Equal Time: Highway super answers reader’s letter

09/29/2013 7:30 AM |
TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold Highway Superintendent Pete Harris.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Southold Highway Superintendent Pete Harris.

With regard to a letter printed in the Sept. 19 edition of the Suffolk Times, I would like to clear up a few inaccurate statements made by Jeffrey Sullivan pertaining to the annual spring brush and leaf cleanup provided by the Southold Town Highway Department.

The Southold Highway Department does not return to remove debris from a resident’s property once a street has been completed. If a resident’s debris was not put out in a timely manner and is left in the town right of way and if it is either creating an unsightly nuisance to adjoining neighbors or has become a safety hazard, a letter is sent asking that the problem be resolved and removed, otherwise the matter will be turned over to the town’s code enforcement officer.

My question back to Mr. Sullivan is: What about all the piles of brush that continually are being dumped along the town’s right of way in front of undeveloped properties? Would you expect the owners of these properties to have to bear the cost of having it removed when they are innocent victims of owning undeveloped property? Not to mention that after a period of time this material becomes a serious fire hazard and something for rodents to make a home in.

I also need to clear up Mr. Sullivan’s statement about overtime expenditures during the annual brush cleanup program: There were no salary overtime monies paid out to any town employees during this program. However, there were overtime payments during and following superstorm Sandy, which was being recouped by the town through FEMA. Big difference from just a normal spring cleanup program, don’t you think?

Mr. Sullivan claims that purchasing flatbed trailers to carry brush would be a cost-saving measure and that the job would be completed, in his words, in “half the time.” My question is: What stops the brush from just falling off the trailer when the payloader operator dumps it on a flat surface with no sides to keep it from spilling onto the ground? How many times do you want to pick up the same branch after it falls off the trailer and makes another mess to be cleaned? His idea would have the operator of the payloader push down on the piles on open trailers, thus breaking a fair amount of the load into small pieces that will eventually get blown off the trailer — even with it being tied down on its trip to the solid waste facility — and possibly strike vehicles also traveling on the highways.

We use a dump truck with sides, enabling us to compress the material within a three-sided body while the contents are lashed down with ropes. This certainly seems to me to be a quicker and safer way of getting the job done.

And just to touch on the subject of purchasing, does it make sense to buy trailers that would be used maybe two months a year when the vehicles that would pull them are in dire need of replacement and are used 12 months a year?

Using dump trucks to haul brush requires only one operator; using Mr. Sullivan’s method would require at least two workers per vehicle. My question is: Where’s the savings in time and money? Mr. Sullivan states that unloading the trailer is very simple compared to the current method of a dump truck lifting its dump body and the material sliding out the back and lowering the body and heading back for a next load. On the other hand, with a trailer you’d need to have a payloader operator and machine assigned for this purpose of pushing the material off the trailers. In my opinion that’s just another waste of time and money.

And to make it perfectly clear, I never stated that the spring brush and leaf budget program was $16,000 over budget due to overtime salary payments to town highway workers. What I said was that the $35,000 budgeted to cover the cost of tipping fees at the town’s compost facility was $16,000 over budget due to the extreme amount of additional debris that was picked up this spring during the cleanup.

Yes, Jeffrey, the town highway department pays for every truckload of brush that is trucked into the town’s solid waste and compost facility during the free spring cleanup program. This is because that facility is a separate tax district.

I hope your eyes have been opened.

Mr. Harris is the superintendent of highways for Southold Town.