Photo by Jon Anderson
Santek leaf pickup 1-18-17
Sam Dillender, the head of Santek Waste Services' Alabama operations, rakes leaves to a truck vacuum on Eden Ridge Circle in Hoover, Alabama, to help the company get caught up in leaf collection, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017.
Officials with Santek Waste Services and the city of Hoover say they are working to address an avalanche of complaints about slow or no leaf pickup.
Some parts of the city were skipped entirely on the first round of leaf collection, and Santek Waste Services has been behind schedule as it tries to catch up, City Administrator Allan Rice said.
The drought added to the problem, said Sam Dillender, general manager for Santek’s Alabama operations. The leaves were dry but tended to stay on the trees, but once the rain finally came, most of the leaves fell at one time, creating a massive dump of leaves on the ground, Dillender said.
It’s taking crews longer to vacuum up the leaves because there are more of them than usual on the ground at this time of the year, he said.
“It’s not that the city has any more leaves,” Dillender said. “It’s just a question of when they fell.”
From October 2015 to March 2016, Santek crews picked up more than 1,250 tons of leaves in Hoover, and they expect the season totals to be about the same this time around, Dillender said.
But so far this season, Santek crews actually have collected 297 more tons of leaves than they had at this point last year, he said.
Still, many residents have been upset that they raked their leaves to the curb on schedule, and no one has come by to pick them up.
Adding to the problem was that Santek’s contract with the city requires it to have nine leaf pickup trucks operating in the city at all times during the pickup season, but due to some maintenance issues, one truck was down for a while, Rice said.
The city’s contract with Santek allows it to fine the company $500 for every day it fails to have nine operable leaf trucks on the streets, city attorney Phillip Corley Jr. said.
The contract also allows the city to fine Santek $200 for each complaint it fails to rectify within 24 hours and $400 if it fails to rectify a second complaint from the same address within 24 hours, Corley said.
Rice said the city has not yet exercised its right to fine Santek. Instead, the city has met with Santek officials and believes the company is working in good faith to resolve the problems, he said.
Here are some of the steps being taken, according to Rice and Dillender:
- Leaf collection crews are working at least six days a week (instead of five) and working 10-hour days (instead of eight-hour days) to catch up.
- Santek now has nine operable leaf collection trucks working.
- Santek has added a knuckle boom truck to assist with leaf collection.
- Managers, including Dillender, are assisting on leaf collection routes to help get caught up and troubleshoot.
- Additional helpers have been hired to assist in areas where there are more leaves and more raking is required.
- Santek is temporarily using a transfer station it owns in Bessemer as a leaf drop point to lessen the time trucks spend on the road to dispose of their loads. The usual drop point is the Jefferson County landfill in the Mt. Olive community in north Jefferson County, where the leaves are added to dirt used to stimulate a grass cover for the landfill. There once was a location off Shannon-Oxmoor Road that accepted leaves and limbs, but it closed in 2015, Dillender said. Santek and Hoover officials are talking to Jefferson County and Bessemer officials to try to identify an alternate leaf drop location.
Dillender said Santek as of Wednesday had four trucks back on the regular leaf collection schedule, four trucks doing catch-up work and one floater truck trouble-shooting complaints.
He hoped to be completely back on schedule by the end of this weekend, he said.
Rice said city officials will be monitoring leaf collection progress more closely. He encouraged residents who have problems to call the Hoover Public Works Department at 444-7543 because that department has a good system to track and resolve complaints.
Hoover has divided the city into six zones for leaf collection, and each zone is supposed to have leaves picked up four times between Oct. 31 and April 14.
Here is the schedule for the remainder of this pickup season:
- Jan. 16-20 — Zone 4 (south of Patton Chapel/Chapel Rd), north of I-459, west of U.S. 31)
- Jan. 23-27 — Zone 5 (south of I-459, west of U.S. 31, Cahaba River Estates, Oak Park and The Woodlands)
- Feb. 6-10 — Zone 6 (south of I-459, east of U.S. 31 including Greystone) and Zone 1 (north of Tyler Rd), east and west of I-65)
- Feb. 13-17 — Zone 2 (north of I-459, east of U.S. 31)
- Feb. 20-24 — Zone 3 (south of Tyler Road, north of Patton Chapel, west of U.S. 31)
- Feb. 27-March 3 — Zone 4
- March 13-17 — Zone 5
- March 20-24 — Zones 6 & 1
- March 27-31 — Zone 2
- April 3-7 — Zone 3
- April 10-14 — Zone 4