“For everybody to get up here and say the same things over and over again is ridiculous.”
So said Mike Brewer, a former president of the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association at Friday night’s public informational meeting about a garbage district that has been proposed in the three hamlets.
Mr. Brewer said at the meeting that he’s unsure where he lies on the proposal, but said residents should let it go to a public vote.
But Mr. Brewer found himself in the minority on Friday night, where most of the 30 or so people who spoke at the meeting already had their minds made up. They were opposed to the idea, though some did support the proposal.
An informal show of hands from the crowd of well over 100 people in total showed that slightly over a majority of those present were opposed to the idea.
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Since opponents of the plan have started loudly voicing their disapproval of it over the past couple of months, the main reasons cited by those in opposition have been a fear that the tax rate for municipal garbage pickup with increase in future years and suspicion that the $25 per month rate officials project is not realistic. Other reasons have included not offering residents a choice between who they get to pick up their trash and choosing the hamlets as guinea pigs for the rest of Southampton Town for municipal pickup.
The main reasons cited by those in support continue to be that the proposed $25 per month rate is lower than what they are paying for private carters and the plan will reduce illegal dumping, making the area look nicer.
The public informational meeting was held at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School and was led by Councilman Brad Bender, himself a Northampton resident and another former FRNCA president. The only other Southampton Town Board member present was Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who left before the meeting ended.
Several speakers at Friday’s informational meeting on the proposal said they were insulted that the proposal is only being considered for the three hamlets, and not the for the rest of Southampton Town.
“I consider it very unfair that town would segregate us from rest of Town,” said Northampton resident Bob Summerlin. “We’re already considered the orphans, or the bastards of the town.”
He said the district is being proposed in an area than can least afford it.
“I think it is sorely needed in our hamlets,” said Sandy Adams of Riverside. “It will have a huge impact on illegal dumping. There’s so much dumping near the Sarnoff Preserve.”
The proposed garbage district, which would encompass the same boundaries at the Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance district, was suggested by the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, which asked the Southampton Town Board to see bids on what it would cost.
The Town Board did so, and received eight bids earlier this year, and officials say the four lowest bids all are in the vicinity of $25 per month, according to Councilman Brad Bender.
Before the district could actually become reality, a vote among property owners within the proposed district would have to be held.
Unlike regular elections, which are open to registered voters, this one would be open only to owners of residential property within the proposed district.
If one person owned several residential properties, they would get one vote for each, according to deputy town attorney Kathleen Murray. In addition, if one property is owned by more than one person, they each would get a vote, she said.
The vote probably would not be at the same time at the November general elections, officials say. In addition, the Town Board could still chose to just reject the proposal without a public vote, Ms. Murray said.
The proposed bid was for one year, with an option for two more at no more than a five percent increase per year, so long as both the town and the carter agreed.
FRNCA president Vince Taldone has said the garbage district in Riverhead Town, where he lives, is very affordable, at $274 per year.
But Ron Fisher of Flanders — whose brother, Frank, owns Go Green Sanitation — brought a chart Friday that showed what single-family residential property owners in Riverhead Town’s garbage district have paid each year since 1995. It showed that after starting at $205 annually, the annual rate climbed to $504 per year by 2010. After that, Riverhead Town rebid the garbage district and the price dropped. It is now at $274 this year.
Go Green did not submit a bid for the district in Flanders/Riverside/Northampton.
Councilman Bender there still are other issues that need to be addressed in the bid, such as whether handicapped people would be charged extra for being allowed to put the garbage at their door, instead of at the roadside.
Mr. Bender has said in the past that this issue and the wording of the bid regarding private roads will probably result in the town’s rebidding of the district. From there, if the Town Board so chooses, it would vote to hold a referendum, which would require official public hearings. The councilman plans on bringing feedback from the meeting to the Town Board, he said.
Despite what ends up happening, Flanders resident Rose Nigro said she feels the issue has already formed a rift in the community.
“It’s important that we come back together as a community because this has really formed a rift,” she said. “We’re not gonna get anything done by fighting each other.”