A 6-inch white square is spray-painted on the pavement in front of Tina Giorgio’s Rotterdam Junction home.
Identical squares line the pavement in front of her Main Street neighbors — she counted about 30 — who opted out of the town of Rotterdam’s brush pickup service that now comes with a $50 fee.
The squares are meant to make the homes of the 2,407 residents who opted out visible to Highway Department workers so they know where not to pick up brush, according to Larry LaMora, town highway superintendent.
But Giorgio sees them as something more — Rotterdam’s very own Scarlet Letter.
“I don’t believe we should be singled out and marked as almost that we’ve done something criminal by opting out,” said Giorgio, 60. “What’s next, you know, when people can be singled out? And it’s probably to embarrass the people that chose to opt out that are standing up against the high tax rate.”
The new fee was adopted in February along with a $50 increase in the water fee by a vote of 3-2, with Supervisor Harry Buffardi, Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder — both Democrats — and Conservative board member Michael Viscusi voting in favor and Republicans Joe Villano and Richard Larmour opposing.
Residents had until April 1 to opt out of the brush pickup service and fee. Those who didn’t opt out have until May 15 to pay the fee.
Like other opponents of the new brush pickup fee and the water-fee increase, Giorgio sees them as the town’s way around the state tax cap, which is why she submitted a notarized form to opt out of the service she has relied on for the past 33 years.
She’s not sure what she’ll do this year.
“I’ll probably cut it myself,” she said. “I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.”
Not everyone who opted out did so out of protest. Some people, like Sophie Pachucki, simply don’t need the service.
“I have a lawn keeper so I don’t care,” the 87-year-old Van Wormer Road resident said. “I don’t have to have the brush out there. I think that’s why a lot of people opted out. Either that or they’re going to the dump themselves.”
It was news to her that a white box had been painted on the pavement outside her home, but after taking a look at the square, she said, “That’s fine.”
“Maybe the kids will draw a picture in it, with eyes and a mouth,” she said, laughing.
Robert Godlewski watched from his Manas Drive home Monday as a truck pulled up outside the homes of two of his neighbors and two town employees painted the white squares.
One worker used a broom to clear a spot on the pavement, he recalled, then another worker put a square down and spray-painted between the lines.
“Can you believe the waste of manpower and equipment?” said Godlewski, a former Democratic town board member. “And this has to be done every year.”
Godlewski, who served on the board up until this year, wasn’t sure the white-square situation could be compared to the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, in which a young woman found guilty of adultery in 1642 Puritan Boston is made to wear a scarlet “A” on her dress to signify shame.
“It’s definitely not ‘The Red Badge of Courage,’ that’s for sure,” he said.