Garbage Battle Brews in Flanders

Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents turned out in droves Monday night to air their thoughts on a proposed garbage district.
Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents turned out in droves Monday night to air their thoughts on a proposed garbage district.

A revolt is brewing among residents of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton against the community association that has long represented their interests before Southampton Town.

The Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) has been exploring the possibility of creating a garbage district for the three hamlets, in an effort to discourage illegal dumping. Residents would pay for their trash collection through a new garbage district tax.

If created, it would be the only garbage district in Southampton Town, where residents either bring their garbage to town transfer stations themselves or hire private carters to take it away, and would mirror the garbage district in neighboring Riverhead Town.

Over the past several weeks, an uproar against the proposed district has been growing in neighborhoods in Flanders, where many residents say they want to be able to choose who picks up their garbage, they don’t trust that costs of a taxing district won’t quickly skyrocket, and they don’t believe the change will quell illegal dumping.

Members of FRNCA say they’ve been spurred on by Frank and Ron Fisher of Go Green Sanitation, who live in Flanders and provide private carting service here. They’ve been among the regular contributors to a Facebook group, “Flanders Homeowners Against Town Garbage Pickup,” opposing the district.

But the Facebook group’s 195 members, and the angry crowd that turned out for Monday night’s FRNCA meeting, were hardly speaking out just to defend their garbage collector’s interests.

While FRNCA’s membership totalled about 90 members before Monday’s meeting, more than 60 community members have signed paperwork and written dues checks in recent weeks to join the community association in the hopes of having a vote at Monday’s meeting.

But members of FRNCA said Monday they hadn’t had time to process the applications before the meeting and the new members would not be allowed to have a say in the business of the board. As the mood in the room grew more testy, members of FRNCA called town police, who hovered in the parking lot and at the back of the room.

Several town representatives were on-hand to explain the process — town municipal works director Christine Fetten said the district would cost individual homeowners about $25 per month, including town administration fees. If signed, the contract would last one year, but could be extended for three years, with the price increase capped at 5 percent per year.

Ms. Fetten said garbage would be collected on all paved roads in the district, whether public or private, and people who live on dirt roads would need to bring their garbage to a paved road for collection.

FRNCA President Vince Taldone told the crowd that his organization began pursuing the district after they heard from many people who live in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton who said the cost of their private carting keeps going up, while in neighboring towns that have garbage districts, the price has been going down.

But many members of the community spoke passionately about their freedom to chose their own carter, their unwillingness to pay more taxes, and about what would happen to local carting companies, which may go out of business or have to lay off workers if the district is formed.

Mr. Taldone said the new carter should consider hiring people who are laid off, which led to angry grumbling from the crowd.

“It comes down to new taxes. We pay the second highest taxes in the town of Southampton and we get the lowest possible return,” said Therese McGuinness, who added that Riverside is the most economically distressed community in Suffolk County and doesn’t need to shoulder any greater a tax burden than it does now.

“It was a bad idea,” she said.

“So say you,” said Mr. Taldone.

“So say all of us,” chimed in an amen chorus of residents.

“This is clearly wrong and it should be dropped,” said Ms. McGuinness.

Southampton Town plans to hold a public forum on the proposed garbage district at the Phillips Avenue School at 7 p.m. on May 15.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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