CLEVELAND (WJW) – City of Cleveland crews will not pick up leaves piled at the curb this fall, the FOX 8 I-Team revealed, and now that has sparked a firestorm since your tax dollars pay for that.

That led us to investigate. And, Cleveland City Council plans to hold a hearing demanding an explanation.

In short, the city’s message to taxpayers: if you want leaves picked up, you’ll have to do it yourself. Residents can put leaves in bags and put those out with the trash. But, again, crews will not come by and collect leaves piled at curbs and tree lawns.

We met Eugene Fearing blowing leaves into a pile, and he was not happy to hear about the change.

He keeps up his property even with a handicap, and he says picking up the leaves himself would be a hardship.

“Well, I don’t know what seems to be the problem,” Fearing said. “I pay good taxes here. I’m under doctor’s care. And, my wife, her back’s bothering her.”

Remember an old Cleveland nickname, the Forest City? But, now, the Forest City will only pick up leaves you bag up yourself.

Councilman Brian Kazy said, “I was shocked. We know cutting city services is never a good thing for residents.”

And Councilman Michael Polensek said, “When we passed the budget. We asked about leaf collection. They told us it would take place.”

Polensek added, “At the end of the day, people are paying for a service. People are paying high taxes in this neighborhood.”

And, Kazy added, “It’s gonna become an issue for Water Pollution Control. It’s gonna end up in the sewers, and we’re gonna pay for it that way.”

And, consider the timing. The city just announced no crews will be coming to pick up leaves. Yet, yards and even streets are already covered with leaves. And, many trees still have many more leaves that have not yet come down.

“The curbside leaf pickup program was only available for about a third of the city. Not all city residents,” The city’s Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Teeuwen said.

Teeuwen said the mayor’s office is reviewing the leaf pick up program. She added, not everyone benefits. Still, we asked why this just got announced in November, in the middle of fall, with no advance notice.

“We wanted to make sure that we were making the right decision in evaluating,” Teeuwen said. “And, you know, that takes time. Honestly.”

She also said the city has been spending a lot of time preparing crews for responding to snowfall. Last year, the city took heat for the amount of time it took to get streets plowed. But, Eugene Fearing says his leaves will stay piled at the curb.

“They’re staying there. If they want to write me a ticket, I’ll see ’em in court. I pay taxes,” he said.

A city hall statement also said, “Residents are permitted to set out an unlimited number of bagged leaves in their yards …”

Alternatively, the city recommends residents ‘leave the leaves’ alone.  

“Instead of raking them to the tree lawn or bagging them up for collection, an environmentally friendly alternative is raking them into garden beds or around the bases of trees and shrubs, where they will fertilize the soil as they break down,” said Cleveland’s Director of Sustainability Sarah O’Keeffe.  

Another option is turning them into mulch by mowing over leaves and chopping them into small pieces. The mulched leaf layer is good for the health of gardens. 

Fallen leaves also provide an important winter habitat for wildlife including lizards, birds, turtles, frogs, and insects that overwinter in the fallen leaves.