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Norfolk town officials consider continuation of trash pickup

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NORFOLK - Town officials are considering whether to continue the town’s annual clean up days service.

Council members and community members who attended this month’s Norfolk Town Council meeting were divided on whether to use taxpayer dollars toward a service that Norfolk residents typically either handle themselves or pay for through private companies. The once-a-year service lets Norfolk residents drop off their trash at the Massena Transfer Station, 49 Dump Rd., Massena, with the town picking up the bill.

Providing the service cost the town almost $8,000 in 2011 and more than $10,000 in 2012. That money comes from the town’s general fund, Supervisor Charlie Pernice said.

The town council will decide at its April 8 meeting whether to continue the service. Mr. Pernice asks any residents with feelings on whether the town should continue the servic or cut it as a way to save revenue to attend this meeting and make a comment to the board.

Town officials say the service would likely take place during the first half of May.

“I think it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you don’t want to use taxpayer money on trash pickup. But on the other, you don’t want to have trash laying out,” Councilman Robert J. Harvey said. “If we eliminate that service, we’ll see that stuff piling up.”

Mr. Pernice said he feels the town has strong enough zoning regulations to prevent littering. However, Mr. Harvey feels those who are most likely to litter would also be unlikely to be detered by a town citation.

“If people don’t have the money to support their houses and pay their bills, they aren’t going to worry about a citation,” Mr. Harvey said. “If they can’t pay for it, they can’t pay for it.”

Some town officials and community members believe the service should stay because it’s a way to help clean up the town before families pass through for graduation ceremonies at Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam, scheduled for the second and third weekends of May respectively.

“I think it’s a great service we offer once a year for whoever wants to use it,” Councilman Donald I. Purvis said. “It makes our town a little better.”

Mr. Pernice said the majority of the comments he’s received from community members seemed to indicate most were in favor of keeping the trash pickup service. “I know the majority of people who have expressed their opinion to me say even if they don’t use it it’s a service we should provide,” he said.

However, he also pointed out that he’d only heard from a small portion of Norfolk’s almost 5,000 residents. “We’re not talking about huge numbers of people. I really feel like I haven’t gotten much of a sample,” Mr. Pernice said.

Mr. Harvey is of the opinion that most residents are glad to know the service is available, even if they don’t utilize it.

Some residents feel the service is unnecessary during a time of rising property taxes and difficult budgetary situations facing many towns, as well as the state and county.

Norfolk resident John Margattay expressed dissatisfaction with the rising costs of his school and property taxes, and he doesn’t want the town to approve any unneeded spending that might add to his tax bills.

“It’s something everyone can take care of for themselves. If you want to (utilize a service to pick up trash), you should pay for it. Send them the bill,” Mr. Margattay said.

Mr. Margattay said he’d rather see the town utilize the money for trash pickup toward other endeavors, such as a proposal to raise school taxes to pay for a school resource officer to provide security at the Norwood-Norfolk Central School District.

Mr. Pernice raised concerns about residents who abuse the system by disposing of trash from friends or family who do not reside in Norfolk or by using it to clear particularly large items. He pointed to one resident who used the service to dispose of a 14-foot fiberglass boat as an example of the latter form of abuse.

“If we do have the service, we’ll establish a set of rules to refuse service to anyone. If someone comes with a boat, they will be refused servie,” Mr. Pernice said.

The town already has rules regarding what types of refuse may be taken.

Mr. Pernice also raised concern that the town was charging all Norfolk taxpayers for a service that a relatively small number of residents utilize. He said 247 residents utilized the service in 2011 and 303 in 2012, and some of those counted made multiple trips. Mr. Pernice said this represents a very small percentage of Norfolk’s population, given there are roughly 2,600 parcels in the town.

“Clearly less than 10 percent of our residents use this service, so some (members) of the board feel 90 percent (of our residents) are paying for 10 percent (of our residents) to get rid of their unwanted items,” Mr. Pernice wrote in an email.

Mr. Pernice said that while he would prefer to keep the service he feels that during a time of rising taxes and budget cuts it may be one of most sensible areas to cut spending.

Town officials routinely look at cutting the clean up days as a way to reduce its expenses, according to Mr. Pernice. Several years ago, the town elected to reduce clean up days from twice per year - fall and spring - to once in order to lower its budget.

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