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Southampton Town residents express opinions on leaf pick-up program

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Jessica DiNapoli   Mar 31, 2010 12:42 PM

Southampton Town residents seem to be split down the middle in regard to their opinions on how the municipality handles leaf collection—some, mainly seniors, do not want to see the program changed, while other citizens want it abolished.

Those disparate points of view were what Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor sought to hear at two forums he held on the policy. He told the audiences at the Hampton Bays Middle School on March 24 and at The Bridge golf course in Noyac on Saturday that he had no plan or agenda going into the forums, although he has pointed out Southold Town’s policy, which requires residents to put leaves in paper bags, as a possible model.

The paper bag proposal, however, provoked complaints from the town’s senior citizens, who said that they cannot rake the leaves into bags, and do not want to pay landscapers upward of $200 to do the job.

Margaret Riebel, who attended the forum in Hampton Bays, explained that seniors may have to go without eating if they have to hire landscapers to clear their property.

Alva Hellstrom, an attendee of the Noyac forum, said that paper bags lining the streets could possibly be more unsightly than piles of leaves.

Vouchers—slips of paper that residents would present at transfer stations in order to dump a specified amount of leaves and small brush—was another idea vetted at the sessions. Mr. Gregor has explained that he would look into that idea, too.

At the end of the forum held at The Bridge, Mr. Gregor told the audience that he will go over all of the criticisms and suggestions he heard, as well as look over the 12-question questionnaires he handed out, and devise a new, hopefully improved policy. Then, he said, he will go before the Town Board with the changes, most likely have another forum or public hearing and then implement the new policy by the fall 2010 cleanup period. The regular spring pickup, which takes the town about four weeks to complete, is scheduled to begin on April 19, Mr. Gregor said.

The town has had the same policy on collecting leaves and brush for the past 20 years, Mr. Gregor explained. The current policy permits residents to place leaves and brush up to 6 inches in diameter on their property along 450 miles of town-owned roads and 650 private roads of various lengths in both the fall and spring. The town then comes by with either a payloader or leaf vacuum truck and removes the leaves.

Mr. Gregor said that the leaf pickup program—a service the Highway Department is not required to offer—costs about $1.3 million per year, including staff pay and benefits for the time during which they’re collecting leaves. As part of a “charge-back” program implemented last year, the department also has to pay upward of $350,000 to the Department of Municipal Facilities and Engineering, which oversees the transfer station, to dispose of the leaves.

“You can’t cripple one department to prop up another,” Mr. Gregor said about the charge-back, which helps fund the transfer stations.

That fee, and the others associated with the cleanup, make the program untenable, he explained.

Before the Hampton Bays session, Marie DePaula of Pine Neck Landing in East Quogue said that Mr. Gregor should either require that the leaves be bagged or abandon the program.

“My first choice is that they do away with the program,” she said, adding that landscapers typically dump piles and piles of leaves along Head of Lots Road in East Quogue each year.

That practice—which is considered illegal dumping—is one that especially irks Mr. Gregor. He has explained that it is very difficult to stop this practice, as people have to catch the contractors in the act and call the police.

East Hampton Town is the only other town in Suffolk County that picks up loose leaves and brush, said Vincent Galdiero, the president of Pavement Services Inc. in Smithtown, and town officials there are considering eliminating the service. Before the question-and-answer sessions at both forums, Mr. Galdiero went through the policies of other Suffolk towns and said that Shelter Island does not pick up its residents’ leaves and all others require that the leaves be bagged. Some towns, like Brookhaven, have private carters who bid on picking up the leaves, and others have the highway department itself pick up the remnants, Mr. Galdiero explained.

John Christiansen, an attendee at the Hampton Bays forum, said that he sees the bag option as an opportunity for highway employees to hurt their backs, and also questioned who would oversee the voucher program. Mr. Gregor did not respond directly to Mr. Christiansen.

Aline Griffin, who went to the forum in Noyac, voiced her support for the voucher program.

“There are a number of places on Cobb Road with huge piles—it’s disgraceful. I like the idea of the voucher,” she said.

Another woman, Lilarety Green, took the green approach, explaining that leaves do not have to be meticulously raked from one end of a yard to another. She explained that the leaves will decompose and become a part of the soil. Stephanie Davis, a member of the Remsenburg Association, agreed with Ms. Green, and said that she allows some leaves to stay on her property.

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Let’s give Kudos to Alex Gregor for addressing this leaf situation in an open, inclusive manor.

By SHNative (541), Southampton on Apr 1, 10 6:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Be done with the leaf suction program! Time to bag them people. I for one, am totally sick and tired of leaves blowing down the street and into my cleared yard, because the trucks take forever to get to pick them up!

The waste management dept. was charging the highway dept. for disposal of the leaves and still they managed to be at a deficit?

Time to change the administration to a competent one!
By ICE (1195), Southhampton on Apr 1, 10 10:20 PM
Mr Gergor has some nerve “Mr. Gregor said that the leaf pickup program—a service the Highway Department is not required to offer” after doing it for 20 years not only is a requirement, if they stop or change the process to be more cumbersome on the home owner, I want a rebate on my town taxes. It is time to look a using subcontractors to do the pick ups. In addition, is see a little double counting here with the one town organization charging another. If the highway department doesn’t do this work ...more
By Baloo (7), Remsenburg on Apr 2, 10 9:49 AM
I don't pick up my leaves. I have a mulching mower and I chop them up and return them to the soil. But, if you know that dumping is going on in a certain spot, why not put up a camera? You only have to catch one dumper and it pays for itself. Cameras should be put up in areas where dumping is an ongoing problem. I'm sick of all the littering and dumping.
By darwin (47), southampton on Apr 2, 10 10:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
@ darvin, Please stop with the camera thing. We already have enough of our civil rights being violated by cameras. A lot of people think putting up cameras will solve everything. They don't. Their costly and they lead to violations of peoples civil rights...............
Let's put cameras on every street corner; at every stop sign, on every lightly traveled road in town; in front of everyone house. Let's put flying drone planes in the air,24/7 to protect us,and finally, lets' put cameras in all ...more
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on Apr 6, 10 12:19 PM
I live in the woods and have many trees in my yard. We rake up over 20 yards of leaves and put them at curbside. I could not possibly bag this amount of leaves. I can not afford to have them hauled away due to the quantity. I tried taking them to the dump with a pick up, but after a day of this, I realized that it was not feasable. We have paid taxes for many years and watched dump study after dump study starting in the 50' s. We now pay to take our garbage to the transfer station. The $$$ that ...more
By K2040 (7), Southampton on Apr 3, 10 11:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
"The regular spring pickup, which takes the town about four weeks to complete, is scheduled to begin on April 19" Really? I'm still waiting for the fall pickup to hit my neck of the woods. How screwed up is this department, that they have enough time alotted, and money set aside, and still do not do their jobs. This is criminal, in that they are stealing taxpayer money and not performing the services paid for. If only ONE PERSON in our local government would stand up for our rights as taxpayers, ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Apr 4, 10 4:32 AM
2 members liked this comment
Well, something needs to change! Its pretty clear what the Town is doing isn't working. Follow the rules and pile your leaves in front of your house and some unscrupulous someone invariably comes along in the dark of night and dumps on tons of debris. Never mind the Town usually doesn't finish the job and we're left with unsightly heaps of rotting leaves all along the roadways, sometimes blocking the road and too often plowed into neighbors' driveways for others (me) to deal with. Suggest Mr. ...more
By usuallyquietonquiogue (10), Westhampton Beach on Apr 4, 10 7:31 AM
We don't need the extra expense of polling those who can't attend hearings. You can write a letter to the Town Board; it goes on record as part of the Letters portion of each Town Board meeting. You can also write directly to Mr. Gregor.
By Turkey Bridge (1124), Quiogue on Apr 6, 10 11:17 AM
You can send him an e-mail. His e-mail address is agregor@southamptontownny.gov
By lifesaver (96), speonk on Apr 8, 10 7:38 AM
Gregor's idea will bring about illegal dumping for sure..then we the taxpayers will have to pay to clean it up...or hire more police to catch the dumpers. Pick up the leaves Gregor. Do you think, everyone who lives in "the Hamptons" is a millionaire with landscapers to do the work. You were not elected to reduce the services but improve them and you will be booted out if don't. Whiile you are complaining about the leaves how about sending around some pot hole crews to fix the roads? IMO you are ...more
By nellie (446), sag harbor on Apr 4, 10 10:53 PM
You say that Gregor's ideas will bring illegal dumping, look around it can't get much worse then it is now. You also say pick up the leaves, fill the pot holes, which one is it if they're picking up the leaves they're not filling pot holes vice versa. Do away with the leaf program and the highway dept can do there job maintaining roads not lawns.
By EQ125 (2), East Quogue on Apr 5, 10 7:20 PM
They can do both just like they have been for 30 years. Pick up the leaves in the Fall and repair the roads in the Spring....Mr. Gregor is politicizing the process and it is disgusting. By the way, if you think there is dumping now, just wait..Southampton's back roads will look like the back roads of Manorville. There are a lot more isolated places to the east of East Quogue. When that happens I'm sure Gregor will be back begging for more funds to clean it up.
By nellie (446), sag harbor on Apr 5, 10 8:42 PM
Nellie, you call Alex Gregor a "big disappointment", but that's not what Chris Nuzzi & Jim Malone said at a recent Town Board meeting. They had high praise for the way Mr. Gregor handled the extreme snow situation that greeted him just days after taking office. Messrs. Nuzzi and Malone had a lot of company in this, as everyone in town was saying Gregor had done a great job.

What's puzzling is that these two Councilmen said this even as they were denying about half of what Alex Gregor ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1124), Quiogue on Apr 6, 10 11:34 AM
Sorry, Gregor already sounds like Mr. tax and spend...I hope his election is not a mistake. I don't care what Nuzzi or Malone think, I can think for myself and I think Mr. Gregor should stop complaining, motivate the troops and get to work.
By nellie (446), sag harbor on Apr 9, 10 4:56 PM
I'm not talking about what Chris Nuzzi & Jim Malone think, I'm talking about what Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone did, and what they did was to cut Alex Gregor's road repair funding request by almost half. The Obstruction Twins did this even though they did not question either the accuracy of Mr. Gregor's figure or the urgent need for the work after this hard winter. For that reason, I say again, if you see roads in need of fixing that don't get fixed, blame Nuzzi & Malone, not Gregor.
By Turkey Bridge (1124), Quiogue on Apr 14, 10 9:41 AM
I don't see how bagging leaves is going to change anything, it's just an extra step that results in more plastic in the landfills. Even if the the town were to provide free paper leaf bags it's a lot more labor intensive for the homeowner to bag leaves. I have many trees and I do mow as many leaves as possible with my mulching lawn mower, but there are so many leaves I also have to rake them. If the town doesn't pick them up, people will still leave them roadside, and in my opinion, there will ...more
By Hamptons Resident (4), Westhampton on Apr 5, 10 11:38 AM
Thats hogwash that senior citizens cannot put leaves into a paperbag! Out town has had this program for 15 years where leaves are either placed in paperbags or into 30 gallon garbage cans. Once a week, the garbage trucks come by and pick up the yard waste. Funny how senior citizens in our town, which is bigger than Southamton, have no problem complying with this.
By Walt (243), Southampton on Apr 5, 10 8:33 PM
What Town is this???? Your Town owns garbage trucks?
By nellie (446), sag harbor on Apr 5, 10 8:47 PM
Says Walt is from Southampton, but, yeah, I'd like a little more clarification myself.
By Mr. Z (6254), North Sea on Apr 5, 10 10:30 PM
Considering I get taxed through the nose and have precious little to show for it in return, please don't take away the one little government perk I enjoy- leaf removal. Sure, the current system is not perfect, but nothing will deter the illegal dumpers. Perhaps the solution is to provide a location for people landscape businesses, etc. to come and drop off their leaves. It all has to go somewhere, and this is certainly preferable to having it dumped illegally on the side of the road. The problem ...more
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on Apr 6, 10 4:14 PM
Pay more, get less from gov't.. How about a reduction in heads at the Hwy. Dept and a roll back in taxes.
By GerryBayz (11), Hampton Bays on Apr 8, 10 7:55 PM
I think the brown paper bags are much better than just piling them up. Too many people just rake them into a huge pile in the street (instead of on their property) and they sit there for weeks or months-reducing the width of the street. Last year, the leaves were there straight thru the winter & covered with snow, which made the roads even harder to plow.
By EastEnder2 (30), Hampton Bays on Nov 9, 11 12:11 PM
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