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Group petitions to end sanitation district

Hempstead Town residents Monday submitted petitions to dissolve a local sanitation district that serves more than 50,000 people -- the most wide-scale attempt to date to abolish a government body under a state law passed in 2009.

The 5,386 petitioners say Sanitary District 2's taxes, which average more than $500 per year, per home, are twice as high as they would be if the service was provided by Hempstead Town workers. The petition was organized by Residents for Efficient Special Districts.

The petitions, submitted to Hempstead Town per state law, would trigger a referendum if validated. The town has 10 days to verify the petitions. If they are certified, the referendum could happen in as little as three months.

"Why should Roosevelt residents pay twice as much for sanitation taxes as our neighbors in Merrick," said Wilhelmina Funderburke, one of a group of residents who spoke outside Hempstead Town Hall just before submitting the petitions.

The sanitation district serves Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and parts of Uniondale, Rockville Centre and Freeport and is one of several within the town.

Doug Wiedmann, secretary for the district, said the dissolution of the district would hurt service. District supporters have also said collapsing the district could result in the layoff of its 75 employees.

"We're the most local form of government," Wiedmann said. "We're here to serve the community."

The petitions were submitted under the Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act. The district is the largest entity targeted thus far for dissolution, said Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Tyson, whose group supports the dissolution drive, said she expects similar petition drives elsewhere in the state. "It's going to happen around Long Island and happen in other parts of the state as well," she said.

Hempstead has accepted the petitions and will soon begin reviewing them, town spokesman Mike Deery said.

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