Why Raleigh is behind on collecting leaves, what it’s doing to catch up
RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — The Raleigh Department of Transportation says the 2021-22 loose-leaf collection season faced several challenges.
Department Director Michael Moore said the city was ahead of schedule before Christmas, but a number of snowy and rainy days made it difficult to continue progress.
“We have received many phone calls, complaints and concerns about our service delivery model,” City Manager Marchell Adams-David told the Raleigh City Council this week.
An update from Steve Halsey, acting deputy director of the Raleigh Department of Transportation, said board member crews have already picked up more leaves so far this season than all of last season.
Leaf collection began on November 8 in Zone 2. The first pass was not completed until January 18, which put the city behind by 11 days.
In the 2020-21 calendar, the first past was not competed until February 8. The second round of leaf collection is underway. The city is now 13 days behind its original schedule. The last round of leaf collection will not take place until March.
Halsey said one of the biggest challenges this season has been the weather. In total, the city lost 15 collection days due to weather events.
Much of that is blamed on three consecutive winter storms in January. Staff are instructed to prepare for winter weather events in the days leading up to a storm, reducing the number of days available for leaf collection.
As with many businesses, staffing continues to be a challenge.
At the start of the season, the city posted a vacancy rate of 23% in its department.
While the city typically hires 20 temporary leaf collection crew members, it was only able to hire five this year. Of the city’s 170 field workers, 33 were absent due to COVID-19 infection or quarantine protocols during leaf season.
Halsey said the department is undertaking several strategies to catch up. This starts with the in-person return of sick or quarantined staff, but also includes:
- Keep staff in charge of leaf collection rather than returning to them for regular maintenance duties
- Add Saturdays to the work schedule
- Improve vehicle maintenance efforts
- Continue to recruit to fill vacancies
During this week’s council meeting, council member Patrick Buffkin asked staff to consider how much it would cost to increase leaf pick-up frequency. Buffkin said some of his District A constituents told him they would pay more for better service.