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

Brush pick-up to resume in August

Brush pick up is expected to resume in August.

The Village of St. Joseph held a Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting last week where brush pickup was discussed.

The total cost for brush pick-up for seven days in June was $8,252. The pick-up included brush from May and June.

Salaries made up $4,000 worth of the amount with the remainder of the cost going to gas for the equipment the workers used.

Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges told the committee she thought the amount of man-hours, which totaled more than 200, spent on pick-up was too much.

Fruhling-Voges also thought the cost was too high.

“The community has to understand it is not the only thing we have to do in the village,” she said.

During a June village board meeting Fruhling-Voges put forth a proposal that would have the village pick up brush every other month from April to November.

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.

The village board also discussed having residents pay separate fee for brush removal.

Suggestions included having residents buy brush bags or tags to mark brush from the village.

During the committee meeting Trustee Jim Wagner argued that the amount of money spent on brush pick-up wasn’t that much when compared to the village’s actual budget.

“It is not that much money a year,” he said. “It’s $68.000.”

Plus, he argued that the village just spent more than $32,000 on a box burner to allow the village to burn brush at high temperatures and speeds within EPA regulations.

Fruhling-Voges argued that the box burner could be used for the burning of trees the village has removed.

“That’s going to be hard for the tax payers to swallow,” Wagner said.

The committee discussed whether the village should sell brush bags, labels for the bags or tags for brush piles. They also discussed having residents tie sticks with twine.

Fruhling-Voges said no matter what the village decided it would not cover the cost of brush pick-up but tags may make residents ownership of the pick-up.

“It would make the public a little more responsible for the service,” she said. “They have to go and buy the tag and put the tag on the bag.”

Trustee Roy McCarty expressed concern regarding adding another cost on the village residents.

“We have a lot of seniors in town,” he said.

Assistant Public Works Superintendent Luke Fisher said upon looking at the numbers he wasn’t sure having brush pick-up every other month would save the village any money because they would be picking up two months worth of brush.

McCarty agreed and stated that with the burn box the village workers could burn the brush as soon as it arrived at the site.

“If we go two months at a time it is not going to go like that,” he said.

Fruhling-Voges said she thought only doing brush pick-up every other month would encourage people to remove the brush at their own expense.
She said what the village did not want was residents attempting to access the burn site along Rt. 150 and dumping their own brush.

Wagner disagreed and said people would just put the brush on abandoned or empty property during off months.

” Fruhling-Voges argued that village resources could be spent in other ways and that brush was actually the homeowners responsibility.

“ We are constantly hearing from the public that we haven’t taken down the ash trees, our sidewalks need work and the parks need to be mowed,” Fruhling-Voges said. “We do not pick-up people’s garbage in town.”

The committee discussed how some villages outsource brush pick-up but decided that would not be cost effective. The Village of Mahomet outsources their brush pick-up. For five pick-ups a year they pay $87,000.

Fruhling-Voges said if the village continues to pick-up brush in April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November they need to enforce the restrictions.

“We cannot pick up their trees,” she said. “We cannot pick up stuff that is restricted.”

Fruhling-Voges said the village also needs to be more consistent on the week of pick up. She admitted that the spring rains had hampered pick up and said the village needed to encourage residents to check the village website if they were unsure when pick up was occurring.

“I have had people say they appreciate the service,” she said. “The majority appreciate the service.”

Wagner suggested the village track hours and cost for one year and review it in the Fall.

“We need to see what the brush burner is going to do for us,” he said.
McCarty agreed.

“I think we need to try this for a while,” he said. “We need a strict policy in place.”

The committee will recommend to the village board as a whole during their July 9th meeting that pick-up resume the second week in August.

Village workers will start on the south side of the village and make their way north.

The village will track expenses and time spent on brush pick-up and revisits the issue after a year.

They will also recommend that the brush pick-up policy will be rewritten to include what the village will pick up instead of only including what they will not pick-up.

The village will take action on the issue at their July 9 meeting.

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