Just in time for fall the St. Joseph County Commission unanimously approved a private contractor for curbside leaf pickups.
People living within the city limits of Mishawaka and South Bend, as well as those living in towns like Osceola, Lakeville, Roseland, North Liberty and New Carlisle benefit from leaf pickup services provided by their local government. Those living in unincorporated St. Joseph County do not, which equates to roughly 140,000 people.
On Tuesday, county commissioners signed a five year contract with a potential for a five year extension at a discounted rate with Greenworld. The total cost for five years is $650,000 and includes a once per season pickup. Additional services can be arranged as needed for $150,000 per occasion.
“Taxes are not going up,” explained Dave Thomas, St. Joseph County Commissioner.
Thomas added that in years past there have been a lot of revenue issues in the county, “belts were tightened, and tightened and tightened,” he added. For years functions like county-provided leaf pickups were eliminated. Homes falling outside city and town limits have since been responsible for their own leaf clean ups either by hiring a service provider, composting leaves or burning them.
Leaf burning for extended periods of time has raised concerns about fire and other safety hazards among community members.
“That if there's a cloud of smoke for three weeks during leaf burning season, then children at play could run into the street, oncoming traffic may not be able to see them in time because of the lack of visibility,” said Thomas.
For every nine people that burn safely, Thomas said there’s at least one person who doesn’t. Leaf fires can spread to homes and structures, posing greater safety threats.
Talk of a burn ban has been circulating within the county, many believe burn bans and leaf pickups go hand-in-hand but Thomas said they are separate issues. The burn ban is handled by the St. Joseph County Council, not commissioners. According to Thomas the council is considering changing the wording of the leaf burning policy to restrict burning to just one week per season.
If and when the council approves such a change in the burn policy the county commission would then review and ratify it.
Re-establishing county-wide pickups will benefit those without woods or gardens to dispose of leaf debris, said Thomas, “So this will go a long way to helping our environment and also protecting the neighborhoods.”
But why Greenworld?
The county opened itself to bids in the early spring of 2013 but only one company applied, that company was Greenworld. The company’s original was too high and forced commissioners to re-bid with new specifications of what could reasonably be afforded.
In the summer the county opened up for a second round of bids. Again, the only company to respond was Greenworld.
Thomas said Greenworld’s vacuum trucks will conduct a “greener” leaf pickup by vacuuming the leaves into a truck to be mulched before being transported to a compost site.
When it gets closer to leaf pickup this fall, Thomas said notifications will be sent out to households about more specific times because “Mother Nature dictates when the leaves fall.”