The town of Vienna’s leaf-mulching facility on Beulah Road, N.E., for years has generated controversy as well as yard mulch, and the Vienna Town Council on March 21 will hold a public hearing about new proposals for handling the town’s leaves.
Under the current arrangement, town residents rake their yards’ leaves to the edge of the street each autumn and the town picks them up. Three work crews, each with a driver and three laborers, vacuum up the leaves using a loader behind a tandem truck equipped with a leaf box.
Town crews collect leaves through December and take them to the Beulah Road site. This past winter, town employees ground up about one-third of the leaves and delivered them from January through March to town residents and one out-of-town business.
The other two-thirds of the leaves went to Loudoun Composting. While the Vienna government in the past had not had to pay a leaf-dumping fee, the town had to pay a $9-per-ton charge last winter. That fee since has skyrocketed to $30 per ton.
Vienna officials contracted with NewGen Strategies and Solutions LLC to review the town’s leaf-collection program and its costs and consider short- and long-haul alternatives. Both options would cut out mulch delivery, but the long-haul plan would eliminate the need to use the Beulah Road site as well.
Fun (and fragrant!) facts: Vienna collected 7,427 cubic yards’ worth of leaves in the 2020/2021 season, enough to fill the big, new gymnasium at the Vienna Community Center up to 25 feet deep in leaves.
The town collected 364 tandem truckloads’ worth of leaves last year and had a contractor grind 2,500 cubic yards of leaves at the Beulah Road mulching site. Subsequently, the town delivered 484 small truckloads’ worth of ground-up leaves to residents and 155 larger tandem truckloads’ worth of mulched leaves to Loudoun Composting.
A town resident has offered to provide his time and expertise to help Vienna staffers evaluate costs of various long-haul options for leaf collection. Officials will present those results at the March 21 public hearing, which has been delayed several times, noted Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert during a Feb. 7 discussion on setting the hearing.
“This is a highly political issue,” said Council member Howard Springsteen.
Indeed, the past two Town Council elections have featured proposals by candidates (who lost their bids) to convert the Beulah Road mulching facility into a park. Residents in the past have complained about noise and odors emanating from the site.
That issue likely will not arise in this year’s Council election because there probably won’t be one. The General Assembly passed legislation passed last year to start holding local municipal elections concurrently with the November general election beginning this fall, instead of in May as had been the tradition for decades.
The Council has asked state legislators for a town-charter amendment to extend four members’ terms, which already had been lengthened by six months to expire at the end of this year, by one more year so all Council seats will be up for grabs in the November 2023 election.
Identical bills patroned by state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax-Vienna) and Del. Mark Keam (D-Oakton-Vienna) passed unanimously Feb. 10 in their respective houses and will head to the other body following crossover on Feb. 15.