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Burn Ban Stays, But City Agrees To Collect Leaves

White Salmon Public Works has agreed to pickup unlimited trash bags filled with leaves.

To help handle the crush of falling leaves, the White Salmon Public Works Department has agreed to temporarily pick up an unlimited number of trash bags filled with leaves and other vegetative debris.

Because the city maintains a burn ban throughout the year, citizens have complained about an inability to dispose of leaves, limbs, and plant or garden cuttings from their yards. The concern has been exacerbated this autumn as the Klickitat County brush collection site in Bingen is closed due to lack of funding.

The city's action is designed to provide a no-cost alternative to burning.

During the first three weeks of November, the usual limit of one extra bag of yard debris will be lifted. Customers can set out as many garbage bags filled with yard debris as they want to during this time.

"We intend to provide that service to alleviate the burden due to the city's burn ban," said Wil Keyser, director of the city's Public Works Department. "The burn ban creates a problem for folks, but the strength of the burn ban is solid, and rightly so."

The additional pickups begin on Nov. 1, and last through Nov. 22.

The city requested that only leaves and yard debris in general, be in the bags. No additional household garbage will be collected as part of this free program.

Tree limbs and sticks will also be gathered, but limbs must be no more than four-feet long, and they must be bundled.

The issue came before the council because a city resident, Jonathan Blake, sent a letter requesting that the city partially lift the burn ban during the fall.

In the letter, dated Sept. 25, Blake explained that fire danger is one reason he wants to remove a significant amount of brush, and the burn ban -- coupled with the closure of the county's brush chipping site -- makes that process extremely difficult.

"I need to cut back a lot of brush this fall to lessen the fire hazard next summer," Blake wrote. "I have seen Strawberry Mountain catch on fire before, and those of us who live next to it face a constant battle to keep Mother Nature at bay. We need to have the ability to manage the property and take the necessary steps to lessen the amount of ground fuel in the event of a fire ... Who knows, if it lessens the fire danger on the outskirts of town it may just save a life some day. How about some reason regarding this issue?"

During its Oct. 17 meeting, no member of the City Council wanted to call for a motion to temporarily lift the burn ban. As a result, the proposal died.

"This keeps coming up, at least once in the spring and once in the fall," said council member Penny White Morris. "But we have a burn ban, and that's the way it's going to be."

"I think the petitioner wanted two weeks of burning, and we're offering three weeks of free pickup," explained Mayor Roger Holen. "That's a cleaner solution, pure and simple."

Keyser said the program will not cost the city any extra cash. "Just a little more time to pick up a few more bags," he said, adding that the same offer will be made in the spring to correspond with the community cleanup event, usually held in April.

The leaves will go to the regional landfill with the rest of the city's regular trash collection.

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