Southampton Town officials said they are assembling a study group tasked with exploring the feasibility of establishing a special taxing district that would allow Northampton, Riverside and Flanders residents to pay a monthly fee in exchange for receiving curbside garbage pickup.
The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) called on the town to do just that during its monthly meeting last week. Group leaders said the program would offer a cheaper, more convenient alternative for residents of the three western hamlets while also combating the problem of illegal dumping that has burdened the area.
Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone said Tuesday that the town is open to exploring the cost effectiveness of such a proposal, though plenty of questions have yet to be answered, including its legality.
“It’s certainly worth giving it a good hard look, that’s for sure,” he said.
Town officials plan on forming a study group over the next few weeks that will begin the exploration process, he added.
In a resolution approved on February 10, FRNCA leaders said a monthly tax of $23.50 on the 1,983 residences in the three hamlets would generate close to $560,000 a year in revenue to pay for the service. Their neighbors across the Riverhead Town line currently pay that amount for curbside pickup three days a week, including one day for recycling and one day for bulk items and bagged yard waste.
John Reeve, the sanitation superintendent for Riverhead Town, told FRNCA members at previous meetings that his town no longer has an issue with illegal dumping.
Currently, Southampton Town residents must either pay for a private carting service or purchase green bags and transport their trash to one of the town’s four transfer stations.
The FRNCA resolution calls on the town to study the potential costs and benefits of a number of possibilities, including pickup once, twice or three times a week for single-family homes. It also asks the town to examine both the feasibility of the service being managed within the town, as well as by Riverhead Town through an inter-municipal agreement.
On Tuesday, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said it would be more efficient for Southampton Town, once it amends its town code to establish a garbage district, to put its own contract for the service out to bid. He explained that Riverhead’s system is already in place, with its contract awarded, and said it would not be any more costly for Southampton Town to manage its own contract. The Riverhead district, Mr. Walter added, is managed by just one employee, who might not be replaced when he retires.
Mr. Zappone said Town Board members would consult with the town attorneys regarding how such a garbage collection district could be legally established and structured, whether it would require a referendum, as well as the possibility of working out such an agreement with Riverhead. He added that Christine Fetten, Southampton Town’s director of municipal works, previously worked for Riverhead Town, is familiar with their system and could offer her insight.
FRNCA President Vince Taldone said the three western hamlets have a high percentage of rental homes whose owners do not pay for private garbage pickup, resulting in waste being dumped on empty lots or in wetlands or even the Pine Barrens.
Though those homeowners might view the tax as an additional cost to them, Mr. Taldone pointed out that “a cleaner community makes for better curb appeal and that adds value for renting or selling.”
The proposed taxing district could also assist elderly residents who are not able to transport their garbage themselves, he said.
Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender, who lives in Northampton and served for years as FRNCA president, said the town and community association should gather public input on the proposal before instating a pilot program to test its effectiveness over a period.