A reader was intrigued by a passing reference in a recent column. When he expressed his intrigue to me, I belatedly joined the ranks of the intrigued.
I’m glad I did, because there’s a lot more to this particular wrinkle than originally met the eye.
The column had noted that leaf pickups in the city of Akron are done in numerical order, from Ward 1 through Ward 10.
The reader wondered whether that order ever varies ... and whether residents of the highest numbered wards ever complain ... and whether the same order is used in performing other city services.
Yes, sometimes and no.
At least that’s the revised word from Council President Garry Moneypenny, whose Ward 10 (Goodyear Heights) was last in line for leaf pickup this time.
Moneypenny initially told me the pickups always are done in numerical order, starting with Ward 1. But after researching it further for my follow-up column, he realized he had goofed.
“I am going to assume you haven’t heard this before from an elected official, but I was wrong,” he joked.
The pickups weren’t even done in numerical order in 2013, much less every year.
Moneypenny left the council from 2008 through 2012 (I believe he was in a witness protection program) and says he was told upon his return that the city had adopted a set rotation. But that is true only for three of the wards: 1, 4 and 8.
Why? Because, he says, “70 percent of the city’s leaves are in those wards, and they need to be picked up at peak times.”
Since 2009, Ward 1 (now a weird sliver that runs from the national park down through Highland Square and past Glendale Cemetery), Ward 4 (the near west side out past Good Park) and Ward 8 (Northwest Akron) are always fifth, sixth and seventh in a rotation that begins roughly Nov. 1 and ends roughly Dec. 8.
It just so happened that Ward 10 was last in 2013 — not a good position to be in at the start of this, the worst winter in decades.
Significant snowfalls arrived before most of the city’s leaves had been collected, and every time a pickup date for any other ward was postponed, Ward 10’s date was pushed back.
After the first nine wards had been scooped up, and Goodyear Heightsians had finally been told to rake their leaves into the street, a big snowfall hit, bringing snow plows that tossed those leaves right back onto yards.
On the other hand, when the weather is mellow, last place is seen as an advantage.
“In mild winters, people in [the last wards] were glad, because it gave them more time to rake their leaves,” Moneypenny says. Folks in the early wards sometimes complained their pickup date was too early because plenty of leaves were still attached to trees.
Akron started collecting its residents’ foliage on a limited basis in 1985. From at least 2001 through 2008, two pickups were made each year. But the budget crunch of 2009 cut that to one.
Trying to discern next year’s rotation by looking at an Excel spreadsheet of the past five years would take longer than solving a Sudoku puzzle, and I’m not in the mood for either. Suffice it to say there’s nothing casual about figuring out whose leaves are sucked up when.
Akron’s trash pickup days also are structured, but that doesn’t seem to be a big deal.
Moneypenny says his ward is de-trashed on Tuesday mornings, requiring residents to hit the curb Monday night. That often fits in nicely with weekend activities, which tend to fill garbage cans more rapidly.
But when Monday is a holiday and trash doesn’t get collected until Wednesday, the councilman says, “that usually results in some phone calls from people being upset, either because they forgot about the holiday and put their trash on the curb too early or their trash can is full and they have nowhere to put the extra day’s worth of trash.”
So why can’t the city just please everyone all the time?
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.