Why picking up leaves is a sign of better financial health in Dayton

Curbside leaf collection returns to Dayton next year for the first time in nearly a decade, which some elected leaders are hailing as one of the “big deals” of the 2019 budget.

Some residents still resent City Hall for eliminating curbside collections as part of budget cuts following the economic downturn nearly a decade ago, said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

“Walking door-to-door, it’s something that eight years later people comment, ‘I’ll never forgive you for the fact that you got rid of leaf collection,’” Whaley said.

But the city’s finances are in fairly good shape because of growing revenues and city staff have found cheaper and more efficient ways to collect loose leaves, city officials said.

“This is us bringing back a service that we knew was near and dear to our citizens’ hearts and that I think will have a really big impact,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

RELATED: Dayton looking to trim $3 million from Public Works budget

Dayton’s public works department eliminated curbside leaf collection as part of the 2010 budget.

The department at the time estimated that it would save the city about $470,000 in the first year.

The savings were tied to reduced personnel costs and maintenance expenses since the city planned to retire five leaf loaders and four vacuum trucks.

Since 2010, citizens have been asked to place raked leaves into biodegradable paper yard waste bags to be collected by city crews during specified pick-up dates. Citizens also can drop bagged leaves off at designated sites.

But next fall, citizens will no longer have to bag up their leaves. Instead, they will be able to rake them to the curb.

The city will complete two cycles of curbside loose leaf collection for all of Dayton’s 65 neighborhoods, officials said.

Leaf collection will take place between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.

Street maintenance will use new equipment that reduces the amount of personnel needed for leaf collection, said Tom Ritchie Jr., Dayton’s deputy director of public works.

The cost of the new equipment is much cheaper than what the city used previously, he said. Some equipment can be connected to existing public works trucks.

Curbside collection also should help keep leaves out of the storm sewers, which will help prevent blockages.

The resumption of leaf collection shows how far the city has come since the downturn, because it can again offer a service people care about that really improves quality of life, the mayor said.

“We made that tough decision in the height of the Great Recession, when we were cutting literally anything we could,” Whaley said.

Public works deserves credit for finding a cheaper and better way to provide the service, because the service would not be possible without their creativity, the mayor said.

Rosie Miller, president of the Historic Huffman Neighborhood Association, said right now the steps required to get rid of leaves — obtaining and filling paper bags — deter some people from raking.

“Consequently, we’ve had a lot of properties that don’t get raked,” she said.

She said simplifying the process hopefully would lead to cleaner properties.

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said the service should help elderly residents especially by reducing the amount of work required to clear the yard.

Like the mayor, Joseph said he regularly heard from citizens who wanted to know if curbside leaf collection would ever return.

“I live in a neighborhood with big trees and I actually moved to this neighborhood just a few months after the service was stopped, so I was not popular in the neighborhood,” Joseph said. “I’ve been hearing about it ever since.”

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