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Falling Leaves Keep City Crews Busy

POLK COUNTY -- The hue of yellow, orange and red around Polk County has been disappearing off trees and accumulating on the ground.

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Michael Owen with Chorak Mowing tackles a large collection of leaves in Main Street Park in downtown Monmouth. Cities are well into their curbside leaf pickup programs.

POLK COUNTY -- The hue of yellow, orange and red around Polk County has been disappearing off trees and accumulating on the ground.

That means public works crews in the county's communities are well into their curbside leaf pickup programs, making certain that colorful fall foliage doesn't end up clogging catch basins.

Heavy rains flush leaves down drains faster than they can be cleared, potentially causing street flooding in neighborhoods.

Dallas officials have divided the community into 10 different zones advertised on the city's Web site.

Once all of those sections are completed, crews repeat the process until December -- or when the leaves are gone.

"We find that the program minimizes the running around crews have to do unclogging drains," said Fred Braun, Dallas public works director.

Monmouth has predesignated three-day stretches for pick up for the next two months.

The city went to the new system last year, instead of simply allowing citizens to pile leaves out in the street throughout the fall as they previously had, Russ Cooper, public works operations manager, said.

This approach prevents leaves from taking up on-street parking space and lessens the impact on the Willamette River, he said. When stormwater flows over decomposing leaves out in the street, it picks up nutrients that will eventually wash into the Willamette.

Nutrients in the leaves can spur algae blooms and damage aquatic habitat, Cooper said.

Independence started its leaf pickup last week and will run it through December.

There's no set collection schedule, though some of the rules that neighboring towns implement for their residents apply here, such as keeping piles a foot or more away from curbs to allow stormwater to reach catch basins.

The city also purchased a street sweeper this year that's helped with the process, Ken Perkins, Independence public works supervisor, said.

Most of the leaves that are gathered end up as compost. Monmouth, for example, gives most of its 200 or so dump truck loads of leaves to a local farmer. Independence composts its leaves in its own fill lot, or gives leaves to a local church for use in a community garden.

Falls City doesn't have a formal collection program, primarily because most of its streets don't have curbs or storm drains.

Leaves left on the street are collected by a street sweeper and must be separated from dirt and debris later.

"Some (day), we might have to to find a way to collect leaves that's less cumbersome on employees," said Gian Paolo Mammone, Falls City Administrator.

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Dallas' "zoned" leaf pickup continues through the middle or end of December. A zone map and pickup crew zone location are posted on the city's Web site at www.ci.dallas.or.us

Tips:

* Leaves should be raked into the street in small piles.

* Avoid blocking driveways.

* Keep piles at least 18 inches from the curb to allow water to drain.

* Do not place trimmings, brush, grass and other debris in the street. The city's equipment can only pick up leaves.

* Pickup times may vary between one to two weeks depending on the weather and amount of leaves.

For more information or to request to receive leaves for composting, call the city at 503-831-3562.

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Monmouth Public Works is requesting residents place leaves on city streets during the following four time periods: Nov. 14-16; Nov. 29-Dec. 1; Dec. 13-16; and Dec. 26-28.

Crews will collect leaves following those dates as time permits.

For more information: 503-838-0722; or www.ci.monmouth.or.us.

Tips:

* To minimize the time that leaf piles are on the city streets affecting parking and drainage, place leaves out only during the days listed above.

* Pile your leaves in the street, leaving a minimum of one foot between the curb and the leaf pile.

* Leaf piles should not block the flow of storm water along the curb, cover storm catch basins, or encroach the traffic lane.

* Park vehicles at least five feet away from leaf piles to allow equipment room to safely pick up leaf piles.

* We will not pick up leaf piles if they contain grass trimmings, limbs, or other yard debris.

* Commercial landscape firms are required to collect and haul away all landscape debris.

* After Dec. 31 the property owner is responsible for disposal of leaves from their property.

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