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Oct 21, 2011 5:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Leaf Pickup Program May Strain Waste Management Department

Oct 26, 2011 10:53 AM

Southampton Town’s new leaf pickup program, crafted primarily by Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, will come with additional, unexpected staffing costs that may strain the Municipal Works Department, town officials said on Friday.

Christine Fetten, the town’s director of facilities management, told Town Board members at a work session meeting that the program—which will require the use of three of the town’s transfer stations, in North Sea, Westhampton and Hampton Bays, and additional staffing at each—could exhaust the department’s overtime and part-time employee budgets and require approximately 176 additional man hours per week to implement. That accounts for extra staff at the town’s transfer stations—the number will at least double, if not more, at the Westhampton, Hampton Bays and North Sea stations, she said, in a “worst-case scenario.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst expressed concern that Ms. Fetten would burn through her overtime budget. “I believe we may be able to work things around, but we didn’t anticipate this,” Ms. Fetten replied.

Under the program, residents, or their commercial carters, will be required to obtain vouchers to dispose of loose leaves for free at the three transfer stations. The Highway Department will pick up leaves in biodegradable bags only, which also will be dropped at the transfer stations. Also, residents who are 73 years or older, or who have special needs, will be able to have loose leaves picked up by town crews.

Town Board members Bridget Fleming and Ms. Throne-Holst quizzed Ms. Fetten, asking her to describe all the kinks with the leaf program on her end. Both Ms. Fleming and Ms. Throne-Holst asked if tweaking the program, which is set to launch on November 14, would be a good idea.

“At this point in time, I think it would be difficult to modify the information that’s been submitted to the public,” Ms. Fetten said. “I can’t speak to a better way to do it. I think that’s really a question to the highway superintendent.”

Mr. Gregor was noticeably absent from the work session on Friday, despite having been invited to attend. In a letter to the Town Board, which he requested be read by the town clerk and entered into the official record, Mr. Gregor, who said he couldn’t make the meeting because of a prior commitment, suggested several other dates for the meeting but didn’t hear back, he said. “Since I run the department that is responsible for leaf removal, I am baffled that the supervisor would choose to proceed without me,” he said. The letter was not read during the meeting.

According to an e-mail exchange provided by Janice Wilson, the supervisor’s executive assistant, Mr. Gregor requested the discussion to be rescheduled to November 18.

In the letter, Mr. Gregor outlined the history of problems with the leaf program, which he blamed primarily on the Highway Department being understaffed and on snowstorms that halt the program. The Highway Department has about five to eight employees for each of its six highway districts. In previous years, that figure was somewhere between 12 to 16 employees per district, Mr. Gregor said on Monday.

In response to Ms. Fetten’s statements, Mr. Gregor said he didn’t understand why there would be a strain on her department, given that the amount of leaves has stayed the same over the years. “We generate between 38,000 and 45,000 yards of leaves per year between spring and fall,” Mr. Gregor said. “The volume isn’t going to change. It’s going to stay the same. I don’t know where the problem is there.”

He also added that he believed the amount the Waste Management Department charges him to get rid of the leaves—about $7.50 per cubic yard—is a bloated price. That transaction is called an interdepartmental charge-back. He said he believes the figure should be $4.31 per yard, but added that it would be even better if it was free.

He also said that if Ms. Fetten wasn’t able to do the job, he could take the leaves somewhere else. “If she doesn’t want to do it, I can do it,” Mr. Gregor declared.

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I dont understand how this is going to put a strain on her department . Its the same amount of leaves its just getting there differently. Just a way to get more cash flow into her department I guess
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Oct 21, 11 6:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
This HAS to be the worst run town on the East End !! We are well aware of the high rate of property taxes that are collected each year, and still there is always a shortfall !! What a joke , starting with the contracts with the unions !! They are way out of touch with reality ! Either renegociate or lay them off until the budget balances !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Oct 22, 11 10:25 AM
What an idiot Gregor is. The leaf pickup program was working just fine the way it was. Maybe if he had his employees work rather than just ride around and do nothing the leaves would be picked up faster. It always seems to be 8 watching one person work, same with NYDOT and the LIRR work crews.

By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Oct 22, 11 11:46 AM
What an all around farce...Are we really to believe that the Town Board has not had a clue as to what has been happening? Hard to believe...Now they act stupified and claim the matter is out of their control...That Mr. Gregor is an independent elected official and they can't control what he does. Another good reason to vote out the incumbants on the Town Board...Don't let them pull more wool over our eyes...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Oct 22, 11 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Can not be said any better!
By Ref11 (17), hampton bays on Oct 23, 11 11:07 PM
I miss the smell of leaves burning in the fall at the edge of my property. I miss watching my kids play in the big pile of leaves before we touched the matchstick to the leaf.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Oct 22, 11 12:48 PM
The leaf program never worked fine. its allways been piles of leaves rotting for months all over the place. East Quogue has allways been one of the last for service. if it gets finished befor the snow great, if not its a nasty mess til the spring.
Self haul will require ne extra man hours. I have self hauled for years. I don't want to look at it in front of my house. You pull up at the place. Somebody gets up off his butt and says put the leaves over there. Then he returns to his chair while ...more
By ADAMSG (53), EAST QUOGUE on Oct 22, 11 12:53 PM
176 extra hours a week? Thats just 1 extra guy at each of the 3 collecting sites every day plus 8 extra hours a week for the paperwork or something.

The dumps asking for an extra 176 hours a week and us not having to pay the highway dept to do a job they never did right sounds like a good deal to me...
because we arn't paying those highway guys any more? right??? are we??

By user.name (46), hampton bays on Oct 22, 11 5:46 PM
Another example of a government screw-up. Although there is never ONE PERFECT system, Gregor's new plan is plain ridiculous and more complicated than it has to be. We pay good taxes to the town to do something that most people can't do...get rid of leaves. If you are under 73, you have to buy the stupid bags, and hope they pick them up. More paper, more out-of-pocket expense for us and besides, what if you're incapacitated and UNDER 73 years old? Is 73 the magic number? Why not 72, or 74? ...more
By Jan (25), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 11 6:08 PM
Why not get FREE man power by putting the drunk drivers convitcted out to work? They do in it Quogue. SH would then have enough man power to go around and p/u leaves. My feeling is that Gregor made his mind up to dismantle the leaf p/u program before he was elected. And why is the HD short handed? Why weren't those jobs filled?
By baywave (22), Westhampton Beach on Oct 22, 11 6:18 PM
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Can anyone explain to me what the actual process of leaf removal is? For example, are the leaves manually loaded onto trucks or do they use an industrial vacuum?
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Oct 22, 11 6:37 PM
1. Put mulching blade on mower.
2. Mow lawn.

That's it. Nothing else needed.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 23, 11 1:14 AM
in most cases, a pay-loader is employed to scoop piles into tractor trailers. also a few guys are on he ground doing a more precise clean up.
By ratboy (17), sousd-hampton on Oct 25, 11 6:48 AM
Some good points were raised. We used to burn our leaves but that pollutes so we stopped. The Town has a hiring freeze in place so when they lose an employee they cannot be replaced. According to Gregor the department is short staffed due to this. So fewer employees = less gets done. Waste Management & Highway should be able to get free help from those persons convicted of crimes requiring community service. They have road gangs down south, they should have road gangs here. The Suffolk County Jail ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Oct 23, 11 7:02 AM
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You only wish they cost you $30,000 a year !! Try triple that !!
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Oct 23, 11 8:56 AM
I've been self hauling my leaves for years without a voucher. Now I have to call and get a voucher. What if I don't? Will they turn me away with a truck load of leaves? I've been doing there job for years because they don't show up till march. I don't get a break on my taxes for doing this. I can't get my leaves picked up and I don't get my road plowed for days after a storm. What am I paying for?
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Oct 23, 11 9:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Montauk dump run by one guy, place is spotless, takes leaves for free. East Hampton dump; one time charge for a permit, takes leaves/brush year round. Very efficient operations. (the dump-not the town). Southampton north sea dump ? fugeddaboudit. Money pit.
Where else in the free world can you have politicians in a p#@ssing contest over leaves ? Can't make this stuff up.
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Oct 23, 11 10:00 AM
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So we lose our leaf removal and have to PAY for bags? Do we get a reduction in our Town taxes for this reduction in service? Why not eliminate the voucher and allow residents to dump their leaves for free? Common sense people!!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Oct 23, 11 11:56 AM
the dumps do allow residents to dump their leaves for free. there is no charge for residents to dump their leaves at the westhampton, hampton bays and north sea stations.

By user.name (46), hampton bays on Oct 23, 11 7:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
You got your reduction when the highway job's were reduced.
By BigOne (22), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 11 10:56 PM
Sure, I will throw Alex under the bus! My permanent promotion and raise this week?
Sure, done deal!

Southampton Town Board - Agenda Board Meeting of October 25, 2011
Page 56
Resolution 2011-1049
Category: Personnel
Sponsors: Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst
Department: Personnel
Appoint Christine Fetten to Town Engineer Position
By BigOne (22), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 11 10:51 PM
Why are leaves on your own property the town's problem? Stop the leaf program all together, and the dump should charge or not take leaves.
By Ref11 (17), hampton bays on Oct 23, 11 11:15 PM
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Ok so if the leaves on our property aren't the towns problem then we should be allowed to burn them. But the town says we can't burn. They have to be disposed of somehow. Wet rotting leaves is the perfect medium for mold to grow and provide living space for mice and other rodents.
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Oct 24, 11 7:46 AM
Mow your lawn and you won't have a wet rotting leaf problem. Also, the Town is not who says you can't burn them, it's the State. And frankly, I'm glad that law is in place because a) it has an impact on air quality and b) If we were allowed to burn our leaves again it wouldn't be long until someone accidentally burns their house down.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 11 9:02 AM
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too much drama for this mama
By bob surfer (8), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 11 9:24 AM
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The brown bags won't biodegrade unless wet. None of the sites have water to wet them down. Someone needs to open the bags at the dump. This is an additional cost . What is the difference in air quality between burning leaves and/or using a fireplace or woodburning stove between Oct to April?.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Oct 24, 11 11:57 AM
Burning leaves outside is results in lots of smoke released relatively low to the ground which is easily prone to wind. The wind can carry smoke/particulate/embers to neighbors properties, neighboring woods and the immediate air we breath. Not to mention there's a much higher likilood that burning leaves outdoors will result in burning other things that shouldn't be burned that contain toxins and carcinogens.

Burning wood in your fireplace or wood burning stove produces less smoke which ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 11 12:36 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Watermillian (2), Water Mill on Oct 24, 11 11:25 PM
Maybe part of problem goes back to right after Gregor's election when the Town Board broke up his department into Highway (Gregor) and Waste Management. They hired some new person to run that at a lot of $$$. Now Highway Dept has to pay Waste Management to dump our leaves there. I never understood why this was done and always thought it seemed illegal since we elected Gregor for both jobs and then they just took one away. I think it has made life for Gregor more difficult. And we are paying the ...more
By baywoman (165), southampton on Oct 25, 11 4:56 PM
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Just a quick tally of the SH Town services that we DON'T have:
No street lights
No sewers
Liter-strewn roads that are NEVER cleaned
No town trash removal
and now, all of a sudden... no leaf pick ups

Please remind me again why I'm paying ridiculously high taxes.
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Oct 27, 11 4:30 PM
Thank God for no street light, sewers and Town trash removal, want that, take it UTI (up the Island). I do agree, however, that we should have a reduction in our taxes due to the reduction is services.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Oct 28, 11 7:10 PM
1 member liked this comment