Verona’s new commercial garbage ordinance wasn’t on the agenda for Monday’s Town Council meeting, but that didn’t stop it from becoming the focal point of the last hour of the meeting, with often heated comments by Verona’s deputy mayor, Michael Nochimson, towards the business that created the petition that could force the ordinance to be rescinded.
Enforcement of Ordinance 2018-18 was suspended early Monday after a petition created by Lakeside Deli appeared to have gathered enough signatures that it would have to be rescinded or put to a public vote in a special election. The ordinance continued Verona’s longstanding municipal collection of commercial garbage but limited pickup to five cans per building. The petition against it collected about 775 signatures and the township clerk is now reviewing them to see if there are enough valid signatures to meet the needed threshold of 656 signatures.
When the meeting was opened to public participation, Jim Hill, co-owner of both Lakeside Deli and Eight Hills Catering, came to the microphone to take issue not with the ordinance but with the way businesses that use municipal pickups had been portrayed in a media account. In a June 5 story in the Verona-Cedar Grove Times, Nochimson was quoted as saying that the new ordinance would “eliminate the abuse” of municipal collection.
Hill asserted that his business had done what town government asked him to do about garbage over the years. Lakeside’s property is just the building, with no outside space at all for garbage cans or dumpsters. For several years, he had a dumpster on the sidewalk on the Park Place side of the building surrounded by flowers, until the town asked him to switch to garbage cans. He uses the municipal garbage collection, supplemented with commercial pickups during busy periods. And he denied that Lakeside abused garbage procedures. “Commercial properties pay taxes as well,” Hill said, “so I would assume that their garbage would be picked up like a resident’s.”
“We have worked with everyone in this town, since I’ve been here for 30 years, give and take, back and forth,” Hill said. “We rely on the people of Verona. We try to support all the organizations in Verona. I didn’t like reading that we were doing something wrong.”
Nochimson conceded that the town has changed its mind on how to handle Lakeside’s garbage over the years. But he then asserted that the object of the petition had been inaccurately described on Facebook. “It’s a lie and it’s not even true and telling the truth actually matters,” Nochimson said.“The message that was given was deliberately distorted. There was no truth to it and I learned in kindergarten and my wife teaches in kindergarten, the truth is important and the truth matters. There should be accountability when someone writes something and it’s not accurate. This was a very simple ordinance. There was plenty of flexibility in the ordinance to put out your garbage. Most businesses get it right and they do it consistently. ”
“The problem is, it’s your responsibility. You have to shell out the money to remove your garbage,” Nochimson added. “It’s not the responsibility of the town to remove your garbage.” Both the new, suspended garbage ordinance and the previous version maintain that Verona will pick up commercial garbage; the suspended rule simply limited how much would be picked up.
When Hill returned to the microphone later in public participation, he said that while Lakeside’s other co-owner had met with the adjacent building owner to discuss getting space on that owner’s property for a dumpster, the building owner had withdrawn the offer.
What happens next or ordinance 2018-18 depends on whether the petition collected the required number of valid signatures from Verona residents. By law, only the signatures on the physical petition can be counted and not any signatures made to the online version. If the petition drives forces 2018-18 to be rescinded, the Council may still decide to make changes to municipal pickups of commercial garbage.
Councilman Jack McEvoy argued that it is more environmentally friendly to have municipal pickup. “I believe that collecting commercial garbage reduces emissions because we don’t have 50 businesses hiring 50 different garbage companies and 50 different trucks coming at 50 different times during the week to pick up garbage,” he said. McEvoy urged his fellow Council members to sit down with businesses who have difficulty meeting garbage rules and work things out individually, and said that solutions could include having the business pay more for excess municipal collection.
Councilman Ted Giblin reminded the audience that he voted against the ordinance (along with McEvoy) and said that he also signed the petition for it to be rescinded. Giblin called the petition drive was “very significant.”
“This is no fluke,” Giblin said. “A lot of townspeople are very concerned about this, they don’t like the way this was brought up, they don’t like the demeanor and how these business owners are spoken to. If we look at here tonight, we are seeing an awful lot of finger-pointing and pontificating, and I was hoping that as a result of what happened last week, with the petition being filed, that we could have a civil discussion. Councilman McEvoy brought this up: We shouldn’t have had to legislate this. It should have been a proper discussion with the business owner.”
You can watch the full Town Council meeting in the video below. The discussion of the garbage ordinance starts at the 1 hour-16 minute-mark here: