Hauling brush and leaves down to Rotterdam’s compost facility on Princetown Road will be an inconvenience for Chris Ewart, but he’d rather do it himself than pay the town $50 for curbside pickup.
The Woodbridge Avenue resident was among about 50 property owners who decided to opt out of the town’s newly instituted brush pickup fee Sunday. Like others, he figured it would be more cost-effective to handle the chore himself.
“It’s not that big of a deal to take it to the stump dump,” he said. “It’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Ewart didn’t realize until recently, however, that he’d need to submit a notarized form to opt out of the fee. The “affidavit to decline yard waste collection service” must be signed by both the homeowner and a notary public and delivered to the town no later than today — a provision of the law creating the pickup fee, which the Town Board approved in February.
“We just received a notice in the mail,” he said. “That was all the information given.”
Members of the Rotterdam Republican Town Committee set up a stand at the mostly defunct Curry Road Shopping Center on Sunday to help residents like Ewart avoid the fee increase. Town Board member Joe Villano and committee Chairwoman Tracy Donovan were among four notaries who stayed at the site for about three hours to help residents work through the opt-out form.
Residents have until May 15 to pay the fee. Those who do not and have failed to complete the opt-out form will have the fee levied in next year’s tax bill.
Villano said the administration of Supervisor Harry Buffardi crafted the law to make it inconvenient for residents to opt out of the fee. He said the form needs to be completed annually to avoid the fee being imposed, and then the roadway outside their homes will be marked so that Highway Department workers can identify who has opted out.
“It’s a scarlet letter they’re putting on people who are conscientiously objecting to this measure,” he said.
Buffardi, a Democrat, has indicated the new fee is necessary to offset the more-than-$400,000 annual cost of providing the service. Without the increase, he said, the town would need to seek to trim the line item for brush pickup by that amount.
But this reasoning was met with skepticism by the two Republicans on the board. Villano said the service is paid for through the town’s highway taxes and the new fee appears to be little more than a revenue booster to help pay for spending in other areas of the budget.
“This is a money grab,” he said.
The other Republican, Richard Larmour, said the new fee simply means the town can continue to allow spending to spiral out of control.
“They want to get all this revenue in and then squander it,” he said.
The Republicans have begun a petition drive and gathered more than five dozen signatures in an effort to repeal the new law. Donovan said the fee and the opt-out process is a slap in the face to taxpayers.
“This is a horrible thing to make the taxpayers go through every years,” she said.