Citing the high cost of keeping town beaches garbage-free, Southold Town officials are considering ways to keep litter from overflowing the sites.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell told the town board at its Aug. 15 work session that after speaking with public works officials, it was clear the town’s management of the growing amounts of beach litter had become “very, very expensive.”
“It’s very time-consuming, there’s a handful of out-of-pocket costs,” Russell said, expressing frustration over people leaving behind excess and large trash items at beach barrels. “I can’t for the life of me understand how some self-entitled prima donnas think it’s the taxpayers’ job to clean up their coolers or chairs.”
The trash includes large items like coolers, chairs and beach umbrellas, as well as household garbage, according to town Public Works Director Jeff Standish. The town has a $1,000 fine for dumping household garbage at beach barrels, but Russell said it was difficult to enforce. At the meeting, he discussed the idea of increasing the fine by $1,000 to deter would-be litter bugs.
The town empties the beach trash barrels roughly five days a week, Standish said, and the barrels tend to fill up within a day.
“This isn’t a buildup over a week,” he said. “In one day, they fill up and this will happen.”
The town’s costs for picking up litter at its beaches and road ends in 2016 were $161,858, including salaries, landfill fees, fuel fees and new domed garbage cans, according to Southold’s public works department. Those costs are estimated to be $108,157 so far this year, and Russell said he “absolutely” expected costs to exceed what the town spent the previous year, possibly to more than $200,000 by the end of 2017.
At the meeting, Russell discussed the need to come up with a long-term plan with the board on re-evaluating the number of trash barrels at the beaches, studying their locations and finding ways to best police them to prevent further littering.
Board members discussed several options for stronger enforcement of littering violations at beaches in addition to Russell’s idea of increased fines. Those options included the possibility of installing cameras near beaches, adding “No littering” town signs, and asking local civic groups or associations to keep an eye out for those littering at beach barrels.
While the town does not keep official statistics on the number of visitors to its six beaches, figures provided by Southold Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville show the total number of beach parking permits the town issued — including residents, daily beach permits, nonresidents, lessees, guests and via hotels and motels — stood at 11,236 so far this year, compared with 12,550 in all of 2016.