Fast-falling foliage ”˜leaves’ piles of work

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Leaf piles, like the ones along 13th Street in Jasper, are piling up in communities around the county as workers struggle to keep up with the falling foilage.

Herald Staff Writer

Those colorful fall leaves may be pretty, but they have become a big headache for local street commissioners in the past week.

As foliage falls from trees in droves and residents rake them to the curb for pickup, street department personnel are scrambling to suck up the leaves before an upcoming weekend rain threatens to push them into the storm gutters and cause blockages.

Ferdinand Street and Property Superintendent Tom Lueken said he has had to seek extra help from wastewater and electric utility employees to keep the town’s leaf vacuums running all day.

The town had set Tuesday of each week for leaf removal, but department workers have been sucking up foliage every day this week.

“We’re scrambling and we are trying to adjust our schedules all we can to keep out there as long as we can,” Lueken said.

With the annual Christkindlmarkt festival set for this weekend, it’s even more important to clear the leaves from the streets to allow for curbside parking during the event.

“We’re trying to make more of an effort. Every day this week we’re going to have picked up leaves,” Lueken said. “A lot (of leaves) have fallen, but from the looks of the trees, it looks like there are a lot hanging yet. ”

Some residents have become frustrated with the wait and have begun hauling their own leaves to the compost facility on 23rd Street, creating a large pile in one section that must be cleared. Lueken said this is the hardest pickup week that he can remember.

“This had to be our peak week. I think this is the worst at one time that they’re coming down,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever stayed out the full week. We would get a break in there somewhere. I think a lot of it is the weather.”

In Jasper, the street department is more than a full day behind on picking up leaves. Assistant Street Commissioner Jeff Theising said the crews picked up this morning what they normally would have gotten to on Tuesday. The city is running four machines — instead of the usual three — on the trash routes to clear the leaves from the roads.

“The trees held onto the leaves a lot longer this year, but unfortunately over the weekend it seemed like more than half of them came down,” Theising said. “Everybody’s going to have to be a little patient. It’s a real battle here right now, but we’ll succeed.”

Huntingburg Street Superintendent Jason Stamm said a truck malfunction is exacerbating the leaf problem in the city. One of the department’s two trucks had a transmission failure earlier this week that put it out of service. Crews have had to resort to using backhoes to remove leaves instead, and Stamm said residents will have to be patient.

“We’re struggling to keep our head above water,” he said. “With just one leaf vac picking them up, it’s tough to keep up. We’re doing the best we can. People think that they rake them out to the curb and the next day they’re going to be gone. It can’t happen like that.”

All three men said they are confident that the crews will be on track with removal by this weekend after the extra hours of work.

“After this week, we’ll be pretty close to getting it picked up,” Stamm said.

Contact Claire Moorman at

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