Harris, who came before the Southold Town board, along with Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, at a town board work session, said some residents and private contractors are taking advantage of the town program.
Toedter said some are engaging in practices such as pruning more than they normally would, because there is no fee for the town to pick up the brush and bring it to the transfer station.
In the process, the mating and nesting season of area birds is being disrupted, he said.
"People are taking advantage, when the seasonal residents are away, and are clearing brush and wetlands on the Sound, when no one is around," he said. "As far as the NFEC is concerned, the practice is getting out of hand."
Harris said over the 12 years he's been in office, he's noticed that "some do abuse" the program.
This year, Harris said, his department is $16,000 over budget, largely due to remnants from Sandy that had to be cleaned up after second homeowners finally came out this season; some may not have come out sooner because they had even more cleanup to worry about in their homes to the west.
But still, he said, some are taking advantage. "How much can you prune?" he said.
And, he added, the time spent on picking up brush could be spent on street repairs, highway work and "not performing yard maintenance business."
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked if it was homeowners, or contractors, taking advantage.
Harris said both are taking advantage. Some unscrupulous contractors, he said, might charge a homeowner for removal of brush, but, since the homeowner might be seasonal and unaware, might then just leave the brush for the town to haul off.
"You have very respectable lawn maintenance companies that will do the right thing, and you have businesses out there that will take it and dump it in front of a vacant lot, where the town will pick it up, anyway," Harris said. "We need to put some better teeth in the program."
To that end, Harris suggested setting limits to how much would be hauled away per household; for example, one four-to-six yard truckload per home.
Fall leaves, which residents put in bags and leave at the curb, takes minimal manpower compared to the crews and vehicles needed for spring cleanup, he said.
Toedter said the NFEC would also love to see an educational process put in place so that residents might begin mulching themselves.
Russell said two questions were critical: if the town's program promoted more land clearing than necessary, and if the free program was being abused.
Harris reminded that the town does not remove any land-clearing debris.
Russell asked for a cost estimate from Harris of man hours and other expenses related to the program.
Harris said this spring there were three crews, with between 15 and 20 people, out clearing for six weeks.
Councilman Jim Dinizio, Jr. asked if those individuals would lose work if the program was changed.
"No, they would be doing other things, like sidewalks, curbing, and drainage," Harris said.
Dinizio added that composting would only lead to raccoons and rats.
Russell said one issue is that some contractors use a vacant lot to dump debris, while a homeowner may be living elsewhere for part of the year and have no clue.
"A lot of residents disregard the town," Harris said. "Even after we've gone through an area, people put stuff out again."
Harris said he would come back to the board with hard numbers.