Archived Story

Change to brush collection policy struck down by Niles Council

Published 9:03am Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A proposal to change the city’s limb and brush pickup program was struck down by the Niles City Council Monday in a 3 to 5 vote.

Under the new policy, the city would have decreased the number of times crews picked up limb and brush from 14 times a year to twice a year. City administrator Ric Huff estimated the change would save the city’s general fund about $35,000 annually.

David Mann, Scott Clark, Tim Skalla, Georgia Boggs and Dan VandenHeede all voted against the measure, while Bill Weimer, Gretchen Bertschy and Robert Durm were in favor of it.

While VandenHeede said the current system isn’t as efficient as it could be, he said he didn’t know where residents would place limb and brush under the new policy.

“Twice a year — I just don’t see it,” said VandenHeede, adding that he’d like to see pickups take place once a month. “Lets keep chipping away at it.”

Skalla said he talked to many residents who were adamantly opposed to the twice-a-year plan, but not opposed to once-a-month pickups.

The new plan would have included extra pickups in case of heavy storm damage and for Christmas tree removal.

Mayor Mike McCauslin said other ideas for changing the system would come before the council at a later date.

As for now, the city’s current collection system will remain. The city offers a free brush chipping service to residents beginning the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from April to October. Residents must call the city’s department of public works to request pickup.

Joe Ray, public works director, said many residents abuse the program by placing items in piles that aren’t allowed or by creating piles so large that it takes crews hours to pick them up.

The change to the policy was recommended by Ray, City Administrator Ric Huff and Fire Chief Larry Lamb.

Also Monday, the council was asked to consider amending ordinances that would lead to the elimination of the following three boards:

• Airport Board

• Design and Review Board

• Board of Public Utilities

While the council unanimously voted to pursue eliminating the Airport Board and Design and Review Board, it was split on the decision involving the Board of Public Utilities, which has the purpose of advising and consulting the council on utilities matters. The measure was ultimately struck down 2 to 6 with only Mann and Weimer in favor of pursuing elimination.

Skalla, who serves as liaison to the Board of Pubic Utilities, asked that the council retain it.

“Our board has saved the city a great deal of money and corrected problems with billing, etc…,” he said. “We do make a very good sounding board for the citizens and we provide a great deal of expert advice.”

Mann described the board as “unnecessary bureaucracy.”

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