Proposed garbage district will likely need to be re-bid

Garbage on Oak Avenue in Flanders. (Credit: barbaraellen Koch)
Garbage on Oak Avenue in Flanders. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

If a controversial proposed garbage district in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton is going forward, the town will likely need to first re-bid it, according to Councilman Brad Bender of Northampton.

But that’s assuming the district is even moving forward, a decision that the Town Board will likely make some time after a public hearing on the proposal in mid-May, he said.

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association proposed the idea to the town board years ago. In a nutshell, it would put all residential properties in those three hamlets into a special taxing district where those residents would pay for curbside pickup of garbage and recyclables through a new tax.

Last year, the town decided to gather bids for the trash pickup, but recently, opposition to the idea has heated up; critics of the plan have flocked to three recent public meetings as well as creating a Facebook site called “Flanders Homeowners Against Town Garbage Pickup.”

The civic group pitched the idea hoping it would curb illegal dumping and lower costs, saying Riverhead Town’s garbage district has seen prices drop in recent years. However opponents have said that for those willing to put in the time and effort, the town’s current garbage plan is more affordable.

Southampton Town sought bids for the district to get an idea of the cost, and officials say the lowest bid appears to be about $25 per month, or $300 per year. But that number could change if the town seeks new bids.

There are two issues that have arisen at public meetings on the proposal that will likely need to be changed, Mr. Bender said.

One is language in the original bid that started that the district will include all “paved” roads in the district.

This would mean that people on gravel or unpaved roads would not be included in the district, even if those roads are passable for garbage trucks, according to deputy town attorney Kathleen Murphy.

Mr. Bender is suggesting the district be rebid with the word “passable” replacing “paved.”

There should be no circumstances where there are people paying into the district who cannot receive the service because of impassible roads, he said.

Another issue that came up in recent meetings is language to allow people who are handicapped to have their garbage picked up at their door, rather than at the curb, at no additional cost if they are incapable of bringing the garbage to the curb themselves, .

“If we decide to go to referendum, I would want to rebid it to include those items,” Mr. Bender said.

But the key issue is whether the town will even decide to move forward.

The Town Board has tentatively scheduled a May 15 public hearing on the garbage district proposal for 7 p.m. at the Phillips Avenue School. The town will mail notices of that meeting to owners of residential property, he said.

At some point after that, the Town Board can either set a referendum on the proposed district, or it could decide to drop the idea altogether, according to Ms. Murray.

Unlike votes for elected officials, the proposed garbage district referendum will be a vote among residential property owners, rather than a vote among registered voters, and will not be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Because of this, it won’t need to meet Board of Election deadlines for getting on the Election Day ballot, Mr. Bender said.

“I’m in no rush,” he said. “I want to make sure we do it right.”

The process of rejecting the old bids and seeking and awarding new ones could take about two months, he said. He thinks the bids could come in lower a second time since the $25 per month bid has already been made public.

To date, the three public meetings on the garbage district  — at the Waters Edge and Bay View Pines civic associations and at FRNCA  — have been dominated by people opposed to the district.

They say, among other things, that the $25 per month rate is artificially low and will drive companies that didn’t get the contract out of business, and that, with less competition, future bids will be higher. They also feel the district takes away their right to choice their own garbage carters.

For people who take their own garbage to the town transfer station, the district will be more expensive, Mr. Bender said. However town officials estimate that only about 16 percent of residents take their garbage themselves, with the rest using carters.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera, the only other Southampton Town Board member who has attended any of the recent public meetings on the garbage district, said that if parts of the bid were deficient, “Obviously, we’d have to rebid it,”  although she said she wants to hear from the public at the May meeting before making any decisions.

Overall, Ms. Scalera said of the proposed garbage district, “I’ve had concerns with it from the beginning. Obviously, it’s taxing an area that can’t afford to be taxed additionally.”