May 28, 2023 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Brush pick-up discussion still ongoing in St. Joseph

The Village of St. Joseph is discussing having residents purchase bags from the village for brush pick-up.

Village board members are still deciding what to do with brush pick-up and will hold a committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday at village hall to continue the discussion.

At the June 25 village board meeting, the village board and Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges heard that the burn box the village had been renting from a company in Georgia was working extremely well to burn the collected and backed up brush piles that the village had been dealing with due to a wet fall and spring.

“We have been able to keep up with the truck loads of brush coming down,” said Luke Fisher, assistant Public Works Superintendent in St. Joseph.

The board voted to purchase the burn box, which burns brush at extremely high temperatures with little to no smoke, for $32,850.

During the meeting, Fruhling-Voges reiterated that brush pick-up was suspended indefinitely.

“I don’t want people to anticipate that come the first week of July, if we are still not caught up, we will go back to our regular pick up schedule,” she said.

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.

She presented village board members with a proposal that would allow brush pick up during five separate months.

Brush would be picked up in April, June, August, October and November during the first full working week of the month under the proposal.

Fruhling-Voges said the brush policy was revised last year but she thought it needed to be revised again. She has based her proposal on Mahomet’s brush policy.

“We need to improve the system,” Fruhling-Voges said.

The proposal includes not picking up whole 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 or materials gathered from outside the village limits.

The proposal would require brush to be placed in yard bags in piles within three feet of the curb proper to the scheduled and announced day. The brush cannot be around mailboxes, trees, poles or hydrants. The brush cannot be placed near the curb more than seven days before pickup. Brush cannot be placed on public property and must be placed on the curb before 7 a.m. on the collection day.

The policy stated the village reserves the right to deny collection due to lack of access to piles, an excessive volume of materials, late placement of materials or restricted materials.

Residents who violate the policy would be given a warning letter from the village. Residents violating the policy will be fined $75 to $750 for each violation. Any day on which a violation would occur would be considered a separate offense.

Fruhling-Voges said the village currently devotes one full week of every month April through November to pick up brush.

“It is a lot of man hours,” Fruhling-Voges said. “Four to five guys for one week every month.”

The village estimated that brush pick up costs $7,500 each week they pick up the brush.

Trustee Andy Gherna said he felt that was too much money

“That is an obscene amount of gas, crazy hours on labor and our machines,” he said.

Fruhling-Voges said the hours spent on brush could be devoted to projects at the sewer plant, sidewalks and tree removal.

“I understand it is a great courtesy for the public,” Fruhling-Voges said. “But is that the only thing we want to do for the public?”

Fruhling-Voges said there has been a noticeable increase in brush left out for pick-up even though there has been no new development within the village limits.  Fruhling-Voges said this can be attributed to the fact that subdivisions that were developed years ago now have mature landscaping.

“Everything in those people’s yards are now older and need to be maintained,” she said. “We have doubled in the last 12 years in our brush.”

Fruhling-Voges said the village had to get residents to stop putting out brush before the scheduled pick-up date.

“We have to rein it in and get it under control,” Fruhling-Voges said.

Fisher said the workers have also encountered residents who are very angry about the brush pick-up situation.

“So we are paying $7,500 a week to get yelled at by our residents for a service we shouldn’t even be offering,” Gherna said.

Fruhling-Voges said some villages make residents pay an additional fee for brush pick-up.

Trustee Dan Davis suggested the village purchase brush bags and make residents buy them directly from the village.

“Then they are paying for it,” he said.
Fruhling-Voges said the village needed to establish what they expected from residents.

“We need to let the public know what is expected of them,” she said.

Fruhling-Voges suggested buying door hangers with a list of violations so the public works employees could mark why brush would not be picked up if they established the bags contained items they could not take.

“Most of the people will follow the rules,” Fruhling-Voges said.

The discussion will continue Tuesday during a committee meeting, but Fruhling-Voges urged the board not to take too long to decide what they wanted to do regarding brush. The next regular village board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9.

“We don’t need to take forever on this,” she said.

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