By Holly Cook
Roeland Park councilors Monday gave preliminary approval for the Public Works department to move forward with issuing an RFP for new equipment expected to improve the city’s annual leaf pickup program.
The city is requesting proposals for an automated single-user truck with a mechanical joystick-controlled vacuum hose. The same type of machinery is used for leaf pick up programs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Director of Public Works Jose Leon said he expected the new machine could decrease the total annual cost of the leaf program by about $20,000.
The city currently uses a machine that feeds leaves into an auger where they are ground. Leaves are then forced through an impeller and shot into the back of a dump truck.
Leon said the current machine and method of leaf pickup has several flaws and inefficiencies.
Existing equipment is frequently damaged by heavy objects, like bricks, large rocks and pieces of wood, being hidden in the leaves. Repairs and replacement of broken parts are extremely expensive and time consuming so Public Works employees manually sort through the leaves prior to picking them up to ensure nothing heavy is hidden.
This issue will be largely alleviated with the new vacuum truck since it will not have the capacity to pick up these items, Leon said.
The scooping and shredding of leaves also causes substantial dust, he said.
“Air quality is a concern,” Leon said.
Residents are currently asked to place leaves in the street, which Leon said results in a variety of concerns including narrowed streets, clogged stormwater inlets, and pollution.
The new system will encourage residents to rake leaves to the edge of their property.
Public works is not recommending any changes to the leaf pickup program’s current structure of a 6-week pickup schedule allowing 3 pickups per property.
Leon also recommended increasing the city’s outreach to its residents by providing pamphlets and an informational video.
In 2017 the city picked up leaves at 2,849 residences despite several setbacks with the city’s equipment, including the leaf machine being wrecked in a car accident.