Veterans, city clash over dumpster near memorial
Mayor: ‘Let’s give it a chance’
By Scott Bellile
The city of New London recently built two dumpster pads that will be used to centralize trash pickup in the downtown riverfront alley.
The New London Veterans Memorial Foundation, however, is unhappy with the proximity of one of the dumpster pads to the veterans memorial in Taft Park. The enclosed structure is located at the edge of the park along a driveway to the back alley.
James Jaeger, chairman of the New London Veterans Memorial Foundation, told city officials at a meeting last month that they failed to inform the foundation of plans to locate a dumpster pad near the monuments in 2014 when the foundation was considering sites throughout the city to build the memorial.
To voice their frustration, foundation members plan to circulate a petition to remove the dumpster pad and hold a protest at Taft Park one day before Veterans Day, on Nov. 10.
“We now feel it is time to inform the people of New London that the city has totally disrespected not only the 980 Veterans whose names are on the wall but all Veterans by locating a garbage collection site within 25 feet of the Veterans Memorial,” Jaeger stated in a letter to New London city officials this week.
Dumpster pad ordinance
The New London Board of Public Works on Oct. 1 recommended the city council create an ordinance to establish central garbage, grease and oil collection on the south side of North Water Street.
Under the proposed ordinance, businesses and residents occupying the buildings from the 100 through 300 blocks of the south side of the street would deposit trash and cooking waste in either dumpster pad. They would no longer be permitted to keep personal dumpsters or trash bins outside in the alley.
The businesses and residents would continue to be customers of Graichen Sanitation in New London, which would empty the two dumpsters multiple times per week.
The dumpster pads have already been constructed. One dumpster is located by St. John’s Park. The other is next to Taft Park.
The New London City Council approved a first reading of the proposed ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
The second reading must be approved in November before the proposed ordinance becomes municipal law.
The proposed ordinance states the purpose of establishing central garbage, oil and grease collection is to protect “public health and welfare.”
City officials have also said in the past that eliminating other dumpsters and trash bins in the alley would help improve the view of the north bank of the Wolf River looking from the south bank.
Officials have cited the poor appearance of the alley as one reason they have struggled to market a 6-acre property on the south bank. However, the city is now working with developer Stadtmueller & Associates to research the feasibility of constructing a mixed-use public library and housing on the south side of the river.
City council votes against vets’ wishes
The New London City Council by a 9-1 vote approved the first reading of the proposed ordinance to establish centralized trash pickup.
Prior to the vote, Jaeger addressed the council. He said the New London Parks and Recreation Committee did not honor his request to move the dumpster elsewhere.
“There’s going to be litter,” Jaeger told the city council. “There’s going to be odors, which there already are out there – almost every morning you go and smell the stale beer [from the Copper Shot bar]. There’s going to be an insect problem with it, like with any garbage in the summertime. And I think it’s very disrespectful.”
Minutes after Jaeger spoke, the city council approved the first reading of the ordinance with little discussion.
Second District Alderman Tom O’Connell cast the lone no vote.
“I don’t like the ordinance. I can tell you that right now,” O’Connell said before voting.
After Jaeger left the council chambers, he vowed to contact local media in hopes the conflict can become a national news story.
“Our city may be embarrassed,” Jaeger told the New London Press Star. “Too bad.”
James Massonett, a veteran in attendance, called it “pathetic” that council members did not engage in a discussion on the matter before voting.
Mayor Gary Henke told the Press Star he believes the dumpster pad should remain where it is because it is already built and a drainage system has been installed.
“Let’s give it a chance,” Henke said. “If it doesn’t work out, we can always go to plan B.”
The C&R Waterfront Bar on the opposite side of Taft Park has had a dumpster for 20 years, and to date there have been no issues with the veterans memorial, Henke added.
Foundation, committee debate
When Jaeger addressed the New London Parks and Recreation Committee on Sept. 4, he said the city resolved in 1928 to dedicate Taft Park strictly for veterans’ purposes.
“I’m assuming it’s still a standing resolution of the city?” Jaeger asked the committee. “Now you’ve violated it, and the sad part of it is is you decided to put in a garbage collection point in there.”
Later, in a Sept. 11 memo to Henke and the city council, City Administrator Kent Hager said City Hall searched its records after the meeting and could not locate such a resolution.
At the committee meeting, Henke told Jaeger the dumpster pad is located on city-owned land that is technically not Taft Park, although they look like the same lot.
First District Alderman John Faucher said the city has been discussing centralized trash collection since before the veterans memorial was conceived.
The city’s previous public works director, Jeff Bodoh, began planning the dumpster pad but did not complete it before resigning last year.
Faucher said he doubts there was malicious intent in the lack of communication between Bodoh and the veterans memorial foundation.
Hager said the idea behind centralized garbage collection is to beautify the area for everybody.
“Nobody’s trying to put a dark spot on any spot downtown,” Hager said. “We’re trying to make things better.”
Jaeger said the veterans memorial foundation has invested over $200,000 into the memorial to date. He is uncertain whether that will continue.
“We’re saying now do we want to put further investment into the park? I don’t know. Our group will have to decide,” Jaeger said.