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Aug 31, 2010 2:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town to abandon brush pickup in leaf program

Aug 31, 2010 2:19 PM

Come November, Southampton Town’s Highway Department will no longer collect brush during its fall leaf cleanup program—just one of the handful of modifications to the program that officials are considering rolling out over the next year.

This fall, the town will also stop collecting leaves contained in plastic bags during the cleanup, which is slated to begin around November 22. All leaves must be loose, according to Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, and cannot be in mixed piles of brush—if they are, they will not be collected by the town’s crews, which use a vacuum-equipped truck to collect loose leaves. One exception: Crews also will collect leaves that are contained in bags made from biodegradeable materials.

The town will resume collecting brush in the spring, Mr. Gregor said, adding that the elimination of the fall brush collection is to save time and resources on the leaf removal process.

The department is also considering several new policies going forward. One would be to require residents to pack leaves in biodegradable bags, which would make leaves easier to compost. Another option would be to create a pilot demonstration area in which leaf collection would be contracted out to a landscaping firm, or several firms, to service the areas which require the most cleanup. Those areas would include Hampton Bays, North Sea, parts of Water Mill, Sebonack and Shinnecock Hills, Mr. Gregor said. Those changes would be made in spring, at the earliest. If the pilot program takes place, the Highway Department would be charged with collecting bids and selecting the firm to do the work.

The idea behind biodegradable bags is to cut down on the amount of labor involved in emptying plastic bags full of leaves, said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “They wouldn’t have to empty them,” she said. “They would just throw them all into a compost heap. The plastic bags, they would just shake them out and empty them, and it would create more waste. But also it’s just labor intensive to do that.”

It’s unclear how biodegradable bags might be distributed, although suggestions on the table include requiring residents to buy their own, or the town purchasing a bulk of bags and reselling them to local businesses, who would then sell them to residents. Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski noted at a Southampton Town Board work session on Thursday, August 26, that if the town proceeds with requiring biodegradable bags for leaf collection, they must be easily accessible to residents.

Mr. Gregor told Town Board members that the current program, which has grown considerably over the years, is stretching his department’s resources. “To put it simply, it’s unwieldy,” he said. “It’s grown so much.”

In 2009, the entire leaf and brush program, including labor expenses, waste management dump fees, overtime pay, fuel expense, outside contractor truck rentals and parts cost the highway department approximately $1.5 million for both the spring and fall, according to documents provided by Mr. Gregor. According to figures from Paul Roth, a project manager at the consulting company L.K. McLean Associates P.C., town highway workers clocked 32,000 hours for the spring and fall program, which took place over four weeks in the fall and 16 weeks in the spring last year.

The time spent on collecting loose leaves in front of homes in Southampton Town could be better directed at more traditional highway tasks, according to Mr. Roth’s analysis, like cleaning and repairing drains, road resurfacing and pothole repairs, among other things.

At the meeting, Mr. Gregor charged that the leaf program was being taken advantage of by landscapers who dump their leaves on the side of the roads, knowing the Highway Department will clean them up. He also said the recent closing of East Hampton’s leaf pickup program may pose a problem to Southampton, as landscapers there may increasingly drop their leaves off on Southampton streets. “It’s a free-for-all out there,” he said.

This week, Mr. Gregor said he views the changes as a way to meet halfway between the town’s overall highway needs and the residents’ desire to keep the leaf cleanup program intact. “I’m trying to provide the service but still stay focused on the priorities,” he said.

Ms. Throne-Holst said this week that the current program is hard to manage with town resources. She noted that while changing the program might upset residents, the overall goal is to make the program better.

“It’s always a challenge to get new practices in place, but on the other hand, we’ve heard from so many that they aren’t happy with the program, so, hopefully, we can all work together on improving the program,” she said.

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Here's a suggestion...Why not dump Gregor? (The roads are not being taken care of anyway-and the leaves will biodegrade themselves without being put in bio-degradable bags.) What's the point? Anna can also leave -haven't seen or heard anything she has done for the local tax payors except via for illegal rights as with the other Soros members---we have diversity-what we need is someone to allow our men is blue to do their jobs without political garbage being thrown in their faces!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Sep 6, 10 4:36 PM
p.s. With the money saved from no-one working anymore...our taxes should go down!
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Sep 6, 10 4:38 PM
Even the Republicans and the Conservative on the Town Board -- who always chop Alex Gregor's funding requests and make him come back hat in hand repeatedly, wasting everyone's time -- even these folks acknowledge that Mr. Gregor has done a very good job as Highway Superintendent. If they could find anything to criticize, they would, for sure, but they can't.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Sep 8, 10 2:00 PM
Pay more get less. This is our state and local government slogan. Gov't is out of control even on the local level. I have a new policy; DO NOT RAKE, DO NOT TELL.
By GerryBayz (13), Hampton Bays on Oct 9, 10 12:28 AM