residents bag the leaves, they’ll be picked up on the same normal garbage collection days,” he said.
He said the collected leaves are turned into the mulch, which is free to the public.
“We’ve had very little participation from the public the past couple of years,” he said. “I guess they don’t want it or are buying it.” He urged Athens residents wanting the free mulch to call 256-233-8747.
Rickey Terry, Decatur Street and Environmental Services director, said he has between 10 and 18 workers dedicated to leaf pickup during the week.
“We’ve assigned a leaf machine to each of four areas of the city,” he said. “Burningtree Mountain keeps us the busiest. It’s a very heavy area for leaves.” He said the City Council purchased a new leaf truck in the summer and it has been assigned to Burningtree to help meet the greater demand.
He recommends homeowners bag leaves and put them in the additional garbage can the city provides.
Unbagged leaves, Terry said, need to be piled up behind the curb, not in the street. “Grass isn’t growing this time of year, so the leaves sitting there aren’t killing anything,” he said.
Terry said the “wind is horrible right now” and that has more leaves falling early. He urges homeowners to be patient.
“Hang on, we’ll get there,” he said.
Twice a year, Decatur residents are able to pick up free mulch at Wilson Morgan Park, according to Wayne Wascavage, street department manager. “Last year we sent about 700 tons of leaves to the landfill to be turned into mulch,” he said. “We usually take about four dump-truck loads to Wilson Morgan in the spring and fall each year. We used to take more, but the demand has been down. I guess some people have contractors doing their yard work.”
On the Hartselle city website, the public works department said the leaves may be placed in loose piles, not bagged, at the curb from November through February.
A spokeswoman with the department said one truck and a crew of three workers canvass the entire city in about three weeks. She said the city has four zones but not all zones require the same amount of time to collect the leaves.
Mulch is available free to the public, she said, but residents need to call the department at 256-773-2643 to schedule a time to pick it up.
In Moulton, Street Director Jeff Brewington said the city has one truck and two men assigned to leaf collection. He said the department doesn’t have a set routine on pickup.
“We go where the need is,” he said. “I’ll look around and see where the most leaves are ready to be collected. If your leaves aren’t being picked up, call City Hall. But it is usually within a week we get by every part of town to collect leaves.”
Brewington said Moulton doesn’t offer a free mulch program.