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Jun 24, 2011 11:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Upcoming Changes For Southampton Town Leaf Program

Jun 29, 2011 11:40 AM

Southampton Town’s leaf program is undergoing two significant changes this year: residents will be encouraged to use vouchers to deposit leaves at specific sites for disposal, and those who still wish to have their leaves picked up curbside will have to use paper bags to collect the leaves.

The changes come as part of an effort to bring the town’s program more in line with what other Suffolk County towns are doing—none of them still pick up loose leaves at curbside, according to Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor. It also comes as an attempt to minimize the transportation and safety hazards presented by large roadside piles of loose leaves, many of which are dumped illegally, the superintendent explained. It is also an attempt to allow his department to spend more time on its long list of other duties, which include snow removal and drain repair, for example.

“The fall is where the problem is, and that’s where we’re making the adjustment,” Mr. Gregor said last Wednesday, June 22, at the second annual “Leaf Forum,” which was held at the Hampton Bays Middle School, before an audience of nearly 20 town residents—about a fifth of the turnout Mr. Gregor said he expected, since the debate over the future of the program has at times been contentious.

In order to use the voucher system, residents will have to call the Highway Department and will then be issued a voucher to deposit their leaves, either loose or in bags, at one of a handful of sites townwide, free of charge. The voucher will list the person’s name, address and telephone number. Residents can either dump the leaves themselves or find a landscaper or other helper to do it for them.

Although Mr. Gregor said he is pushing the voucher program, residents can also bag their leaves for pickup—but paper bags will be required. The paper bags, which he said cost about 45 cents apiece, are sold at the Highway Department, as well as stores like Home Depot and most hardware stores.

“I’m not ending the program. I believe I’m giving people a lot of options, and no one else is stepping up to the plate,” Mr. Gregor said this week, adding that the Town Board has been loath to discuss the program.

This fall’s pickup will be for bagged leaves only, no brush, with one pass per street. The spring pickup will be for leaves and brush. Brush piles should measure no more than 5 feet long, 4 feet high and 5 feet wide, he said.

Seniors older than 73 years old will be eligible for special assistance, and anyone else with special needs might also be eligible.

At the forum, Mr. Gregor noted how the town’s proximity to the ocean means that the leaves don’t fall until relatively late in the season. That, combined with this winter’s series of snowstorms and snowier winters expected in the future—as well as a townwide hiring freeze that has limited the number of workers for the job, and “rampant” illegal dumping—are all compounding problems.

One possible change the department considered involved privatizing the program—but that was deemed too pricey.

Mr. Gregor said he favors having the Town Board pass a resolution for a ballot referendum that would allow voters to decide whether the town could purchase $750,000 worth of equipment—including compactors and buckets for leaf collection—and hire 23 new part-time employees to maintain the curbside collection of loose leaves. The number of workers in the department has been scaled back greatly over the years, he said, from about 13 to 14 employees per district, to seven or eight. There are six districts.

The department is responsible for 450 miles of road. Last year, it picked up about 49,000 yards of leaves and brush, Mr. Gregor said.

The superintendent said he is still searching for a way to turn leaves into dollars and is considering a pilot program in which leaves would be ground up into a pellet fuel which could be sold to generate revenue. He decried how town officials stopped a few years ago allowing an amnesty for commercial haulers to bring leaves and brush to the town transfer stations.

Several forum attendees said they were pleased to learn the program is not going to end altogether.

“I’ve always paid a landscaper to take my leaves away,” said Ed Moore of Hampton Bays, following the forum. “And since the town imposed a dumping fee on the landscaping trucks, he says, ‘I have to charge you $75 extra.’ So I, in turn, said, ‘Forget it. Put the leaves in the street.’ This is why the leaves have doubled over the last two or three years. More people like myself are putting our leaves in the street and are not carting them away like we always used to do.”

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Why do we elect someone to a job to tell us we are getting less service? .As far as snow causing a problem, how often do we get snow before January out here if at all some winters? And a voucher system to self haul to the landfill??? You do the job yourself, save the Town the effort and another permit? Oh for the days when we just burned them in the street.
By Sandflea (35), Southampton on Jun 24, 11 12:10 PM
Thanks for nothing Gregor. Where are the "paper" bags going to come from? Will the Town provide them? How does bagging them make it easier for your department? They still have to pick them up, but now you have placed an additional and ridiculous burdon on the taxpayers who pay yopur salary. Plus, you never get to all the streets in the fall anyway, so by the time you come by in the spring, the paper bags will have fallen apart anyway. Great plan - your a real genius !
By taxpayer61 (3), Hampton Bays on Jun 24, 11 12:41 PM
Perhaps each tax payer should short pay our taxes by a small amount to show gov't that if we get less, we should pay less. If each of us short pays a small amount, $50 or less it will send a message to our local gov't.? It would generate so much more trouble and it would cost Southampton more than $50 dollars to collect the $50 bucks.

Let's Gregorize Southampton on behalf of the Hwy Dept..

By GerryBayz (13), Hampton Bays on Jun 24, 11 2:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
The answer is when the time comes to vote for Town Highway Superintendent, simply elect someone who is more sensitive to the needs of the taxpayers. It is obvious to me that Alex Gregor will not be around after his first term expires.
By ReelT (8), Hampton Bays on Jun 24, 11 3:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
Hope the bags are free. It's bad enough to pay for roads in pizz poor condition, drains that don't drain and leaf pickup that is spotty at best, don't add another cost to the scam that we already have.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 24, 11 4:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is Bull_ _ _ _! I now feel, that I definately voted for the wrong guy. McGann based on what I've been reading would have been a better choice. Forget politics for a moment, whether Rep or Dem who cares were getting the shaft, big time. It seems that our services are being compromised by Alex, it's a double hit lately, Leaves and Lighting come on Alex get with it or find another job. I think the voters will make that decision for you...Good-Bye Alex
By The Crow's Nest (65), Red Creek on Jun 24, 11 8:35 PM
I will be running against Gregor in the next election. The people of this great township will be served. Too much ego on his part. He is too important for us.Remember the name Tom Mac
By tom mac (3), Sag Harbor on Jun 24, 11 9:16 PM
3 members liked this comment
So how will you be addressing this issue?

For years I've heard complaints about the leaves not being picked up. What is the solution and how will it be implemented?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jun 27, 11 12:29 PM
Big Fresh wouldnt you rather your road and drains fixed then have a stupid pile of leaves picked up? It is rediculous how much time and money this department wastes on picking up leaves. I looked up some other towns that do leaf pickup in other states and they do it, but they do it with a fraction of the residents. Big Fresh I know what your road looks like and if I were you I would rather have my road paved than a pile of leaves picked up.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jun 24, 11 9:22 PM
2 members liked this comment
They used to do both, with less money.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 24, 11 10:56 PM
Everything used to cost less money. Less people, less salaries, benefits were cheaper etc etc.

Surely no one is saying the leaf issue has been around for ages and was unaddressed!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jun 27, 11 12:31 PM
Roads talk about roads what about all the neglected citizens that live on dirt roads? Treated like second class citizens. No maintenance, no drainage, no grading, no paving, no plowing. All the wrath is in the wrong direction, the town board supplies the money to Highway and they need to provide more funding. Thats what it comes down to. Masterson had the same problem and Gregor inherited it. So would anyone else who got the job.
Write the town board members and express the need for the highwy ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 25, 11 7:26 AM
Many of these "neglected citizens" live on private roads. They are responsible for the maintenance not the town tax payer. You have to know your facts before you complain about things like that.

I do agree Alex inherited these problems.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jun 27, 11 5:14 PM
Personally I deal with my own leaves, but there are friends and neighbors who must rely on the Town to remove them My road has been in need of paving since the water main was installed 5 years ago, it's amazing that the road in fron ot Masterson's house is PERFECT, you can shoot pool on it! And it's less than 1/4 mile away from me, HMMMMMM.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 25, 11 8:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
It's about time!
Well done Gregor!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jun 25, 11 11:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Alex,inherited this problem and i think we should give him a chance to see if the plan will work and be glad we do not live in East Hampton where they stoped all spring and fall programs.well done alex.
By taxpayer1 (72), Southampton on Jun 25, 11 12:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
I think the Highway Dept has always done a really great job, from my emergence on the scene in the 60s to the very present. What has changed to my eye is that the larger properties no longer dispose of their leaves themselves, and that now every single leaf makes it into the pile thanks to blowers. Volume has probably increased exponentially as a result. I have seen leaf piles grow over the years to be larger than a bus.
'Landscaping' companies ('mow & blowers') bear greater responsibility ...more
By Speonk Shores (31), Remsenburg on Jun 26, 11 5:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
I thought this is the way the entire process should work....the people pay the taxes. the people want leaf pick up. so, the civil servants empowered by the same tax payers are supposed to provide the services desired by the people i.e. leaf pick up. the problem isn't that the town isn't collecting enough in tax proceeds, the problem is that they misplace, waste and otherwise mismanage the loot they confiscate. this story is about fiscal irresponsibility and the leaf program is yet another (almost) ...more
By kaluss (113), Southampton on Jun 26, 11 8:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Homeowners in Southampton have come to see leap pickup by the Town as a civil right. In reality, it is a pointless waste of resources. If a person's personal anesthetic sense drives him to collect and dispose of leaves that fall on his property, he should be wholly responsible for the job. Otherwise, he can compost or mulch. Leaf pickup is unnecessary.

Nevertheless, I predict that this bagging requirement will be rescinded. Gregor will become aware, as the constituent grumbling becomes ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 26, 11 11:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
Don't mind bagging as long as the bags are free to homeowners.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 26, 11 2:53 PM
They wont be!
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jun 26, 11 6:35 PM
This man is out of touch...Were are we supposed to get paper bags large enough to place our leaves in? Are there any commercially available? My leaf pile every fall is about 1500 cubic feet (fluff) does Alex really think they are going to fit in a 5x4x5 feet pile (100 cubic feet). ?

Second annual "leaf forum"? when was the first annual "leaf forum"? When was this one announced and where? Why not have a public meeting at town hall on the matter? Seems like Alex is always have these events ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 27, 11 12:25 PM
Let me see if I have this right. We pay for leaf pickup through our property taxes, now we have to pay MORE for bags to stuff fulll of leaves and take the time to drag them out to the street. We get to pay MORE for LESS, it that the jist of this proposed program? If so, this tool is through as Highway Superintendant.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 27, 11 7:57 PM
Too many houses, on too little property, little surprise they can't be "spread out" for soil like we do out here in our area of North Sea...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 28, 11 11:41 PM
Hey V you couldve had all those leaves bagged by the time you finished that novel(just joking around) The real problem here is the town board not supporting or working with mr. gregor on this leaf dilemma. Not once have I heard anything from the town board on this matter. There the ones who decide how much the hwy dept. gets. There staying away from this because theres no way to fix it and its politicaly crippling if you want to change it. I really think they dont have the resources they did ...more
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jun 29, 11 4:26 PM
The money has "dried up" to a certain extent.

You can't live like a king forever, and if you try, well, just ask the French about that. Got cake?

Seriously, though, no matter how "good" times were, a surplus of working capital was never created for a "rainy day". Everyone just took the money flowing into the town coffers for granted, like times would be unsustainably flush forever.

Obviously, not the case, eh?
Jul 3, 11 12:00 AM appended by Mr. Z
It's funny in life sometimes, the greatest villains don't think they're villains. They believe they are heroes.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 3, 11 12:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
/\ yep 12 am. up there 11:41 pm. nonsense.
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 3, 11 6:26 AM
Thank you to the Highway Dept for sending the road vacuums thru to clean up the mess the 'landscaping companies' ('mow and blowers') intentionally direct onto our roads.
By Speonk Shores (31), Remsenburg on Jul 22, 11 4:15 AM
Can we write off the cost of the bags as a tax deduction or as a contribution?
By boggy529 (2), Sag Harbor on Oct 10, 11 12:16 PM