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Jan 5, 2011 10:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Leaf Pickup Program Grinds To Halt Following Snowstorm

Jan 5, 2011 10:32 AM

Last month’s blizzard brought Southampton Town’s leaf cleanup program to a screeching halt, and there is no firm date for when it will resume, Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said this week.

The two-month program, which began in all six Highway Department districts on November 22, was nearly halfway complete—and more or less on schedule—when highway crews were redirected on December 23 to prepare for the storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in some areas of the town between December 26 and 27. Hampton Bays, the largest hamlet in the municipality, was the only section of the town in which highway crews were slightly behind with the leaf pickup schedule, and that was due to equipment problems, according to Mr. Gregor.

As of Monday afternoon, Mr. Gregor said that while he would like to see the program resume as quickly as possible, his department’s 46 workers are now preparing for another snowstorm that could arrive on Friday. Their preparatory tasks include fixing snow-removal and sand-spreading equipment, and restocking snow salt and sand—jobs that must be done to keep the roads safe, which he said is always a priority over leaf cleanup.

“It’s unfortunate that the weather hasn’t cooperated,” he said. “We didn’t get our two months of good weather. So now it’s going to be problematic.

“Please be patient,” he continued, speaking to town residents. “Workers will be out there to pick them up. The priority is now to keep the roads safe.”

Mr. Gregor said he has learned the same lesson in each of the past two winters: the leaf program cannot be completed in two months without interference from the weather. As a result, he is thinking about creating a program next year that would allow residents to drop off leaves for free at special locations and transfer stations throughout the town. He said such a program would essentially cut down on time that the Highway Department employees spend collecting the leaves, many of which are now covered with snow.

The program has seen some changes since last year. Under the current program, leaves are picked up if only they are loosely piled along the sides of roads, on private property, or if they are placed in biodegradable bags. No leaves in plastic bags are being collected this time. Also, the town is not collecting any brush; that work will resume in the spring.

Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Fred Cammann said this week that many of the streets in his community are still littered with leaves, although he does not blame the Highway Department. He said landscapers constantly dump leaves along the roads, particularly on Ocean Road, creating enormous piles that are difficult for crews to collect. That exact concern was one that Mr. Gregor raised during a Town Board meeting last summer, noting that he expected to see a spike in such incidents due to East Hampton Town canceling its leaf pickup program.

“I have complete sympathy for the Highway Department, because they’re trying to figure out how to solve this problem,” Mr. Cammann said.

East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee Chairwoman Joan Hughes and Hampton Bays Civic Association President Bruce King, meanwhile, said they’re interested in learning more about Mr. Gregor’s idea of having residents dump their own leaves.

Never a fan of the current leaf pickup program, Ms. Hughes said she and members of her civic group asked Mr. Gregor back when he ran for office in 2009 if he would consider canceling it. She said the large piles of leaves block roads in East Quogue, posing a safety issue for cars and pedestrians.

Still, most of those attending a pair of “leaf forums” hosted last year by Mr. Gregor said they wanted to keep the leaf pickup program. In 2009, the town’s entire leaf and brush program, including labor, dumping fees, overtime, fuel and other expenses, cost in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, according to Mr. Gregor.

“Our feeling about it was that the program costs far more than it’s worth,” Ms. Hughes said this week.

Mr. King, who said he has spoken with about a dozen residents of Hampton Bays, said some understand why the pickup program was suspended while others are just annoyed at the delay. He said that, in his opinion, landscapers should be allowed to drop off their leaves at town transfer stations for free—a move that could save the town money and ease the burden of highway crews. Also, he said he’s in favor of fining residents who use plastic bags instead of biodegradable ones.

“I still see the plastic bags out there, and I think those people should get with the program,” Mr. King said.

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I will preface this by stating that I have great respect for Alex Gregor. But who begins a leaf pick-up program, a two-month program as reported in the article, on November 22nd and expects to be able to complete the project before winter descends upon us??? Very poor planning.
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 11:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe he should have climbed the trees in september to pull the leaves down, thus get an early start and keeping you happy?
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 8, 11 5:58 PM
Should he start before the leaves are off the trees?
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 11:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
You must have some hardy trees if the majority of your leaves aren't done falling well before mid-November.
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 5:50 PM
Do away with the leaf program. It costs to much, the highway department doesnt have the manpower that is required and it costs way to much money. The town should post a list of contractors you can call or just bring the leaves to the dump for free. This would also cut down on the leaves that are dumped illegally at the dead ends that have already been passed by the HD.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jan 7, 11 3:36 PM
How much does it cost overall just to pick up the leaves throughout the town? How much does it cost per household? How much is a contractor charge to pick up the leaves in front of your house and take them to the dump? Is it free for contractors to dump leaves at the dump like it is for residents? If the town stops picking up the leaves wont there be more illegal dumping? Wont people just blow leaves on the road and wont that result in more dangerous roads? Help me figure it out please.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 8, 11 11:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
We pay taxes to cover the costs of programs like this. It's what makes it all go 'round...
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 9, 11 4:44 PM
There was no Leaf Program in Hampton Bays near the Library off Ponquogue Avenue. It is a big joke. All of the leaves have been blowing around and are now mounds pounded down by ice and snow. That is, the leaves that have not blown away. If the town of Southampton cannot do the job efficiently, please lay off some of the overpaid workers and let people hire their own private landscapers to get rid of leaves and get a credit on their taxes.
By Bridget325 (27), Hampton Bays on Jan 7, 11 7:17 PM
I don't think the rebate on the taxes will be that much in relation to what it would cost to use a private carter. For many residents it is going to be a big additional financial burden. I have yet to see them provide a breakdown of the numbers and even less of the per household costs. Next year Mr. Gregor is trying to make residents bag their leaves. That is just an underhanded way to have the residents pay for leaf pick up and just burden them more in their leaf cleaning. Why not be honest with ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 8, 11 11:47 AM
It's not as if the HWY guys are sitting around @ the yard playing cards... they have more important things than leaf pickup - so when it snows they deal with that instead of picking up leaves. But instead of acknowledging that, you say they're "overpaid" (what do you think is a fare wage for them?) and you call for them being laid off (because that will REALLY help with the efficiency of HWY projects in the Town).
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 9, 11 4:46 PM
Our "municipal" highway services are an embarrassment.

Golden Boy MUST be one of those lazy, gold brick road workers that we all see lounging around on any given worksite.
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Jan 7, 11 10:17 PM
Not lounging! Leaning on a shovel!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 8, 11 6:04 PM
After having three yard clean ups by my lanscaping company in anticipation of a town leaf pick up in Hampton Bays,the leaves and brush are now once again all over the front yard and street, it is shame that Mr. Gregor can not come through on his promise of speedy efficient cleans up that help elect him to his new and I am sure highly paid position,perhaps he could help pay for yet another yard clean up that will have to happen in order to maintain my homes apperence so my home value can keep up ...more
By jaxamillion (1), Hampton Bays on Jan 8, 11 4:06 PM
Three clean ups? Sounds like you are the poor planner, maybe you should've forked over the extra amount it would've cost the first time and had the scapers take the leaves with them! A friend of mine has a company and he has the huge leaf sucker that goes on one of his trucks for this purpose.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 8, 11 6:07 PM
Three leaf cleanings. Sounds to me your getting screwed by your landscaper. If you hire him to do it once he has to take it to the dump. You might consider small claims court to recover your money.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 8, 11 8:44 PM
I think the picture with this article shows the problems with and abuse of this town service. No one should be allowed to rake or blow their leaves into the street! People who do this should be fined by the town.

Sadly, I believe the number of people who depend on this this service may have grown beyond the highway department's ability to keep up with it.

The highway departments number one priority is to maintain the roads. As a sideline they got involved with leaf removal. ...more
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Jan 9, 11 11:41 AM
The town has always provided this service to the residents under the the responsibility of the highway and waste management department where they fit best: Highway safety from dead and decaying leaves that they would have to clear the roads of anyway and waste management as yard waste if you will. It has never been a free service but has been taxed under the highway taxes we pay. To remove the service would represent a tax increase to taxpayers. As the number of houses has grown, the corresponding ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 9, 11 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
"...I've got snow to shovel now.."

Like the leaves, if left alone, the snow too will disappear. No expense, no exertion.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 9, 11 4:12 PM
LOL...Sure if you've got time to watch the snow melt and the leaves disintegrate...I think its called a government job.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 9, 11 6:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
business as usual
By asurest (117), easthampton on Jan 10, 11 6:06 PM
if you are from west, south, hampton bays and montauk please DO NOT post your miserable (but humorous) opinions.
Only people of Sag & East Hampton please
By david h (405), southampton on Jan 11, 11 12:53 PM
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 12, 11 11:19 AM
How come Bill Masterson always got the job done in a timely fashion?
I think Alex must be talking on the phone with Bloomberg too much.
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Jan 12, 11 5:24 PM
Note to Gregor: this is the 2nd year in a row the residents of Flanders have been let down. Radio announcements with pickup dates don't cut it. Residents made hugh, straight piles of leaves as told, and put at the edge of the road. Didn't work, the plows have thrown the leaves (2x's now) all over the yards and road, what a horrible mess, looks like a war zone. Thanks Alex for making all of us rake them up again and again. Howz about reversing your schedule of pickups and do Flanders first this time. ...more
By The Crow's Nest (65), Red Creek on Jan 12, 11 6:23 PM
Rt 24 is not a Town Rd. and therefore not the Town's obligation for fixing streetlights.

Bayview Pines is also private and the Town is not responsible for their lights (and I wouldn't be surprised if the same held true for Water's Edge but I do not know that for a fact).

By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 13, 11 9:18 AM