Two new councillors clash over apple core
An uneasy and very public confrontation between two newly elected municipal leaders on a street in Bay Roberts recently has given new meaning to the term "forbidden fruit."
© Compass file photo
Bay Roberts councillor George Simmons (left) and Cupids councillor Mike Power.
It also renewed the debate over whether biodegradable waste should be defined as litter.
Mike Power, a newly installed member of the Cupids town council, was driving his pickup along Water Street in Bay Roberts on Friday, Oct. 11. He finished munching on a crabapple picked from a tree on his property, and nonchalantly tossed the core out his window.
He continued to the stoplight at the intersection with Route 70 (Conception Bay Highway), and while waiting for a green light, heard a tap on his window.
It was George Simmons, a newly elected member of the Bay Roberts town council and retired RCMP officer. Power said Simmons demanded that he pick up his trash, and advised him not to litter in "his town."
This touched off a testy exchange, with traffic halted as the two men debated.
The confrontation carried on to the nearby RCMP office in Bay Roberts, where Simmons lodged a littering complaint, and asked that Power be charged.
When reached last week, Power defended his actions, saying an apple core is not litter, and blamed the confrontation on Simmons.
"He tells me he's an ex-cop and I'm littering his town, acting like a vigilante with a chip on his shoulder," said Power.
When asked if he regretted discarding the apple core on a public street, Power said no.
"I would do the same thing again. It's not litter," Power stated, adding that the core rolled off the road and would quickly decay.
Power said he did not appreciate being approached in such a way, and stated emphatically, "I do not litter."
Power said there is a collection of paper cups and other items in the cab of his truck, and he would never throw such items away indiscriminately.
The RCMP did not lay a charge against Power, and Sgt. Greg Hicks said the matter is not under investigation.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, littering on the highway comes with a fine of $115 and reads, "a person shall not throw, deposit or leave on a highway ordinary litter, rubbish, refuse, waste, glass, nails, tacks, scraps of metal or other waste material."
A history with litter
The Town of Bay Roberts has waged a long anti-littering campaign, and while there have been improvements, the situation is far from ideal.
Drive along any popular road in the community, and you are sure to find some form of waste, whether it is fast food containers, soda cans or household materials.
The parking lot at the Bay Arena is especially unsightly on any given day, despite the best efforts of arena employees, and the installation of surveillance cameras around the building.
The issue has been tabled at many council meetings, and last year, council funded a program to install signage throughout the town, asking residents "Why Littter!?"
What is litter?
This latest development begs the question: what is litter?
In its municipal bylaws, the Town of Bay Roberts defines litter as "any obnoxious substance, waste or unsanitary matter, refuse, garbage rubbish, ashes, cigarette butts, street cleaning, dead animals or fish, paper wrapping, cardboard boxes, tin cans, leaves, wood, oil or oil products, bedding, crockery, glass bottles..."
According to the above definition, an apple core could fall into the litter category, though it is not mentioned specifically.
Most residents would balk at the site of an apple core in an open area of the street. According to various websites, it can take up to two months for an apple core to decompose and there is a possibility that the waste could attract vermin.
Meanwhile, Power said his opinion on the question of what is litter is simple: "The coffee cup stays in the truck. The apple core goes out. I believe 90 per cent will say I'm right."
George Simmons was vacationing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last week. The Compass exchanged several emails with him, but attempts to arrange an interview were unsuccessful.
However, he stressed in an email he was not representing the town council or Bay Roberts at the time and was unaware that Power was a councillor in a neighbouring community.