Turning over a new leaf in St. Lazare
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Bags of leaves are piling up on the side of some of the roads in St. Lazare as the town decided last November to halt the spring leaf pickup – a practice Mayor Robert Grimaudo said will return next year under a different economic structure.
Though the annual springtime leaf collection service was always meant to be a temporary measure, some St. Lazare residents living in the more heavily wooded areas of the city are not pleased with the decision to end the pickup and as the bags accumulate, it appears many were not even aware. “I was told other people in other parts of St. Lazare shouldn’t be paying for my leaf pickup,” said Saddlebrook resident Elianna Beckman. “I don’t have school aged children and I don’t live near a school, yet I contribute accordingly, which I think is appropriate,” said Beckman, using school tax payments as a comparison. “I believe that as a community, we contribute to everyone’s wellbeing.”
Mayor Robert Grimaudo told Your Local Journal that when council was preparing the 2015 municipal budget last November, they realized a much smaller proportion of residents were using the spring pickup compared to the fall service. “It’s no secret that when the leaf pickup came to be about seven years ago, it was supposed to be a temporary measure until residents found other ways to deal with their leaves.”
Grimaudo also disputes some residents’ claims that they were not informed of the halt to the spring pickup service. “At the beginning of each year, St. Lazare sends a ‘Gestion de matière résiduelle’ sticker to each address advising homeowners of dates for garbage pickups, recycling, Christmas tree disposal, etc. On the sticker it’s clearly marked, ‘Il n’y aura pas de collectes de feuilles au printemps 2015’. It can’t be much clearer than that.” The information was added to the town’s website in January and in March, the ‘Guide des résidents’ was distributed to each home. Grimaudo said the page on the website with information about leaf pickup had, by April, received 3354 unique hits.
Grimaudo estimates the town will save about $30,000 by cancelling the spring pickup but stressed the move is not just about saving money but is a good environmental practice. “It’s the nutrients from the leaves (on the ground) every year that allow your trees to be healthy. If you completely remove all the leaves off your lot, after one or two years, your trees will start to die.”
The town’s website has instructions on how to deal with residual fall leaves that remain on the ground the following spring. As of press time, resident Micheline Pineault-Langdon had gathered over 200 signatures on a petition protesting the end of the spring pickup and is encouraging fellow residents to make their voices heard at the upcoming June 2 Town Council meeting. Given the feedback Town Hall has received on the issue, Grimaudo said council will reconsider the policy on next year’s springtime leaf pickup. He maintains a number of area farmers will be happy to take away residents’ bags of leaves for as little as $0.50 a bag.
“We’ve heard the message, loud and clear,” he said. “There will be a (spring leaf pickup) under a different formula in 2016 and subsequent years.”
The council is studying systems where the pickup will be funded by the users, possibly through a program requiring residents to purchase specific town-issued bags. “It’s true that council would have preferred to gradually and completely eliminate the leaf collection over the next few years, considering that it’s much more beneficial to return to the ground natural nutrients provided by the decaying leaves,” said Grimaudo. “But we’ve recently realized our community is not sufficiently equipped or ready to undertake this step.”