Out of about 10,600 Rotterdam residents billed for brush pickup, 2,407 opted out of the service that comes with a new $50 fee.
That means 78 percent of residents must pay the fee rather than bring leaves to the town’s composting facility on Princetown Road themselves at no cost.
“That was quite high,” Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder, a Democrat, said at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting. “We’re talking between $365,000 and $395,000 in additional revenue that will help pay for the $1.1 million it cost us to do leaf and brush as it stood before this took place. I just wanted everybody to know that I think that’s an important fact.”
Democratic Supervisor Harry Buffardi said those who opted out didn’t necessarily disagree with the fee, and instead might not need the service because they live in condominiums, have no trees on their property or dump the brush elsewhere.
“I anticipate that it will carry on,” he said of charging residents $50 for the service. “It’s certainly a service that most of the people of Rotterdam want, but it’s increasingly more difficult for us to do it.”
Town Board member Joe Villano, a Republican who has called the new fee a “money grab,” said he wasn’t surprised more people didn’t opt out, even though everyone he talked to was opposed to the new fee.
For one, he said, Buffardi’s administration made the law inconvenient to opt out of by requiring residents to submit a notarized form by April 1.
The deadline to opt out was also more than a month before the May 15 deadline to pay the fee, which might have confused some residents, Villano said.
“Not everybody has a notary in their household, not everybody has a notary at their work, and quite frankly, people forget,” said Villano, who personally notarized opt-out forms for residents in late March. “But they also made it even more confusing.”
Villano said he doesn’t believe the cost to run the program is anywhere near Calder’s stated $1.1 million. Even if the town did away with brush pickup, it would still have to pay the Highway Department employees who do more than pick up brush, Villano said.
“The mere fact that we have the leaf and brush pickup, it basically gives them something to do, and if we didn’t have leaf and brush pickup, [Highway Superintendent Larry La-
Mora] would have them doing something else,” Villano said. “There’s really no cost to the town other than the gas in the trucks and the maintenance.”
“It’s totally bogus,” he added. “It’s shady — even for Rotterdam.”