• John Jantak

St. Lazare residents complain about spring leaf pick up cancellation


St. Lazare resident Carl Sandquist stands in front of bags of leaves raked on his property on May 2. Sandquist are other residents are upset that town decided to cancel the spring leaf pick up program.

Several St. Lazare residents complained to Mayor Robert Grimaudo about the town’s decision to cancel the annual spring leaf pick up service and the eventual permanent cancellation of the entire program in 2016 during the Tuesday evening council meeting, May 5. The residents, who live mostly in heavily wooded areas such as Saddlebrook, are upset because they don’t want to have to assume the responsibility of finding ways to dispose of the leaves themselves and feel the town shouldn’t arbitrarily decide to permanently cancel the program because their taxes dollars directly pay for the service.

They also feel they are being unfairly treated because many homeowners collect an average of at least 100 or more bags of leaves and up to 50 bags of pine needles each year while other residents who live in more developed areas with fewer trees don’t have to deal with as many leaves or pine needles.

Grimaudo said one option is for residents to consider using more environmentally friendly options such as mulching and composting their leaves and to use the finished product to fertilize around their trees, lawns and gardens, or to consider giving their leaves to area farmers. The compost suggestion was dismissed by the residents who said it takes at least two years for the leaves to properly decompose and they would have a permanent pile of decomposing leaves on their properties because of the annual accumulation of leaves.

One resident said she has 90 trees on her property and would prefer to cut them down rather than have to deal with the leaves each year, but said she can’t because the town’s municipal by-laws forbid tree cutting even though many of them are overgrown.

Resident Carl Sandquist elaborated on the leaf issue when he invited Your Local Journal to visit his heavily-wooded property last Saturday to see firsthand what he has contend with because of the town’s decision to cancel the spring leaf pick up. There were about 20 waist-high paper bags full of leaves sitting underneath the pine tree in front of his property that he raked that morning and estimated he would be able to fill another 20 bags.

Sandquist said he had already given 40 bags to a local farmer who took them as a favour, but the farmer couldn’t take anymore. “My annual yield is about 100 to 120 bags,” said Sandquist. “I have a 30,000 square foot lot. I have more leaves than most houses in this town. If you want me to compost, it will take up more than half my yard. It’s going to look like hell and I don’t think the neighbours would like the sight of that from their back window. This is crazy.”

Sandquist was also upset with the way the town decided to cancel the leaf pick up program. “What elected official makes arbitrary rules without consulting the public? After all, we pay our taxes and the mayor and councillors get paid from those taxes. “I think it’s like a dictatorship to say no, we’re just cancelling it without asking for a public consensus on the issue,” Sandquist added.

“It’s wrong. We’re taxpayers. I don’t know what it costs to pick up the leaves, but if it was already in the budget, what are they using that budget money for now? I think it’s a terrible decision on the part of the mayor and councillors.”

Grimaudo reassured residents at the council meeting that the town will pick up leaves this fall but remained non-committal about whether the program will be extended next year. “In the fall, there will be a pick up,” said Grimaudo. “As for 2016, as I mentioned before and I’m not hiding it, initially we’re cancelling leaf pick-ups because we’re of the opinion that this is not garbage. But there will be a modification.

“We will find a way to accommodate leaf pick-ups,” Grimaudo added. “We’re not sure how we’re going to do it yet. We have ideas on what we’re going to do in the following years. We haven’t made any concrete decisions. I’m not going to speak for the council until the council has pronounced itself for 2016.”