Spicer Administration Cut Leaf Collection Budget In Half Before It Reached City Council

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FRAMINGHAM – City Councilors said Tuesday night at their meeting they had received a lot of complaints about the reduction in curbside lead collection.

In September, the City of Framingham announced the reduction.

“Every fall, we typically offer five weeks of curbside leaf collection and two weeks of curbside brush collection,” said Blake Lukis, Director of Public Works in a press release in September. “This reduction in service is attributed to the combination of increased leaf disposal cost and budgetary reductions.”

This year, there is just two weeks of curbside leaf collection.

Last night, Framingham DPW Director Lukis told the 11 Councilors it was a decision made between him and Mayor Yvonne Spicer in April, before the City Council even saw the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The 2020 leaf collection budget was reduced from $100,000 to $70,000.

Lukis said budget was cut by the Spicer administration in anticipation of revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This week is the first week of curbside collection for leaves. It continues next week.

Lukis told Councilors his crew is already two days into collection and a half day behind schedule in collecting the bags, but he said he expected the department to catch up soon.

Councilor Janet Leombruno said a lot of people have been upset about the reduction and posting on social media.

The at-large Councilor also discussed the long lines at the drop-off facility on Dudley Road, due to the reduction in the curbside collection. Leombruno said that the issue at Dudley Road had improved with the addition of police details.

Lukis said the leaf dump averages about 450 vehicles per day, but last week, there was almost 900 vehicles last Sunday.

She and other Councilors said they wanted to know why they were not notified of the reduction.

Leombruno said residents have asked her to inquiry about the reduction, and thus why it was put on Tuesday night’s agenda.

Lukis said it was included in the budget presented to the City Council.

Councilor King said the curbside leaf collection is one of the more popular services the city offers, and that the Council had requested before services to the public were cut, the Council wanted to be notified.

The notification would give the Council the opportunity to replace funds cut to restore services.

King said he was “disturbed” and “disappointed” that one of the city’s most popular services was cut in half, with just a 10% budget reduction.

King said he does not understand why it was done and he told the Mayor that to her face during a meeting.

Lukis told the Councilors that the City did not reduce the amount of leaves a resident could place on the curb, but did reduce the time for collection in the fall from 4 weeks to 2 weeks.

Lukis said the savings was contracted services.

King asked why the DPW Director did not ask the Council for money to restore the service, and Lukis said the decision was made with him & Mayor Spicer before the budget was presented to the City Council in May 2020.

Lukis added the hazardous waste collection was also reduced from two days to just one day.

Lukis said the reduction was in the sanitation department’s presentation to the finance subcommittee this spring.

“The Mayor made those cuts, not us (Council)?” asked Council Chair King.

“Correct,” said Lukis.

District 3 Councilor Adam Steiner asked how much the district is saving?

Last year, spent $125,000 in total and the budget last year was $100,000, said Lukis. he said they had to find $25,000 for the additional cost.

Budget was reduced to $70,000 this year, said Lukis.

Highway personnel does the curbside pickup, said Lukis, but the City does rent two trucks, and drivers. City Staff load the leaves into the trucks, explained Lukis.

Lukis said the biggest cost is disposal.

“Were you expecting less leaves this year?” asked King.

Lukis answered “no.”

“Then, why cut that line item it doesn’t make sense,” said Councilor King. “I was surprised we pay that much for disposal.”

Lukis said last year was an anomaly and if you look at the average of previous years, that is why the number was recommended to be reduced.

“It is not working out?” said King.

Lukis replied no, especially with the recent storms, which is brining in a significant amount of brush too.

editor

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