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.”