Cover Story: Southold trash fight heads to court

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03/17/2011 12:21 PM |

The owner of Go Green Sanitation has several court dates in his future to answer zoning and environmental citations, but only one is in Southold and that seems to be the least of his concerns.

Southampton Town code enforcement officials raided company owner Frank Fisher’s Flanders home on Friday, March 11, and later accused Mr. Fisher of operating an illegal refuse transfer station there. Similar charges have been filed against him by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In Southold, Mr. Fisher was ticketed on March 1 for one count of violating the town code ban on carting away trash before separating out cans, bottles and other recyclable materials. Mr. Fisher was to have answered that violation in town Justice Court on Monday, but the case was postponed.

Earlier this week Mr. Fisher told The Suffolk Times the dispute “is getting so blown out of proportion it’s not even funny.”
He said the Southampton charges will have a “zero effect” on his business. “We just stored containers on the property. Big deal. Just give me the ticket,” Mr. Fisher said.

His Go Green garbage hauling business has drawn the ire of Southold officials, who claim it violates the town’s recycling code. In advertising his service, which costs less than what other carters charge, Mr. Fisher says his customers don’t have to separate out cans, glass and plastic.

Southold Town accuses Mr. Fisher of one violation of town code 233-3 2C, which prohibits carting away trash that contains recyclable materials. While the potential penalties are rather light, just $100 per offense, the town could seek an injunction to stop the company from picking up commingled trash.

In Southampton, the town and DEC are pursuing separate charges alleging that Mr. Fisher operated an illegal garbage transfer station at his home on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders. Town code enforcement officials, police and fire marshals entered the property with a search warrant Friday morning, according to Southampton officials.

They reported finding 15 roll-off dumpsters, some as large as 40 cubic yards. Mr. Fisher is also accused of placing receptacles on adjacent town-owned lands.

“It wasn’t just an illegal transfer station either,” Southampton Councilwoman Nancy Graboski is quoted as saying in a press release. “Residents using town parkland would have to contend with a masonry business, landscaping operation and a makeshift carting facility.”

Mr. Fisher’s 1.08-acre property is zoned for a two-family house.

“Egregious property misuse drastically impacts a neighborhood’s quality of life and surrounding environment,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said in the release.

Formal charges have yet to be filed in the Southampton cases. A call to Southampton code enforcement chief investigator David Betts was not returned by presstime.

Officials added that Mr. Fisher had agreed to bring his property into compliance. He says he now leases commercial property in Riverhead.

“I stored a couple of dumpsters. Big deal,” said Mr. Fisher. “They didn’t uncover what they thought they were uncovering. All they found out was I’m a hardworking guy. They didn’t have to come with guns blazing and search warrants.”

The DEC said it had launched an investigation into Mr. Fisher’s property in late December. On Feb. 24, the agency ticketed Fisher Carting of Southampton for allegedly operating a solid waste collection facility without a permit. While fines can reach $7,500 per violation plus $1,500 for each day a violation continues, the initial DEC effort focused on ending the violations. According to the DEC, Mr. Fisher failed to contact agency staff regarding his ticket and that prompted a second visit by environmental conservation police.

He was then served with a criminal ticket, the DEC said, with potential fines of up to $15,000 per day.

In a DEC release, regional director Peter Scully said, “This investigation, along with enforcement actions taken by the Town of Southampton in this case, should send a very strong signal to those who would consider breaking environmental laws for personal gain that they had better think twice.”

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13 Comment

  • More sniping at a legitimate business – Southhampton’s and the DEC’s issues related to property usage in Flanders are unrelated to Go-Green’s conduct of business in Southold and neither of those issues are concerned with separation of recyclyables at the source. Mr. Fisher has to properly respond to those citations and he has indicated he will do so.
    Southold Town code 233-3 applies to trash collection businesses that utilize the Southold Town transfer station facilities- Definitions in 233-3 :
    Those businesses, trades or other commercial enterprises which transport the refuse and/or recyclables generated in the operation of their business, trade or commercial enterprise for deposit at the Town of Southold transfer station.”
    Furthermore, 233-3 2 states: “The owners or occupants of all residences within the Town which utilize collection services provided by persons licensed to collect refuse pursuant to the provisions of this article shall place recyclables in separate containers at curbside.”
    Therfore, Paragraph 233-3 2C as a subparagraph of 233-3 2 applies only to Southold Town licensed carriers who utilize the Southold transfer station. Go-Green does not utilize the transfer station and therefore does not need to be licensed by the Town, so issuing a citation against this code seems to be nothing more than harrassment of someone who dared to shake up the status quo.
    I predict the Southold citation will be quickly dismissed when subjected to appropriate legal review.
    Let the free market sort it out…if Go-Green can operate a sucessful business without utilizing the Southold transfer station, so can others…in fact, serious consideration should be given to closing the transfer station as the need for it diminishes over the next few years.
    Jay Buscemi

  • Thanks Jay! We’re doing nothing illegal and we’re going to continue to do business as usual. The (ONE) ticket we got in Southampton was back in Novemeber. It was for STORING dumpsters on my own property that isn’t zoned commercial. That’s it, period! Not running an illegal transfer station on parkland! Since then I have moved my equipment to a commercial facility and am in Full compliance with the town. They have been back to inspect and I am awaiting my court date on April 22 to resolve that matter. That matter has nothing to do with our residential pick up in Southold or on the South Fork. Our Dec ticket was for the same matter and has also been resolved and we didn’t even have to appear in court because we complied immediately. As referenced above, my home was NOT raided and it’s amazing to me how the editors can turn such a small issue into front page news, just to try to sell papers. I still never received a ticket from Southold, the article above is the first i’ve heard of any tickets in Southold town. I assume myself and the other local carters will all be appearing on the same day, for the same violations?

  • I’d also like to suggest an option to eliminate the yellow bags AND keep the transfer station operating as usual WITHOUT raising taxes for the residents. It seems like a very easy fix to me. If the transfer station would re negotiate it’s rate to ship out it’s debris, then they could drop it’s over the scale rate to a competitive, industry standard price. This would give myself and the other carters the incentive to unload at the towns transfer station, thus keeping all of the money in the town. If we pay over the scale, that would make up for the lost revenue from the yellow bags and wouldn’t affect the taxpayers at all. Therefore, NOT having to raise taxes, or sell yellow bags. For those of you who don’t know, I already approached Jim Bunchuk (Southold’s solid waste coordinator) about this option. I offered him all of my business including 75 commercial rolloff containers. His response to me, was that “they cannot handle that much refuse therefore they keep the rates high, to discourage commercial business”. There’s not much I can do with that statement, but I do know that if they can manage to bring their scale rate in the neighborhood of $60 a ton, I would love to use that facility. Even if thay can’t handle the dumpster portion of my business, I would still be happy to take my residential waste to them. I’m not trying to close the transfer station or put anyone out of work, but these are tough economic times for everyone. Everyone has to look a little harder at outgoing expenses and tighten the belt where they can. I think we can trim a lot of fat off of that scale rate and end a lot of debates. That would be a win win for everybody, residents, carters and the transfer station. Just a suggestion.

  • Well, I’m confused …what say Mr. Kelly ? Was a ticket actually issued by Southold Town to Mr.Fisher on March 1 or not ? Did you verify that fact before the article was published ? If issued, shold be a matter of public record.
    It seems clear to me that the ST is somewhat biased (“…officials RAIDED …Frank Fisher’s …home”, “…served with a CRIMINAL ticket..”, etc.) against Go-Green yet you continue to accept his half-page advertising every week – I guess I don’t get it….maybe this cover article more properly belonged in the OP-ED page.

  • It is my opinion , that the Town of Southold should just pick up everyone’s garbage . Sanitation is an essntial service , just like schools , sewer , Police and Fire fighters.. I have never heard of anything quite like the Garbage situation in Southold ,,IT STINKS worse than the garbage itself..Wake up guys , and just pick up our garbage ,,

  • Mr. Fisher was issued a ticket. I’m sure if he calls the town they will fill him in.

  • Really “guest”? How do you know this ? Are they going to make him pick up the ticket in person ? I sure as hell wouldn’t be calling the town to see if there was a ticket there for me….would you ?

  • Jay. I’m not being a jerk… and I’m on your side. I’m just saying that his name was called in court when I was there the other day… I don’t know if he is lying here or what. But I know what happened the last time I ignored a ticket. If I heard that I was supposed to be in court and didn’t know about it… I’d call them. That was all I was saying.

  • Thanx for the reply – you’re right, of course. If his name was called in court and he was supposed to be there, could be trouble. Hope he works it out.

  • I’d sue the crap out of the town if I was him. I mean, if they gave him a ticket based on the code you posted, he’s got nothing to worry about… but like you said, skipping a court date can get you in big trouble… whether you really broke the law or not.

  • Why does it seem that whenever a smart business person finds a way to not to be as greedy as the others, they are shut down for spurious reasons.

    Collusion between the town and the existing carting companies is wreaking just like the garbage they haul. When were any of these companies, besides GoGreen, going to tell the customers that it was not required by the town to buy the expensive and poorly made yellow town bags? These carters were not only subsidized for their dumping at the town landfill the were given a free ride on the backs of those who used them and then still over charged.

    The town kept quiet until they no longer could maintain their position. All these years they kept the dirty little secret of allowing these companies to make their customers believe it was the town that made them do it. All were happy until GoGreen saw through the sham and decided to do it another way.

    Since this is a farming area, I will say that Frank has upset the apple cart by taking away the gravy train that That the Town and these carters enjoyed. I never once heard anyone say they would check to see that garbage was separated in any of the hundreds of dumpsters in town or that recycles were not placed in with household trash.

    This is just the way businesses established in an area use government to keep out true competition and lower prices for the consumers.

    Wake up the consumers have been played like a fiddle by both the Town and the carting companies who required residents to place their garbage in yellow bags.

    There should be a lot of people ashamed of how they have stolen from the fine people of Southold Township, but don’t hold your breath, cause you just got a very public glimpse of how the status quo is maintained by those in power but on a small scale.

    If Frank gets run out of town all we will be left with is cartel which will become stronger with time as fewer and fewer come forward to try and do it a better and cheaper way.

    Vote with your wallets, it really is the only vote anyone ever listens too.

  • The Town does not want to provide a service they just want to take the money.

  • Suits cost money and when the town is used as the hammer, taxpayers in this case, get to share in the expense of doing away with much needed competition. The last thing a new company, or any company, need is both their money and time being directed away from providing service to their customers. The established carting companies and the Town are banking on it.