April 14, 2024 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Brush pick-up suspended indefinitely in St. Joseph

St. Joseph Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges has suspended brush pick-up indefinitely.


Fruhling-Voges said she understands why residents are upset with the interruption in the service, but the village needs to address its brush policy before continuing with the pick-up.


The burn site has been located west of town, near the St. Joseph Wetlands, for many years, Fruhling-Voges said.


“I’m guessing easily over 50 years or more,” she said.


Last spring, the Environmental Protection Agency contacted the village when a complaint regarding the burn site was filed.


Fruhling-Voges said over the years properties near the burn site and people within the village have voiced complaints about the burning. However, the home directly south of the site has been the most vocal about the issue, the mayor said.


“It’s a beautiful home at a lovely location, but the burn site is directly north and the smoke will, from time to time, be a nuisance,” she said. “It’s understandable that the smoke would be a problem for anyone with allergy issues or just the ability to enjoy your home environment.”


Fruhling-Voges said that the couple who own the home have worked with the village to try and remedy the situation. The village contacts their residents anytime the burn pile will be used.


“Sometimes this would work, but other times the weather would change or the pile would reignite during the weekend, causing a problem with the smoke,” Fruhling-Voges said.


Fruhling-Voges said between the village’s own brush, the village resident’s brush and illegal dumping, that the burn site can become quite full — especially if the weather becomes rainy, the area experiences early snow or if the weather is especially windy.


“The village will only get further and further behind,” Fruhling-Voges said.


The weather in the last six months has seen the village unable to burn the brush on a regular basis.

To lessen the impact, the village has taken several loads of brush to the Urbana Recycling Center, but Fruhling-Voges said this is not a long-term solution due to the expense and the number of man hours it takes to get the loads to Urbana. The recycling center will also not accept some of the material at the burn site.


“We started the brush pick-up season already backed up and with the extremely wet spring the village site became not only impassable but also too full to add more brush to the site,” Fruhling-Voges said.


After the April brush pick-up, the village decided to suspend pick-up for May. As the weather continued to be rainy and windy, they had to suspend all brush pick-up until further notice, Fruhling-Voges said.


“With the EPA guideline restrictions on burning and working around the weather it has become near impossible to get the old material burnt or be able to add any to it,” she said.


Fruhling-Voges said the village posted the information on their website, stjosephillinois.org, but not every resident checks the website and many placed their brush on the curb for the month of May and again in June.

“Trying to get the information out to the community is always a challenge,” she said.


The village has rented a box burner which burns brush at very high heat and burns faster and cleaner than the brush pile. The box burner is EPA approved.


At the village board meeting on June 11, Assistant Public Works supervisor Luke Fisher told the board that they were able to burn the majority of the brush that can be burned using the box burner. The rest has turned into compost. Fisher also said that the village has caught people illegally dumping at the site.


“We have cameras down there,” Fisher said.


Fisher told the board that the ash created by the burner can be used as fertilizer and the burner would always be supervised by a village worker.


Resident Mary Clow, who lives near the site, said she was extremely happy with the box burner.


Fruhling-Voges said that she felt the village needed to examine its brush pick-up policy, including how often the brush is picked up.


She also said that village residents need to follow the requirements the village has set forth.


“Your brush doesn’t go out to the curb until we are ready to pick it up,” she said. “It is quite unsightly all over the streets. We need to do a better job of enforcing our policies.”


Fruhling-Voges said she feels the fall leaf pick-up is a valuable service to residents that is offered free of charge.


“It is our desire to continue the service for as long as we can,” she said. “Time constraints for the manpower used and the expense to the village are always things that need to be considered as we move forward. We are working hard to find a reasonable solution to continue the brush pick-up.”


Fruhling-Voges urged all residents to review the brush pick-up policy.


The village will not pick up trees that were removed from personal property, grass clippings, paper yard bags weighing more than 30 pounds, mulch, stump grindings, dirt, plastic trash bags and brush longer than six feet and bigger than 10 inches in diameter. Brush piles need to be spaced 18 inches apart and not placed in trash cans. The village will not pick up landscape timbers. Brush should be placed on the curb and not around mailboxes. Brush trimmings and twigs should be placed in paper bags.


“My hope is that residents will be patient and work with us as we try to find a workable solution,” Fruhling-Voges said.

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