Plan targets blight in Flanders, Riverside & Northampton

01/18/2013 10:00 AM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Southampton Town purchased Riverleigh Avenue lot in Riverside but have not maintained it due to lack of funds.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Southampton Town purchased Riverleigh Avenue lot in Riverside but have not maintained it due to lack of funds.

The communities of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton have been complaining for years about illegal dumping.

Now, Southampton Town has come up with a plan to help clean up these areas and other parts of the town.

The Town Board last Tuesday approved the creation of a townwide blight mitigation fund and approved increased fines for illegal dumping.

“In general, the purpose here is to create a funding source in our effort to address some of the blighted properties, particularly in the Flanders-Riverside area,” said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

The concept is simple. One penny of every dollar the town court receives in fines and fees from any offense — whether related to dumping or not — will be put into the new Townwide Blight Mitigation Fund, according to assistant town attorney Carl Benincasa.

The money will go into a reserve fund, which can be carried over from year to year, and can be used to clean up litter and refuse on town land only, Mr. Benincasa told the Town Board last Tuesday.

He estimates that, at the current pace, the fund will generate about $18,000 per year.

“The goal is to provide quick access to funds to facilitate cleanup of those properties, while not adding burden to the taxpayers,” Mr. Benincasa said.

The board also added a $100 surcharge to fines for littering, which carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 or 15 days in jail for a first offense. The surcharge money will go directly into the blight mitigation fund, officials said.

For second or subsequent offenses within 18 months of the first, fines will range from $1,000 to a high of $5,000. But under state law, the $100 surcharge can be applied only to first offenses, which are violations. Second offenses are considered misdemeanors, to which surcharges cannot be attached.

The new law also allows the town to collect civil fines of $150 for the first day litter isn’t cleaned up after an initial charge is issued, then $250 for the second day and $500 for each subsequent day, according to Mr. Benincasa.

Vince Taldone of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association said he was “thrilled” by the new law.

“We normally beat up the Town Board for failing to address problems, so when they come up with an innovative approach to what’s been a long-standing problem in the town, I don’t even know how to express my happiness,” he said.

Mr. Taldone said that when there is litter on town land, the highway and recreation departments often claim they are not funded to do cleanups on town-owned property. The new measure finally provides a funding mechanism, he said.

While the board adopted the blight mitigation fund and the new fines unanimously, officials say they are still looking to make further changes,

Councilman Jim Malone said first offenses will each contribute $100 to the fund through the surcharge, but the second offenses will only provide the fund with only between $10 and $50, based on the penny policy.

“One would believe the second offense would be more egregious,” Mr. Malone said.

“That does sound a little absurd,” Mr. Benincasa said.

The board agreed to adopt the new fines as proposed, but continue working on changes in the future to correct the issue.

tgannon@timesreview.com