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Norfolk Town Council votes to keep annual cleanup


NORFOLK - Town officials have voted to keep their annual trash cleanup weekend - for this year at least.

After much debate between town officials and residents, which at times grew heated, the Norfolk Town Council voted 3-2 to retain its once-a-year service that lets Norfolk residents drop off their trash at the Massena Transfer Station, 49 Dump Road, Massena, with the town picking up the bill.

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

Councilmen Kevin Fetterly and Robert Harvey voted against the motion, citing concerns over residents who abuse the system and a belief that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Providing the service cost the town almost $8,000 in 2011 and more than $10,000 in 2012.

“You say people are abusing it - I don’t think you’re making that up - so save the money for other purposes. Put aside the money and use it to better the town,” Mr. Harvey said.

Responding to concerns that discontinuing the service would result in trash piling up, Mr. Fetterly said he felt that the people who dump their trash on the side of back roads weren’t likely to utilize the service. Mr. Fetterly believes those individuals will continue to litter anyway.

“The people that are letting trash pile up don’t care enough to use the cleanup,” he said. “We’re always going to have that issue of people who dump trash on back roads.”

Supervisor Charles A. Pernice acknowledged Mr. Fetterly and Mr. Harvey’s concerns, but felt it was too late to discontinue the service, as he’d already received calls from concerned residents who wanted to utilize the service. Some residents have already collected and piled up refuse to dispose of at the annual cleanup, he said.

Mr. Pernice plans not to include funding for the cleanup in next year’s budget.

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.

“The town of Norfolk has the right to refuse any load,” he said.

Critics also pointed out that the town was charging all Norfolk taxpayers for a service that a relatively small number of residents utilize. Mr. Pernice 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.

However, 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.

Stating his support for keeping the cleanup service, Councilman Donald I. Purvis pointed out the town used to pick up trash from residents’ homes twice annually, and has gradually cut it down to the current service, which is less convenient for Norfolk residents wanting to dispose of refuse.

“There’s always people who are going to abuse something. I really do think it’s a service the people of Norfolk should have and be able to use,” Mr. Purvis said.

One Norfolk woman, who did not want to be named in print, told the town council she utilizes the service to dispose of refuse left by others on Trippanyville Road, which she picks up and stores in a barn until the cleanup weekend. She acknowledged that the litter is not her responsibility, but said she cleans her street because she doesn’t “want it to look dumpy.”

She raised concerns that if residents continue to toss their refuse along the side of dirt roads, the garbage will accumulate, decompose and hurt the overall health and attractiveness of the local environment.

“I think good gravy, am I going to have to (clean up litter) my whole life? Why can’t people just take their trash to the dump?” she said.

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