Paxton City Council members Kammy Johnson Anderson, Justin Withers, Susan Satterlee, Deane Geiken and Eric Evans

From left, Paxton City Council members Kammy Johnson Anderson, Justin Withers, Susan Satterlee, Deane Geiken and Eric Evans discuss the city's ban on leaf burning Tuesday night.

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PAXTON — The Paxton City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday night to repeal the city’s controversial leaf-burning ban, effective immediately.

The decision to revoke the ban was prompted by concerns expressed by residents and aldermen alike over difficulties in disposing of their leaves. With no leaf-removal service provided by the city, some residents had been trying to mulch their leaves as an alternative to burning them, while others had been taking their leaves out of town to burn. Then there were others who were paying a leaf-removal company to pick up their leaves, with one resident saying he spent $300 to do so last fall.

For many, taking care of their yards became simply too much work, or too expensive.

“There has been no end to people asking me about some type of change to be made,” Alderman Deane Geiken said. “And as fall comes closer, I keep getting more and more.”

Aldermen voted unanimously in July 2018 to approve the ordinance prohibiting the burning of leaves, with the stipulation that the city would “develop a plan” to dispose of them in an alternative fashion.

Over the following two months, the city considered buying or renting leaf-removal equipment and having city workers go around town and pick up leaves using it. The city also considered hiring a private lawn-care service to do the work, or having residents bag their leaves and the city collecting them in a dump truck.

But that September, the council scrapped all of those considerations, opting instead, via a 6-2 vote, to leave leaf removal up to residents to handle themselves.

The cost to the city was a primary concern. The cost for a new leaf vacuum was around $65,000, with a rental option being $500 per week. Also, operating the equipment would require four of the city’s public works department employees.

Another concern was that the city had no way to dispose of the leaves other than paying to have another municipality take them away. The city was considering taking leaves to its brush pile south of town and burning them there, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency indicated that would be illegal.

The leaf-burning ban was the result of concerns among aldermen and residents about the health hazards associated with it. Residents voiced their concerns about how burning leaves can be harmful to persons afflicted with asthma, in particular.

Before deciding Tuesday to lift the ban entirely — with Alderman Mike Wilson in dissent — the council discussed the possibility of allowing leaf-burning only on certain days of the week each fall and spring. That possibility will continue to be discussed, aldermen stressed.

Alderman Rob Steiger asked Mayor Bill Ingold to assign the leaf-burning subject to one or more committees of his choice for further debate. The mayor said he would schedule a committee meeting in the near future, and the public is encouraged to attend the meeting and provide input.