Southampton officials are considering establishing the town's first taxpayer-funded garbage district to address reports of illegal dumping in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton.
The communities are home to about 8,000 people in the northwest corner of Southampton, a predominantly working-class area that the town has hired a developer to revitalize.
About 85 percent of the area is wooded, and forests have become dumping grounds for sofas, refrigerators and household trash, said Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, or FRNCA. He said trash has also piled up outside homes where residents or landlords have neglected to hire a garbage carter.
But a growing number of residents are speaking out against the effort, saying they're happy arranging their own trash pickup with carting companies, as is common across large parts of the East End.
"Having garbage pickup is not going to clean up the area, trust me," said Chrissy Prete, a Flanders resident. "People who are going to dump are going to dump. People who are responsible are going to be responsible."
In March, Southampton officials sought carting companies interested in serving the area. Councilman Brad Bender, who lives in Northampton, said the cheapest offer was to provide twice-weekly trash pickup and weekly recyclable and bulk-item pickup for about $25 a month, which would be tacked onto residents' annual tax bills. That includes the town's fee for managing the district, he said.
Taldone and Bender said a garbage district could aid the push for economic revitalization in an area that struggles with blighted homes and businesses.
"In most of the Island, all the way west, including Riverhead and Brookhaven, it's all done this way, by municipal contractors," Taldone added.
A Facebook page called "Flanders Homeowners AGAINST Town Garbage Pickup" had about 180 members as of Thursday.
Meigan Rocco, a Flanders resident who started the page in March, said residents like the flexibility to pay for the garbage services they want. She said she can call and have garbage carted off a day or two early if she has a party, and elderly residents can arrange to have garbage picked up at their doorsteps.
Frank Fisher, a Flanders resident who started a carting company, Go Green Sanitation, six years ago, said the proposal would force him to lay off some of his 12 workers and would also squeeze six other companies that serve the area.
"You're taking away people's choice," Fisher said. "I believe in free enterprise."
Southampton has scheduled a forum on the issue for May 15 at 7 p.m. at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Flanders, Bender said. He said the town would not move forward with the plan without a vote by taxpayers in the proposed district.