Frustration mounts for city residents — as does yard debris

MARK MARONEY/Sun-Gazette Brush and yard debris is piling up in Williamsport. At the top, a frustrated homeowner dropped off a plant with seven rather large stumps outside of the city brush pile site at 1500 W. Third St.

Across Williamsport, mounds of yard debris line city blocks.

From the city’s East End, through its center, and in Newberry, the piles are as numerous and as high as they’ve been in recent memory.

For homeowners who need to park on the street, the piles are taking up limited space. Mounds of brush, dead trees and branches along Glenwood Avenue cover half a city block.

City officials estimate several hundred piles need to be picked up and chopped into mulch by city streets and parks department crews, which begin their annual sweep today and continue for several weeks into May.

Frustration was the word for those dropping off their brush to the city-operated brush and mulch pile at 1500 W. Third St., with the gate closed Monday.

“Someone should be here and the key should be available,” said Terry Clark, of 826 Second Ave.

Clark had gathered up debris that was poking out either side of his pickup truck.

He couldn’t gain access to the site nor to the public works building.

He was not alone.

“What the heck,” a woman said, pulling on the locked front door. “It’s Monday,” she said.

Others were there to get mulch to spread on their yards, but they, too, would have to wait.

“I’ve come down here twice and the gate is closed and nobody is there to get the key,” a Packer Street resident said.

What they didn’t know, and what was not posted publicly, was the department was on a holiday.

“It’s part of the union contract,” said Adam Winder, general manager of the department who was apologetic for the lack of notice for those dropping off debris.

Normally, he said, the brush pile is open from 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays.

But Monday was not a holiday, except for the city streets crews.

Winder said the mess across the city would be dealt with and he acknowledged the brush pile is open during first-shift hours, when many people are working.

He also observed how this year’s spring storms had taken their toll. Their verocity and wind gusts had resulted in tree limbs and brush falling down across the city.

“People cleaned their yards a bit early before spring cleanup which coincides with Earth Day,” Winder said.

A solution is at hand, he said.

To better accommodate city property owners, starting May 3, the brush and mulch pile will have extended hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on every other Saturday. The following Saturday it won’t be open but it will be May 17, Winder said.

The crews will be on various streets to clean up debris this week and continue through until mid-May, he said.

The city also is trying to replace the key with a card-reading system, but it can’t pay for that until it receives word whether the city is awarded a $250,000 state grant.

Part of the grant will be used to buy a chipper truck and accessories to help crews in cleaning up tree parts and yard debris, Winder said.