By Kamen Kessler
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — A strange large red vehicle is often seen on the city streets of DeWitt in late fall heading into winter. Often times, the streets of cities are cluttered with leaf debris, but this large vacuum vehicle helps to keep the beautiful city clean for not only businesses, but also residents.
DeWitt is unique in the fact it is recognized as a Tree City USA, by the National Arbor Day Foundation, honoring its commitment to community forest for the seventeenth year, according to the DeWitt city website.
DeWitt meets the four standards of a Tree City USA, by having a tree board department, a tree care ordinance, and a comprehensive community forestry program. The final standard is to have a citywide Arbor Day observance, according to the DeWitt city website.
With the commitment to uphold these standards a leaf pick up program was introduced, Teresa Bevier, a Dewitt Township administrative assistant said, “DeWitt has had the leaf pick up program for at least the 19 years I have been here.”
The program has four major sections with the first being Oct. 12-16, which is a citywide sweep. The second date range is Oct. 26-30 and then Nov. 9-13, where the vacuum starts on the North side of DeWitt, while the third is Oct. 19-23, Nov. 2-6, and Nov. 16-20 on South side of DeWitt. The final general citywide sweep takes place Nov. 23-25, according to Bevier.
The city conducts this program with use of a leaf vacuum, but certain items such as garden trash, boards, sticks, rocks, and other items that cannot easily be sucked up by the vacuum are prohibited from being in leaf piles created by residents, according to Bevier.
Leaves are also prohibited from being placed in the street by residents, as it is deemed a safety concern by the city, but leaves must be near the street edge to be able to be reached by the city leaf vacuum.
Following pick up, leaves are taken to a composing facility near the DeWitt Cemetery to be disposed of according to, DeWitt Charter Township Manager Rod Taylor.
“I think the program is really good for the city, it prevents people from burning leaves which is just horrible,” said DeWitt resident John Leg.
The City of DeWitt prohibits the burning of leaves, according to Bevier.
Leg said, if a bunch of people started burning leaves the city would stink horribly, but believes in his estimation the program removes about 90 percent of the leaves, and for the most part this is a non-issue.
“Its a good program, that is really easy to take park in. When they come to your section of the city, just have a pile on the curb and all the other work is done by them.” Leg said.
Bevier said, “I would say about 75 percent of the residents use it, we offer other programs like a Christmas tree pick up, and snow removal as well, so residents really take advantage of what we offer.”
Taylor said, “Unfortunately the program is only offered in the City of DeWitt and not the township. Due to the size of the township it would be a large expense for residents, and we have not had anyone reach out to us in support for the program.”
Taylor said, “To keep our millage rate down for taxpaying residents, near one of the lowest in the urbanized greater Lansing area, we do not really host programs like this because we feel residents have alternatives.”
Mitchell L. Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning said, programs for cities are truly a balance between budget and desires of the citizens.
Taylor believes that instead of relying on a government program, residents have the ability to take removal into their own hands.
“If you rake and bag yourself I know waste services will take the trash away like normal, and under special circumstances the city will help clean up, such as after a bad storm, but there are no formal programs we are looking into right now. Although, the city will probably keep conducting this program, as often times they have existed a long time,” said Taylor.