GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Lawn contractors will get raked over the coals if they get caught dumping leaves illegally in roadways.
Municipal officials are stepping up enforcement of leaf rules.
"It's illegal dumping in the roadway," said Dan Jensen, chief of public safety.
Warnings come first.
"When we start advising (contractors), if we get attitude, they're going to get a ticket then and there," Jensen said. "Residents are a little different."
Yet, they're part of the problem.
Farms officials are tired of people abusing the city's curbside leaf pickup service.
"Our ordinances are being ignored," said Councilman Louis Theros. "People and their lawn services are putting tremendous amounts of leaves in the roadway, blocking whole lanes of traffic days and days ahead of their leaf collection."
Theros helped draft an ordinance specifying leaves be stored between the sidewalk and curb until the night before scheduled pickup, typically the day after rubbish collection.
The evening before leaf pickup, leaves can be moved into the road against the curb.
"People are putting them out on Saturday, and their leaf collection may not be until Thursday," Theros said. "This blocks our streets. It clogs our sewers."
It's also a safety issue.
"I was driving down the street the other day and, all of a sudden, some kid's head pops out of pile of leaves on the road," Theros said. "His parents put the entire pile in the road."
Farms public works crews hauled away 1,000 tons of leaves for composting so far this season.
The figure exceeds the weight of leaves hauled at this time last year, according to City Manager Shane Reeside.
He attributes the increase to lawn service crews skipping out on contractual obligations to haul customers' leaves. Some contractors may dump leaves in the Farms from other communities, he added.
Either way, the public pays the contractor's expenses.
"My lawn service, instead of taking them away as in previous years, put them in the street," said Councilman Peter Waldmeir. "They're saving money by not having to carry them away and relying on the city to do it. I called them and said, 'Take them away. I pay for this.'"
Grosse Pointe Shores officials have a similar complaint.
As in the Farms, Shores residents receive roadside municipal leaf pickup.
Unlike in the Farms, roadside service in the Shores excludes leaves raked by contractors. Contractors must haul their own leaves, according to ordinance.
"It's not effective at all," said Councilman Bruce Bisballe.
"It's in (contractors') best interest to dump and run," added Brett Smith, director of public works.
While Farms officials plan new rounds of public information and enforcement campaigns, Shores counterparts may require lawn services to register at city hall.
Registration would apply to contractors with more than two or three accounts, thereby excluding small-time operators, such as students.
Spread the word
In the Farms, planning consultant, John Jackson, recommended the city issue warnings to residents before tickets.
"You don't want to be too heavy handed," Jackson told the council.
He also advised increased public information of the leaf policy, which is a regular autumn feature in the city newsletter.
"You have to constantly reissue that same message in multiple ways," Jackson said.
Mayor James Farquhar suggested distributing a notice with tax bills.
"At a certain point, it has to go from encouragement to enforcement," Theros said.
Jensen said he doesn't want officers sidetracked as "leaf police."
"I'm concerned if the public safety department goes after this in the manner we may need to go after, we could be in for a little ridicule," Jensen said.
He added, "In the past four weeks, we've responded to or had four, possibly five, shootings between Mack and Chandler Park (on Detroit's eastside). In the latest, on Cadieux and Harper, the victims ended up on Mack.