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Mar 17, 2010 8:50 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town leaf collection policy forums scheduled

Mar 17, 2010 8:50 AM

Leaves blowing across town roadways and sitting in wet lumps on the shoulder for months on end—plus the exorbitant cost of collecting them—have made the town’s curbside pick-up policy untenable, Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor says.

In an effort to revamp the program, and make it more cost- and time-effective for the town, Mr. Gregor is holding two community forums to solicit input from the public. Mr. Gregor, who assumed the post in January, scheduled a forum for Wednesday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hampton Bays Middle School on Argonne Road East, and another for Saturday, March 27, at 12:30 p.m. at The Bridge, a golf course on Millstone Road in Noyac. The superintendent, who noted that the majority of the complaints the Highway Department receives are about the leaf program, is hoping that at least 100 people show up to voice their opinions at each meeting.

The first 15 minutes of each forum will be a “scoping session,” during which attendees will be able to walk around the venue and look at displays detailing other municipalities’ leaf pick-up policies, Mr. Gregor explained. He will then detail the expenses that make up the town’s $1.3 million program and explain how it works. In order to gauge public sentiment, he will ask the attendees to fill out a questionnaire. He will also take questions from the audience during the forums.

“The focus of this is to let people know the time we spend on this and that we need to focus on the more important issues,” he said.

Southampton Town now asks residents to pile all their leaves and loose brush under 3 inches in diameter on the boundaries of their properties in both the fall and spring so the Highway Department crews can come by and pick it up there. But the system, which has been in place for more than 20 years, is not working, Mr. Gregor said.

The cost of the leaf program for the fall cleanup alone comes to around $1.3 million, he said. The Highway Department must pay the town’s Waste Management Department $354,000 to dispose the leaves. Labor for the employees for 19 weeks tallies $600,000, plus $198,000 in benefits. And Mr. Gregor estimated that the cost for fuel for the trucks used to pick up and transport leaves comes in at $120,000.

The town is currently still working to complete the fall 2009 cleanup, an effort that has been derailed five times since a blizzard on December 19, because of the rough winter weather.

“We have to suspend the program one day before a storm hits so that we can prepare,” Mr. Gregor said, explaining that the Highway Department staff must install salters on trucks to get ready for a storm. “It is our responsibility to keep roads open and safe.”

The fall leaf program is the more time-consuming of the two—it takes 19 weeks, on average, to finish. The spring program takes about five weeks to complete, Mr. Gregor said.

Taken as a whole, the current policy does not allow the Highway Department adequate time to complete its other duties, such as cleaning drains, paving roads and fixing streetlights and signs, according to the superintendent.

Southold Town’s policy is one that Mr. Gregor will be presenting at the upcoming forums. This year, Southold—which, like Southampton Town, has about 450 miles of roads to maintain—began mandating that residents put their leaves in heavy-duty, 60-pound bags, which can be purchased for 47 cents at Southold Town Hall and area grocery stores. The bags are picked up by the town’s Highway Department, and the municipality also allows property owners to drop bags off at the dump for free during a given period, Mr. Gregor said.

That approach decreases the amount of leaves blowing around the road and cuts down on the labor needed from the Highway Department, Mr. Gregor said, and that might work for Southampton.

“We need to create an incentive for people to self-haul to facilities or be able to have the landscaper haul for them,” he said.

The superintendent added that he thinks the program would cut down on private contractors dumping leaves on stretches of roads where there are no homes, which he said is a costly, ongoing problem under the current policy.

East Hampton Town, which has about 250 miles of town roads, is the only other town in the region that does loose leaf pick-up, Mr. Gregor said. To save money, East Hampton Town has weighed the idea of requiring leaves to be placed in bags and is now considering abolishing leaf pick-up entirely.

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I see Gregor's point. However, most of what he is talking about is a fixed cost which we pay for. We would not save that much money - perhaps half or less. Remember, gov't has fuzzy math.

As someone who pays taxes, perhaps we should bag our own and reduce our taxes. The Hwy. Dept. would need less people, let's take the savings. Perhaps outsource and privitize all services like the cleaning and light repair

By GerryBayz (13), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 10 10:26 AM
THE WHOLE CONCEPT IS SILLY. LEAVE THE LEAVES OUT IN FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE SO THEY CAN BLOW AROUND FOR 19 WEEKS SO YOU AND OTHERS NEARBY NEED TO CLEAN THEM UP 10 TIMES OVER. ALL IT WOULD TAKE IS A SCHEDULE!!!! LET PEOPLE KNOW WHEN THEY ARE COMING AND RESIDENCE CAN PLAN ACCORDINGLY. ITS REALLY NOT THAT HARD OF SOLUTION. I HAVE CALLED MANY TIMES TO INQUIRE WHEN THEY WOULD BE IN MY AREA AND I WAS TOLD "WE HAVE NO IDEA"...NO IDEA?? HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
By it never ends... (25), SMITHTOWN on Mar 23, 10 3:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have owned my property for 13 years and my taxes have more than doubled; I figured this ever-increasing cost should cover the ONLY service I get from the Town. Get rid of the nepotism, graft and corruption and you'll find the necessary funds.
By realdeal (23), Southampton on Mar 25, 10 12:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
the problem isnt the town portion of your taxes its the 73% of your taxes that go to the schools that goes up every year regardless of the economy. wait to you see this years increase!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Mar 26, 10 7:55 PM
muchas gracias a toda la gente quines pagar los taxes para que podemos ensenar los ninos en la escuela
By david h (405), southampton on Mar 25, 10 2:51 PM
PICK UP THE LEAVES AND STOP THE NONSENSE. IT WORKED 30 YEARS AGO AND IT CAN WORK NOW! NEPOTISM AND EVERYTHING. GREGOR, DO THE JOB AND STOP MAKING EXCUSES. IF YOU CAN'T HACK IT, QUIT NOW.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 25, 10 6:36 PM
Pick-up my own leaves and bag them myself....souds like a nice idea except the fact I have 3/4 of an acre! It would take me 19 weeks to rake and bag all my leaves - i would probably need 500+ bags! I dont mind doing some outdoor work and exersize but that is way more than one person can handle! If thats is what they want US to do forTHEM so they don't have to then we SHOULD NOT have to pay for the bags! The fall clean up is a big JOKE it never happnes on my road in HB until March every year! and ...more
By Fedupin HamptonBays (18), Hampton Bays on Mar 26, 10 6:48 AM
you want to stop this problem allow free dumping of leaves all year round. Stop charging at the transfer stations for leaves you turn into compost.
By 27dan (2364), south hampton on Mar 26, 10 10:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
And when I say free....I mean for landscapers as well. The money just goes to pay for the salary's of the extra men that are not coming around any way. I will hire my own men or god forbid do it myself.
By 27dan (2364), south hampton on Mar 26, 10 10:19 AM
Just think of all those plastic bags full of leaves piling up at the dump. Or, is the plan to empty them out and recycle the plastic? I don't like using more plastic as it just inceases the demand for oil.

I agree with 27dan, let us dump our leaves for free all year long. I'd like to include brush also. I wish I had known there was an amnesty after the last storm, but I didn't hear about it in time. Where was it announced?
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Mar 26, 10 3:03 PM
I agree with 27dan and also think that if the landfill takes all leaves for free,and that no landscaper can dump them on the road ways after they have cleaned up a yard it should free up the highway dept to do other tihings.I think that it is
also unfair for Nellie of Sag Harbor to jump all over Mr Gregor who is trying his
best with all of our tax dollars.P.S Alex it was good to know that you were in
your office during the last couple storms and not playing golf unlike the last
person>Keep ...more
By taxpayer1 (60), Southampton on Mar 27, 10 12:54 PM
Before you say "good work" let's watch the spring road fix. Our local roads are now a mess. All my leaves were picked up before the snowstorm in December with a Highway Super on the golf course. I agree that the transfer stations should take leaves all year but I cannot imagine how that will benefit senior citizens and others who don't own a pick-up truck.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 27, 10 10:39 PM
I say cancel the pickup entirely. Incentivise dumping at the transfer station, and provide tax breaks for people who compost at home. Simple! I've never left a single leaf from my 1 acre (with plenty of trees) on the street. I compost it all, and I grow great vegetables.
By greenpea (3), Quiogue on Mar 27, 10 7:07 PM
Now how the heck are some people like me supposed to drag bag after bag after bag of leaves and brush to the transfer station??? I do not own an expensive gas guzzling SUV. I do not own a pick-up truck. It would take me 100 trips back and forth with maybe 2-3 bags of leaves!!! How am I supposed to bring brances and brush in a car??? It would be a big waste of gas for me it's a crazy idea to have homeowners bring their leaves and brush when we do not have any way to transport it! WAKE UP!!!! Someone ...more
By Fedupin HamptonBays (18), Hampton Bays on Mar 29, 10 7:57 AM
Maybe you should wake up ....If you cant do it yourself than hire someone else to do it . Stop depending on government for everything in your life.Because in the end you will pay 3 times as much in taxes.
By 27dan (2364), south hampton on Mar 29, 10 10:24 AM
27 Dan...give us your address so we can all send you our bills for removal of our leaves. I didn't hear anyone say they were going to reduce my taxes if I did it myself.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 29, 10 6:43 PM
We have to reduce the size of government Nellie, To many of us have become dependent on someone else, And then a union worker is happy to come to your rescue at prevailing wage.Sometimes I don't even recognize this country any more its seems like many have been indoctrinated into well you know ....Dont make me use that S word. LOL
By 27dan (2364), south hampton on Mar 29, 10 11:26 PM