If you think leaving your unbagged leaves in town right-of-ways in Southampton is a good way of letting the town know your displeasure with their new leaf-bagging law, now might be a good time to rethink this act of civil disobedience, which could become very expensive in the near future.
Spurred on by Town Councilman Brad Bender, Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor has proposed a new law that would fine residents up to $5,000 or put them in jail for up to six months if they don’t bag their leaves or find some other way to get rid of them.
Mr. Bender and Mr. Gregor laid out their plan at a public hearing April 22. Mr. Bender said members of community groups often complain to him about leaves that are left in the town right-of-way outside their houses.
Mr. Bender said, if the law is passed, leaf scofflaws will be given a warning and then a notice of violation if they leave loose leaves at the curb this year, but in 2015 they will be levied a fine of up to $1,000 or 15 days in jail for a first offense for leaving their leaves a the curb, and a fine of up to $5,000 or six months in jail, or both, for subsequent offenses.
Mr. Gregor’s program, begun in 2012, has saved the town $5.4 million in labor and equipment costs for the town’s spring and fall clean-ups, said Mr. Bender at the hearing. The highway department gives a waiver to senior citizens and people with medical circumstances that make it difficult for them to bag leaves.
Mr. Gregor said in the event of a hurricane or other disaster, the town can waive the leaf-bagging requirement. He added that he thinks people in Southampton are much luckier than in East Hampton, which completely axed its leaf pickup program several years ago due to budget cuts.
Two residents of East Quogue said at the public hearing that they were in favor of the stiffer fines.
“Last year was confusion, and as a consequence, a lot of stuff got left out there. It was a mess,” said George Lynch. “But people on my street aren’t stupid and the cleanup rules aren’t that difficult to understand. It’s willful ignorance. There’s nothing for clearing up that sort of confusion like the prospect of paying a stiff fine.”
East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee Chairwoman Joan Hughes agreed. She said people in her neighborhood are enthusiastic about the bagged leaf program.
“For many years, we had a problem with leaves in the street, but now that problem has almost completely disappeared,” she said.
The board closed the public hearing with a ten day written comment period but has not yet adopted the changes.