The pros and cons of a garbage district in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton

Refuse in woods along Oak Avenue in Flanders from 2012. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)

A proposal to institute a garbage district in the hamlets of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton will be discussed before the Waters Edge Civic Association at 7 p.m. Friday at the Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

Christine Fetten, Southampton Town’s Director of Municipal Works, will be the speaker.

The proposal would have to be approved by property owners within the proposed district before it could take effect. Town officials have yet to determine when that vote would be. 

The idea for the district  — in which trash would be picked up curbside and paid for through a special tax within that district — was initiated several years ago by the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association as a way to curb illegal dumping in those hamlets.

“It was partly due to the huge amount of illegal dumping of household waste, furniture and others items on dark lots and in the pine barrens that led to this,” said FRNCA president Vince Taldone.

He says Riverhead Town’s district is affordable and the town also lowered the price by rebidding it a few years ago.

Some residents within the proposed district say they can’t afford a garbage district.

“It’s just adding more taxes and it’s not going to help,” Flanders resident Chrissy Prete said in an interview. “People are going to dump whether they have pickup or not.”

Opposition to the garbage district plan is surfacing on a Facebook site called “Flanders Homeowners Against Town Garbage Pickup,” which has garnered more than 160 members in just over two weeks.

Among the arguments made by opponents are that the majority of the community doesn’t want the district, that it’s just another tax, that it deprives residents of the choice between hiring a private carter or taking their trash to the transfer station, that residents who recycle more can reduce their garbage costs under the town’s pay-per-bag system; and that only property owners get to vote on the proposed garbage district.

Southampton Town sought bids from garbage carting companies for the three-hamlet district and received eight bids, which were opened on March 11.

The town opted to seek bids first to get an idea of the cost of the district before moving forward with it. Officials have not said what company had the lowest bid.

“We’ve opened the bids and including the five percent administration fee, we feel like what we’ll be offering to the homeowners is approximately $25 per month per single family household,” said Southampton Councilman Brad Bender, a Northampton resident and former FRNCA president.

He stressed the word “approximately.”

Residents would get two days per week when regular, unrecycled garbage would be picked up curbside, plus one day per week when recyclables are picked up and one day per week when bulk items are picked up, Mr. Bender said.

There would also be 10 additional days per year when bagged yard waste can be left at the curbside in biodegradable paper bags, he said.

Mr. Bender would not say what company submitted the lowest bid. However, Ron Fisher of Flanders, who attended the bid opening, said the two lowest bids were submitted by Maggio Sanitation of Yaphank and European American Waste Disposal of Wantagh.

European American currently has the garbage district contract in Riverhead Town and Maggio had it before them.

A $25 per month fee would amount to $300 per year. The $25 per month estimate is an “average of the lowest couple of bids,” Mr. Bender said, adding that the town must select the “lowest responsible bid.”

Riverhead Town residents currently pay $274 per year for a single-family home, $411 for a two-family home, $548 for a three-family home and $685 for a multi-family structure, like an apartment complex.

Riverhead Town’s program is only for residential customers and the proposed Flanders, Riverside, Northampton district also would be intended only for residential property owners.

Mr. Taldone said most of the residential properties in the three hamlets are single-family. Mobile home parks also wouldn’t be part of the proposed district.

The proposed boundaries for the garbage district would be the same boundaries as the Flanders, Northampton Volunteer Ambulance.

“I feel like our community is not a community that would benefit from something like this,” said Meighan Rocco of Flanders, who started the Facebook site against the proposed garbage district. “Riverhead is a lot bigger and doesn’t have the seasonal community we have.”

Ms. Rocco said she likes her garbage carting company, but added, “If I have a problem with my carter, I have the option of getting someone else.”

Southampton Town requires residents who take their trash to a town transfer station to buy special town garbage bags in order to dump unrecycled waste at the transfer station, but there is no charge to dump recycled items, such as containers, papers or cardboard.

Ron Fisher of Flanders, who attended the bid opening, said FRNCA has “maybe three dozen members” and doesn’t have input from the majority of residents on this issue.

He said he plans to attend the meeting Friday night and hopes to get information out to the public.

“No one is going there to give Christine a hard time,” he said. “I just want to get the facts.”

“The majority of residents are not in favor of this,” said Frank Fisher, Ron’s brother, as well as the owner of Go Green sanitation, a carting company.

He feels local carters will be hurt by the proposal.

“There are about seven local carting companies that live here, pay taxes and spend money here and they are going to be negatively affected by this,” Frank Fisher said.

His company did not bid on the district.

“The reason I didn’t bid is because I believe in the free enterprise system,” he said. “Right now, you have choice. If you’re not happy with my service, you have six other companies you can choose from.”

Only three of the eight companies that bid on the district were based in Southampton Town, although Mr. Bender says all of them already do business in the town.

“We’re not forcing this on anyone,” Mr. Bender said. “The community asked for us to do this exercise and get the numbers on what it would cost and that’s what we’re doing. … The people will decide what they want.”

Mr. Taldone, who lives in Riverhead Town and owns property in Flanders, said Riverhead Town approved its garbage district without a public vote in 1992.

He thinks residents will like the municipal pickup.

“I’m hoping people are going to see it as something beneficial to their property values,” he said. “They have six districts in Riverhead Town and it’s working quite well at a reasonable price. I don’t have the slightest complaint about the service I get.”

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