Andrew Dowie Ward 1 Tecumseh

Leaf Vacuum Program Discontinuance

This past Tuesday, Council was asked to consider discontinuance of the Leaf Vacuum program in favour of consolidating leaf pickup through the Yard Waste Collection.  This consideration was accepted by Council, of which I supported the decision.

There are undoubtedly mixed feelings on this development.  This was a beloved service, well appreciated and relatively unique for our area.  With all items being considered, I am confident that our weekly Yard Waste Collection service will address your needs for leaf disposal in the fall.

The end of the Leaf Vacuum program affects 990 households, including many in Ward 1 along Riverside Drive as well as the neighbourhood that I grew up in and where my parents still reside, including streets such as Coronado Dr., Barry Ave., Lacasse Boulevard, Burdick Crescent, Dillon Drive, Percy Place, Keith Avenue/Court and Lacasse Boulevard.  

Presently, 87% of residents within the Town are not offered this service.  For those who receive the service, once every November, a Yard Waste truck collects bags and, depending on the schedule, a few days later the vacuum would collect your leaves one time only.

The service was initiated at a time when seasonal yard waste collection was not being delivered.  Presently both of these leaf collection services, the Yard Waste collection everyone receives as well as the leaf vacuum, are operating in parallel.  The areas receiving the service are noted for their very tall and flush cottonwood trees in the area.  Given proportionally higher volumes of leaves falling in these areas versus the newer subdivisions, whose trees were in their infancy, the former Village of St. Clair Beach pioneered this service, and was expanded to select areas of Ward 1 about 2003.  

The matter was brought forward to Council as the two units used are no longer affordable to service and must be replaced at a cost of $70,000 each.  A new box would need to be purchased for $30,000.  The net new equipment cost required is $170,000.

My reasons for supporting the decision are as follows.

  • Government Duplication.  We send two different trucks and crews to perform essentially the same service once a year. The difference between the new level of service versus the old is that the onus falls to the homeowner to bag the leaves versus raking them to the curb.
  • Government Inefficiency.  Wind, weather, and missed communications meant that this program was unreliable for many of the users serviced by it.  There were continual pressures on Town staff to redo its run and have to resort to overtime labour, driving up costs in an unpredictable manner.
  • Opportunity for Savings.   Continuing this once a year service will cost $170,000 in upfront capital costs and about $13,000 in operating costs annually.  That's $300,000 over 10 years.  Those funds could go a long way towards other amenities such as accelerating Lakewood Park improvements or our trail system.  That availability of funds also allows Council to mitigate cost increases elsewhere and allows us to minimize tax increases.
  • Two-Tier Service Elimination.  Harmonizing the leaf collection into the Yard Waste collection across the entire municipality provides certainty and consistency across the municipality - leaves will be picked up on Mondays and they won't blow away while waiting for the vacuum to come by nor will you miss the collection date.  All residents get the same service for the same tax rate.

I thank you once again for entrusting me to be your voice on Council.   While personally difficult, decisions like these open the door to great opportunity.  In choosing options that have minimal change to your service with added cost savings, we are better positioned to hold the line on your property taxes and to bring forward the improvements you are hoping to see happen sooner.  We are likely to see more difficult decisions like these in the future, as Council continues to collaborate with Town Administration to find efficiency and savings to make your tax dollar go further.  I look forward to further discussion at the Council table on similar opportunities to achieve greater value for money.

If you have any further questions or comments, please give me a call at 226-773-1910 or andrew@andrewdowie.ca

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