If everybody pitches in all year round, litter eradication efforts will really pick up in Somers, says a band of local volunteers.
And that’s not just trash talk from a town task force with the motto “Clean Streets Matter.”
The group brought the Town Board up to speed on its activities recently, suggesting ways other entities could step up, and asking it for more guidance and funding.
Keeping on top of refuse is “a constant chore,” according to task force president Dr. Suzy Moravick.
Despite educational campaigns, twice-yearly townwide cleanups—and other organizations, clubs, businesses and dedicated individuals doing their bit—the situation has become “insurmountable,” she said.
Task force members Rich Nash, Barbara Knothe, Bruce Heller and Sandy DeSena also showed the flag.
Success depends on taking a multipronged, prolonged and coordinated approach that draws on judicial, law enforcement, educational and, most importantly, governmental resources, they said.
“We need the Town Board’s help to rid ourselves of this blight on our town,” Moravick said.
Top on its “Dear Santa” list was budgeted funding for cleanup efforts.
Task force member Annie Gullen pointed out that Yorktown and Bedford both have municipal recycling centers. “We could learn from them and maybe do a better job,” she suggested.
This past spring’s Battle of Yorktown managed to bag 18,232 pounds of rubbish. While a once-a-year blitz like that might not solve all of Somers’ litter woes, it could boost community pride, Gullen said.
(City Carting, a private business on Route 100, hosts electronic waste recycling events that raise money for the nonprofit. It, and several other local businesses such as DeCicco & Sons and The Somers Record, have supported Somers’ bag-athons. The current one runs through Sunday, Nov. 3.)
Next on the list were cameras, key to catching the bad guys. The task force also wants roadside cleanup to be made part of court-ordered community service.
Town Attorney Roland A. Baroni Jr. raised the issue of insurance liability. Councilman Thomas Garrity, of the town’s Risk Management and Safety Committee, promised to look into it.
Law enforcement and judicial support is vital, said Litter Task Force vice president Rich Nash, adding, “If we all unite, we can get a heck of a lot done.”
It also might deter trash-tossers if their names were printed in the local newspaper, he suggested.
As for making so-called “citizen’s arrests,” residents were advised to take a photo and call the authorities instead of getting into a confrontation.
Moravick, who has been waiting for someone to litter in front of her, joked, “I can tell you, they won’t want to do that ever again.”
The group called for systematic monitoring and better enforcement of property maintenance codes.
Supervisor Rick Morrissey said Somers makes regular inspections and follows up on complaints, but, like many municipalities, doesn’t have the manpower to actively suss out violations. He suggested the task force confab with building inspector Thomas Tooma.
“Anyway, all who live and work in this town should be responsible for taking pride in our property and keeping it clean and maintained,” Gullen said.
Volunteers pick up trash along state byways, which can be dangerous because of speeders, lack of shoulders in certain areas and poor road conditions such as potholes. The town is discussing remedies with the Department of Transportation.
Litter hurts the town’s image and could discourage potential home buyers and new businesses, the task force said.
Considering the town is poised to become home to an exclusive boarding school and high-end housing is springing up—both attention-grabbers—that’s a big deal. “Somers needs to make it more of a priority,” Gullen said.
TRUCK BAN PROPOSED
Task force member Peter McManus, who focuses on the very visible historic district, collects 25 bags of trash each month.
Many items are chucked from passing cars, but most of it flies off out-of-town trucks carrying loads to a recycling/transfer station on Route 100.
“People in their Toyota Corollas aren’t throwing this out their windows,” he said.
Haulers are not “reckless” or doing anything illegal, but things still escape from under their tarps, including cardboard boxes so big “you could fit a refrigerator” in them, McManus claimed.
Technically, with the exception of haulers making local pickups, 18-wheelers are supposed to avoid the downtown but Somers can only legally ban them if they exceed the weight limits on bridges.
Morrissey has reached out to the center’s operators and it was agreed that trucks should exit Route 684 in Katonah and come up routes 35 and 100.
Center employees regularly police the roads for errant truck trash.
The task force has no intention of ruffling anyone’s feathers, especially since cooperation is crucial to ending the litter crisis.
“We all just want to work together,” Moravick concluded.
Morrissey, who often says the town is “run by volunteers,” praised the task force, saying, “It’s overwhelming the things you’ve accomplished.”
“We will be knocking on your door for more help,” Moravick promised board members.