Will Raleigh end its popular leaf-vacuuming service?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A popular Raleigh service could be coming to an end.

For decades, City of Raleigh residents have been able to rake or blow their leaves to the curb where the city's vacuum trucks will come suck them up.

But for the second consecutive year, the service is way behind schedule, leaving residents like Jay Joiner in Southwest Raleigh wondering when they will be collected.

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Raw video: Leaf vacuuming in Raleigh.



He did his leaf work in December.

"We move our leaves to the street right away for fear of missing the truck. So there they sit. They've been there for weeks on end. They're killing the grass. In some cases, they're right out in the middle of the street and they're causing all kinds of problems," Joiner told ABC11.

Leaves in the middle of the street are one of the main concerns of Raleigh City Councilor Stef Mendell.

"This is a safety issue, and it's an environmental issue," Mendell said. "People put the leaves in the street. They're not supposed to put them in the street but they put them in the street. And then the roads get narrow. Cars can't get by easily. It's not safe for walkers, for bikers, people riding scooters. And it's really bad for the environment because it washes into the sewers."

This is the second year that leaf collection has been behind schedule.

Last year the cold weather caused equipment malfunctions.

This year, wet weather means it takes longer to suck up the leaves.

Joiner said a recently revised leaf collection schedule posted on the city's website showed his neighborhood would be serviced last week.

It wasn't.

He called City Hall to complain.

"The response I got was basically, 'Well if you're going to complain about this, we will just take away the service,'" he said.

Mendell hasn't taken that approach with her constituents but she said she thinks ending the service should be considered along with other options and she's asked the city staff to look at the issue.

"What can we do about this? Do we need to stop entirely? Many cities do not pick up leaves anymore. It's sort of a luxury now," she said. "Or do we need to go in the opposite direction and increase the frequency?"

Joiner said he hopes the city will not eliminate the service because the 73-year old who is outfitted with a pacemaker said people like him need it.

"There are a lot of people out here, especially elderly people, who depend on the leaf pickup to remove the leaves from their property. Hey, this is the City of the Oaks."

Mendell said if the city ends the service there are other options.

Homeowners could blow or rake leaves into natural areas if their yard has them.

Or they could take advantage of another city service, once-a-week yard-waste pickup.

But that would require bagging the leaves.

Joiner noted, however, that the city will only pick up 15 bags at one time.

He estimated his pile will fill at least 30 bags.

"That's a tremendous amount of work on an older person to try to bag up that much material," he said.

Joiner and others who have lived in Raleigh for decades remember that the city once had twice-a-week garbage service and sanitation workers would carry it from your backyard.

When the city ended that service, it upset a lot of people but there's little doubt it saved taxpayer dollars.

The city continued to offer the backyard service to the elderly and disabled.

Joiner said he hoped it may do something similar with leaf collection -- even if it means charging a small fee.

"We could call the city and arrange for a specific pickup. Thereby those who do not want to have their leaves picked up don't have to pay for it and those who do could do so," he said.
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