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Webster Highway: putting leaves in the road is ‘illegal’

Highway Superintendent: ‘It is frustrating’



Webster, NY - Leaf pick-up season is well underway, and the Webster Town Highway Department is already facing issues with residents putting their leaves in the road.

Webster Town Highway Superintendent Joe Herbst says this is a common issue that repeats itself every year.

“It is wrong in so many ways,” Herbst said. “First off, it is illegal per V&T Law Section 1219,1220 and Highway Law Section 214 that specifies absolutely no placing, pushing, shoving, dumping, or blowing anything in the road, ever.”

One of the main reasons, says Herbst, is simple: safety.

“Vehicles and pedestrians are displaced, causing unsafe situations on and in the road,” Herbst explained. “This is exacerbated by COVID and the numbers of joggers, bicyclists, dog walkers, and walkers using the road… at every time of day or night. It puts the pedestrians most at risk for being hit by them, having to travel out into the travel lanes around the piles.”

Another issue caused by placing leaves in the roadway is drainage.

“The leaves in the gutter continually cause unnecessary flooding when we have downpours, let alone the leaves plug off the basins and then we have worse flooding,” said Herbst. “This is not just confined to the event, but for weeks after leaf season has ended.”

He added, “This is one of the main reasons we pick up leaves... to protect the 4,500 catch basins and 1,200 miles of storm sewers to protect the possibility of flooding and negative impacts to people's homes and the roads. Kind of ironic that their placement of the leaves is the very issue we are trying to prevent!”

Encountering leaves in the roadway also causes problems for the highway department’s Vactoring operations. Vactors are essentially vacuum trucks.

“Everyone wants their leaves picked up in a timely manner,” said Herbst. “However, our leaf Vactors and employees continually struggle to pick up soaked leaves that are placed in the road and gutter. The leaves are literally soaked and sitting in puddles, which our machines cannot Vactor.”

Herbst says placing leaves in the gutters significantly slows down the highway department’s operations.

“You can add a day to every single zone run just from leaves being placed in the gutters,” said Herbst. “That's an extra five days per run depending on the rainfall and weather.”

No amount of communication with residents regarding the leaves issue seems to resonate, says Herbst.

“I place articles in the papers and website and Town Times, but it falls on deaf ears,” said Herbst. “Last year, I had to send two loaders out and shove leaves out of the road just before a heavy snowfall so we were not filling residents driveways with leaves. Leaves do not go through snow blowers well at all.”

Herbst says residents need to realize that the first 15' to 17'6" of their lawn is actually town property. So if leaves are in the roadway when the town snow blowers have to pass through, Herbst has loaders shove the leaves out of the road back onto residents’ properties. As a result, residents are not happy.

“And we have every legal right to [push leaves out of the road] when it comes to the safety of the traveling public; that is my charge as superintendent,” said Herbst.

Leaf pick-up in the Town of Webster will continue through the week of Monday, Nov. 30.

“We offer a premium service, but the service is not as efficient or premium as it could be by the hands of the very residents we are trying to serve,” Herbst commented. “It is frustrating.”

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