East Hampton Town may enact a plastic bag ban next year, according to Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.
At an East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday, Ms. Overby said she and town attorneys are nearly finished drafting the law and will present it to the public in coming weeks. If all goes to plan, the rule would be in effect on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, and East Hampton residents and businesses would have until December 31, 2015, to adhere to the law.
“It will be important for us to start taking steps toward a ban of single-use plastic bags,” Ms. Overby said. “Other communities are on board on the East End, so the hope is to do it where the entire East End is an area where single-use plastic bags for retail use is not going to be acceptable.”
Deborah Klughers, chair of the town’s Recycling and Litter Committee, said her group did an online poll, which gathered more than 100 responses, and 92 percent of the people who took the poll were in favor of some type of plastic bag ban.
Ms. Klughers said she expects pro-plastic groups will come out against the ban in the near future, but that it is important that the ban be put in place, especially, she said, since the ocean is filled with more plastic trash than it is with plankton.
Dieter von Lehsten, co-chair of the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee, said he hopes that East Hampton will vote in favor of a ban. He said that between East Hampton and Southampton, more than 30 million plastic bags are distributed, and only 4 to 7 percent of plastic bags are recycled.
“Singular-use plastic bags are the largest consumer item worldwide,” he said. “Pressure from all around is starting, and it will feed over into New York State.”
Montauk business owner Catherine Foley said that she already hands out reusable bags if her customers ask for them. She spoke in favor of the ban, despite feelings that her comments might cause an uproar in the business community.
“The public is ready, we just need continued encouragement, guidance and support,” she said. “As a business owner, I’m 100-percent on board.”
Also on Tuesday, engineering consultant Drew Bennett presented the Town Board with two options to maximize work space and centralize the town’s many offices by using the old Town Hall building, which has sat mostly vacant since 2010, when several departments moved to office suites at 300 Pantigo Place.
One option would be to refurbish the old Town Hall, build a 4,000-square-foot addition, and use other available spaces the town has nearby. The other would be to demolish the building and build a new one.
To refurbish the old Town Hall, build a 4,000-square-foot addition, and use the unused historic Peach Farm Building and Baker House and Farm would be relatively inexpensive, Mr. Bennett said—$184 per square foot for 16,000 square feet in total, which is how much space the staff would need. The total for that would be about $3 million, he said. To demolish the old Town Hall and build a 12,500-square-foot annex with green technology would cost approximately $5.5 million.
In June 2013, the town was awarded a $536,425 grant as part of the Department of State’s Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program, for reducing its deficit and lowering taxes during the 2010-11 fiscal year.
Former Supervisor Bill Wilkinson had set aside the money for refurbishment of the old Town Hall building, and Mr. Bennett said if the town were to use some of that money and some other assets it has in savings, the cost to build a new Town Hall would be only $600,000.
Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said he is in favor of getting all the departments, including the East Hampton Town Trustees, onto the same campus. “Residents are going from here to there to everywhere,” he said. “This is a great effort to move forward.”
Springs School Board President Liz Mendelman told the Town Board on Tuesday that the town’s Safe Routes Committee has selected an engineer to carry out the Safe Routes to School project at the Springs School. She said that the Springs School Board has been rallying for the project for more than two years.
In January 2013, the town was awarded a $554,000 federal grant to fund safety improvements around the Springs School that include installing new sidewalks, speed monitoring devices and pedestrian walkway lights. The RBA Group, a regional engineering firm, was selected after the district put out a request for proposals, Ms. Mendelman said. RBA group has completed more than 40 similar projects and they know the standards and requirements of such jobs, she said.
If the Town Board votes in favor of the recommendation on Thursday, October 16, the project will move forward.