Leaf Pick-up Sparks Debate in Clearfield Borough

(GantDaily File Photo)

CLEARFIELD – Clearfield Borough Council is considering revising and even limiting its leaf pick-up policy, as the street department has been bombarded with the responsibility. In addition, council members and borough officials debated the proper enforcement of its leaf collection ordinance during Thursday’s committee meetings.

Street Foreman Steve Biancuzzo said the borough has been conducting leaf pick-ups, which have been “pretty heavy” and many residents are raking their leaves out onto the street. He said they have been notifying Code Enforcement Officer Larry Mack, who has been taking photographs and making contact with the residents.

Borough Operations Manager Leslie Stott said the borough was on schedule for the leaf pick-ups until Hurricane Sandy. She said the borough spent one day preparing for the storm to assist the residents in other ways. Then, she said the borough spent two days after the storm getting leaves back off the streets.

As a result, she said the borough got behind in its leaf pick-up schedule. But with the storm, all the leaves came down at once, and she realizes residents have them all raked out to their right-of-ways. She said when the leaf vacuum was purchased it was to remove leaves from the right-of-ways. However, she said the borough has been vacuuming leaves from the entire yard.

Stott said if the borough wanted a prime example, it could visit Cherry and Front streets, which she described as “a mess.” She said a contractor raked the leaves out onto the street and it was car widths in length. She said three parking meters have been taken up on Cherry Street.

She said in order for the street department to come down Cherry Street to vacuum the leaves, Biancuzzo would have to engage the Clearfield Borough police and temporarily close the road. She said he would need to run the vacuum the wrong way on a one-way street. With that being the case, she said they have initiated drafting a leaf pick-up policy.

Stott said she didn’t believe the borough would need an ordinance. However, council member Jim Kling said the borough already had an ordinance. Stott said they had an ordinance that states it’s the residents’ responsibility to remove the leaves to which Kling said it also states they’re not to deposit their leaves upon the street.

Council member Tim Winters said he witnessed the private contractor with a crew of people who raked an entire lot of leaves onto the street. Stott said when they contacted the person responsible he refused to rake them back onto the right-of-way. In addition, he refused to dispose of them, because the borough has leaf vacuum services.

“That’s the policy council needs to tighten up,” said Stott, “because there aren’t enough leaf vacuums and crew to rake up every leaf in the community. It’s just impossible, and there are certain roads that aren’t safe for them to be vacuuming on.”

When asked, Stott said it wouldn’t be the contactor who would be fined; instead, she indicated it would be the trustee of the residence. Kling argued that the resident didn’t commit the violation and that the contractor was at fault. Stott said the contractor, the realtor and the bank have all been notified; she said the bank wants to address the issue.

Kling suggested that they contact PennDOT. He said the borough can handle its own roadways, but this is a state highway.

Mack said all three parties have received the photographs and a copy of the ordinance. He said if any of the three entities create a violation on another property within the borough, they can be cited immediately, because they’ve been formally notified.

At that point, Kling asked Police Chief Vincent McGinnis if he’d mail out a notice after observing him littering along the street. McGinnis indicated no and he’d cite him immediately for the violation. Kling said he didn’t understand why they went through a notification process when the borough has had an ordinance that prohibits the obstruction of streets and sidewalks.

Stott said the borough has been directed by the magistrate about proper notification procedures. She said they’ve been told that placing a media advertisement isn’t sufficient enough, and he wants the residents to be told. Mack said he’s been reading a legal journal, which states these same stipulations as well.

“So what you’re saying is that I can rake my leaves out in the middle of Daisy Street. Then, I’m going to wait 30 days for you to send me a notice, before I’m in violation. This doesn’t make sense,” said Kling.

Stott said she wasn’t saying the resident would be waiting for 30 days. Instead, she said the resident must be notified, as well as given adequate time to remedy the situation. Kling said in that case, the borough may as well get rid of its ordinance book, because it doesn’t make it worth much.

“What good are ordinances if no one is going listen to them and if no one is going to crack down on them? Why make an ordinance? It’s just like the chickens and the roosters,” said council member Richard Stewart Jr.

Mack said ordinances have their place within the community. At the same time, he said it’s very important for the borough to follow the appropriate legal procedures. Mack said if the borough is going to issue a citation, the person must be notified in writing.

“You can give someone a verbal warning on the phone, but it has to be followed up with a written notification,” said Mack. He noted that he lost a hearing about a month-and-a-half ago, because he failed to notify the people in writing.

Winters then asked McGinnis if he could cite someone immediately after observing them depositing a load of leaves onto the roadway. McGinnis said he wasn’t sure if he could for leaves and in that scenario, he would have to contact Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland for direction.

Kling said they needed to request the magistrate to provide an explanation on the subject. Stott said they would contact Ireland for his opinion and explanation on the issue.

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