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New London upgrades leaf pickup

Method could save city time, money

By Scott Bellile

The New London Department of Public Works could change how it picks up residents’ leaves during the fall.

Public Works Director Jeff Bodoh is proposing using front-end loaders, more specifically attachable claws, to pack leaves into dump trucks. For residents, that would mean raking their leaves directly into the street gutter.

Currently residents rake their leaves to the terrace between the sidewalk and the curb, or to the edge of the yard if they don’t have a sidewalk. Then city crews suck up the leaves from the terrace with vacuum trucks on designated pickup days.

Bodoh will ask the Capital Equipment and Projects Committee to authorize the purchase of two claws manufactured by Tink for $28,700 total. The committee will review the proposal in January.

“We eventually would like to phase out the front mount leaf vac because it’s expensive and for safety reasons,” Bodoh stated in a memo to the committee.

The city of Appleton has effectively picked up leaves using front-end loaders for at least 20 years, Nate Loper, Deputy Director of Appleton Public Works, told the Press Star Thursday, Dec. 8. He’s not aware of other area municipalities that do it this way.

At the Dec. 5 New London Board of Public Works meeting, Bodoh said he recently observed Appleton crews clear a city block in under two minutes, quicker than New London’s vacuum truck.

“When the leaves are wet or when they’re compacted down on the ground after being driven over and such, they’re really hard to get up with the vacuum. We can get them up much quicker with the Tink claws,” Bodoh told the board.

Board member and Third District Alderman Mike Barrington said from what he saw, front-end loaders leave behind a little more mess, but he agreed with Bodoh they would handle wet leaves better.

Impact on storm sewers
A drawback to the front-end loader method is leaves in the gutter may wash into storm sewers and clog them.

“Are we going to increase the amount of sewer cleaning we’re going to have to do a great deal because of these [loader buckets]?” New London Mayor Gary Henke asked Bodoh.

“No, because, I mean, most people already put their leaves in the curb,” Bodoh replied. “And even if they don’t, a lot of times when we get wind and we get rain, they unfortunately wash down in the street anyways. We do clean [the storm sewers] on a regular basis. We try to go through them twice a year when possible.”

Loper told the Press Star raking into the gutter hasn’t clogged Appleton storm sewers any more than in towns where residents rake to the terrace. He reaffirmed what Bohoh said that even in towns that rake to the terrace, leaves find their way into the storm sewers.

How to purchase
Barrington suggested New London buy one Tink claw first to make sure it performs well.

Bodoh said he has no problem with that. But board members debated the idea because buying the second claw later on could cost the city an extra $1,300 in shipping.

“I don’t like paying twice the freight, but I would like to see one and if it works, get another one,” Barrington said.

“But we’ve already seen it working in other places,” board member and Fourth District Alderman Ron Steinhorst said.

“As long as you guys have researched and talked to other cities that have used them and they’re very happy with them, why not go full steam ahead?” Henke asked. “We’re still going to have the leaf vac.”

No final decision was made.

Insight from Appleton
Loper said the biggest benefit to front-end loaders is the city utilizes vehicles the department already owns for leaf pickup.

This method saves Appleton taxpayers from funding vacuum trucks the city might only use one month a year otherwise. Considering Appleton picks up 35,000 to 40,000 cubic yards of leaves a year, Loper said the city would require “an unbelievable amount of vacuum trucks.”

In its city guidebook, Appleton asks residents to rake their leaves to the gutter the Sunday of a pickup week.

The city’s crew will not pick up the leaves unless they’re in the gutter. Residents must keep the leaf piles close to the curb to avoid them becoming traffic hazards, and low so that playing children remain visible to motorists.

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