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Ogdensburg officials have dustup over brush pickup

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A dustup between city officials over a new brush pickup system implemented this spring shows few signs of abating.

City Council members have sparred during their last two meetings over the new program, which requires residents to put brush and yard waste in front of their homes on a rotating schedule once a month.

The new system also forbids residents from placing yard waste on street pavement. Instead brush must be placed near the curb, but remaining on the homeowner’s yard. The policy also prohibits pick up on some of the narrowest streets in the city known as lanes. In a number of Ogdensburg neighborhoods narrow alleyways, big enough for a single lane of cars, dissect city blocks, usually running behind neighborhood homes.

On Monday City Councilmen Michael D. Morley, Wayne L. Ashley and Daniel Skamperle all voiced concerns passed on by city residents unhappy with the system. Some of the complaints included homeowners whose yards had been dug up by Department of Public Works crews scooping up piles of brush off their lawns, residents whose brush won’t be picked up for another month because they were a day late putting out their waste, and still others angered by the city policy of not sending loaders down the narrow lanes dissecting some neighborhoods.

“Well a lane is a public street. If I put it out on Pottery Lane it’s no different than putting it out on Elizabeth Street. It’s still a public street, “ Mr. Ashley said. “I just don’t understand why we can’t put it in the lane?”

Both men told the council they receive weekly complaints from taxpayers about the new policy.

On Thursday Mr. Ashley and Mr. Morley reiterated their belief that public dislike of the brush pick up system is not going away, and that they are continuing to hear from disgruntled residents.

“We’ve been taking care of the lanes in this city since Moby Dick was a minnow,” Mr. Ashley said Thursday. “We snowplow the lanes. Why can’t we pick up brush? The taxpayers deserve a better service than this.”

The City Council implemented the new system in May, hoping staggering the frequency of brush pickup throughout the warm weather months would save money and manpower, giving DPW crews time to work on other projects.

Mr. Morley said he agreed to the change with the stipulation the city would try it for a year, and decide whether to continue the program after that.

“I said I’d try it for a year, but I plan to pass on the complaints to the council,” Mr. Morley said. “It’s our job to pass it along.”

Mr. Morley also said he is reluctant to believe the new policy is actually saving either time or money.

“If we save $24,000 is it worth that to have brush on our streets for that price?” he asked.

City Manager John M. Pinkerton said Thursday that he is no longer receiving complaints about brush pickup at his office, but understands some residents are unhappy. He urged people to be patient, to learn the new system by heart, and to understand that he and other city officials are trying to find a more efficient and cost effective way to provide a needed service.

“I think there are some people who don’t like the policy, but most of the people are accommodating it,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “We’ve even received compliments that the city looks better.”

He added, “What we are trying to do, as concerns are expressed, is find a potential solution that doesn’t add cost and makes it easier for citizens to comply with what we are trying to do. We’re trying to free up people for other projects.”

City officials said last month that the new rotating yard waste system has enabled the DPW to cut in half their labor hours associated with brush, grass and leaf pickup.

In the past, residential pickup was held city-wide twice a year in the spring and fall, and homeowners could also call throughout the summer to make a special request for pickup if they had debris.

But under the new system, neighborhoods in individual wards are rotated weekly for pickup.

Those who miss the opportunity to put brush at the curb side during their specified week then have the option of taking the debris themselves to one of two locations in the city.

The result is that municipal workers are spending less time picking up items, and residents are disposing of more of their own yard waste themselves, according to officials.

The city asks that residents follow these guidelines:

• Yard waste includes brush, branches, lawn clippings and leaves. Leaves should be in a separate pile. Yard waste in bags or containers will be accepted.

• Yard waste does not include pet waste, construction debris, or containers of any kind.

• Locate yard waste between the sidewalk and curb, not in the street at the front of your property. Brush will not be picked up in alleyways.

• Piles must not block fire hydrants or touch poles, bushes or fences.

• The city will not pick up debris or yard waste generated by a contractor

For more information about the pickup schedule, please call DPW at 393-2300. More information is also on the city’s website at www.ogdensburg.org.

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