"This is the first year that we've done this," said Tom Bridger, public works director.
The two machines were received by the city a little over a week ago. "We've been out working with them, getting used to them, seeing how they're going to work when we get them out on the streets," said Bridger.
The machines' vacuum heads are mounted on arms which are guided with hydraulics. The machines mulch the leaves after they are sucked up. The collected mulch will be dumped at the city compost site.
Bridger said the machines are only for leaves. "No limbs at all," he said. Residents should continue to take their limbs to the city compost site. Also, residents who don't want to wait for the machines or miss their pickup dates can still take their leaves to the compost site themselves, Bridger said.
The machines are not self-propelled and are too large to tow with pickup trucks. "For the time being, we'll probably tow one with a tractor and one with a dump truck," said Bridger.
With cooperation from residents, Bridger said the leaf removal machines will alleviate the problem with leaves clogging grates and storm sewers.
"Especially if people put the leaves where they are supposed to," said Bridger. "For those areas that have sidewalks, place them between the sidewalk and the back edge of the curb. Those that don't have sidewalks should place them within a four- or five-foot area back of the curb or street."
Pushing the leaves over the curb into the gutter does not only cause problems, "it is something that is against city ordinances," said Bridger.
Bridger asked residents to not pile their leaves near the street too early to prevent them from blowing out into the street and gutters. "You really need to wait and place your leaves there the week you are scheduled," said Bridger.
Officials split the city into eight districts - four north of Malone and four south of Malone - for leaf collection purposes. "Both machines will be working the same target areas at the same time," said Bridger.
The districts were drawn up roughly along the same lines used for the street sweeping program which will run in conjunction with the leaf pickups.
Bridger estimated the leaf collectors would need about a week for each district. "It's really difficult to predict since this is our first year," he said. "We're estimating at this point of time but we think we can proceed at a pretty good pace."
The schedule is as follows:
Monday the street department will begin with District 1, which is comprised of neighborhoods south of Malone and west of the railroad tracks.
District 2, which includes neighborhoods east of the railroad tracks and west of South Main between Malone and Highway 60, is scheduled for the week beginning Nov. 26.
This will be followed by District 3, the neighborhoods east of South Main and west of Ingram between Malone and Highway 60, beginning Dec. 3.
District 4, neighborhoods east of Ingram to Marian and Ashley between Malone and Highway 60, is scheduled for the week beginning Dec. 10.
Neighborhoods north of Malone and west of the railroad tracks are in District 5, scheduled for the week of Dec. 17.
On Dec. 24 they will begin collecting leaves from District 6 which includes neighborhoods between Calvary Drive and Malone east of the railroad tracks to Kingshighway including Kingshighway itself.
District 7, neighborhoods east of Kingshighway and west of North Main between Salcedo Road and Malone, are on the schedule for the week beginning Dec. 31.
District 8, made up of neighborhoods east of North Main and north of Malone, is scheduled for pick up beginning Jan. 7.
If pick ups proceed faster or slower than expected, officials will publish an updated schedule.
Anyone with questions regarding when they should place leaves near the curb can call 471-2174.