Leaf disposal, cost an issue for some as burning ban nears in Lake County

Garbage collection and leaf disposal remain hot issues in unincorporated parts of northern Lake County as the effective date of new rules nears.

County officials are beefing up ways to answer continuing questions, including a phone hotline in advance of the June 1 rollout of county-mandated directives for garbage collection and a ban on leaf burning.

The county's waste hauling website also is being updated, and county board members are being provided with refreshed information for their electronic newsletters.

"It's very clear there's a lot of activity out there right now - a lot of specific questions are being asked," Eric Waggoner, director of planning building and development.

Waggoner in a report to the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee said the intent was to give residents more sources to draw from.

"Our hope is to corral all this information and get those questions answered so they can sign up like everybody else," Waggoner said. "There are a lot of people signing up without any hiccups."

In January, the county board by a 13-7 vote enacted permanent regulations for open burning, with conditions, starting June 1.

The measure, described as a step toward protecting public health, replaced a temporary ban enacted more than two years ago due to potential respiratory impacts from the coronavirus.

Woody materials can be burned in small fires all year and in larger ones from Nov. 1 to March 31 under the new rules. But leaf burning will be prohibited.

In tandem with the burning restriction, the county board authorized waste-hauling agreements with Lakeshore Recycling Services LLC for the southern half of the county and with Groot Recycling & Waste Services Inc. for the northern half. Optional seasonal yard waste collection is included in both contracts at an added cost.

Opponents of the leaf-burning ban say that could create an expensive problem for some residents with large or heavily wooded lots.

That's particularly the case in northwestern Lake County, which encompasses a large unincorporated area. A little more than a third of Lake County's land area is unincorporated.

"I have spent every single day since this has come out on the phone with my constituents. They're not happy," said Linda Pedersen, who represents the Antioch area on the county board.

"We're getting pummeled every day with all the details that are in or not in the (waste hauling) contract. This has been excruciating," added county board Member J. Kevin Hunter, who represents parts of Fox Lake and Lake Villa.

Enough concern has been raised that Lake Villa Township officials are encouraging residents to attend the annual meeting Tuesday evening to hear alternatives to the leaf-burning ban.

One option is for the township to buy a leaf vacuum truck to collect leaves from residential properties. However, finding a disposal site is an issue in itself and is under review, Township Supervisor Dan Venturi said. The cost would be about $250,000 the first year and $150,000 in subsequent years.

"The second option is to reach out to the county board for guidance on how to best withstand the economic and disposal impact of this unfunded mandate," he said in a news release announcing the meeting.

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