ROXBURY, NJ – Bob Schultz, the president of a Roxbury environmental group formed to fight the former Fenimore Landfill matter, came under a fullisade of criticism from Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee on Tuesday as the antagonism that’s been simmering between the two men reached a boiling point in public.
Schultz, and other members of the Roxbury Environmental Action Coalition (R.E.A.C.T.) are persistent critics of the way Roxbury officials handled the issue at the former dump. Schultz, now a Randolph resident, attends (and videotapes) most Roxbury Mayor and Council meetings. He routinely steps to the microphone during the meetings’ public sessions to ask pointed questions about Fenimore.
Rilee usually maintains a relatively passive – if sometimes curt – demeanor when Schultz and others ask questions, and make comments, that reveal distrust and disapproval of Roxbury’s actions relating to the former landfill. But at Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor abandoned that stance and – raising his voice at times – lambasted Schultz and R.E.A.C.T. vice-president Bill Morrocco, who was not at the meeting.
“You’re not even a resident here anymore,” said Rilee at one point in a rebuke of Schultz that focused on a comment Schultz reportedly made to another news organization. In the article, Schultz – who has been highly critical of state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) - was quoted as saying he didn’t know whether he prefers the DEP or the landfill’s sidelined owner, Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP), to be the site’s long-term owner.
“I’m dumbstruck by your comment,” Rilee said. “SEP deserves no position at this table.”
“You haven’t stepped-up for the township,” retorted Schultz.
"Absolutely, I have stepped up for the township," responded Rilee. "I just haven't stepped up for Bob Schultz. There's a big difference between the township and Bob Schultz. Bob Schultz, the self-appointed whatever you are, is nonsense."
The donnybrook began after Schultz asked Rilee and the council whether they were going to take a position on R.E.A.C.T.’s request in Superior Court to be a part of a lawsuit between SEP and the DEP. SEP asserts the DEP illegally seized the property in 2013 when it booted SEP and installed equipment that is controlling the noxious hydrogen sulfide coming from the site.
Superior Court Judge Rosemary Ramsay is deciding whether R.E.A.C.T. deserves to be in the case, a request opposed by the DEP. She already granted Roxbury’s request to join the litigation and will hear testimony from R.E.A.C.T. and the DEP on Sept. 4.
In July, Roxbury Municipal Attorney Anthony Bucco said the township does not oppose R.E.A.C.T.’s request. However, although the mayor and council have not publicly taken a position, Rilee made it clear Tuesday he thinks the group should not be allowed into the litigation. He suggested R.E.A.C.T. has surreptitiously “been negotiating with SEP for a year and a half.”
Schultz, and other members of R.E.A.C.T., assert the DEP cannot be trusted. They point out state initially endorsed SEP’s plan to convert the long dormant Fenimore dump into a solar energy farm, a plan that involved cutting trees on about a third of the site and using construction debris as fill material.
R.E.A.C.T. also asserts the waste brought to the Fenimore site came eventually included truckloads from Superstorm Sandy emergency cleanups. The waste included damp wallboard, material known to emit hydrogen sulfide.