"Now, a year or two later, I don’t know how you feel it’s working out, but I don’t see an improvement," Denning said.
While he said he believes the idea was to "promote harmony and people doing business together," he has seen the loss of two local pharmacies at the same time two big box stores, CVS and Walgreens, have moved into town.
"I can say, up to this point now, if we're trying to promote businesses and we're taxing other business to try and improve downtown, why isn’t business staying in town?" he asked.
Denning said he previously fixed all the local police cars, which was not even profitable for him as he'd often have to wait 30 to 90 days for payment, but he didn't complain because he was glad to help out within his community. Now business is leaving town, he said, with 75 percent of towing jobs going outside the community, as far away as Irvington, which is not convenient, nor is it helping his business.
"Business needs to be kept in the town, if we're going to support businesses," he said. "My question would be, why are we taxing the businesses but we're not supporting the businesses?"
Springfield Mayor David Amlen encouraged Denning to attend a Springfield Business Improvement District meeting and added that he, too, is concerned about businesses that have left town, but noted that Denning wouldn't see changes overnight.
Denning continued to say that he is concerned about a community he sees deteriorating.
"People who have been doing business here a long time are being taxed and all I see are crooked sidewalks with weeds going through," he said. "Walk behind the backs of these buildings, you've got to see what's going on. There's crack vials on the ground; there's guys shooting dope back there. It's a junkyard. It's a mess."
Denning added that if downtown Springfield is going to make a comeback "you first have to take care of the residents and the people and create a sense of harmony with the businesses, the residents and local employees."
Many in attendance applauded following Denning's remarks.
Township Committeeman Ziad Andrew Shehady asked Chief of Police John Cook, who was in attendance, if he could respond to Denning's drug references. Cook said he'd like to know where this was as no one has reported anything to police. Denning said evidence of drug use had been seen behind the shed on community pool grounds Tuesday. Cook then said he was dispatching officers at that moment.
Amlen asked that it be monitored by police going forward as it had only just been brought to light.
Before the meeting adjourned, Cook said his officers went to the site and did not find any evidence of drug use on the property mentioned by Denning.
In July, it was announced that Springfield Township was one of three towns that will receive funding from Together North Jersey to make improvements. At Tuesday's meeting Committeeman David Barnett encouraged residents to come out and attend Together North Jersey's open house workshop meeting held from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at Sarah Bailey Civic Center.
Questions up for discussion include:
How do we create a safer and more walkable downtown?
How do we improve transit access and amenities?
How can we better mitigate future flooding and create quality open space?
Residents will also have an opportunity to vote on a photo that represents what they'd most like downtown Springfield to resemble, Barnett explained. All residents are encouraged to attend the open house and share any ideas and suggestions they might have.