The survey is closed and the results are in. Click Here to view the full survey results.
Overall, about 75% of residents are satisfied with curbside leaf pickup. About 30% think it’s great, 48% think it’s okay, and the remaining 22% find it unsatisfactory.
There were a few recurring themes from the survey comments, which are consistent with what we hear from residents during tougher leaf pickup seasons like the one we just had. Below is a summary of those themes and what we’re doing to address them.
- Extend leaf pickup later into December.
This is the most frequent comment/request we receive. We understand completely, as the Oak trees notoriously hang on to their leaves longer and often don’t drop completely until mid-December or later. In fact, this is why Zone 5 consists of Oxford and Cambridge and is scheduled last for pickup. Those streets contain the highest concentration of Oak trees, and so we schedule them last for pickup to try to let as many leaves fall before the leaf trucks make their final pass.Of course, there are many Oaks in all parts of the City, and many trees than hang on to their leaves. However, the leaf pickup schedule has been developed over many years based on weather patterns. The weather is unpredictable from one year to the next, and while some Decembers are mild, others can bring early significant snowfalls that end leaf pickup. From a risk management perspective, we always want to be done with leaf pickup before the first December snowfall. If we extend leaf pickup, most years we would probably be able to pick up all of the leaves, but when we get early snowfalls and some streets had not yet been picked up, we would not be able to get those leaves. Those leaves would be pushed up onto the lawn and driveway approaches by the snow plows, creating a mess for the residents on those streets.
Most Cities observe the same schedule that Pleasant Ridge does, with leaf pickup ending on the first Friday in December. Berkley, Clawson. Birmingham, Pleasant Ridge, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Livonia, Oak Park, Huntington Woods all conclude leaf pickup by the first Friday in December.
Dearborn and Grosse Pointe Woods pick up until the second Friday, and Royal Oak picks up until the third Friday.
An option would be for us to start leaf pickup on the first Monday in November and go a week later in December, with the understanding that if we get a snowfall during that second week of December, any remaining leaves would most likely not be picked up. No decision has been made on this, but from a risk management perspective Staff’s preference would be to keep the schedule as it. We know that we would have many very unhappy residents on streets in the years when snow covered leaves get plowed back on to the lawn and are not picked up.
- Have Brilar allocate additional resources and equipment to Pleasant Ridge/pick up more often/find a different contractor.
These comments generally relate to contractor performance and/or resources. In short, Brilar has three leaf machines and other clients besides Pleasant Ridge. The benefit of contracting out DPW services is that we can gain efficiencies and cost savings, but the drawback is that we share our contractor with their other clients. Brilar usually has at least two and sometimes three of their machines running in Pleasant Ridge, but realistically we cannot expect additional manpower or equipment resources from Brilar.It is also difficult to find contractors with the capacity to pick up the volume of leaves that we generate in Pleasant Ridge. We produce half as many leaves as Ferndale, while we are 10% of their size. We produce one third as many leaves as Oak Park, but are 8% of their size. Our leaf volume is too large for us to engage a neighboring community to pick up our leaves, and we would always be second priority to their own streets.
We are often told by a small percentage of residents that we should get a new contractor, but 1) it is not clear that there are any that have the capacity to replace Brilar, and 2) Brilar has always got the job done for us. Specifically, the City of Beverly Hills experimented with curbside leaf pickup four years ago. They put a bid out and ended up choosing Brilar, as none of their other responses were competitive or had the capacity to provide services. That leaf pickup season ended up being very difficult for Beverly Hills, Pleasant Ridge, and Brilar because they were stretched too thin trying to pick up both cities. Beverly Hills did not continue curbside leaf pickup after that one season.
One option that we could explore would be to maintain Brilar as our bring on a supplemental contractor to add leaf pickup capacity. This could allow us to more quickly complete a pickup of the City. Currently with Brilar’s capacity we can usually pick up 2-3 streets per day, so that’s 8-10 days to complete a pass through the City. This is also why it can sometimes be a while between when we say the last day to put leavers at the curb is and when the final leaves are picked up. Bringing in a supplemental contractor may allow us to pick up the entire City in a week, allowing us to back up the last day to put leaves at the curb a week later (until the first Sunday in December instead of the last Sunday in November).
Of course, there would be an additional cost to this, so we will continue to explore this option to see if there are contractors we could bring in and then discuss the desirability of adding capacity and cost with the City Commission.
- Stick to the schedule and communicate changes better/Woodward Heights.
We did adjust the schedule for the final pickup this year. We moved Zone 5 up to occur before Zone 4’s final pickup. The reason we did so was because Zone 4 was picked up the week before thanksgiving, while Zone 5 had not been picked up since early November. The leaf piles on Cambridge and Oxford were much larger than those on the Zone 4 streets.
Except…that Woodward Heights did not get picked up the week before Thanksgiving and requested that Brilar to pick up Woodward Heights when they did Zone 5. Brilar did not do this and the leaves sat on Woodward Heights. We have had issues with Brilar picking up Woodward Heights in previous years, also. We do not have a good answer for why this frustrating pattern exists, but we will be again discussing it with Brilar when we post-mortem leaf season with them in a few weeks.
In future years we will be rotating when zones are picked up so that certain streets are not always first, and others always last. We’ll still probably keep Zone 5 last always due to the concentration of oaks there, but we’ll also look at how we address Woodward Heights and Ridge since these streets carry some of the highest traffic volumes in the City and can become constricted by leaves. One option we are considering is to place Woodward Heights and Ridge in their own zone and scheduling that zone for more frequent pickups to keep those streets clear.
We hope that the above gives some clarity about why leaf pickup is scheduled the way it is, the issues and concerns we have with making changes to the schedule, the capacity constraints we have and must consider when planning leaf pickup, and what we may change in future years.