Lavallette has seen a “dramatic” increase in the amount of refuse the borough’s Public Works Department over the last two summers, which officials say has led to complaints from some residents of public and commercial trash cans overflowing in the business district. Under a new ordinance introduced this week, some businesses would be required to have their trash picked up by private haulers.
“We’re the only real business district located in there, between Point Pleasant and Seaside [Heights],” said Mayor Walter LaCicero. “We required that people had to have business on the first level, at least, and it seems to have worked. There is no commercial space available for businesses in town, we’re doing very well, but it’s brought a few issues to the town.”
The ordinance, specifically, will require establishments that sell food to fund their own sanitation pickups starting in April 2024 – the thought being that there would be enough time to refine the ordinance and allow food vendors to arrange for pickups before next summer.
“In many instances, a lot of the trash is ending up in the public cans, so we’ve had to increase collections to twice a day,” said LaCicero. “Some businesses are getting pickups twice a day versus the residents who have pickups twice a week. There are additional costs, and that is why we need to allocate those costs to the users who are creating the bulk.”
Though costs are a major factor, limited manpower and the sheer number of businesses that require frequent collections are more than the borough’s fleet of garbage trucks can handle, officials said. The borough will introduce two new trucks next year, while two current garbage trucks will be converted to recycling trucks. Additional trucks will be retired since they are old and have developed cracks where colloquially-named “garbage water” occasionally leaks onto the street. Cleanliness of the business district is the central issue, council members said, since trash has begun blowing onto the street in some cases, and public cans near eateries have been overflowing since outdoor dining gained increased after pandemic-era policy shifts popularized it.
“It comes with the turf,” said LaCicero. “We’re not going to be able to expand the highway or create more parking, but we have seen a lot more trash being generated in the back of the businesses and on the side streets, plus we opened up outdoor dining during the Covid era and both the customers and the businesses enjoyed it alike.”
The ordinance prompted some immediate questions – and suggestions – from business owners who attended this week’s council meeting.
“My home is also located where my business is located,” said Mike Morales, owner of Big Ed’s Produce. “We’ve heard a couple of different [rumors]. We heard businesses would be able to take trash down to the recycling center.”
The dropoff of trash will not be part of the ordinance, and Borough Administrator John Bennett said the borough could arrange to have regular residential pickups for people who live above their businesses while the business pickup would have to be handled privately. There would be no change to recycling policy; those pickups would still be handled by the borough for all businesses.
Some residents raised the question of whether businesses would hire multiple companies to perform pickups, all on different schedules, effectively bringing a stream of commercial trash haulers into town on a daily basis rather than more centralized borough-run pickups.
“The biggest issue I’ve heard is that the town loses control,” said Mark Speaker, who for years led to Lavallette Business Association. “Somsthing we’ve been able to take care of together is now going to be taken care of by private haulers.”
Another business owner said she would regret seeing out-of-town haulers making a profit instead of keeping the costs – even if they need to be raised – within Lavallette and its Public Works employees.
“There are 10 or 20 food businesses, and none of them have room for dumpsters,” said Larry Adams, owner of the Lava Java coffee shop. “If we’re going to pay extra money, why not pay it to the town? I trust the council that this is a good thing, but I don’t think it was thought out as it should’ve been.”
The borough has also taken that concern into account, officials said, but limitations on the number of trucks the borough can afford and the number of employees that can be recruited seasonally are unlikely to sufficiently resolve the issue. Officials have, however, planned to meet with business owners with the hope of forming some type of collective agreement to avoid multiple fleets of garbage haulers flowing through the town every day.
“We’ve been hoping, maybe, the businesses would get together,” said LaCicero. “We’ll work out the details, but this is at the urging of a lot of citizens who have come to us and said it is a major problem at the food establishments where those cans become full very regularly.”
The ordinance requires a public hearing and second vote before formal adoption. That hearing and vote is currently scheduled to take place at the council’s Dec. 4, 2023 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.