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Published: Tuesday, 10/6/2009

Volunteers sought for leaf brigade in Findlay

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - With the city too broke to pick up leaves this fall, United Way of Hancock County has put out a call for volunteers to do the job.

Residents are being asked to rake, bag, and have their leaves at the curb in time for a citywide, volunteer-driven leaf pickup on Oct. 24.

"It's great. That's what community's all about," said Mayor Pete Sehnert, who plans to assemble his own team of volunteers to pick up leaves that day.

Tamera Rooney, communications director for the agency, said the city didn't ask for the help, but United Way decided to offer it.

"We were hearing people talking about it, and this is one of the things United Way of Hancock County strives to do: We try to meet emerging needs. And, we are quite skilled at managing volunteers," she said.

After the August, 2007, flood that drove people from their homes and businesses and caused millions of dollars of damage in Findlay, United Way coordinated nearly 400 volunteers who came to Findlay to help with the relief effort.

"This is by no means a disaster, but it does have the potential to be a real problem," Ms. Rooney said.

Other cities facing financial stress say they have not elected to drop leaf pickup.

"Leaf pickup we plan to maintain because of the impact on our sewer system," said Lori Tretter, assistant city administrator in Bowling Green.

In November, Bowling Green voters are being asked to approve a three-year, 0.08 percentage point increase in the city's 1.92 percent income tax to help make up some of the budget shortfall. If it does not pass, Ms. Tretter said, the city is likely to reduce brush pickup and heavy-trash collections, but leaves are not on the table.

Findlay is asking voters Nov. 3 to approve a three-year, 0.25 percentage point increase in the city's 1 percent income tax. If it passes, Mayor Sehnert said, services like leaf pickup that were eliminated this year would be restored. Cutting leaf pickup was expected to save $185,000, he said.

"People get ticked and mad and I try to tell people it's not forever," he said. "It's basically to get us over this hump. If our tax passes, we'll be back in business."

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said he is aware other cities were dropping their leaf pickup programs to save money.

"I have heard it is taking place in other cities like Findlay but at this moment we have not discussed that here, so there has been no internal discussion with the leaf pickup," he said.

In Findlay, United Way hopes to round up as many as 200 volunteers with pickup trucks to scour assigned neighborhoods, pick up bagged leaves, and deliver them to the city's drop-off location on West High Street. They estimate teams of four people could cover four city blocks in half a day.

Ms. Rooney said church groups and service clubs have expressed interest. The service will be performed Oct. 24, but a second date in November could be scheduled depending on the weather and how quickly the leaves fall.

Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at: jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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