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Petition seeks end to sanitation district

A citizens group that opposes a Hempstead sanitation district has collected the required signatures to force a referendum to dissolve the district, the coalition's leader said Friday.

The 1,000-member Residents for Efficient Special Districts wants to do away with Sanitary District 2, which covers part of the Town of Hempstead, including Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and parts of Uniondale, Rockville Centre and Freeport. The group says the district's taxes are too high and the town could provide more cost-effective service.

The citizens group is calling for the end of the sanitation district under the New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act, which was approved in 2009. The act allows citizens to trigger a referendum by collecting signatures from 10 percent of the district's voters, or 5,000 voters, whichever is less.

The group collected more than 5,000 signatures in the 55,000-resident district, said Laura Mallay, the coalition's executive director. Sanitary District 2 is the largest entity targeted thus far for dissolution on Long Island, and larger than any entity abolished up to now under the 2009 legislation.

"We'd like to see communities have the strength to stand up and follow our lead because this is the only way to prevent us from getting taxed out of our homes," Mallay said, adding that the district's average taxes of about $500 are double the average paid by residents whose garbage is collected by Hempstead Town workers.

John A. Cools, chairman of the district's board of commissioners, said the dissolution attempt is misguided. He said dissolving the district would put 75 workers out of their jobs and reduce the level of service.

Cools, an elected commissioner, is up for re-election on Thursday. He is opposed by James Major of Roosevelt. Attempts to reach Major were not successful.

"You'd take away your right to elect this board," Cools said. "We're right here, right in your backyard."

Another entity would need to step in to provide sanitation service if the district is dissolved. Hempstead would be happy to fill the void, but only if that is what voters want, said town spokesman Mike Deery.

"We would not impose. We strongly believe it would have to be the will of the community," Deery said.

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