Recent weather events have taken a severe toll on trees and shrubs in this area, and also haven’t been kind to local cleanup crews dealing with the aftermath.
“We were hit with two storms — the wind storm on March 2 and the snow storm on March 25, and both of them created a large amount of brush,” Mount Airy Public Works Director Jeff Boyles said of the situation.
It’s one that has put city sanitation crews in a bind trying to haul away weather-related debris left behind in local neighborhoods as part of their services to citizens.
“We’re grinding away at it,” Boyles said. “It’s taxing our resources.”
“Staff is working daily to gather the material, but the brush cleanup has been an overwhelming task,” City Manager Barbara Jones commented earlier this week.
“We are collecting an enormous amount of brush and the cleanup is moving very slow due to the magnitude of the material.”
The downed tree limbs and other residue from the recent storms haven’t been the only focus of cleanup crews.
“In addition to that, we had our spring cleanup the last week in March and the first week in April,” the public works director said of an annual effort targeting unusual items along with yard debris, “always a busy time.”
During that recent sanitation campaign, 130 tons of brush was collected, compared to 58 tons from the 2017 spring cleanup.
Boyles added that the volume of work has been further “complicated” by the fact that the municipality has maintained a regular Monday service which involves picking up small piles of brush using a rear loader.
“Everywhere I ride, I see brush on the side of the road, but it is not for lack of effort,” he said of intense work by sanitation personnel to alleviate such accumulations.
The good news is that special attention has been devoted to the cleanup effort which is providing a degree of light at the end of the forest.
Along with manpower, that task is being accomplished with equipment including a grapple, or knuckle boom, truck that is used for gathering large piles of brush, a backhoe and two dump trucks.
“Going forward we’re going to have one of the trucks in the north end of town and one of the trucks in the south end of town,” Boyles said.
Crews have been addressing the storm-related debris in the order it was created, with that from the wind event given first priority. Other cleanup priority went to a section of North Main Street between West Lebanon Street and Greenhill Road before a repaving project began there and locations of funerals, Boyles said.
“We’re almost done with the wind storm (items),” he reported Wednesday.
Sanitation personnel have been able to differentiate between the wind-related debris and that caused by the snow by keeping tabs on accumulations appearing around the city, including when running regular trash and recycling routes.
“They’ve got this ongoing list that just got longer and longer for a while,” the public works director said.
He predicted Wednesday that crews will complete the cleanup of the snow-related brush in two to four weeks.
Public patience sought
Efforts to deal with all the debris have been greeted with mixed feedback from residents.
“The biggest majority of the people have been very understanding and we appreciate our citizens for that,” Boyles said.
But others have not, according to the city manager.
“We are starting to get complaints from our citizens that items are not being collected fast enough.”
Boyles said he hopes everyone will understand that employees are working as hard as they can to address the situation.
He believes some homeowners might think they have been slighted due to the order brush has been picked up around town. “Sometimes people will say ‘they picked this up and they didn’t pick up that.”’
“Things are moving slower than any of us would like,” acknowledged Jones, the city manager, while mentioning that the “staff is doing an incredible job.”
Boyles said along with being patient, the public can help in another way.
“I also would like to tell everyone that if you have ‘elective’ pruning, then now would not be the best time to put it on the street for collection.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.