Leaf season in Franklin is about to get shorter.
That’s the case, anyway, with the leaf collection service provided by the city of Franklin’s Streets Department. Staff has recommended that leaf pickup be altered from the current schedule of Oct. 1 through Jan. 31 to Oct. 26 through Jan. 15 beginning this year. Pickup in most neighborhoods will change from weekly to bi-weekly.
“This is a reality check in how we deliver collection in the fall, especially during peak season,” City Administrator Eric Stuckey said during Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session, where aldermen were formally introduced to the plan. “Staff has looked at a way to do that more clearly and predictably for our citizens. It’s an approach, I think, that will be more consistently delivered and understood by our citizens. We want to make sure we’re meeting expectations of the community.”
According to city staff, Franklin’s bulk leaf collection process has basically been unchanged for the past 24 years. The city, of course, has grown over that time and new neighborhoods have been added. Trees have matured along the way as well.
During a presentation to aldermen and others Tuesday, Jerry Garrett, landscape maintenance supervisor for the city’s Streets Department, pointed out that Franklin’s compost center has in recent years collected about 3,500 cubic yards of leaves annually, and last year the number increased to 14,000.
“What we found out is, [the current system] is very time-consuming,” Garrett said. “Our city has grown quite a bit over the last decade, and the current program we’re using has not changed very much at all. So as the city has grown, we haven’ grown with it as far as implementing this program.
“Under the current process.” Garrett added, “each driver goes out on a route and we pick up the entire city each week, which is a daunting task. Sometimes we’ll go down streets that may or may not have leaves at the curbside, … so there’s some hit and miss. And what that does is, it affects our overall efficiency with the program, causing us to use more fuel consumption and obviously vehicle and equipment wear and tear. Overtime is also typically involved.
“With the amount of time we spend [collecting leaves], we can’t possibly get to some of our service requests, our storm-water projects and street preservation program.”
Basing an approach on how other cities of similar size and demographics are doing their leaf collection, Franklin’s Street Department is proposing the shorter season and bi-weekly pickup in all neighborhoods or zones except for downtown Franklin.
Two aldermen — Dana McLendon, 2nd Ward alderman and vice mayor, and Alderman-at-large Pearl Bransford — took issue with the downtown Franklin plan.
“There’s no way that you can ask anyone else in the city to feel good about this,” McLendon said. “You’ve got a handful of blocks getting served each week and everyone else every other week.
“My issue is that these are all private leaves. These are not leaves that are being generated by the public properties. These are leaves private-property owners are disposing of using this paid-for city service, and we’re providing 90% of Franklin city taxpayers a service every other week while serving a tiny fraction of homeowners three days a week.”
Stuckey responded to the concerns by saying downtown Franklin is its own entity of sorts.
“We do a different landscaping and maintenance program throughout downtown because of the nature of downtown,” he said. “It is not a standard neighborhood. It’s a different type of service than other neighborhoods see. It’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison because of the nature of all the work we do in downtown to maintain public spaces. It’s just a different creature.”
Though there could be tweaks to the program before its late-October launch, Garrett said he’s optimistic with the overall plan.
“We feel with some good communication and participation that this program should definitely be a success,” he said.