"My neighbors are scared. They are frightened. They're wondering what they're going to do when the Stop & Shop closes," resident Carole Acropolis told the Town Council at its April 22 meeting.
Acropolis, who lives in one of the senior centers in town, said she considers herself lucky because she has a car and is able to drive to a grocery store in Lyndhurst.
"My neighbors know I come here to these [Town Council] meetings, and they want me to tell you that they are very frightened," she added. "And they want me to ask what you're doing about this."
Some residents, especially the elderly and others with limited mobility, have been nervous about how they will do grocery shopping come June.
Last month, Stop & Shop, Secaucus' only remaining major food store, announced that it will close its Harmon Meadow Mall location sometime in May. While residents with cars can travel to other markets in nearby towns, the elderly and those without vehicles have argued to Mayor Dennis Elwell and the Town Council that they will have few options.
Mayor Elwell, who has been trying to generate interest among other supermarket chains, announced at the meeting that ShopRite is currently conducting a "feasibility study in Secaucus."
He also stated that his office has had exploratory talks with Kings and Trader Joe's.
Councilman Michael Gonnelli, who is also a commissioner with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, announced at the meeting that Wal-Mart is now moving forward with its plans to open a Super Wal-Mart in town.
The council recognized that these options, even if they materialize, will not bring immediate, short-term relief to residents this summer.
"As I've said before," Mayor Elwell stated at the meeting, "we are exploring options to have town buses take senior citizens to stores outside of Secaucus, like we do now. These buses, however, would run more frequently."
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Acropolis stated that these buses have limitations.
"You're only allowed to bring two bags on the bus," she said, "and you're only given half an hour to shop."
"Bags are limited to two bags a person because if everybody got on the bus with six bags, there'd be no room for more people," Elwell responded.
Recognizing that the limitations pose a hardship, the mayor said, "This is a democracy. We can't force businesses to open here. And we can't force a business to stay that wants to go. We're doing the best we can with this situation."
ABC Board hearing on Feelgood
It was announced at the meeting that there will be a public hearing before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Monday, May 5 at 4:30 p.m. regarding the Feelgood Restaurant and Lounge. Residents who have concerns about the impact the business is having on the town center are invited to voice their concerns at that time.
Residents who live close to the establishment have complained that Feelgood is starting to attract noisy patrons who disturb the peace and cause other problems in the neighborhood.
At the council meeting, Mayor Elwell said he has asked Secaucus police to cut off the line of patrons waiting to get in to the Feelgood earlier in the evening. He said he has also asked the Feelgood management to set a higher age limit for entrance to the restaurant/club.
"But I encourage anyone who has issues with Feelgood to come out to the hearing and let their voices be heard," the mayor commented.
The ABC Board will meet in the Town Municipal Center in Council Chamber II.
Firm tied to recreation center given contract extension
The council discussed and passed a number of professional service contracts at the meeting. Among those passed was a $26,960 contract extension for RSC Architects, the architectural firm working on the recreation center.
Mayor Elwell and Town Administrator David Drumeler have promised to provide the public with an accounting of building and operational expenses for the recreation center within the next few weeks.