Can St. Joe Co. afford to ban leaf burning?


St. Joseph County government leaders today got the information they’ll need to calculate the cost of clean air.

A proposal to ban leaf burning will likely go hand in hand with the revival of a county funded curbside leaf pickup program for homeowners.

Today, bids were received on the leaf pickup portion of the plan.

“Ouch,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Andrew Kostielney. “We were expecting it to be kind of high, but not quite that high.”

Only one bid was received. Greenworld offered two years of curbside leaf pickup at a total cost of $3.5 million.

“We were realistically thinking about $1 million would be, at least we’d have to have a conversation, but $3 million kind of puts us way out of the realm of possibilities right now,” said Commissioner Kostielney.

But the company that created the sticker shock believes it also has a cure. “Well, the county decided to outsource the program back in 2003, we were the successful bidder at the time,” said Greenworld CEO, Chris Rose.

In fact, Greenworld’s equipment still bears the “Leaf Hotline” stickers used when it was the county’s chosen leaf service provider of the past. Rose is also optimistic about striking a deal for the future. “We provided about a dozen alternatives to provide cost savings and credits on that number so we believe that working with the county we can get that number cut more than in half.”

Getting the number down may mean reducing the scope of the program—perhaps cutting the number of times trucks would be required to pass through each neighborhood—until the leaf pickup price was right.

“I can't say for sure if the leaf pickup program is tied directly to the burn ban, however, I'm sure that most people would be more comfortable with a burn ban if we provided leaf pickup service,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Dave Thomas.

The $3.5 million bid was based on a county requirement that crews pass through each neighborhood at least twice.

That’s more than the county required the last time the county contracted out for leaf pickup, and it’s an increase in service the county may not be able to afford.

Past studies showed that 82 percent of the leaves picked up in St. Joseph County came from just three townships (Clay, Harris and Penn).


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