Nearly 20 years ago, a News-Review article about Riverhead Town’s decision to create a townwide garbage pickup program started with the following sentence: “There are two sides to every garbage story.”
As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
A recent surge of interest in — and with that, a debate on — the upcoming referendum on a garbage district proposed for the hamlets of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton is a good thing, without a doubt.
Unfortunately, however, what we’ve seen as more people have joined the conversation about the new garbage district is a move away from “interest” to something that has the potential to split a community in half. But the question of garbage pickup doesn’t have to be divisive.
This editorial board has supported the hamlets’ efforts to create the garbage district, assuming costs were reasonable. While they seem to be, area residents still have concerns. And it’s their right to express them.
But those who oppose the garbage district should also know this proposal has been discussed in public forums, splashed on newspaper headlines and debated in front of the Southampton Town Board for well over two years now. As we all know, change moves slowly. So to those who attended Monday night’s meeting and were surprised to see that their applications for membership in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association had yet to be processed we say: Welcome to the process.
Unfortunately FRNCA’s failure to process any membership applications whatsoever does nothing to dispel the perception that change happens very slowly — if at all. Respect is a two-way street. While it’s hard not to suspect some self-interest is involved when private carters oppose municipal garbage pickup, FRNCA officials squandered an opportunity to welcome at least some truly civic-minded folks into the fold this week.
A lot more than garbage pickup needs to be improved in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton communities. If two factions of residents truly interested in the well-being of the hamlets want to see real progress and change, they will put last week behind them, sit down and work together to start finding solutions that benefit everyone.
In the meantime, moving the garbage district issue to a public referendum is the fairest way to settle the score. Southampton Town should let residents decide so leaders interested in the community’s long-term well-being can move forward on other — not to mention, larger — issues.
If voting for or against a garbage district is the biggest difference residents have, that might not be such a bad thing.