City Budget/Leaf Pick Up

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Mulching leaves with mowers is not the answer to leaf disposal issues. You cannot do it when they are wet, and the sheer volume of leaves on some properties make it an all day affair for landscapers to do properly and effectively.

The “solution “ proposed by advocates of mulching with mowers is not as simple as they make it out to be, and certainly works only under ideal circumstances. The maintenance of a “compost bin” is also highly impractical for most homeowners. If not properly managed it can become a smelly, insect ridden mess, which on small properties, usually tucked away at the property line, could and has become an issue between neighbors. Senior citizens will be especially impacted if they have to put leaves in paper bags.

Yonkers, Tuckahoe, Eastchester and Scarsdale are clean. The streets of New Rochelle are a mess. Look at the huge piles of leaves in the street. You will not be able to effectively deal with that sort of leaf volume through the use of some simple sounding solution like running them over with mowers.

Come back to the real world, Get the loaders and trucks out there and give the citizens of New Rochelle the services that they deserve.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

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Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 02:55

I realized I had not posted the link to the Love'em and Leave'em website that explains all about the benefits of mulch mowing.

Do watch the videos on how the mowers mulch deep piles of leaves in addition to the regular lawn, and how little is left over. It is quite astonishing.

http://www.leleny.org

fact finder 96 (not verified) on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 04:59

Ann had sparked my curiosity so I looked at the Love em or leave em Website. It is true that some people may be able to mash up their leaves on a nice afternoon when the leaves are dry. In a stretch, maybe the total amount of leaves could be reduced slightly on a City wide basis using this technique. Great. But to infer that this is a practical solution that will eliminate the need for municipal leaf pick up in bulk at curbside, is a monumental stretch. It is more utopian wishful thinking. I saw 2 seniors with a hand held leaf blower, blowing leaves into the street last week on Clinton Avenue. I told them that the City wanted them to put the leaves in paper bags next year. They laughed and told me that “they would never do that” . They clearly did not believe that the City wants to do just that. I don’t care how much we blog and how many news articles appear in the newspapers, the vast majority of New Rochelle residents have no idea that this is under consideration. When they find out (next year when code enforcers warn them that a violation and fine is the next step) it will be too late. Maybe New Rochelle should put it on the ballot next year……
If the City comes to my door and hands me two fire extinguishers and a video showing me how they can extinguish a fire, and then informs me that the Fire Department is no longer necessary and that I should cheer up because we are going to save a million dollars in tax money ( but my taxes are not going down), I do not think that I would be so cheery.
If Ann came up with a video showing me that if every man, woman and child in New Rochelle would make an autumn collage with fallen leaves and that then the City would no longer have to pick up leaves in bulk at curbside, I believe that there are nuts out there that would rejoice and declare that a solution has been found and we can sell all of the leaf loaders……PLEASE!
I sincerely hope that City officials understand that if they vote for this that they are sentencing the public to hours upon hours of back breaking work putting mountains of wet sloppy leaves into expensive paper bags every November for the rest of their natural lives, or until they get out of New Rochelle.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 05:35
Title: great

Factfinder,

thanks for giving me feedback on going to the site and looking at it. I appreciate your honesty.

Only time will tell how things catch on.

fact finder 96 (not verified) on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 04:04

Ann needs a reality check. She writes "the piles of leaves are inviting completely unprocessed other debris such as huge branches. This is not just because of Sandy"
HELLO!!!!Was it a figment of my imagination that the worst Hurricane in my lifetime just ripped through the northeast downing trees and doing unprecedented damage in New Rochelle, did I imagine that?
She goes on reminding us” We have an ordinance in New Rochelle requiring wood and branches to not be longer than 4 feet and be bundled in a manageable way”. She wonders “who was given the right to put long branches or even full trees in the street”? Did she miss something? How is it that neighboring municipalities are already clean, and have been for a week? How is it that New Rochelle argues about eliminating bulk pick up in the middle of a state of emergency and Ann tells homeowners that they are out of line because they have branches in the street? Eastchester and Yonkers did not begin a debate about who should pick up what, they got out there and cleaned up their jurisdiction….period.
Looking at a pile of leaves 5 feet high and 40 feet long, she insists that with a “ little bit of individual effort” it can all go away. Maybe in her fantasy world.
The people of New Rochelle better wake up and smell the coffee. These people are about to take away a service that has been in place for a generation. That equipment was bought and paid for by the taxpayers. The elimination of this service is an abdication of New Rochelle’s responsibility to maintain a level of essential services to its citizens.

newrochelledown... on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 23:18

I agree 100%...someone needs to slap Ann back into reality. WTFUCKY ANN !!! YOU ARE INSANE! I personally witness and called the city yard to complain about 5 trucks parked on perth and alpine for almost one hour and a half having breakfast at 7:30 am. ALL I KNOW IS I EAT BEFORE I GO TO WORK NOT DURING WORK. When I called to report them John said " oh they are waiting for their forman....he comes in at 7" When I mentioned it was 8:45 he said well i will make a call and find out what is going on. The problem as usual is unsupervised city workers not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Maybe Ann should get out there and police the city workers and leave the leaf clean up to them as well as stop making stupid suggestions. SHe seems to have a lot of time on her hands....can someone get her a job!

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 01:30

I would like you to explain in what way I am insane as you put it so nicely.

And please tell me what I have to do with sanitation guys sitting around?

I do commend you for calling it in though. That is great. And I am pleased that you have the time to watch them sit there for almost an hour and a half.

newrochelledown... on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 02:16

i was busy mulching my leaves

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 15:19

As a point of clarification, the City was picking up debris by the steam shovel-full in the period after Sandy. Debris was first taken to the Beechwood Avenue site where all such debris normally goes before being transferred out of New Rochelle. When that fill up the City began using alternate locations.

This issue of debris and leaf pick up was addressed by Chuck Strome at City Council where he half-heartedly stated that people were supposed to separate leaf and storm debris (ie, branches, tree limbs, etc.). He implicitly recognized that people were not going to do this in the wake of the storm. Also, he noted that FEMA would likely be reimbursing the City for these post-storm clean up costs which just so happened to coincide with leaf pick-up season.

Beechwood Avenue Leaf Transfer Station

DSC 5892

Beechwood Avenue Temporary Holding Area

DSC 5902

Hudson Park Temporary Holding Area

DSC 5883

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 05:03

Again, drive around the streets, there is lots and lots of gardening debris mixed in with the leaves that is not a result of Sandy.

I personally had 4 trees come down in my back yard, but it would not cross my mind to just lug these long branches or trunks to the street and dump them there unprocessed. It is one thing to cut up that tree and process the trunk and branches in a way that they can be actually picked up by human beings, but it is completely out of the question to make the sanitation workers pull out 12 foot long, 6 inch thick branches out of piles and piles of stuff.

And it is not true that New Rochelle is eliminating Bulk pick up in the middle of a State of Emergency. They want to implement a leaf bagging law for 2013.So cool your horses.

We still have piles and piles of stuff on the streets because it is so darn labor intensive to clean that up and the guys don't get much done in a day. And again, it is 5 guys working this, so 2 more then we have on usual yard debris runs.

And I know that the implementation of the Love'em and leave'em program in conjunction with next years leaf bagging law was planned well ahead of Sandy. Again, cool it.

You know, it is very easy to insist on keeping something that has been in place for years. But maybe it is time for you to wake up and smell the coffee, New Rochelle is broke, there is no nice way of putting it. Do you want to choose between having adequate fire fighters on the job, or cops, or that homeowners mulch or bag their stupid leaves?

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 15:30
Title: False choice

Anna you are presenting a false choice:

"Do you want to choose between having adequate fire fighters on the job, or cops, or that homeowners mulch or bag their stupid leaves?"

The City is proposing to break the tax levy cap and raise taxes 7%.

So what difference does it make to keep NRFD manning levels where they are and keep the leaf pick up?

We are told the City will "save" $550,000 by eliminating leaf pick up and limiting OT for firefighters.

I can save $50,000 immediately by eliminating the position of Sustainability Coordination.

"Do you want to choose between having adequate fire fighters on the job, or cops, or a woman paid to advocate that residents mulch or bag their stupid leaves?"

We can save another $50,000 by eliminating life time medical benefits for City Council people who serve 5+ years on Council.

We can reduce the City Council salaries by $10,000 and the Mayor by $40,000. That's $100,000.

I just got back your leaf pick up service and no cops or firefighters were impacted.

The City can enforce mandatory retirement at 62 and eliminate highly paid officials from the City work force, replacing them with subordinates who are paid less. That just saved you another $100,000.

The City can enforce building permit laws, collecting overdue fees and instituting fines. There is another $250,000.

OK? Now I have just saved leaf pick up and NRFD OT and taxes still go up 7%

Again...you are presenting a false choice.

I would start with getting rid of the ridiculous payments for a sustainability coordinator.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 19:11

Bob,

I agree with you that there are many many ways to save money. I did not mean to imply that cutting loose leaf pick up service is the only saving grace to keep fire fighters on the job.

But it is one of the ways to save money and it might just make more people looking at leaf mulching as alternative.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 19:43

Anna,

Other people are making this point more eloquently than I, here, but the cost of dealing with the leaves is not being "saved" it is being TRANSFERRED.

If people bag their own leaves there is a cost to that.

If people hire other people to bag their leaves there is a cost to that.

If people mulch their leaves their is a cost to that.

Whether people respond to the elimination of the leaf removal service by either of the three options above (or a combination), there is a cost that is now being borne by property owners.

What interests me is the total aggregate cost to property owners under these three options as opposed to all property owners paying their share of the $250,000 it costs the City to remove leaves. I have seen a few estimates here that suggest that the total aggregate cost to property owners will be 2-3 times that amount, or more.

Let's examine your hope for New Rochelle that we live in a world where everyone mulches their leaves. What do you estimate that cost will be in New Rochelle for the average property owner? I think you said they need blades on their lawnmowers or to have their landscapers add the blades. Their is some time involved as well. And not everyone will have the space needed.

Whatever you project that cost to be, then multiply that cost against the number of property owners in New Rochelle. Is that 10,000 parcels? 20,000 parcels?

I am going to guess that the total cost of what YOU propose is far greater than the $250,000 the City expects to "save" by not providing this service.

Now consider that we live in a free country and that property owners will have a choice and some will bag their leaves and some will mulch. I am going to say, to be wildly optimistic, that 10% will mulch and the rest will bag themselves or their landscapers will do it. Maybe you imagine a greater number?

Given this -- and please correct any of my assumptions so I can recalculate if you disagree with these SWAG numbers -- wouldn't the more obvious way to achieve your presumed goal (100% mulching of leaves) be to collect all the leaves as has been done in NR for many years and deliver them to a place that will mulch 100% of what is delivered to them?

The real point is that you are creating another false choice here: traditional leaf pick up or mulching. If the leaves are picked up as usual and delivered to a "mulcher" (is their such a word?) then you get what many residents here seem to want -- traditional leaf pick up -- and what you want -- mulching of all leaves.

In either case, it seems to me that your argument about the benefits of mulching leaves has nothing at all to do with the City eliminating the leaf pick up service as a way to reduce an expense item borne directly by the City and transfer that, in the forms of thousands of individual expenses items, to property owners.

Did I miss something?

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 12:51

Bob,

You are correct that some cost are transferred.

Did you watch the video in the link that I posted? What are your thoughts about that?

Let's look at your points

Leaf mulching option:

blades are 20$ and changing them consists of taking off one nut, taking off blade, putting new blade in place, putting nut back on. I am sure that your regular homeowner that is doing his own lawn care is able to do that without hardship and will also be able to store the one blade the size of an slightly longer ruler.

According to the videos on the website, it takes the same time to mow the lawn then it does to leafmulch. It does not take more fuel. One needs less time with the blower afterwards because the particles are much smaller. My landscapers are done with mowing within 6 minutes on a 1/3 acre property. What takes the time during grass clipping season is the edging and blowing.

Again, according to the video, it takes LESS time to leaf mulch then it does to blow all the leafs together.

Once the leaves are mulched, there is no need to bag anymore, no need to have anything picked up (and you got all the wonderful side effects of giving back to the soil and such, which is not to underestimate)

Leaf Removal:
Cost of bagging to homeowner

The cost of leaf bagging or putting them in open containers to homeowners is a bit more work and possibly the cost of bags. I think it is fully reasonable to expect homeowners to do that. Again, a homeowner would not dream of putting his trash out loosely, or his grass clippings. I don't know what these bags are, lets say $1.00 each? How many would one need per week during leaf season? My property would probably need 4, in bags one can compress them to a certain extend. So, lets say we have a 6 week leaf season, that would put me out $24.00.

The landscaping business is highly competitive and especially now in this economy. I would venture the guess that landscapers would rather suck up the cost of bags then raise prices, fearing that they loose the business. Many may choose to instead remove the leaves themselves on their trucks and dispose of them for 34$ per yard locally.

Also landscapers are working with 100$ per day guys, where as the city works with 60$ per hour guys.

Do we agree that the labor of picking up loose leaves with heavy equipment, open dumptrucks and 5 (60$) guys with rakes is much more labor intensive then throwing bags into the back of a normal dump truck?

I am saying, leaf mulching is the cheapest way to deal with leaves and the best for the environment. It leaves the nutrients in the yard, doesn't waste fossil fuels for unnecessary transport. But it is new, and change is hard, so it will take time and education for people to catch on.

Is it possible to get 100%? No way. But I would definitely think more then 10%. Irvington has had exponential growth since they started the public education about it. And it is going like wild fire through the communities for public spaces.

I am comparing the cost of loose leaf service vs bagged service.

I don't want to repeat myself, but loose leaf piles, left for a month at a time, invite other debris. Whereas bagged leaves, picked up once per week, will not attract other debris, at least not in the long, unmanageable form.

So, what may be open to discussion is whether the weekly run with 3 guys and a dumptruck is less, same or more expensive then the monthly run of heavy equipment and 5 guys.

I would love to know how many days the 5 guys take to do all of New Rochelle. I have seen them on my street today. They managed in the entire day to do not quite half of the street. Granted one house had huge and huge amounts, lining the entire 180ft of property line. They must have lost 5 trees in their back yard and they were all at the street.

What I also saw was a guy going ahead and taking piles apart already, pulling out the long branches and putting them on one side and keeping the leaves on the other side. It was quite something to see him struggle with 15 feet long branches, with all their side branches still on.

The leaves and yard debris are brought first to Beechmont Ave and then to outside of Westchester and we have to pay tipping fee. At that point, I don't even quite care anymore if they are mulched, composted or just left to rot, the environmental damage is done and we spent lots of labor and fuel on trucking valuable nutrients far away.

Have you calculated what it would do to New Rochelle if Westchester indeed cancelled its subsidies to leaf disposal cost? From 16$ per ton to the full amount? Plus suddenly all the fuel and labor cost to transport it up to outside Westchester?

I am standing to my initial statement, leaf bagging compared to loose leaves is cheaper for the community at large, but the best solution is leaf mulching, the more home owners do it, the merrier.

The leaf bagging thing is not new, most communities around us have it for years already, New Rochelle is just late to jump on the band wagon. New development is the leaf mulching for all communal areas and there New Rochelle is a front runner to implement it.

And last to your comment about "expense item borne directly by the City". No expense item is borne by the City, it is borne by all of us tax payers. It is just that this money only benefits certain layers of the population.

Timknows on Sat, 12/01/2012 - 01:48

Multiple times in this response you state, "According to the videos on the website". One question Anna, Do you have first hand experience mulching your leaves with a mower you personally change the blade on twice a year?

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 22:16

Anna,

Please stop repeating yourself and address my remarks.

I understand the mulching leaves entails putting a blade on a lawnmower and your believe that mulching is wonderful in many ways. I am not confused on these points so there is no need to re-explain your views again and again, and again, and again, and again.

Take a deep breath.

Note my concluding point: there is no relationship between whether the City does leaf pick up and whether leaves are mulched because you can do both, either way. Even your own optimistic hope is that 10% of property owners would mulch. That leaves 90% who will not and thus will bear the cost of a changed leaf pick up policy.

Therefore to bring mulching into this discussion is one of many examples of your conflating issues and presenting false choices in order to advance your recycling agenda at all costs. In the process of your exhibiting a degree of tone-deafness that is staggering. Combined, this goes a long way towards making people react negatively to your ideas regardless of their merit. This combined with your penchant for talking down to people is unhelpful to your cause.

If you could step back a moment from your myopia for just a moment, you might see that many residents are reacting to the elimination of loose leaf pickup as both a sign of the decline of the City and another example of the government "solving" the problems they created on the back of taxpayers. To wit, overly generous salaries, benefits and pensions, bad development choices and overall poor fiscal management have put this City in a hole and having screwed all that up they cry poor and increase taxes and fees and reduce or eliminate services.

Your harping (and yes, you are harping here) on the same point over and over and over and over again as to why mulching is wonderful is a case of ships passing in the night. You are not engaging with readers on this site you are talking past them.

By your same argument you make that cutting City services is a wonderful opportunity to buy mulching blades and learn how to mulch you can argue that the reduction in fire protection services is a wonderful opportunity for property owners to buy fire extinguishers and learn more about fire safety, or that the reduction in the size of the police force a wonderful opportunity for owners to buy handguns and learn about self-defense.

Others have questioned your understanding of how business works -- or lack thereof. You seem intent on confirming this perception by claiming landscapers would "suck up the cost of bags then raise prices". Do you really not understand that the cost of the bags themselves is only a small fraction of the cost of bagging leaves. The labor is a far large costs and I seriously doubt that landscapers -- who pay their workers by the hour -- are going to "suck up" that cost.

It is not that "some cost are transferred". All of the costs are transferred when the cost of leaf removal is being shifted from the City government to the individual property owners. And when you add up all those costs -- even if it is just $20 for a mulching blade for each property owner -- the "savings" by the City is still less than the cost to property owners.

Your response to me is to explain how a lawnmower blade is replaced, how long it takes to mow a lawn,

The issuing of bagging leaves is not about the cost of the bag any more than the cost of raking the leaves is the cost of the rake. The issue is the time involved and the cost of that time. There can be no disputing the fact that bagging leaves takes more time than not bagging them.

You say that one 1/3 acres parcel the cost of the bags would be $24.00. The blade is $20.00. How many parcels are there in New Rochelle? 10,000? 20,000?

The aggregate cost of a blade each year and the bags times 10,000 comes out to be $480,000; times 20,000 comes out to be $960,000. Whether a person does it themselves or hires someone else, that times has a value. Even at minimum wage of $7.25, doing this for one hour a week for 6 weeks comes out to be $43.25 a year per parcel or $432,500 to $865,000.

The total cost, even using these very low figures, comes out to be between $900,000 and $1,600,000. Let's just call is $1 million.

The City says it costs them $250,000 to provide this service as a single-source provider; the cost of of doing this at 10,000+ different points is four times that (conservatively). The City, however, gets to claim they "saved" residents money because their taxes are only going up 7% not 7.1%.

This strikes me a classic penny-wise pound-foolish type of political argument and certainly not an economic argument.

As for the level of mulching going on as a result? You have yet to make the case that more people will mulch because the cost of leaf removal increases and, as I have been saying, there is no connection between the elimination of this city service and mulching.

Ilovenr2 on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 22:10

I fully agree with you on this topic. You make so much sense!!

Andrew Newman on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 22:45

Given a choice of working my mulch pile or compost heap verse a fall round of golf or going to my kids lacrosse tournament, golf and lacrosse are going to win hands down. Given that choice I choose not to allocate additional funds to have someone else bag/mulch my leaves.

BMWCH's picture
BMWCH on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 20:32

Mulching and Composting are 2 different processes. Mulching is chopping the leaves into small size pieces and leaving (no pun intended) on the lawn itself. This layer breaks down with the help of worms and provides the lawn w a natural food source. Composting is the collecting of leaves and other organic materials in a designated pile resulting in the production of Compost after several months of decomposing. This Compost can be added to gardens and such as a fertilizer.

As stated there are way too many leaves to mulch in many areas of the city. After a couple of mulching passes over the lawns the remainder of leaves fallen would have to be collected and processed somewhere else. So if homeowners mulch or don't there is still a need for collecting the balance of the leaves not processed into the lawns. Composting piles lead to rodent and insect infestation and emit a nasty odor over time.

Let's keep city wide leaf collections and eliminate recycling collections where only 15% of collected items get recycled anyways...

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Thu, 11/29/2012 - 05:30

Thank you for the explanation. I apologize if I have not made it clear before that mulching and composting are completely different beasts.

Did you watch the video clip I posted. Did you see what becomes of the leaves when they are mulched?

You are incorrect with your statement that after a few mulching passes the remaining leaves would have to be collected.

Yes, we will not be able to leaf mulch ALL of New Rochelle, but what is your point.

You are misinformed that compost piles lead to rodents or insect infestations. Your garbage can full of food left over is much more attractive to the local raccoon.
Compost smells earthy, not nasty. Unless you put protein in it, which is not recommended for household use. It can be done in commercial composting facilities.

I am happy to educate you on composting do's and don't's. But then again, the slew of your comments showed that you are not the learning type anyways.

After some thought, I will debase myself to comment on your -again- completely uneducated statement about what percentage of collected items gets recycled. 92% of what is being collected is sold on to industry for recycling, Westchester has a 18% material recovery rate, which is higher then the nations average of 7% (compared to 62% in Western European countries). 62,000 tons of recyclables for Westchester alone. So, you are proposing to just give up the $730,000 monthly revenue that is coming out of the MRF? Do you know that you would instantly triple your garbage and yard debris removal cost?

But again, why do I waste my breath on you.

newrochelledown... on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 23:23

I'm going to mulch all my leaves and leave them at Ann's house for processing....any one with me?

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 01:33

great! I am glad....... you will see once you mulch your leaves, there is nothing left that might need processing.

And do make sure to come in for a cup of coffee.

Andrew Newman on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 16:20

Bob,

I would also include eliminating health and pension benefits for part time City Council members
$122,521.

Eliminating a full time admin for a part time Mayor. Salary and benefits
$129,494.

Eliminating health and pension benefits for a part time Mayor
$35,731.

For a grand total of:
$287,746 !!!!

Rick Shane on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 17:56

"A conversation between GOD and St. Francis about Suburbanites"
By Anna Giordano on Tue, 11/20/2012
GOD: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the World is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers weeds and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, sir -- just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stoke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the Winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It's a real stupid movie about.............

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Dennis Orzo on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 17:01
Title: Leaf Pick Up

Growing up in the Bronx, my only experience with leaves (yes trees do grow in the Bronx) was burning them and at the same time roasting potatoes in the fire. Back in the fifties and sixties we could burn leaves but eventually that wonderful smell of burning leaves in the fall was gone for good. During 1970 I married a girl from New Rochelle and for our first year we lived in Croton-on-Hudson. The very next year we moved to New Rochelle and since that time I had been taking care of yard maintenance until the demands of job and family made it more practical to turn over mowing and leaf cleanup to a gardener. However, before that ever happened I tried many ways to deal with leaf cleanup. I tried mulching mowers but spent more time under the mower trying to clear out wet leaves and grass that would clog up the mower deck. I tried raking but a bad back and a half acre of land did me in. I eventually purchased a leaf vacuum attachment for my snow blower and began sucking up colorful little critters. That worked great for a few years until the piles of leaves at the rear of my property just seemed to grow, smell, and attract rodents. The neighbors complained and wanted the pile removed and also wanted me to pay them to have their leaves removed because they believed they were my leaves. I’m not sure why they had such a problem with the rodents since they were originally introduced when the builder of the townhomes on the adjacent property used the compost and leaf debris from the city yard to fill in their seven plus acres of property. It was at that point I hired a gardener to handle the problem and move the leaves curbside.

By the way, in one of the comments to this subject in another part of the blog, I read that the carbon from composting is returned to the soil. Not so fast, I don’t think Al Gore would give us carbon credits for that one. Ask the people who own homes in that townhome complex who watched tons of their carbon rich compost just disappear before their eyes and the step from their back door go from four inches to two feet. Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t that carbon return to the air? If not, then what made their land disappear?

So the question still comes down to mulch, and/or, bag or no bag. As I said, I tried mulching and had little success if any. I have seen all the mulching videos, from mulching dry leaves in a YouTube commercial for a landscaping service, to one where the leaves just seem to disappear on hard ground as the mower is driven backwards. Well I guess I can still say I have never seen a brochure I didn’t like. One thing I’m sure of, there isn’t a politician who will say they haven’t thought out all the consequences of bagging leaves and that doing so is the best solution. I’m sure a great deal of thought went into what happens when a car, rather than accidentally driving into a pile of leaves, plows through fifty or so bags of leaves. I’m sure someone checked the physics associated with that. I’m also sure we have forgotten how concerned we were about the dangers of children playing in leaf piles. I can only imagine how easy it would be to lose sight of a child playing behind a whole pile of leaf bags. Not to worry though, I’m sure that the yard waste trucks will be around week after week making sure all those bags are off the street

For those of you who want to remember your childhood in the fall, take a few handfuls of leaves and burn them in your BBQ. You could also throw a few potatoes in for good measure.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 22:28

D,

Carbon, used in the context of being returned to the soil, is a composting lingo. To have a successful compost, one needs a certain ratio of Carbon and Nitrogen containing materials. Leaves are very high on the carbon scale.

Of course, when you are mulching leaves, the nutrients in the leaves are being returned to the soil.

So, no need to call Al on that :))

I am doing compost for years now and unless you have put proteins in yours, there is no smell and no rodent issue. There are many commercially available drum type compost bins out there, that do not allow any access for squirrels or such, and rats are only drawn to protein.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 04:21

One also cannot blow leaves when they are wet.

And the sheer volume of leaves on some properties does not change the feasibility of this solution, because, lots of trees usually means less area of grass due to the shading factor. However, with all issues in life, if you stay on top of things, such as either mulching regularly or using a combination of blowing together and mulching you should be ok.

"Loaders and trucks to give the citizen the service they deserve" costs a lot of money to everybody, and not just the homeowner with the large property and the lots of trees.

I think, I am in the real world, taking responsibility for what I create. This discussion is about the feeling of entitlement. Are we entitled to place our own convenience on the shoulders of others?

newrochelledown... on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 02:23

NO sense of entitlement ANN, we pay taxes for a service and the service should be done and done well. All the towns around us seem to do a great job at it.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 02:38

Again, a lot of towns around us HAVE already bagged leaf laws.

Yes, we are paying taxes, and a lot of it, but burning it on labor intensive loose leaf pick up services, only means that we will either raise taxes somewhere else or loose other kinds of services.

Isn't that what this is about? Using our tax money wisely and in the best interest of the whole community? As Bob has pointed out somewhere in the thread, there are many many places where we can cut cost, this is one of these places.

The service of leaf pick up and tax payer money paying for disposal will still continue, it is just going to be in a less labor intensive form.

But then again, as you are already busy mulching your leaves, you won't need it anyways. Do you want me to show you how to compost?

Andrew Newman on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 04:44

Your conclusion gives excellent insight into the greatest weakness of the entire environmental/sustainability movement The failure to understand and comprehend that the primary purpose of establishing a business is to generate and grow profits.

While you seem to believe the use of leaf mulching blades or leaf bagging would have minimal or no impact on landscaping business operations, I believe it would have a significant impact on these concerns and what homeowners would ultimately have to pay to comply with these regulations.

I will create a simple case study and we can analyze how this would play out.

Let us speculate that using leaf mulching blades would add 30 minutes to the time necessary to complete a lawn job during the fall months. If the average job took 60 minutes to complete it now takes 90 minutes to do it. If a crew is on the job for eight hours a day, using standard blades and leaf blowers, 8 lawns could be completed in a day. However using the mulching blades adds 30 minutes to each job. Now only 5 lawns can be completed in a work day. A 37.5% reduction in output. Let's also assume that the mulching blades require more fuel to operate again increasing costs and reducing profits. If landscapers are required to bag leaves lets assume it would take an additional hour to complete a job. 8 lawns in a typical day now becomes 4. A 50% reduction in output !

As a business owner I am sure you would be concerned if daily operations declined by 37.5 or 50 percent. I know I would be in this case. You have several options available to you.

1. Do nothing, accept that this is the cost of doing business. Reluctantly accept a major haircut on earnings.

2. Increase productivity. I am not sure new equipment exists today that would increase productivity by such large amounts, but for arguments sake lets say it did. It would require a large capital outlay which might require several years to achieve a breakeven payback. Small business financing is extremely difficult right now. A small business owner might have to pay on the order 15% to obtain financing, adding to the expense of doing an equipment upgrade.

3. Pass the cost increase onto customers. Given the current economic climate this decision would not be warmly received by client base.

4. Seek to reduce wages to current staff in order to make up for reduced productivity. This action would not be popular among staff. Many would likely seek employment elsewhere.

5. Expand headcount in order to offset output decline, cutting directly into profit margin.

6. Ignore the bagging/mulching regulation and continue to blow leaves into the street.

7. Lobby City of New Rochelle to continue leaf collection as is.

8. Discontinue doing business in New Rochelle, reduce headcount.

Anna what choice would you make ?

As you can all of the choices offered would be painful and difficult to implement. This is an excellent case study on how increased regulation/mandates only increases costs to businesses and to consumers.

If you truly believe the collection of leaves for mulching is such a spectacular idea why don't you set up a for profit operation to collect the leaves and process them into mulch and sell mulch on a for profit basis. I am sure the City would welcome your efforts with open arms. Maybe you could establish a not for profit to do it. Gosh, if Noam thinks he will be able to raise $19 million in donations for his fruit stand/restaurant concept raising $3 to $4 million for this project should be a snap. Actions like this offer New Rochelle homeowners a better alternative as they are not forced to absorb a reduction in services via higher landscaping fees.

Unfortunately I do not believe processing the leaves into mulch on a for profit basis would be profitable nor do I believe that you would be able to secure the funding for this project on a not for profit basis.

As a property owner in this community, I pay property taxes to the City, the County and the school system. In return I receive services. I expect that people overseeing these services manage the process in a fiscally responsible fashion. However, I have consistently been presented tax increases well above the rate of inflation to the point that my property taxes have doubled since I moved to this community a decade ago. This failure to control costs in effect is a default to property owners of this community. I don't ask for much, I want police & fire protection, regular collection of my trash, passable roads, plowed streets when it snows and the city to remove the organic biodegradable material that my property products each Fall. In addition to being forced to bear the burden of excessive tax increases we are now being asked to accept reductions in the services we pay for. This also represents a form of default ! If the City wants to reduce the services that I am provided, fine. But accordingly I should receive a reduction in what I pay to the City in taxes. In my previous response I outlined what the problem is, it is unsustainable compensation and benefits structure that is completely out of step with what prevails in the private sector. Given the changes in the Federal tax code, which will most certainly limit state and local tax deductions, home prices in high tax states will be increasingly driven by changes in property taxes rates. If our taxes continue to increase at the current pace housing prices in this area will continue to lag the national market. This issue at hand is not bagging leaves it is the continued failure of the City government of New Rochelle and the City School District of New Rochelle.

New Rochelle taxpayers have bravely weathered this mismanagement storm and the suggestion that they should pay out of pocket for this service reduction is absurd. You have stated that you will mulch your own leaves and you have the right to do that. I will admit that I find your suggestion interesting and will likely explore the feasibility of mulching my own leaves. I have the necessary space and taking this extra step is not a major inconvenience FOR ME. For others that might be the case. Perhaps they do not have enough property to create a composting area, maybe the time, material or financial commitment is too great. I have no problem with mulching or bagging as long as participation is voluntary and no mandates are involved.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 05:31

I doubt that your speculation of a 30 min per yard increase in time is reasonable. However, I will go and interview a few landscapers that are successfully doing this to get a better idea.

Your arguments of tax increases entitling you to be able to pile your leaves for loose pick ups, inviting all kinds of other garden debris just thrown in, in my eyes do not hold water. During grass clipping season, do you just pile your loose clippings at the street?

Again, why waste resources on loose leaf pick up, (resources the city clearly doesn't have), when a little bit of personal effort can streamline the process tremendously.

Unfortunately, if voluntary worked, there would not be a need for any laws.

If you drive around New Rochelle, you will see piles and piles, all very very labor intensive to be picked up as I have described earlier.

Each loose leaf pick up day costs us tax payer 5 guys (most at nearly 60$ per hr) heavy equipment that guzzles fuel, and they get at the most one street done per day. Plus of course the transporting cost and tipping fee.

Having leaves bagged, a 3 guy crew can pick up hundreds of houses per run. In my eyes, an absolute no brainer.

In any case, I agree with you that our taxes are out of control and that there are many many ways of how changes to the system should all add up to big savings. All hoping of course, that these savings then filter back to the tax payers.....(wishful thinking on my part, maybe?)

Andrew Newman on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 15:35

The premise for rejecting my assumptions is based on what evidence ? Somehow I don't think you have any experience in managing a for profit landscaping company. Additionally you have failed to answer the question I asked.

If you were the owner of a landscaping company how would you address the bagging issue ?

Even if the additional time added to a typical job is mere 15 minutes it will still reduce daily output by approximately 25%.

The City has stated that bagging leaves will save $250,000 annually, 0.1634% of a $153 million budget. Let's run through the math once again. There are roughly 20,000 households in New Rochelle. Let us also assume that half of these households have yards which require maintenance. Of the 10,000 properties that fall into this bucket 5,000 of them have contracted professional landscaping services. The managers of the landscaping companies, that serve New Rochelle, decide to charge an additional fee for leaf bagging/mulching. The fee would be $200, (approximately the same cost as the standard monthly maintenance fee). 5,000 x $200 = $1,000,000 (plus $87,500 of sales tax). This does not even include a valuation of the costs for the households that do their own landscaping.

So the City saves $250,000 and homeowners get slapped with a $1,000,000+ of additional costs. This is the type of financial mismanagement that driven us to the fiscal conditions we currently find ourselves in.

As I have stated before the most prudent decision is to continue leaf service as is and aggressively seek to reform the cost and benefit structure of City government.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 04:24

No, I am not a landscaper and neither are you, I presume?

I did not answer your question because your entire speculation was based on a number that I considered not reasonable.

I do not think that my tax money should be used to make sure that landscapers have a large enough profit margin, and I also don't think that homeowners that have a property generating that many leaves that it would be a burden to them to bag them, should place this burden on other tax payers.

I agree with you that we need to aggressively seek to reform the cost and benefit structure of the city, and this falls in exactly that. 250,000 ( in my eyes grossly under estimated And it ONLY takes the New Rochelle Tax cost into consideration, not the Westchester Portion of that cost, which is another 500.000, paid by our County Taxes)

So we are actually looking at a 750,000 tax layout for leaf removal, when we could much more aggressively mulch them, and streamline the pick ups tremendously. Each New Rochelle tax dollar saved, saves $2.oo on the Westchester end of the deal.

I really don't care what percentage it is in the city budget, every dollar saved helps and every household that will start leaf mulching, instead of treating leaves as trash is great.

Andrew Newman on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 04:26

No, I am not a landscaper but I have extensive experience in paying landscaping bills. The local market is competitive so I have a good idea what people are paying for lawn services.

I have offered what I believe to be a rational and logical analysis of the costs related to leaf bagging. You disagree with my analysis (which is fine) but are unwilling to offer an alternative method of analysis. You simply state my numbers are incorrect and I should accept that at face value. Your unwillingness to provide evidence or thoughtful analysis is clear indication that your conclusions hold no weight. You go so far as to claim the City's estimate of cost savings ($250,000) is incorrect and arrive at an arbitrary figure of $750,000 by interjecting the cost to Westchester County. Westchester County has nothing to do with the collection of leaves in the City of New Rochelle. The costs the County faces is related to the transportation of leaves once they have been collected. Thus the bagged vs loose question is not a factor related to these costs. Mandating a City wide leaf bagging requirement would impose millions of dollars of additional costs to the residents of New Rochelle with minimal saving for the City. That is obvious. Your thesis has lost all of it's air and it is time for everyone to move on.

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Wed, 11/28/2012 - 01:40

I had to smile about your comment about having extensive experience in paying landscapers bills.

I have not offered an alternative number because I said I would interview some people with experience in that. Not to blow you off, but to get some true figures. There is no sense in you speculating one way and I am speculating another way.

It is not true that Westchester has nothing to do with our leaves. Westchester Ct pays an additional 160% of the tipping fee of our leaves. And it pays for all the of the transportation cost from the Beechmont Ave transfer station to the municipal composting site way north of Westchester Ct. New Rochelle pays 16$ per ton, and Westchester the rest to the actual cost of 43$ per ton. And get this, Westchester Gov is considering cutting the subsidies to the yard waste management. Then we are really in trouble.

BTW, Eastchester and Tuckahoe both have leaf bagging laws already in place, same as Greenburgh.

I really think you are overstating it by saying "it will impose millions of dollars of additional cost to the residents of New Rochelle"

BMWCH's picture
BMWCH on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 15:52

Don't expect answers to direct inquiries from this or other similar types of persons. Rather hit you w more jive and speculation.

How dare your facts get in the way of their utopian fantasy!

I applaud you for exposing movements like this for what they are...

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Tue, 11/27/2012 - 04:22

I had asked you a direct question and you did not answer to that. Instead you are hitting me with more regular criticism.

And please explain your comment "exposing movements like this for what they are"

I am sitting on the edge of my chair in suspense.....

Andrew Newman on Mon, 11/26/2012 - 04:44

Your conclusion gives excellent insight into the greatest weakness of the entire environmental/sustainability movement The failure to understand and comprehend that the primary purpose of establishing a business is to generate and grow profits.

While you seem to believe the use of leaf mulching blades or leaf bagging would have minimal or no impact on landscaping business operations, I believe it would have a significant impact on these concerns and what homeowners would ultimately have to pay to comply with these regulations.

I will create a simple case study and we can analyze how this would play out.

Let us speculate that using leaf mulching blades would add 30 minutes to the time necessary to complete a lawn job during the fall months. If the average job took 60 minutes to complete it now takes 90 minutes to do it. If a crew is on the job for eight hours a day, using standard blades and leaf blowers, 8 lawns could be completed in a day. However using the mulching blades adds 30 minutes to each job. Now only 5 lawns can be completed in a work day. A 37.5% reduction in output. Let's also assume that the mulching blades require more fuel to operate again increasing costs and reducing profits. If landscapers are required to bag leaves lets assume it would take an additional hour to complete a job. 8 lawns in a typical day now becomes 4. A 50% reduction in output !

As a business owner I am sure you would be concerned if daily operations declined by 37.5 or 50 percent. I know I would be in this case. You have several options available to you.

1. Do nothing, accept that this is the cost of doing business. Reluctantly accept a major haircut on earnings.

2. Increase productivity. I am not sure new equipment exists today that would increase productivity by such large amounts, but for arguments sake lets say it did. It would require a large capital outlay which might require several years to achieve a breakeven payback. Small business financing is extremely difficult right now. A small business owner might have to pay on the order 15% to obtain financing, adding to the expense of doing an equipment upgrade.

3. Pass the cost increase onto customers. Given the current economic climate this decision would not be warmly received by client base.

4. Seek to reduce wages to current staff in order to make up for reduced productivity. This action would not be popular among staff. Many would likely seek employment elsewhere.

5. Expand headcount in order to offset output decline, cutting directly into profit margin.

6. Ignore the bagging/mulching regulation and continue to blow leaves into the street.

7. Lobby City of New Rochelle to continue leaf collection as is.

8. Discontinue doing business in New Rochelle, reduce headcount.

Anna what choice would you make ?

As you can all of the choices offered would be painful and difficult to implement. This is an excellent case study on how increased regulation/mandates only increases costs to businesses and to consumers.

If you truly believe the collection of leaves for mulching is such a spectacular idea why don't you set up a for profit operation to collect the leaves and process them into mulch and sell mulch on a for profit basis. I am sure the City would welcome your efforts with open arms. Maybe you could establish a not for profit to do it. Gosh, if Noam thinks he will be able to raise $19 million in donations for his fruit stand/restaurant concept raising $3 to $4 million for this project should be a snap. Actions like this offer New Rochelle homeowners a better alternative as they are not forced to absorb a reduction in services via higher landscaping fees.

Unfortunately I do not believe processing the leaves into mulch on a for profit basis would be profitable nor do I believe that you would be able to secure the funding for this project on a not for profit basis.

As a property owner in this community, I pay property taxes to the City, the County and the school system. In return I receive services. I expect that people overseeing these services manage the process in a fiscally responsible fashion. However, I have consistently been presented tax increases well above the rate of inflation to the point that my property taxes have doubled since I moved to this community a decade ago. This failure to control costs in effect is a default to property owners of this community. I don't ask for much, I want police & fire protection, regular collection of my trash, passable roads, plowed streets when it snows and the city to remove the organic biodegradable material that my property products each Fall. In addition to being forced to bear the burden of excessive tax increases we are now being asked to accept reductions in the services we pay for. This also represents a form of default ! If the City wants to reduce the services that I am provided, fine. But accordingly I should receive a reduction in what I pay to the City in taxes. In my previous response I outlined what the problem is, it is unsustainable compensation and benefits structure that is completely out of step with what prevails in the private sector. Given the changes in the Federal tax code, which will most certainly limit state and local tax deductions, home prices in high tax states will be increasingly driven by changes in property taxes rates. If our taxes continue to increase at the current pace housing prices in this area will continue to lag the national market. This issue at hand is not bagging leaves it is the continued failure of the City government of New Rochelle and the City School District of New Rochelle.

New Rochelle taxpayers have bravely weathered this mismanagement storm and the suggestion that they should pay out of pocket for this service reduction is absurd. You have stated that you will mulch your own leaves and you have the right to do that. I will admit that I find your suggestion interesting and will likely explore the feasibility of mulching my own leaves. I have the necessary space and taking this extra step is not a major inconvenience FOR ME. For others that might be the case. Perhaps they do not have enough property to create a composting area, maybe the time, material or financial commitment is too great. I have no problem with mulching or bagging as long as participation is voluntary and no mandates are involved.

BMWCH's picture
BMWCH on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 16:59
Title: Not True

The gardener's powerful equipment enables them to move pounds and pounds of leaves in all conditions including just after rainstorms and even during rainfall.

Leaves also do not drop like apples or oranges straight down and are sent airborn drifting for several feet across streets and down boulevards. Often the lawn with the least trees receives the highest number of leaves due to an open cannopy versus a lawn with many trees on it providing cover.

I asked my gardener if mulching was feasible and he replied 'no, there's too many arpound here'.

That's the problem you delude yourself to thinking you are in the real world rather than actually dwelling in same.

Can't wait til those natural gas powered mowers and leaf blowers are on the market that use nat. gas fracked out of New York State...

Anna Giordano's picture
Anna Giordano on Fri, 11/23/2012 - 22:05

I am wondering what your gardener means by "arpounds", or is it just a typo?

We have several issues here : what to do with the leaves : remove or mulch, and if one chooses the "remove" solution, how to do it: next to compost, pile in street, lots of bags on street.

The pile in street solution has been done so far and with any change, especially change that requires a bit more personal involvement, it is easiest to insist on doing it just like that. However when you drive around the streets of New Rochelle, the piles of leaves are inviting completely unprocessed other debris such as huge branches.
That is not just because of Sandy.

We have an ordinance in New Rochelle requiring wood and branches to not be longer then 4 ft and be bundled in a manageable way. Usually during the grass growing season, (where you do not find grass piles on the street but neatly bagged grass clippings)homeowners abide by that rule, or it just will not be picked up on the weekly runs. But during leaf time, it seems like it is a free for all, which makes the pick up so incredibly labor intensive.

Isn't the point that we are all weighed down by the amount of taxes we have to pay, but when it comes to an area where a little bit of individual effort can save a lot of communal money, suddenly we all insist it is our given right to put long branches, or even full trees out to be picked up by sanitation workers, at the expense of others? And all mixed in with piles of leaves, which makes it even harder. There is no big vacuum cleaner coming along, it is heavy equipment, bunches of guys, idling diesel vehicles. All very costly to all of us. And let us not forget about the transporting cost (of essentially air, when it comes to leaves) and the tipping fees our tax money pays for.

Did you show your gardener the video about mulch mowing? Did he know about it?

So, what do you want to have happen, just keep on going with the old ways? Then you are not different from what the city administration is being accused of doing.....just singing the same old tune. Change can only happen if people are willing to change, to get involved, to try something different, to put themselves out there. But sure....it is so much easier to just sit back and criticize.

I completely support the leaf bagging law, however I personally will mulch and compost my leaves. Here you have it.

TreePro (not verified) on Thu, 11/22/2012 - 17:25
Title: leaf removal

From The Centers for Disease Control on how to help keep your property safest from ticks.

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/in_the_yard.html

'Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.'

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