September 24, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The yard waste disposal program initiated by the City of La Grande in August is becoming so successful it might replace the spring clean-up day and the fall leaf disposal programs, city officials say.

Since the beginning of the yard waste depot program, in which customers of City Garbage Service can haul their yard trimmings to a recycling site on Highway 30 on Saturdays and Mondays, more than 500 residents have taken 123,830 pounds of material to the site, including almost 10 tons last weekend.

The city council initiated the program this summer on recommendation of the Air Quality Commission in an effort to reduce the amount of yard waste being sent to the Fox Hill Landfill, to encourage a reduction in backyard burning and to promote composting of material.

The program began operating in early August and will run until Nov. 26. In the future, it will operate from March 1 to Nov. 30. The site, called the Material Recovery Facility, accepts the yard wastes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Mondays.

The yard waste depot program is being funded by the addition of $1.75 per month to the garbage collection rate charged La Grande residents by City Garbage Service.

Thanks to a solid waste grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, another program will be available this fall to assist residents who are not able to haul their yard waste to the Material Recovery Facility.

It will be a curb-side tree limb chipping program. Limbs, corn stalks, brush and shrub trimming will be picked up by City Garbage Service on four Mondays: Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12.

City Garbage Service won the bid over three other companies for the tree chipping, said La Grande Community Development Director Mike Hyde.

They will take a truck with a drop box on the back, pick up the material and take it to the MRF. The other bidders proposed to do the tree chipping on the site (of residences). The Air Quality Commission elected to go with City Garbage Services proposal.

People do not have to be a patron of City Garbage Service to take advantage of this service, according to the Community Development Department. They do have to be residents of La Grande. To get this service, they need to call City Garbage Service at 963-5459 by 4 p.m. on the Friday before the pick-up date. City Garbage later will be selling the composted material it collects from this and its other program.

Certain restrictions will be imposed for the material to be picked up at curbside. Tree limbs cannot be longer than 8 feet or more than 8 inches in diameter. The material must be placed on a hard surface, such as a driveway, so it can be picked up by a forklift with a brush clamp. Limbs should not be stacked in a location that could lead to damage by the collection equipment.

With these new programs, the Air Quality Commission proposed dropping the leaf disposal program since people can take them to the recycling center.

The only difference in the leaf program this year and last is that in 2000 it was subsidized by the city and this year by the rate payers, Hyde said.

The spring clean-up program may not be subsidized by the city next year because the waste disposal depot program is in place, Hyde said. The final decision on both the leaf disposal and the spring clean-up will be up to the city manager and city council, he said.

The city could save a total of $5,000 by not subsidizing the two programs, Hyde said.