File photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead’s loose leaf pickup will take place this year, paid for out of the town’s general fund.

The Town Board last night voted to transfer $194,100 from the general fund to the highway fund to cover some of the cost of the highway department’s expenses associated with the pickup.

Council Member Tim Hubbard offered a resolution authorizing the transfer. He said Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski agreed to the amount yesterday afternoon. The transfer, when added to a $25,000 line item already in the highway department budget for the purchase of paper bags for leaf disposal, totaled the $219,000 the board and the highway superintendent previously set as the amount to be paid out of the general fund for leaf pickup in 2023.

The budget transfer resolution, adopted unanimously, ends the debate over whether the cost of the pickup should be paid out of the highway fund or the general fund. The Town Board has sought to charge the expense to the highway fund, on the advice of the town’s finance administrator and town attorney. But Zaleski — and his predecessor George Woodson — relying on opinions of the Office of the State Comptroller, argued that the pickup program is not a highway function, but a sanitation function, and should not be paid out of the highway fund.

Council Member Frank Beyrodt praised Zaleski, who he said “really did try in good faith” to make sure the pickup got done this year. “And I want to acknowledge Gio Woodson for years who has been fighting this fight to get it out of out of the general budget, general fund balance,” he said. “But, you know, I think this is the best way to bridge the gap. It’s only this season. It’s in the budget for next season. I think it’s a worthwhile effort.”

Hubbard agreed, “Mike has been an absolute gentleman during this process,” Hubbard said. “We discussed it as business, as it should. It wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t personal. And we all get along well, and I’m glad we came to an amicable agreement to have this done for the residents,” Hubbard said.

“Hallelujah. Finally,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said as she voted yes on the budget transfer.

Zaleski said this morning he is happy with the agreement and happy that the town will continue to provide this service to its residents.

Crews will begin picking up leaves on the east end of town during the week of Nov. 28 and work their way west, Zaleski said.

He said the schedule, which is subject to adjustment due to weather conditions, will be:

  • Week of Nov. 28: Laurel/Jamesport/Aquebogue
  • Week of Dec. 5: Riverhead/Calverton
  • Week of Dec. 12: Wading River

Residents are reminded to put leaves curbside only on the weekend before the scheduled pickup week in their area, Zaleski said. Crews will come through each area one time only, he said.

“Please do not put leaves in the road,” he said. Leaves should be placed in one pile on the edge of a resident’s property, not in long rows, he said.

“Also, the pickup is for leaves only, not branches or other yard waste,” Zaleski said. Piles that contain branches or other wastes will not be picked up, he said.

“We appreciate everyone’s cooperation, which we rely on to get the job done before our crews are dealing with snow removal in January,” Zaleski said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.