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Leaf Pickup Program Falls By The Wayside

The city of Spokane will save $226,800 by discontinuing the curbside leaf pickup program. That number was incorrect in a Tuesday article.

A harsh wind of criticism Monday blew away the city of Spokane’s curbside leaf pickup program.

Council members voted unanimously to disband the 4-year-old program, leaving residents responsible for their own leaf disposal.

“We managed for a long, long time picking up leaves on our own,” said Councilman Chris Anderson. “In light of our budgetary constraints, it’s time.”

Anticipated cost of this year’s leaf pickup was $360,000.

Dropping the program means street cleanup crews will remove only leaves that fall naturally into the street, saving the city about $134,000.

The council’s vote means residents no longer will be allowed to rake their leaves into the gutter alongside the curb. Instead, they must take them to area transfer stations for composting or set them out with their garbage at an additional cost.

Curbside leaf pickup began in 1991, shortly after the opening of the limited-capacity incinerator.

Because residents no longer could burn leaves or set them out with the trash, the city decided to let people pile the leaves in the street. Crews collected them and hauled them away for composting.

Residents and officials have criticized the program routinely, saying it often causes more problems than it’s worth.

At least three council members - Anderson, Orville Barnes and Mike Brewer - suggested doing away with the program last year.

Leaves moved to the curb too early get wet and mushy and even freeze, blocking drains and adding to the program’s cost. Snowy Novembers leave street crews bouncing between leaf pickup and snow removal, making it difficult to gather all the city’s leaves on schedule.

Also Monday, the council:

Voted unanimously to borrow up to $2.5 million from the Solid Waste Department’s reserves to help the city through a cash-flow crunch.

The city always struggles through September and October because it doesn’t get its share of property taxes until November, said Finance Director Pete Fortin.

Sagging sales tax revenues and construction permits have left the city in more dire straits than usual, Fortin said.

“It reinforces the point that we’re in trouble and we’ve got to do something,” he said, adding the city hasn’t had to borrow money to pay its employees in 10 years.

Voted 4-2 to establish a neighborhood council program.

Under the plan, neighborhoods will elect councils to serve as advisers to the City Council, recommending actions or policies on issues such as housing, land use, zoning and social programs. A community assembly will include representatives from the councils and address city-wide issues.

The city also plans to hire a neighborhood liaison, who will help coordinate neighborhood council and assembly meetings, link staff to residents with concerns and help with council mailings and newsletters.

The annual cost of the program is about $59,000, including the liaison’s salary.

, DataTimes