Thinking Again About Leaf Pickup

While we were thinking about leaf blowers, we learned that East Hampton Town’s elected officials may be about to reinstitute free leaf pickup service in some form or other. This is an exciting prospect for residents, many of whom sorely missed the old program after it was eliminated in 2011.

Taxes were the explanation when the town board did away with leaf pickup, though there was also a bit of politics at play as well. Up until then, Highway Department workers had made regular rounds in the fall, vacuuming up piles of leaves left at the roadside. Positions for and against the program were generally divided along party lines, with Democrats urging that pickup continue and Republicans, pushing personal responsibility and fiscal restraint, saying it should be ended.

Now, because much of the equipment has languished and been left to rust, the price for returning to the approach of years past is thought to be too great. Instead, officials, including Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch, favor a bag system like the one in Southampton Town.

Southampton’s program works this way: Residents can buy biodegradable paper bags at a number of hardware and grocery stores. They fill them with leaves and leave them by the side of the road during announced collection periods. Each street is checked for bags once in the fall and once in the spring, no more. Outside of these collection opportunities, Southampton residents can take bags of leaves year round  to town transfer stations without charge. Hardship exceptions are available, allowing older or disabled residents to leave loose leaves at the side of the road for town collection.

Southampton’s approach is considered a success and seems like something that could work here. East Hampton is a smaller town, and since existing Highway Department trucks could be used to haul the bags, start-up costs would be minimal. The idea should receive serious consideration.