Tuckerton Leader

Little Egg Harbor ‘Grandfathers’ Trash Pickup for Select Merchants

Critics Cry Foul Against Taxpayers, Other Businesses
May 04, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson An open field bordered by Radio Road, West Calabreeze Way, Falcon Road and Grace Road in Mystic Island will be the new site of a veterans park.

Seventeen businesses in Little Egg Harbor Township will continue to have their garbage picked up by the township rather than pay for a commercial hauler after two members of the township committee, John Kehm and Lisa Stevens, voted in favor of a grandfathering provision of the town’s recycling and solid waste ordinance. Committeeman David Schlick voted against it.

Mayor Ray Gormley, whose business is one of the 17, and Deputy Mayor Barbara Jo Crea both recused themselves from the vote. Crea’s membership in and her husband’s position as president of the Italian-American Club were the reasons she did not vote. The Italian American Club is one of many nonprofits, town offices and schools that will also continue to receive trash pickup.

After a brief wrangle over who would preside over the April 26 meeting, Kehm took the position as the senior committee member.

Ordinance 2018-03 was meant to re-codify the existing recycling and solid waste ordinance adopted in 2007, which states the town public works department will pick up only residential garbage, excluding trash pickup from commercial businesses, nonprofits, the schools and other municipal buildings. Earlier in the year, Township Attorney Jean Cipriani had said it was imperative the practice mirror the law, so she asked the township committee to make a decision.

Kehm maintained that a section in the land use ordinances gave the planning board the right to require trash pickup or not. He maintained that the 17 businesses do not have to pay extra for a commercial garbage company to haul their trash if they have been receiving the garbage pickup all along – that certain long-time businesses are “grandfathered.”

During the public hearing on the new ordinance, Osborn Island resident Ed Andrew asked if the public works had done a cost-analysis of how much the free trash-hauling is costing the township. At a previous meeting, the township attorney and committee said that was why no revised ordinance had been introduced as yet.

The new ordinance 2018-03 will allow the businesses to continue getting their trash picked up by the township until they go out of business, transfer ownership or sell the business.

According to Kehm, this is phasing out the practice.

But Andrew said giving the owners of these 17 businesses six or nine months to get a garbage hauler would be phasing the practice out. “It sounds to me that you are memorializing a mistake you made in 2007.

“It sounds like a cost analysis was not done. Garbage pickup by a commercial hauler costs $170 a month – not a lot of money for a business. For me it’s simple: If nobody in the township gets commercial garbage pickup, then nobody gets commercial garbage pickup. To leave (this) in perpetuity is a mistake,” he said.

Schlick said the ordinance that was already on the books superceded whatever else was in the codebook as regards garbage collection. “This is absurd,” he said. He then asked Cipriani if she could anticipate lawsuits against the town for what he termed “unfair business practices.”

Resident Michael Hart asked how many businesses are in town; he was told there are 86, and 70 have a mercantile license. He asked how the 17 got on the list for free garbage collection.

Kehm said there was no list, but there were businesses that had been in town for 15 years or more. He then gave an example of how the new ordinance would work. He said that already, the owner of a complex in town had sold his business, and the new owner was required to get a commercial hauler.

Hart said one of the 17 businesses was less than 10 years in town. “So how does someone get on that list?”

Kehm repeated there was no list. “I don’t believe there’s any qualification.”

Hart then asked about a friend who owned a restaurant. “How are they supposed to compete with a business down the road getting free garbage pickup?

“It would be more fair if you gave every business owner two trash bins, and if they go over, they have to get a commercial hauler.”

Committeewoman Stevens said she was going to vote for the ordinance that allows the grandfather clause because the town is still recovering from Superstorm Sandy and businesses need all the help they can get. “We don’t give tax abatements, like some towns – not even a small amount. If we gave 17 businesses, say, 60 days to plan, they might leave the township.”

Andrew retorted that in general practice, tax abatements are only to attract new businesses, so they can establish themselves.

“To keep it to the point,” Andrew said, “grandfathering these businesses is going to cost the township money. Whether it be $250,000, what Dave Schlick said (apparently on social media), or $100,000, or even half, according to Kehm, that is still real money to the taxpayer. To keep (grandfathering) these 17 businesses is like saying I will always pay for my kid’s cars, forever.

“It’s unfair to existing businesses. To vote yes for this is a pretty poor decision. I think the committee needs to revisit it.”

Kehm raised his voice and said, “We’ve spent over $20,000 on this ordinance already. I’ve been here (as a committeeman) 13 years, and this is the most any ordinance has cost us (in legal fees). I think we’ve revisited it enough.

“I think it has everything in place to phase it out over time. The planning board has no problem with it. I believe it’s fair and it’s right.”

Andrew said he was a member of the planning board and the board was asked “not to opine on any of it. We were asked to butt out.”

Cipriani said nothing in the ordinance would keep the planning board from its official duty, but the issue was one that the governing body, the committee, had to decide.

Schlick then said that without disclosing the names of the businesses that get township trash pickup, he would like to cite examples how unfair the practice was: “There are eight auto repair shops in the town and only one gets their trash picked up. Three auto body shops – two do get it, but one does not. Two campgrounds – one gets pickup and one does not. Eighteen restaurants in town, only one does, 17 do not. One construction company gets trash picked up, and we don’t even take construction material. In the Mystic Island Plaza, two get it and the others don’t.

“It’s unfair business practices, and I’m going to vote no on this ordinance. And I beg you guys not to vote for it.”

Kehm made the motion to approve the new ordinance with the grandfather clause. Stevens voted yes and Schlick, “absolutely not.” So, with Kehm’s yes vote, the ordinance was passed.

In other business, the committee, with Gormley and Crea now returned to the dais, voted on an amendment to the budget that was not on the agenda. Business Administrator Garrett Loesch explained the state had reviewed the budget and required a change: removing $5,200 from state aid revenue. So instead, the auditor and Loesch increased the amount they expect to get from the courts. This did not change the budget amount or the tax levy.

Once this amendment was passed, the public hearing on the budget was held. Sunrise Bay resident Art Mooney brought to the attention of the governing body that the tax increase of 1.8 cents per $100 of assessed value would impact seniors on a fixed income. Loesch had explained in the introduction of the budget that a typical Little Egg Harbor home valued at $199,999 would pay an additional $35 a year for municipal taxes.

“Taxes go up every year. I appreciate that you are trying to hold the line on them,” said Mooney. “Seniors get no help from the state: gas taxes going up, sales tax (back to 7 percent) and now the governor is cutting our Homestead Rebate in half. The Senior Freeze is tapped out. No wonder seniors are leaving the state.”

Township Agrees on Site

For New Veterans Park

Mooney thanked Stevens for going ahead with plans for a veterans park in Mystic Island on Radio Road.

Joseph Sorrentino, representing American Legion Post 493, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 316 and Veterans of Cranberry Creek, also thanked Stevens for moving ahead with the park and finding common ground within the various veterans groups.

Veterans Park will develop on four 75-by-100-foot lots bounded by Radio Road, West Calabreeze Way, Falcon Drive and Grace Drive. The open space is already owned by the township and set aside for passive recreation.

“We’ll start with a flag, and we can hold services there,” said Sorrentino. The various veterans groups will start their fundraising efforts for other improvements, he said.

Speaking on Tuesday, Stevens said the preliminary park concept drawn up by the township’s landscape architect shows access off Calabreeze, a parking lot with handicapped-accessible spaces and flags for all five branches of the service, plus the U.S. and POW flags.

“It’s not just a memorial park, but also for those still serving,” she said. “It’s a big project, but let’s start with a flagpole and cut the grass and make it pretty and an honorable place to meet.”

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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