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Commissioners lock in leaf pickup rates through 2031

<p>The National Audubon Society considers fall leaves to be "natural vitamins" to use in yards. </p>
The National Audubon Society considers fall leaves to be "natural vitamins" to use in yards.

St. Joseph County will start composting its own leaves to save money, and is locking in leaf pick-up rates that subscribers pay for the next eight years.

County commissioners took those actions Tuesday, extending until 2031 their contract with St. Joe County Recycling, a private company they’ve hired for curbside leaf pickup since 2021. The current contract had been set to end in 2026.

The deal will lock in for subscribers the current rate of $189 for four passes, three in the fall and one in the spring, for people who subscribe before October.

“We felt that was a good deal for the subscribers,” Baxmeyer said. “They can be assured that their rate is not going to change for the next 10 years.”

The amount of money the county pays St. Joe County Recycling, to subsidize what subscribers pay, will increase each year based on the consumer price index. Commonly referred to as the rate of inflation, that’s the annual percentage increase in the price of all goods and services as measured by the federal government.

Commissioner President Carl Baxmeyer said commissioners began to study the issue a few months ago after the city of South Bend informed them that the county’s cost to dump leaves into the city’s Organic Resources facility was going to roughly triple. Baxmeyer says the county’s cost would have risen from about $54,000 a year to about $165,000 a year, an increase of about $110,000 a year.

The South Bend Common Council last year passed an ordinance to increase fees that out-of-city residents and businesses pay to dump yard waste at the facility.

Baxmeyer said the county will compost the leaves on the Portage Manor land it owns behind the highway department’s Riverside Drive garage. Leaves will be temporarily staged at the highway department’s former Cleveland Road garage and the parks department-owned site on Anderson Road where commissioners had wanted to build their controversial highway garage.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).