There has been no fall brush pickup in Southold Town for the past two years, but this season angry homeowners facing a heavy load of downed twigs and branches want the program reinstated, and they have flooded the offices of Town Board members and the highway department to say so.
At a Town Board work session last Thursday, Southold Town Highway Superintendent Pete Harris was hopping mad that Supervisor Scott Russell had him called into work to report on the issue to the Town Board. He’d taken the week off to go scalloping.
He told the board that he could not reinstate a brush cleanup this fall. He doesn’t have the staff because his department has borne the brunt of early retirement incentives, he said. Seven highway department workers have taken advantage of early retirement in the past two years and have not been replaced.
“We have no plan on doing it,” he said of picking up brush. “We have snow fences to get up, leaves to pick up,” Mr. Harris said. “It costs money to provide those services. It takes machinery. We’ve kind of turned a blind eye to that fact.”
Supervisor Scott Russell said he had called in Mr. Harris to make the public aware of the expense of hiring the necessary workers to extend the brush pickup.
This fall, the town extended by a month the amnesty period during which residents could bring brush free of charge to the landfill in Cutchogue. In previous years, the amnesty period was just one month, but this year it runs through the end of the year. The spring brush cleanup will be held as usual in March.
Mr. Russell suggested that the town prepare a request for proposals for brush pickup to show taxpayers how costly the program would be.
“I heard some politicians this past campaign saying we were going to cut taxes and improve services,” said Councilman Al Krupski.
“With what, robots? That was you and Chris,” replied Mr. Harris, referring to Councilman Chris Talbot. “This town has gone on the cheap for the last few years. We’ve cut resurfacing and the roads are falling apart. I’ve been in office nine years and this is the first year I scheduled myself to take a vacation and I’m on vacation sitting here … there’s not one department in town, percentage-wise, that took a bigger hit than me.”
Putting back the trash cans
The town is planning to replace trash cans it removed from road ends at the end of the summer season as a cost-saving measure.
“Now we’re just picking up trash off the beaches,” Mr. Russell said at Thursday’s work session. “We didn’t make the garbage go away,” he said of the cost-saving measure.
Town Board members said they would crack down if people started leaving household garbage in the cans when they are returned to the road ends. Some residents in the audience said they’d like to get their property owners’ associations involved in policing the cans.
“I had one person tell me, make it a $1,000 fine and split it in half with me. I’ll sit in the bushes all night with a cup of coffee,” said Mr. Russell.
Ray Huntington of Cutchogue said that his Fleets Neck neighborhood is working on a public awareness campaign to keep people from dumping household garbage. Residents there also have talked about going through the cans to see if they can identify who dumped their household garbage in them.
Southold is now accepting scrap metal free of charge at the Cutchogue landfill.
Town solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck told the board that the town earns about $30,000 a year selling scrap metal and would earn more if it didn’t charge a fee to accept metal.
It earns an average of only $7,000 a year in metal disposal fees, he said, and an increase in volume by eliminating the fee would not only reduce costs to residents, it would more than make up for the lost fee revenue. The town also plans to put a scrap metal disposal bin near the recycling area.
Advice on Goldsmith
Southold Town has agreed to seek the advice of a licensed hydrologic engineer and an environmental engineer recommended by the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet before it has the inlet dredged this winter.
The town dredged the inlet last winter, but it quickly shoaled up again.
Lillian Ball, a representative of GSGI, asked the board to make the permit applications that the Suffolk County Department of Public Works has on file for the project available to the engineers, who were expected to prepare a cost proposal for the work this week. Mr. Russell noted that the cost of the engineers’ work could be claimed as the town’s share of matching funds toward future grants to ensure the inlet’s navigability and tidal flow.
Next Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Town Board’s work session and regular meeting will be held at Peconic Landing in Greenport. The 9 a.m. work session will be in Brecknock Hall and the 4:30 p.m. regular meeting in the Peconic Landing auditorium.
“This is part of the Town Board’s effort to take these meetings and move them out into the community,” said Mr. Russell.
A public hearing on a Community Preservation Fund purchase of 31 acres of farmland belonging to the estate of Julia Conway on Horton Lane in Southold is scheduled for the 4:30 session.