DELMAR — Snow is in the forecast and your leaves still haven’t been picked up? Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said, “Be patient.”
“This is our busiest season for pickup,” said VanLuven. He added, the highway department has seven crews running six days a week to pick up leaves through the town’s 150 miles of neighborhood roads.
Each year, the town highway department picks up 20,000 cubic yards of loose leaves. According to its website, that amount is equivalent to 200,000 lawn bags. But the wait has had some residents reportedly brushing leaves out into the road in an effort to keep the heat from decomposing leaves killing their lawns.
VanLuven asked residents to not do that.
“Leaves in the road are dangerous to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians,” he said, “especially kids walking to school.”
In addition to the volume of leaves, the highway department has had to combat against COVID. As a means to mitigate the virus’ spread, crews have been reduced from three to two, impacting the usual speed of pickup.
VanLuven also asked residents to keep sticks and other debris from out of leaf piles. The vacuums used by the town are meant exclusively for leaves. Anything else leads to the potential of jamming or damaging the machinery.
“We’ve had to take entire crews off of collection for a day or more because a resident mixed sticks in with their leaf piles,” VanLuven said.
Dan Rain, the town’s recycling coordinator, provided insight on the October 7 windstorm’s aftermath. The town’s beleaguered compost facility, he said, played a positive role in the massive cleanup.
In the two weeks following the derecho that toppled trees and knocked power out for more than 200,000 Capital District residents, town highway crews were picking up debris. Rain said approximately 9,000 cubic yards of trees were removed, “or, if you can picture a football field filled 5 feet deep with yard waste.”
Crews took 451 trips to the Feura Bush compost facility, all of which deposited on its new, controversial pavement bed.
“The compost facility expansion has already proved vital by providing temporary room for this material on the new paved pad,” Rain said.
The storm had contributed to nearly twice the amount of yard waste collected by town crews compared to last year.
Paying the bill
Minutes before the presentation, the town board agreed to cover the highway department’s unexpected bills associated with a pavement project at the compost facility. Highway Superintendent Marc Dorsey requested a transfer from the town’s general fund in September to cover more than $150,000 of excess expenses.
The bill from New Castle, the contractor hired for the paving project, was originally $295,722. Dorsey negotiated a reduced bill after the board challenged both the cost and amount of material used by the contractor. Nonetheless, Dorsey was back to ask the board for more money.
With the reduced invoice and the combined cost of equipment and electric installation overages the excess amount jumped to more than $200,000. As the town comptroller’s office alluded in September, there was town material that needed to be reimbursed.
“As previously discussed, the project utilized existing highway stock in order to complete the drainage and site work in a timely manner,” Dorsey wrote to the board. The material included manholes, drainage pipe and crushed stone. “In order to reimburse the highway fund for the value of these materials, this request for capital reserve funds also includes $24,765.48 for this purpose.”
Excluded from the contested paving project was the cost of electrical upgrades and new equipment for which the highway department had previously budgeted towards the facility.
“This has been a challenging situation,” said Town Supervisor David VanLuven, “but I feel we’ve come to a productive path to resolving it. I appreciate the commitment I’ve heard from Marc about ensuring that the financing side won’t happen again.”