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Gregor, Town Board Battle Over New Leaf Pickup Program

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Rohma Abbas   Oct 19, 2011 10:10 AM
Oct 21, 2011 9:49 AM

Disagreements over Southampton Town’s fall leaf pickup program have widened the rift between the Town Board and Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, as both sides weighed in this week on another round of modifications to this year’s program.

Members of the Town Board this week charged that Mr. Gregor never formally presented the details of the new program to them, and one labeled the program “largely unworkable” as currently planned. Meanwhile, the highway superintendent harshly criticized board members for lacking the political will to help him reform the program, which he maintains is expensive, time-consuming and ridden with abeyances because of snowstorms.

The curbside leaf pickup program, which will kick off officially on Monday, November 14, includes several new facets—most notably the introduction of a voucher system, in which town residents will be asked to haul and dump their leaves for free at the town’s transfer stations in Westhampton, Hampton Bays and North Sea.

Town Highway Department employees still will provide curbside pickup—but only to those residents who bag their leaves in biodegradable paper bags. The Highway Department will perform only one sweep down each road, and no loose leaves will be accepted.

Residents under the age of 73 are being encouraged to self-haul loose leaves to the town’s transfer stations for free by utilizing the voucher system. To obtain a voucher, residents can call the Highway Department at 728-3600. Residents older than 73 or those who have special needs can also call the Highway Department to schedule a curbside pickup of loose leaves.

There will be no brush pickup, but town residents are going to be granted an amnesty period from November 15 to December 31 to drop off branches up to 3 inches in diameter at the town’s transfer stations for free.

Town Board members this week said Mr. Gregor had not formally communicated with them about the details of this year’s program, and that some of them learned of the changes through the media or through Town Highway Department flyers.

Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, at a debate last week, labeled the program “largely unworkable.” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst likewise said this week that she was concerned the program was too complex and unworkable. Town Board members Nancy Graboski, Jim Malone and Chris Nuzzi said they hadn’t gotten a formal briefing from Mr. Gregor on the changes.

“I think trying to sort out who has to bag and who doesn’t is fraught,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “I would’ve really loved a joint discussion between the Highway Department and Town Board on this.”

Mr. Gregor reacted strongly to the criticism this week. He assailed Ms. Throne-Holst, claiming she and the rest of the Town Board never accepted his invitation to attend a leaf forum that was sparsely attended in June. An angry Mr. Gregor described Ms. Throne-Holst as a “narcissist” and—turning her phrasing back on her—claimed that her administration was “fraught with holes.”

“She’s full of sh--,” Mr. Gregor said. “She’s a charlatan. If she wants to use those pretty words, that it’s ‘fraught,’ why didn’t she come on board and help me with it?”

He added that this year’s program was the best he could do without the help of the Town Board. He blasted the Town Board for “sticking their heads in the sand” and refusing to deal with the issue.

“There’s a political price to pay for doing anything to the leaf program, because people don’t like change,” Mr. Gregor said.

Ms. Throne-Holst dismissed Mr. Gregor’s attacks, and criticized the highway superintendent for refusing to deal with the Town Board members directly. “I can say frankly that I’m frustrated with Alex not acting as though he’s part of a general administration here,” she said. “He acts as though he’s got his own little fiefdom going on over there. That just isn’t helpful to any of us, or the taxpayers, most certainly.”

She added that calling her names wasn’t going to help the situation.

“He can call me every name in the book, but unless he can come and have substantive and professional conversations with us, to the taxpayers, that’s just meaningless,” she said, “as well as to me. You can call me all kinds of things, but if you’re not going to come and talk to me as the supervisor of the Town Board, then calling us names is unprofessional, and it’s just not substantive.”

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Alex Gregor used to have a future. There were times when you'd hear him speak and you'd say, this guy is a natural, he's going somewhere. But now, a little flak gets him all crazy and ready to trade blows. That's not how grownups act. OK, so the Town Board didn't come to his meeting in June, and maybe they were wrong not to, but that doesn't justify trashing the whole leaf program, and the Supervisor, like this. Even if she were what he claims -- which she isn't -- these outbursts wouldn't ...more
By fidelis (194), westhampton beach on Oct 19, 11 2:26 PM
Alex must have worked really hard to devise such a complicated and unworkable plan. Even though expensive leaf pickup is a necessary evil. Pray for no snow in December.
By EastEnd68 (832), Westhampton on Oct 19, 11 2:30 PM
Alex from the beginning has been alienating his workers, the public and the Town Board. He has been setting the wrong tone to get things accomplished. Alex wakeup, get a grip on the job and work with everyone instead of being a dictator.
By The Crow's Nest (39), Red Creek on Oct 19, 11 4:09 PM
For years the leaves have languished by the roadways in our town. Half those years, the Fall leaves were not picked up until the Spring. It has been an ugly disgraceful mess. Then at one point several years ago we were all told to make sure we didn't mix the sticks and branches with the leaves or else our piles would be bypassed...only to see a bucket loader come down the street, pick it all up and load it all into the back of the same dump truck. This program has been mismanaged for years. ...more
By Born Here (26), HB on Oct 19, 11 5:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
One less Town service whether it worked or not. It's always a gamble with the weather. So what? Scrap the whole program? So it snowed early? Get over it. Go ahead and haul them yourself if you think it's so easy. Have fun stuffing bags at almost half a buck a pop. What we got was better than nothing at all. Oh, for the days we put a match to the pile.
By Sandflea (35), Southampton on Oct 19, 11 6:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
And my tax dollars go for what??? I don't have sewer, I don't have street lights, I don't have garbage pick up (unless I pay for it privately), I don't have town water and I don't have sidewalks. I do have the opportunity to buy special green garbage bags to take to the dumps and now I can buy paper bags so the town will pick up my leaves?? Something seems a bit wrong with this whole scenario!!!! I loved the smell of leaves burning, that would solve the whole mess!
By sandydog21 (98), Southampton on Oct 19, 11 8:02 PM
No way this program will work. 60% of property owners do not live here in the winter. They rely on their landscaper to put leaves and brush on the curb. Most landscapers don't know the new rules. The other 40% don't necessarily get the SHP to read about the program. Sending Highway workers door to door with flyers regarding the new procedures was an interesting use of their time. This program has FAILURE written all over it.
By auntof9 (60), Southampton on Oct 19, 11 10:07 PM
The "legal" landscapers know the rules....just saying.
By cmac (68), East Quogue on Oct 20, 11 4:46 PM
Never got any info from the Town on the new program, what's the deal??!!

Actually, the Town missed my side of the street picking up leaves last year.
By bigfresh (1212), north sea on Oct 20, 11 6:28 AM
Cancel the whole program! For a year or two I let them pick up my leaves, but after they repeatedly gouged a 4 foot square chunk of my lawn, I decided to compost the leaves instead. I have an acre and a half with oak trees that produce a pile of leaves roughly 8 feet long, 6 feet high, 6 feet wide each fall. By spring that pile has composted down to about one tenth of the size - and I spread the mulch on my garden. Like Sandydog21, I have no sewer, lights, garbage pick up, water, or sidewalks. ...more
By nutbeem (21), Westhampton on Oct 20, 11 9:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Like Sandydog21, I have no sewer, lights, garbage pick up, water, or sidewalks. ...more What am I paying for? A bunch of guys and a bucket loader? What a total waste of money!"

Have you looked at your tax bill? You don't pay Town taxes for water or sewers. You don't pay a specific Town tax for "sidewalks" (monies for these are almost always provided by a developer or a subdivision or through a grant for pedestrian safety). Street lighting benefits the whole town and while you may not ...more
By Nature (2590), Hampton Bays on Oct 20, 11 10:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Nature, you have a fair point. In fact, I very much like having no street lights - that's part of why I moved here instead of somewhere more suburban. In my indignation about the leaf program, I'm attacking the wrong target.

But I stand by my point about the leaf program. It amazes me that there even is one, not to mention how much it costs. And what about the carbon footprint of an operation that collects and transports leaves at this scale? Is this really a priority, particularly ...more
By nutbeem (21), Westhampton on Oct 20, 11 12:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have one question for Mr. Gregor since we know the Town won't pick up all the bags before it snows. Will I have to bag the bags when they are broken down on the side of the road in the spring? Sub it out to the private local companies that had the entire town picked up in one week after Irene hit.
By cmac (68), East Quogue on Oct 20, 11 4:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
I just reread the puff piece about Susan Sarandon and her interview at Bay
Street. The article never reported she called the Pope a Nazi and the audience laughed. This was reported by several media outlets, but not by Tom Clavin
Could you explain why?
By Cato (2), southampton on Oct 20, 11 9:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Who cares. Get over it
By witch hazel (187), tatooine on Oct 20, 11 9:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
I HEARD THAT THEY HAD THESE TYPES OF PROBLEMS WITH GOVERNMENT IN LIBYA.
By patrickstar (65), hampton bays on Oct 21, 11 8:55 AM
To add insult to injury, the private, semi-private, paper roads, or whatever the town wants to call them, don't get any services from the town. Years ago, we used to at least get a plow or road grader come down when they were through all of the other roads, but I've never had a single leaf picked up from the road that I built a house on more than 30 years ago! Frustrated Flanders Resident
By Janice Artandi (3), Southampton on Oct 21, 11 12:53 PM
I really dont care what happens with the leaves. I wont rake, who cares? But I can bet a new law will be passed that fines any homeowner who has two inches of leaves left for more than two weeks!
By squeaky (255), hampton bays on Oct 21, 11 3:48 PM
Let's get out of a bubble. Towns with property taxes 3 and 4 times higher than ours, pick up leaves weekly. We are use to leaf pick up 2x a year. Lets start a referendum to add $15 to our tax bill and continue with the current program. Burning leaves can be no more harmful than the smoke from fire places and wood burning stoves used from Oct to April.
By auntof9 (60), Southampton on Oct 24, 11 9:57 AM
Just wondering why the need for the vouchers. Sounds like extra work for the already short handed highway department. How long do you think the line of trucks will be on the weekends to dump your leaves? This plan is absurd!!
By Mom of 2 (7), flanders on Oct 24, 11 8:34 PM
Do a reverse Green Bag program. Every homeowner gets 10 Town Leaf Bag (orange for Halloween). Additional bags are $1.50. Then whoever takes them to the dump gets $1.00 redemption from the town. After you finish your leaves you should plan on getting a lawn chair and watch the fun. There will be people fighting for your leaves.

And can someone please stop them from calling free branch drop-off as an amnesty program. We are not criminals and we don’t need forgivness, we pay the ...more
By TheTurtle (40), Southampton on Oct 26, 11 8:24 AM
Get them up as fast as possible after they fall. Irene proved it can be done. And after that, let's get the roads that have not been worked on for over 5 years re-paved...and get the potholes out.
By Ibill (15), remsenburg on Oct 26, 11 9:40 AM
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