City ends curbside leaf vacuuming service

Change to save $500,000

residents asked to bag leaves

September 26, 2001|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

After more than 50 years, residents in dozens of Baltimore neighborhoods will no longer have their fallen leaves vacuumed up by city public works crews, officials announced yesterday.

Now, residents will have to bag the leaves that fall on their properties, instead of merely raking them to the curb, where they would be vacuumed.

Under a program that begins Monday, residents can place the bags at the curb on their scheduled second trash day of each week, schedule a group pickup day for the neighborhood, or drop the bags off at one of seven drop-off locations.

Public works officials estimated the city would save about $500,000 this year under the new plan.

Officials acknowledged the change might be unpopular, but hope it will stabilize an erratic service and be a more equitable way to collect leaves. Some of the 38 neighborhoods that were vacuumed are among the most affluent in Baltimore, including Homeland, Guilford, Roland Park and Mount Washington.

"It appears we're taking away a service, ... but we are providing a service that's fair," said Public Works Director George L. Winfield.

City crews will continue to clean public streets and medians, but residents caught placing leaves in the street will be fined $50, he said.

On designated days for the past 54 years, the city has vacuumed leaves that residents raked into piles between the sidewalk and the road. The leaves were composted.

But the service had become erratic, prompting hundreds of complaints and causing the city to rethink the leaf-collection policy, Winfield said.

Residents also complained the fallen leaves posed a safety hazard.

A parent picking up his child in November at Mount Washington Elementary School on Sulgrave Avenue accidentally caused a fire by parking on top of a pile of leaves, which were ignited by the hot engine. The car was destroyed, and more than 280 pupils were evacuated from the school.

Some residents in the affected areas are upset with the decision.

John Mack, president of the Mount Washington Improvement Association, said that while he found the new policy "reasonable," he thinks the city is shirking its responsibility.

The city "is apparently saying, `I'm going to remove my headaches and place the burden on our homeowners,'" he said.

Mack worried that fewer people will be inclined to pick up their leaves under the new system. "There will be more leaves in the street and in the gutter," he said. "It's going to be more of a year-round problem now."

Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, a Democrat who represents the Mount Washington area, said she preferred the "tried and true system" over the new one.

Holton said she would try to reverse the policy if it proves ineffective.

Beginning Monday, residents can drop their bagged leaves -- preferably in clear or labeled plastic bags -- at any of seven locations around the city. The drop-off centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The locations are: Lewin Substation, 4410 Lewin Ave.; Western Substation, 239 Calverton Road; Northeast Substation, 4325 York Road; Northwest Transfer Station, 5030 Reisterstown Road; Northwest Solid Waste Yard, 2840 Sisson St.; Southwest Solid Waste Yard, 701 Reedbird Ave.; Southeast-Northeast Solid Waste Yard, 6101 Bowleys Lane.

The sites will accept leaves through Jan. 31.

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