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Bag, don't blow: Harrisburg outlines leaf collection policy

With the fall season upon us, Harrisburg officials are once again asking residents to avoid blowing loose leaves into the street.

Instead, city officials would like for residents to put fallen leaves into brown compostable bags and place them at the curb on street-cleaning days.

Residents can get free brown bags at the city’s Public Works building at 1820 Paxton Street from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., while a limited supply lasts. The bags are also for sale at most hardware and home improvement stores.

City workers will collect leaves through Friday Dec. 2, according to a news release issued Sunday night by city officials.

The city wants to compost leaves from residents because it’s better for the environment and saves the city money by avoiding incineration costs.
Residents should avoid putting leaves in plastic bags, or including trash with the bagged leaves, because those bags won’t be accepted at the composting site.

City officials last year used a composting site in Swatara Township. City officials are working to start a composting site within the city at a 42-acre site off Stanley Road near 17th Street owned by the school district. Mayor Eric Papenfuse is trying to get an intergovernmental cooperation agreement signed to allow the city to use a portion of the site for composting for 10 years.

If residents can’t bag their leaves, city workers will still pick them up, according to the news release. In those situations, residents should pile leaves along the curb, avoiding the travel lane and storm drains.

Wet leaves in the travel lane can create a safety hazard for pedestrians and cars.
Residents with questions about leaf pickup or recycling can email the city at info@harrisburgpa.gov,  or call 311.

The city started the effort to avoid leaves being blown in the street last year, which caused a kerfuffle in Bellevue Park, which boasts hundreds if not thousands of trees. Residents there could face the backbreaking possibility of filling dozens upon dozens of bags. Some residents saw the request for bagged leaves as unfair and a “tax increase,” for having to pay the same amount of taxes for less service.

But city officials said last year the community needs to work together because the city no longer has the staffing it once did.

The public works department, Director Aaron Johnson said last year, has to contend with an old fleet of snowplows, salt spreaders and front loaders, which are widely used for leaf collection.

“If we got the right type of equipment and manpower we would be more efficient at doing our job,” he said. “But we are always working in a state of emergency. Everything we do, when you get the phone calls, it’s always ‘it needs to be done yesterday.’ The reason is because we don’t have the manpower.”

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