The delay and debate over the pickup of loose leaves in Riverhead appears to have been resolved after town officials moved Tuesday to transfer money from the general fund to pay the Highway Department to do the task.
The town board voted 5-0 at its regular meeting to transfer $194,100 from the town fund to the highway department account for the pickup this season. The town came to an agreement with Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski earlier in the day to resolve the issue, according to Councilman Tim Hubbard, the board’s liaison with the department.
Additionally, Hubbard said at the meeting that next year’s town budget has accounted for a similar transfer, which should permanently put an end to the issue.
Earlier this month, Zaleski told the board his department would not collect the leaves — a subject of contention between the department and town for years — without the town paying for the estimated $220,000 cost of the service. The department had only $25,000 in its budget for the work.
Zaleski told Newsday on Wednesday that he was happy with the decision.
“I’m glad the town board is continuing this courtesy for the taxpayers” Zaleski said. “This was done legally and properly. The town board agreed to pay the highway [department], the taxpayers are receiving a very nice courtesy. As far as winning, I have no time to celebrate. I have leaves to pick up.”
The highway department will start removing loose leaves in Jamesport the week of Nov. 28; the Riverhead area the week of Dec. 5; and the Wading River area the week of Dec. 12, with postings on rules for pickup and dates to be published in local media, Zaleski said.