School custodian puts 'terminator' to work

November 18, 1997

School custodian puts 'terminator' to work


Staff Writer

Anyone who still rakes their leaves the back-breaking hard way, be warned. This story might make you jealous.

The head custodian at Fountaindale Elementary has found a better way to collect the droppings of fall.

It's not a fancy rake or even a leaf blower.

It's a machine that sucks up leaves and captures them in an enclosed trailer.

"The cafeteria people nicknamed it the 'leaf terminator,'" said custodian Albert Mills.

And for someone like Mills, who used to spend a month out of the year clearing the school's 13 acres, it's a real blessing.


More than a year ago, Mills learned from a coworker that the Washington County Board of Education had a leaf vacuum that wasn't being used.

No one could find the right kind of trailer to attach to the $300 machine. Without a trailer to put the leaves in, the vacuum just blew the leaves in another direction, said Jeff Harr, facilities assistant in operations.

Mills, 33, saw an opportunity. He built his own trailer in his garage at his home west of Hagerstown.

Except for about $20 worth of metal that he bought, Mills used parts given to him by his uncle and things he had around the house.

"The wife was nagging about getting rid of that junk," he said.

The base, including its two wheels, is from an old Jeep. The body is made from pieces of metal welded together. On top of that is a particle board enclosure with a screened top.

The leaves are blown through a stove pipe and into the trailer. The stove pipe wasn't quite long enough to reach, so he cut a plastic ice cream tub to fill the gap.

It takes about two hours of vacuuming to fill the trailer.

Using his Jeep Cherokee, Mills pulls the trailer to a wooded area of the school grounds and dumps the leaves.

Working alone, he should be able to finish the job in two weeks.

In past years, three custodians would work on leaves for a month and sometimes still not get finished, he said.

Most people say, 'Why can't you take that to my house?'" he said.

But since it is school board property, he doesn't use the leaf vacuum at his own house.

The trailer, however, comes in handy at home, he said.

His mother-in-law wants him to enclose the top so she can use it to haul crafts, he said.

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