• John Jantak

St. Lazare reinstates spring pickup after leaf storm of discontent


St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo announced during the Tuesday evening council meeting that the town will reinstate its springtime leaf collection service in spring 2016.

Saying town council didn’t anticipate a “leaf storm” of discontent to have developed over a simple decision, St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo announced during the Tuesday evening council meeting on June 2 that it will reinstate its springtime leaf collection service in 2016. The announcement came after a petition with more than 200 signatures was presented to council by a resident during question period that asked for the service to be reinstated. “The council had already decided that we will review our position on leaf pick-up in 2016,” Grimaudo told Your Local Journal in a telephone interview.

“We decided there will be a spring and fall pick up next year, but it will be done under a different formula. I don’t know what that formula will be yet, but it will be different.” Some residents have openly criticized the town for cancelling this year’s spring leaf pick-up, saying they don’t have the space on their properties or the resources to properly compost or mulch the huge mound of leaves they rake up on their properties, which can easily amount to over 100 bags per residence in some heavily-wooded areas.

Grimaudo said the decision wasn’t made arbitrarily, but done through consultation with all the councillors who all agreed it was important to get more homeowners to use composting and mulching techniques as an environmentally- friendly way to reduce their leaf piles and conserve resources. “It’s not a question of not being able to manage it; it’s a question of ‘Are people ready?’ Do they have the necessary equipment and knowledge to manage their leaves?’ And obviously from what we heard last night, people are not ready,” said Grimaudo.

The spring leaf pickup was first introduced in 2008 and was never intended to become a permanent annual service. “It was supposed to be temporary,” said Grimaudo. “We know there’s nothing more permanent than something that is temporary.” Grimaudo said that according to the town’s statistics, only seven per cent of homeowners use the spring leaf pick-up service, a figure that was disputed by one resident who said up to 75 per cent of residents rely on it. He added that door-to-door mailings were delivered early this year to notify homeowners that the service would be cancelled this spring. The town was also criticized for stopping a service funded through municipal tax dollars while it spends millions on new infrastructure projects such as the new fi re station and city hall, which the mayor staunchly defended.

Grimaudo said the time to have invested in infrastructure was between 2000 and 2010, when the town was booming. “I’m not blaming past councils or anybody, and I want to make that clear – that was the time to invest in infrastructure,” said Grimaudo.

“The original fi re hall was built when there was a population of 4,000. Now there are 19,000 people. That fi re hall had to be rebuilt in 2006. “The city hall is jam-packed and we’re renting space in a building across the street,” he added. “It costs us $140,000 a year in rent in a building that doesn’t even belong to us when we could be paying a mortgage instead of rent.”

Grimaudo said he understands why some people are upset about the cancellation in service, but would like to see more civic participation in other aspects of municipal life as well. “It’s a darned shame that people only come to council when there’s an issue like this,” he said. “If our most serious problem is leaves, we’re doing okay.”