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Options To Plastic Bags Explored For Leaf Pickup In Minocqua


MINOCQUA –Raking leaves and bagging them is a thankless job for property owners. Even worse, if you are a Minocqua public works employee, is slicing open the bags at the town’s brush site and discovering the homeowner has also raked up Fido’s droppings.

Public works director Mark Pertile sought the town board’s permission Tuesday to jettison the town’s free service of picking up bagged leaves, pleading that it cuts into his crew’s other work. The town would still pick up brush, which next year will be burned rather than chipped. Costs have “skyrocketed” for chipping brush,” he said.

At one time, the chips were in high demand at paper mills, which used them to fuel boilers. The chipper owner made money selling the chipped product to the mills. Towns could have their brushed chipped for about $1,500. That’s not the case any more because the mills no longer use chips. Chipping costs for municipalities are in the range of $20,000, he said.

The public works director said it costs the town an average of $25,000 a year to pick up bags of leaves and the brush and to dispose of them. Once the bags arrive at the brush site, town workers have to slice open the plastic to empty the leaves, he explained, because the state does not allow plastic bags to be buried. Doing so would result in the state Department of Natural Resources taking notice. “We really don’t want the DNR on our backs for being a disposal site,” said Pertile.

This past season, a community crew of inmates from McNaughton Correctional Facility helped empty the bags. They won’t be back, said Pertile, because of the numerous dog droppings they encountered. Supervisor John Thompson appeared willing to abandon the town’s leaf pickup. “We use to snowplow (private) driveways,” he observed.

However, town chairman Mark Hartzheim and supervisor Billy Fried said property owners appreciate the service, adding that it doesn’t cost the town but a few thousand dollars, and many seniors don’t have access to a pickup truck or trailer to haul leaves. “I think what we’re doing is a good service and we should keep it,” the town chairman said.

Fried suggested renting a vacuum truck to suck up leaves that would be piled near the roadway. However, that idea was dismissed because the wind could blow leaves around before the town could get to them.

Supervisor Bill Stengl suggested setting a maximum number of bags that could be picked up at a property site. Biodegradable bags could be a solution, but if they get wet they are prone to breaking when picked up. The board directed Pertile to see what other towns in the county are doing with leaf pickup.

Some municipalities require 30- or 32-gallon biodegradable paper bags or permit people to put loose leaves in trash containers, which can then be dumped into a truck.

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