09/20/13 10:00am
09/20/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARALLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Rose Sanders of Jamesport picks up leaves in front of her home. In Southampton Town, there’s a debate now over whether the biodegradable paper bags should be used.

Leaves. Should they be bagged or left loose on the curb for the town to pick up?

That’s a debate the two candidates for Southampton Town highway superintendent got into at a recent meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Last year, Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor announced that residents would be required to put their leaves in biodegradable paper bags and leave them on the curb for the town to pick up. In years past, Southampton Town residents were allowed to dump loose leaves curbside for town pickup.

Mr. Gregor’s plan never came to fruition because of Hurricane Sandy, which, in addition to leaves, left a lot of other debris on town roadways.

Mr. Gregor, who is the Democratic Party candidate for re-election, said he will again require residents to use biodegradable paper bags for their leaves, and not allow them to put loose leaves curbside — barring any major storms.

His Republican opponent in this year’s elections, David Betts, feels differently.

“My suggestion would be to go back to the way it was and get the leaves picked up,” Mr. Betts said at the civic meeting at the Flanders Community Center. He also suggested the town consider contracting with a private company to pick the leaves up, “so we can get them done quickly.”

Mr. Gregor said he had tried to contract out the leaf pickup, but ran into opposition from the Southampton Town Board.

He said he had sought bids from private companies to do the work two years ago, but the Town Board refused to award a contract even though the lowest bid was much lower than what it costs the town to do the work. He also said the Town Board wouldn’t let him hire part-time employees, because the employee contract limits the number of part-timers the highway department can hire to three, and the board would not amend the contract.

“In the past, the leaves stay on the road, they get plowed all over the place,” Mr. Gregor said, adding that the leaves don’t fall until Thanksgiving and need to be picked up before the end of the year because that’s usually when the first snow falls.

“So without extra help, I needed to come up with something to do it in five weeks.”

The program he came up with involves the use of paper bags, as well as discontinuing loose-leaf pickup. Mr. Gregor said his department is giving away free biodegradable paper bags this year.

The program will also allow landscapers to dispose of leaves at the town transfer stations if they present a voucher from the property owner whose leaves they are dumping, Mr. Gregor said. In addition, if someone is 73 years old or older, or if they have a disability that prevents them from bagging the leaves, the town will allow them to place the loose leaves at the curb.

Mr. Gregor says the biggest cost in leaf disposal comes from the town, which makes its own highway department pay to dispose of leaves at the town’s landfill.

Mr. Betts currently heads the Southampton Town Code Enforcement department and is a retired Southampton Village police lieutenant, and former union president.

In making his overall pitch to civic members in Flanders, Mr. Betts touted his skills as an administrator who has been on both the management and labor side of union contract negotiations. He also said he has experience in obtaining grants.

“The job is an administrator, that’s what you need,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for 30 years.”

Mr. Gregor argued that Mr. Betts’ experience is not relevant to the highway superintendent job.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/12/13 12:00pm
09/12/2013 12:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor stands amongst piles of construction debris illegally dumped on town land in Riverside.

The Southampton Town Highway Department plans to clean up about two acres of heavily-vegetated town-owned land in Riverside and then clear the property next week to prevent it from being used by drug dealers, prostitutes and illegal dumpers.

“We want to make it so they don’t have anywhere to hide,” Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said on Wednesday, when the site was being cleared with the help of inmates from the Suffolk County Correctional Facilty’s Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP), which uses inmates who are incarcerated on non-violent crimes to assist in cleanup projects throughout the county.

The approximately two acres of town-owned land is located behind Marta’s Deli on Riverleigh Avenue and runs to Pine Street, which is the road that connects Riverleigh Avenue to Vail Avenue. It’s been cleaned up in the past, but the dumping returns soon afterward.

“We’re always seeing people back here,” said Southampton Town Police Officer Steve Frankenbach, who’s been patrolling Riverside for 13 years. He said virtually anytime an officer goes in the heavily wooded area, they end up making an arrest, as it is frequently used by drug dealers and prostitutes.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said these televisions that were dumped in the woods on town-owned land in Riverside came from a television repair shop that went out of business.

There are a number of paths through the site and it’s overgrown with Japanese Knotweed and other vegetation that make it easy for people to hide, officials say.

On Wednesday, the land was littered with a pile of discarded televisions from an out-of-business television repair shop, a motor boat, piles of yard waste and stumps, construction debris, gas cans, bricks, household cleaning products, tires, underwear, clothing and other garbage and paint thinners that Mr. Gregor said are considered household hazardous wastes.

“If you get a fire in here, it will go like wildfire and it will impact private homes,” Mr. Gregor said.

The glass from the televisions also could start a fire, he said.

The site is actually made up of several town-owned lands that Mr. Gregor believes the town acquired through tax defaults over the years.

The inmates from the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program were scheduled to be working on the site Wednesday and Thursday. The program uses criminals who have sentences that are less than a year.

The penalty for escape is seven years, so inmates have a disincentive to attempt doing so, officials says.

“This is pretty cool, it gets us out of jail,” said Andrew Mandary of Centereach, who is in jail for third-degree insurance fraud and is scheduled to be released Friday.

He was on hand for the cleanup Wednesday, where he agreed to be interviewed. He said he has participated in the program before.

“Last year, we worked on the Flight 800 Memorial at Smith Point Beach in Shirley,” he said. “We did a lot of mulch work there.”

Of the Riverside spot, he said, “It looks like a dump site.”

“Once we clean up the garbage and we knock down the vegetation, we have a bulldozer here and we’re going to clear the property,” Mr. Gregor said.

Any trees that are smaller than six inches in diameter will be removed, he said. He hopes to begin work on clearing the site Tuesday.

“We’re actually going to cultivate the entire property and make it harder for the invasive plants to grow back that can turn into cover for criminals,” he said.

Some volunteers from the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association also were on hand to help with the cleanup, including vice president Steven Schreiber and treasurer Brad Bender.

tgannon@timesreview.com