None of the East End towns, with the exception of Riverhead, has curbside garbage pickup, but members of several civic groups in the Southampton hamlet of Flanders are looking for the town’s help in establishing a garbage district of their own.
Members of the Flanders/Riverside/Northampton Community Association met with the Southampton Town Board at a work session July 10 to make plans to request bids on a curbside pickup contract in order to give residents an idea of what the service will cost before public hearings are held.
Curbside pickup would require the town to create a special taxing district just for the properties in Flanders that would receive the service. At Thursday’s work session, town board members seemed to be leaning toward holding a public referendum on whether to create the district, as they did when they created beach erosion protection districts in Sagaponack and Bridgehampton last year.
Councilman Brad Bender, of Northampton, explained the project to his fellow board members.
“There’s a large rental population and the community in a socioeconomic position where a lot of people are looking for alternative methods of disposal of their waste…actually placing it somewhere where it doesn’t belong,” he said. “This is an idea that has been going on for many years and has strong support from all civic groups in the community.”
Southampton Director of Municipal Works Christine Fetten said her office has been looking at Riverhead’s garbage district model, which before 2011 cost taxpayers $540 per year. After the contract was rebid that year, she said, garbage district taxes fell to $252 per household.
Riverhead holds two garbage collection days per week where anything can be left at the curb, and picks up recycling and unlimited yard waste in season.
Ms. Fetten said there are a little over 2,000 households in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton which would be in the garbage district.
She said the town is currently planning to create a map of the proposed garbage district and receive preliminary cost figures, during which time the public has a 30-day window in which they can obtain signatures and force a public referendum on the issue. After that 30 days, the town would hold a public hearing and then vote on whether to create the district, although the town board could chose to hold a public vote.
“This board has the power to put it out to mandatory referendum on its own motion,” said Ms. Fetten. “Those people within the proposed district would vote on whether or not this passes.”
Councilman Stan Glinka said he’s concerned that many homeowners may not be able to afford more taxes, but Mr. Bender said 80 percent of residents already have garbage picked up by a private carter at an average cost of $40 per month.
Ms. Fetten said many private carters who already serve Flanders have expressed interest in bidding on the contract.
Those who don’t have private garbage pickup can pay for the town’s green garbage bags and bring their garbage to any of Southampton Town’s transfer stations, which also collect recycling for free. The nearest transfer station to Flanders is in Hampton Bays.
Ms. Fetten said about 35 percent of the garbage collected in Hampton Bays comes from Flanders, and the town would lose some revenue from selling recyclables collected there if the garbage district is formed.
She said the town is looking into providing garbage collection one day per week, and single stream recycling another day. With single stream recycling, residents won’t have to separate their paper, plastic, glass and metal recycling.
FRNCA President Vince Taldone pointed out that communities on the Southampton Town side of the river have no easy way to dispose of mattresses, sofas and other large items, while Riverhead Town picks up all those items at the curb, leading to a lot of illegal dumping of very bulky items.
“When you get to Riverhead and Brookhaven, you don’t find household waste anymore being dumped,” he said, adding that the creation of the district would probably mean the town doesn’t have to use its blight mitigation fund as often.
Mr. Taldone added that many people who live in Flanders are renters who are so financially strapped that they are choosing between paying to have their garbage removed and paying for baby diapers.
“The landlords are off in Melville or wherever they are and they don’t see it,” he said.
Mr. Bender said he looked through the property records in the proposed district, and said that most mailing addresses he found for tax bills were outside of Southampton.
“There’s something about attorneys in Melville. They all buy houses in Riverside and Flanders,” said Mr. Taldone.