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Apr 9, 2010 2:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton plans to eliminate leaf pickup, sell assets

Apr 9, 2010 2:01 PM

Leaf pickup by the East Hampton Town Highway Department may be the first major casualty of the new administration’s plan to trim East Hampton Town’s budget by more than $10 million.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson announced at a work session on Saturday to a disgruntled, grumbling crowd that the program would likely be cut.

He and the two newly elected board members, Councilman Dominick Stanzione and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, said on Saturday that they would likely vote to eliminate the program, although Mr. Stanzione said that he would like the community to weigh in on the proposal before it is adopted.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to have to cut services. The only issue then is what services are cut,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “I think we’re going to eliminate the leaf program. If people want to take their leaves to the dump, they take their leaves to the dump, but we’re not going to pick them up.”

Ms. Quigley shared his sentiment, adding that elimination of the leaf program was in keeping with a growing do-it-yourself trend in the country toward growing one’s own food and living sustainably.

“I understand people are upset about the leaf program. They think that is all they get for tax dollars. The top priority in my mind is health, safety and welfare. The government shouldn’t be mulching people’s leaves. Why are we having big trucks spewing diesel into air?” she said. “I have no problem picking up leaves if money is flush. Money is not flush. Times are tough and it’s time to stop looking to the government for these services. I understand people are upset, but they’re more upset about taxes.”

Highway Superintendent Scott King, who was in the audience, suggested that the Town Board at least have a “leaf summit” similar to a deer summit it held in early March, before it cuts the program, which costs the town roughly $540,000 per year.

“I want to go on record saying I had no say in this decision,” said Mr. King.

“Do you want to cut trucks that are paving roads? Yes, let’s have a summit on cutting the Highway Department,” said Ms. Quigley, who added that the town is asking all departments to cut 10 percent of their budgets, which would need to come from elsewhere in the highway budget if not from leaves.

Mr. King, who was upset at Ms. Quigley’s comments, left the town meeting room.

“Ah, harmony,” said Mr. Stanzione.

The board has not yet introduced a resolution to cut the leaf program, and Mr. Wilkinson responded with a simple “no” when asked Monday if he planned to hold a leaf summit. He said that there may be a resolution to cut the leaf program on the agenda when the board meets on Thursday evening.

Budget Officer Len Bernard also outlined plans on Saturday morning for $1.9 million in savings, which included the $540,000 in savings from eliminating the leaf program.

His plan also includes savings of $360,000 per year from closing the town recycling centers on Springs-Fireplace Road and in Montauk one day a week. The day the centers would be closed has not yet been announced, but Mr. Wilkinson said that it will likely be in the middle of the week.

The town also plans to hold an online auction to sell 35 vehicles beginning in mid-April.

“That’s auction round one,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “In phase two, we’ll do an inventory of several vehicles with very low mileage.”

Town Purchasing Agent Jeanne Carozza said that the auction will be held on the website auctionsinternational.com, where information on the vehicles up for auction will be available late next week. Some of the vehicles that will be auctioned have already been collected in a fenced-in area near the Town Justice Court on Pantigo Road.

The board also met in executive session after Saturday’s work session to discuss hiring an appraiser for properties the town is considering selling.

Mr. Wilkinson said later that the Town Board only discussed the hiring of an appraiser, not specific properties that the town might sell.

Last year, the previous Town Board began to consider the sale of a 7-acre property on Wainscott Northwest Road in Wainscott and two other 1-acre commercial parcels on Springs-Fireplace Road.

Mr. Bernard said that the town had already realized about $1 million in savings, including $355,000 in salaries for workers who retired or quit and were not replaced and $450,000 in projected expenses for three years of retroactive pay to police officers, who had been working without a contract since 2007 until an agreement was reached in February. Mr. Bernard said that his calculation was based on the difference between the 4-percent pay increases that police officers had anticipated and the 2-percent pay increases that they received.

He said that the town had saved $35,000 in salary decreases, including the elimination of a $10,000 annual bonus paid to the Town Board member who serves as deputy supervisor, $5,100 by denying travel requests and $7,000 by not printing an annual parks brochure. He added that some Town Board members had declined to sign up for the town’s health insurance plan.

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When is Scott King's term up (not soon enough)?
I for one am all in favor of making sacrifices to get the Town's financial house in order, including handling my own leaves and having fewer other services. Hats off to the Supervisor and board for demonstrating that they fully recognize the need for decisive action. I look forward to more.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Mar 31, 10 12:29 PM
It's Easthampton, not The South Bronx !
How can the tax base not support leaf pickup ?
Perhaps if the town were managed by professionals hired by an elected board, instead of mis-managed by well meaning amateurs, it would be in better fiscal shape ?
By Sag (54), Sag harbor on Mar 31, 10 1:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
perhaps you have not heard of Bill Mcgintee.
By razza5350 (1908), East Hampton on Apr 1, 10 10:16 AM
Over a half million to pick up leaves? Mulch them and make compost or take them to the dump yourselves!
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on Mar 31, 10 4:27 PM
yes lets get back to doing some simple things ourselves. were overweight anyway!
whats wrong with just making a compost in the back of your property. run the leaves over with the lawn mower. its good exercise and everybody wins.
and while were at it . why does it take 4 people in two trucks to patch the potholes. are the two drinking coffee necc for the other two to work!
By free2 (7), east hampton on Apr 2, 10 1:05 PM
I for one will be very disappointed with the elimination of leaf pickup. How will people with no trucks get the leaves to the dump? Do you have to buy a $70 dump sticker? Because I don't have a dump sticker, I use a service to pick up my garbage. I think $500,000 is a small price to pay to keep our neighborhoods clean. Also, I know some of the workers are doing community service. Thats not costing us anything. Lets cut somewhere else. I think I read that Scott King has already cut from his ...more
By Happy in Springs (12), Springs on Apr 3, 10 4:45 PM
Get real...the Town is broke..Leaf Pickup is the least of the issues or savings.

The Town needs to do more cutting and selling. When a balance sheet finally materializes reflecting all the liabilities the Town has taken on in shadows, further and deeper cuts in the operating budget will need to occur.

In addition, the sale of Town assets should accelerate. Unused land should be the first to go. People live in a fantasy world that the $30 million hole is not real. Too many ...more
By voter (33), Amagansett on Apr 6, 10 11:21 AM
We should think further before eliminating leaf pick up. It started to help those who couldn't deal with their leaves themselves more then 30 years ago. It was thought only those who were aged or ill and didn't have the means to pay for leaf removal would take advantage of it. And thats what happened. It was a small inexpensive service the taxpayers as a whole gave to those who couldn't. Then selfishness, intitlement, and abuse balooned it to a half million annual tax burden. So now our sulution ...more
By facts man (148), east hampton on Apr 7, 10 2:12 PM
business as usual wilkie hires a pr woman laura weir diana weirs daughter .mmmmm ring any bells? and is going to lay off 100 employees.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Apr 7, 10 8:33 PM
Short-sighted policy IMO.

Cut 1/2 million from the town budget for leaf pick-up, then force homeowners to spend millions to do the same job.

Increased cost plus increased carbon footprint for all the additional vehicles to haul the leaves.

No win, and a big additional burden on our senior citizens.

Very short-sighted IMO.

By PBR (4932), Southampton on Apr 13, 10 6:35 PM
This Board really needs to look further than just cutting the few services that the Town gives it residents. Reelection for Wilkie will be a big NO in my book. Restraining a huge government mess doesnt mean having to hurt the innocent taxpayer and doing it without asking for public input is worse. Maybe one of the vehicles going to be sold is the new car that was purchased for the Town attorney to drive back and froth from up-island or maybe the vehicles that the Board members are now using for ...more
By ehboardwatcher2010 (21), sag harbor on Apr 14, 10 11:02 AM
A half million dollars is 5% of the $10 million in cuts Wilkinson said is his goal. That is a large chunk of the plan. How many non-essential programs are there that can account for 5% of the $10 million cost cutting goal? Besides, leaves fall once a year and they actually self desinergrate. In northwest woods, in areas where there are no houses there are plenty of leaves and no one rakes them and they are not in the street and they break down. Former Highway Super Russo always said the leaf ...more
By connwatcher (112), east hampton on Apr 14, 10 9:38 PM
Drive-in movies,Coopers Beach, Southampton village