All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.

Minutes: August 10, 2015

YouTube video of the August 10, 2015 council meeting »

The meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, August 10, 2015 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Patrick Rizzuto presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on January 4, 2015, and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7.

Roll Call of Members

Present were Council Members Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel and Council President Patrick Rizzuto. Also present were Administrator Bill Zuckerman and Township Attorney John Ursin. Council Member Brian Lynch was absent.

Salute to the Flag

Council President Rizzuto led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

Presentation

Mela Wu and Ted L’Estrange of Shen Yun Promotions International came forward to provide a presentation of the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra and their returning shows to Carnegie Hall. Ms. Wu provided a moving audio-video presentation of the Shen Yun Orchestra and Dancers which celebrates music from 5,000 years of Chinese Civilization. The Shen Yun Orchestra will be performing at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, October 10, 2015.

Recess

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to recess at 8:02 p.m.
Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel
All members were in favor.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to return from recess at 8:10 p.m.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: Dan Kadish
All members were in favor.

Public Comment

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel
All members were in favor.

Sally Rinker, Vernon stated that Resolution #15-139 requesting the Sussex County Clerk to print a ballot, on the agenda this evening was a result of a petition. Ms. Rinker stated that the question is incomplete because it does not say that the raise is retroactive. Ms. Rinker stated the question needed to reflect that the raise was for this Mayor and not the Mayor’s position. Ms. Rinker stated it also does not say this Mayor was full time. Ms. Rinker stated just because the question followed the State Statute she did not think it was correct. Ms. Rinker stated the petition was signed by petitioners following the ordinance. Ms. Rinker requested that the question be redrafted to be accurate and complete.

Krista Gerry, stated that she only supported people with the highest integrity. Ms. Gerry stated that Vernon Vibes is using words to cause damage. Ms. Gerry stated that words should be used to impart hope, life and love. Ms. Gerry claimed that there were too many personal attacks coming from the Mayor and this was no way to treat anyone. Ms. Gerry stated that freedom of speech was given to us by God and entrusted in the constitution and should not be taken away.

Gary Martinsen stated he was speaking about the salary resolution. Mr. Martinsen stated several of the raises appear to be cost of living, but salaries should be the same for all of Sussex County. Mr. Martinsen stated this is not Morris County. Mr. Martinsen stated we should have performance bonuses rather than long term increases or raises. Mr. Martinsen stated some of these positions are paid by fines or fees. Mr. Martinsen said that Business Insider ran an article that NJ was 44th to grow in GDP and that New Jersey’s raises were much lower than the national average. Mr. Martinsen stated the Council should consider this and not break the backs of residents.

Closed to Public Comments

Seeing no more members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close the public portion of the meeting.
Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel
All members were in favor.

Approval of Minutes

It was moved and seconded as noted below to approve the following minutes:

Regular Meeting Minutes of June 22, 2015

Moved: Jean Murphy
Seconded: Dan Kadish

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Brian Lynch

Motion carried to approve minutes.

Consent Agenda

Council President Rizzuto gave a brief explanation of Resolutions #15-140 - #15-142.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to adopt Resolutions #15-140 as a separate vote.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Seconded: Dan Kadish

Council Member Kadish stated that while Josephine has been a good worker he was reticent to authorize double dipping. Ms. Prisco was already retired from the Township. Council Member Kadish stated that $50 an hour seemed too high. Administrator Zuckerman stated that the Township has interviewed 2 people; 1 was rejected, and we are checking references on the other. These were the only applicants. Administrator Zuckerman noted this was a part-time position. Attorney Ursin noted there is a $15,000 cap on how much persons who are currently earning a pension may receive.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Brian Lynch

Motion carried to adopt resolution #15-140.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to adopt Resolutions #15-141 as a separate vote.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Seconded: Dan Kadish

Council Member Murphy questioned if the initial money coming for this resolution was coming out of COAH and if the Township could opt out. Attorney Ursin stated that it was and the Township could opt out if less than 70 towns sign up. Attorney Ursin noted there may be extra costs if it is necessary to call witnesses for a court proceeding.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Brian Lynch

Motion carried to adopt resolution #15-141.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to adopt Resolutions #15-142 as a separate vote.
Moved: Dick Wetzel
Seconded: Dan Kadish

Council Member Murphy asked if we only have someone part time in purchasing. Administrator Zuckerman stated yes this was a dual roll.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Brian Lynch

Motion carried to adopt resolution #15-142.

Resolution #15-140: Authorizing Appointment of Interim Municipal Tax Collector and Interim Tax Search Officer

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Municipal Tax Collector, Antoinette Izzo, resigned as of July 31, 2015; and

WHEREAS, the Township requires the appointment of an Interim Tax Collector to perform tax collection duties until a new Tax Collector can be appointed; and

WHEREAS, the Township requires the appointment of an Interim Tax Search Officer to perform tax search duties until a new Tax Search Officer can be appointed; and

WHEREAS, Josephine Prisco is licensed by the State of New Jersey to perform the duties of a municipal tax collector and tax search officer; and

WHEREAS, the Township has offered the part-time position, 20 hours per week, of Interim Tax Collector and Interim Tax Search Officer at a salary of $50.00 per hour to Josephine Prisco and she has agreed to accept the same; and

WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer has certified that there are funds available for this purpose.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, that Josephine Prisco is hereby appointed to the position of Interim Tax Collector and Interim Tax Search Officer, working part-time, 20 hours per week, at a salary of $50.00 per hour, and shall serve in such position until a Tax Collector and Tax Search Officer has been appointed.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Township of Vernon will hold a Public Official Bond in the name of Josephine Prisco as required by law pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:30-8.3 for the duties performed as Interim Tax Collector; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, pursuant to N.J.S.A.54:5-11, Josephine Prisco, being a duly bonded Official of the Township of Vernon, is designated as the Interim Tax Search Officer for the Township of Vernon; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this appointment shall take effect immediately and shall be considered retroactive to August 3, 2015, and all actions taken by Josephine Prisco in the capacity of Interim Tax Collector and Interim Tax Search Officer to date are hereby ratified as to authority.

Resolution #15-141: A Resolution of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, and State of New Jersey Authorizing Municipal Shared Services Defense Agreement

WHEREAS, the Fair Share Housing Center (“FSHC”), through the services of David Kinsey, has prepared what it considers to be the statewide fair share numbers (the “FSHC Numbers”) for use by the 15 vicinage Mt. Laurel Judges to calculate a municipality’s affordable housing obligation pursuant to the Supreme Court’s March 10, 2015 decision entitled In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 5:96 & 5:97 by N.J. Council on Affordable Housing, 221 N.J. 1 (2015); and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon (“Township”) desires to participate in the preparation of a statewide fair share analysis to be undertaken by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (“Rutgers”), through Dr. Robert W. Burchell, Principal Investigator, and various other experts employed by Rutgers in order to establish a rational and reasonable methodology (the “Burchell Fair Share Analysis”) for determination of a municipality’s obligation to provide a realistic opportunity through its land use ordinances for its fair share of the region’s affordable housing needs in accordance with the Mount Laurel Doctrine as set forth in In the Matter of the Adoption of N.J.A.C. 5:96 and 5:97 by the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing, 221 N.J. 1 (2015) and prior decisions of the Courts of New Jersey, and the Fair Housing Act, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301 et. seq.; and

WHEREAS, Rutgers, utilizing Dr. Burchell as the Principal Investigator and author, has agreed to prepare the Burchell Fair Share Analysis within 90 days of being retained to establish his view of the proper way to determine each municipality’s fair share obligation; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Burchell estimates that the cost to prepare the initial Burchell Fair Share Analysis will be $70,000; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that there will be a need for Dr. Burchell to analyze any challenges to his conclusions and prepare a rebuttal report to said challenges which is not included in the $70,000; and

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that if each municipality contributes $2,000, there will be sufficient monies to pay the cost to prepare the initial Burchell Fair Share Analysis, to analyze any challenges to the initial Burchell Fair Share Analysis, and to prepare a rebuttal report given the number of municipalities that have expressed an interest in retaining Burchell; and

WHEREAS, a Municipal Shared Services Defense Agreement (hereinafter “MSSDA”), has been prepared (a) so that monies can be collected to enter into an agreement with Rutgers (hereinafter “the Rutgers Agreement”) and so that Burchell, along with various other experts from Rutgers, can perform the tasks described above, and (b) so that the rights and responsibilities of each municipality that wishes to sign the agreement to retain Rutgers are defined; and

WHEREAS, the MSSDA provides that the Law Offices of Jeffrey R. Surenian and Associates, LLC (“Surenian”) will serve as the administrative entity authorized to sign the Rutgers Agreement on behalf of the municipalities that signed the MSSDA and paid the $2,000 fee (“Municipal Group”); and

WHEREAS, it is imperative, given the time constraints for municipalities that wish to retain Burchell, to sign the MSSDA and pay the $2,000 fee so that Burchell can conduct the necessary analysis; and

WHEREAS, notwithstanding the foregoing, it is possible that the MSSDA may need to be changed as a result of ongoing negotiations with the Rutgers following execution of the MSSDA and payment of the $2,000 fee; and

WHEREAS, in such an event, any member that objects to the changes that Rutgers may require shall have the opportunity to relinquish membership in the Municipal Group and to receive back the $2,000 payment as more specifically set forth in the MSSDA.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, as follows:

  1. The terms and conditions of the MSSDA attached hereto are hereby approved, ratified and confirmed.
  2. The amount of $2,000 is hereby authorized to be expended by the Township of Vernon for Rutgers through Dr. Robert Burchell, Principal Investigator to prepare the Burchell Fair Share Analysis.
  3. A certification of funds authorizing the aforesaid expenditure has been signed by the Chief Financial Officer of the Township of Vernon and is appended hereto.
  4. The Mayor be and is hereby authorized to execute the aforesaid MSSDA to memorialize the participation of the Township of Vernon in the preparation of the Burchell Fair Share Analysis and to take any and all actions reasonably required to effectuate said Agreement.
  5. The Township of Vernon hereby authorizes Jeffrey R. Surenian, Esq. to execute on behalf of the Township the research agreement with Rutgers to initiate and complete the Burchell Fair Share Analysis and to do such other actions to effectuate the purposes of said research agreement.
  6. If further changes to the MSSDA are needed as a result of finalizing the Rutgers Agreement, within ten (10) days of notification by Surenian of the changes, the Township of Vernon will inform Surenian if it objects to the changes and wishes to withdraw from the Municipal Group and obtain a refund of the $2,000 it paid.
  7. This Resolution shall take effect immediately.

Resolution # 15-142: 2015 Salaries for Non-Union Full Time and Part Time Employees

WHEREAS, Ordinance #15-20 and Ordinance #14-04 amended salary ranges for non-union full time and part time employees.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey that the following persons be compensated at the annual salary or wage, the same being consistent with Ordinance #15-20 or Ordinance #14-04 retroactive to July 1, 2015.

PositionName2015 Base Salary
Ordinance 14-04  
Municipal ClerkLauren Kirkman$71,400.00
Ordinance 15-20  
Administrative AssistantIrene Mills$48,853.00
Business AdministratorWilliam Zuckerman$76,500.00
Purchasing Agent - Part-timeJennifer Ruess$4,800.00
Registrar of Vital StatisticsLauren Kirkman$5,000.00
Deputy Registrar of Vital StatisticsCarole Baksa$5,000.00
Chief Financial Officer Elke Yetter$91,800.00
Accounting Assistant - Part-timeElizabeth Hanisch$25.50/hour
Tax AssessorLynne Schweighardt$91,556.00
Land Use AdministratorKimberley Decker$62,424.00
Zoning Code EnforcementAllison LaRocca$51,000.00
Administrative Clerk-PoliceSusan Diehn$57,517.00
Fire OfficialLouis Tosto$56,100.00
Fire Inspector - Part-time (4/29 to 7/29)Paul O'Connor$16.00/hour
Fire Inspector - Part-time (effective 7/30)Paul O'Connor$20.00/hour
Fire Inspector - Part-timeKenneth Clark$16.00/hour
DPW-DirectorDavid Pullis$101,420.00
Administrative Clerk - DPWJennifer Ruess$52,020.00
DPW - Assistant SupervisorClarence Babcock$74,819.00
DPW - Assistant SupervisorRobert Wolverton$74,819.00
Animal Control Officer - Dept HeadThomas Maellaro$59,896.00
Animal Control OfficerJames Epperly$36,414.00
Animal Control OfficerJason Vidal$36,414.00
Animal Control Officer - Part-timeBonita Johnson$17.27/hour
Director of Recreation/Comm. AffairsMelissa Wiedbrauk$62,424.00
Recreation AideMishelle Downtain$30,600.00
Municipal Court AdministratorDonna Zuidema$78,380.00
Municipal JudgeJames Devine$35,000.00
Court Security GuardMichael Burns$22.00/hour
Construction Code Official David Condon$75,000.00
Building Sub Code OfficialGary Kristoffersen$63,291.00
Electrical Sub Code OfficialEric Samek$63,291.00

Resolution Requiring Separate Action

Council President Rizzuto gave a brief explanation of Resolutions #15-139.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to adopt Resolutions #15-139.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Seconded: Dan Kadish

Attorney Ursin stated in brief that a petition was filed in protest of the salary increase. Attorney Ursin noted that while the petition made reference to the Faulkner procedure for petitions, that was incorrect; this type of petition is governed under N.J.S.A. 40A:9-165. Attorney Ursin stated this is important as the clerk does not certify or verify it; the decision whether the petition is sufficient lies with the Council. Attorney Ursin explained in analyzing the petition, the clerk has a limited fact finding role, and noting whether or not the petition was filed on time. Attorney Ursin explained that a spreadsheet has been provided from the Clerk showing that there were a number of signatories to the petition that the Clerk was unable to verify. Attorney Ursin explained that the Township had taken the time to submit these names to the Board of Elections and they were able to assist with some information and confirmation. Attorney Ursin noted that 800 signatures were needed, 875 provided and that there are 77 signatures which were unable to be verified. Of these, 49 signatures were not registered voters, 13 had the same name as registered voters in town, but listed a different address on the petition than what the voter registration had listed. Attorney Ursin stated that this creates a category that the Council should focus on, as the law says that if you move within the town you are still a registered voter. However, there was no way for the clerk to verify whether that person is one and the same. In addition, 4 people had pending voter registrations (pending are not registered until they are certified by the County), 3 people signed with different last names than the one listed on the voter registration (there may be a legitimate reason for this, but again, the Council must realize the Clerk has no way of knowing), 3 people were listed as deleted, 3 people were listed as inactive voters with an address confirmation needed, 1 person did not sign and 1 person was criminally disqualified. Attorney Ursin stated the Council has to interpret those facts and determine if the petition is sufficient and if they feel the petitioners have satisfied the terms of the statute. Attorney Ursin explained if it is sufficient, the Council will adopt the resolution and the question goes to the ballot. Council Member Murphy stated she had been through this several years ago and wanted to thank the Clerk for the job that she did, noting it was a grueling task. Council Member Murphy stated that one of the voters was based on an “en” or an “on” but someone would have to double check. Attorney Ursin asked which petition was this, Council Member Murphy stated it was 130. Attorney Ursin stated that is an address question but would need to be checked. Council Member Murphy stated that she had checked online and that one of the signatories had posted that she had gotten married. Council Member Murphy stated they were pretty much told not to do anything with this so she had refrained from calling the Board of Elections to ask. Council Member Murphy indicated the memo said do not deliberate or do anything, so she did not. Council Member Murphy stated while the address in voter registration is different the same family name appeared at the address on the petition in the tax records on Lake Shore so two different districts and two different names, so still a registered voter. Council Member Murphy stated there was another one with tax records she had checked so pretty much she had one positive and three that she believed were verifiable. Council Member Murphy stated the one from Lake Shore was still in Highland Lakes so it should be the same person. Attorney Ursin stated the information you have is for you to analyze and adopt. Council Member Murphy stated that we received this memo late Friday with the information to call the Attorney or Clerk, but it has to be verified and there was a limited amount of time. Council Member Murphy questioned the process; should the Clerk double-checks these, we have one and possibly three more. Council Member Murphy stated in her mind she was satisfied that the petition had a sufficient amount of signatures; then the issue is the question. Attorney Ursin said there is no question that the question is correct, the question is prescribed by a specific statute, he heard the argument but they are simply not correct. Council Member Murphy stated that from the onset no one was seconding the motion, so you can see where this was going. Council Member Murphy stated as far as she was concerned the amount was correct. Council Member Murphy questioned whether the number comes from the primary election or the general election. Attorney Ursin said the statute does not specify when you should take a count of the registered voters, but since there was a primary directly before, it should be from the Primary. You could pick the general election, but the percentage does not change. Council Member Murphy stated the primary was specified that was why she asked. Council Member Kadish stated he felt it was clear that the petition has met the benchmarks and 800 people would like to see this on the ballot.

A roll call vote was taken:
Council Member Kadish and Council Member Murphy initially passed.

Ayes: Dan Kadish w/comment
Nays: Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto w/comment
Abstain: Jean Murphy w/comment
Absent: Brian Lynch

Council President Rizzuto stated there is a quantifiable question. Council President Rizzuto stated the Council is not responsible for verifying the signatures. Attorney Ursin explained that pass meant you have to go back to them. Council Member Murphy stated she passed because she could see what was happening.

Council Member Murphy stated she was not voting under protest, they should not have been given a gag order at the eleventh hour.

Council Member Kadish stated he was voting yes and he hoped that all 800 persons came and took this issue to the polls.

Motion failed to adopt resolution #15-139 due to lack of majority.

Introduction/1st Reading of Ordinances

None

Public Hearing/2nd Reading of Ordinances

Council President Rizzuto read Ordinance #15-23 by title:

Ordinance #15-23: An Ordinance Amending Chapter 142 of the Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Alcoholic Beverages”

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the public hearing for Ordinance #15-23.
Moved: Dan Kadish
Seconded: Dick Wetzel
All members present voted in favor.

There were no comments on this ordinance.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close the public hearing for Ordinance #15-23.
Moved: Dick Wetzel
Seconded: Dan Kadish
All members present voted in favor.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #15-23.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Seconded: Dan Kadish

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Dick Wetzel, Patrick Rizzuto
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Brian Lynch

Motion carried to adopt Ordinance #15-23.

Council Comments

Council Member Murphy stated that, having been involved intimately with the change of government petition, she could have predicted the outcome. Council Member Murphy stated we received the information on Friday and were told not to discuss it or to do anything with it, which she felt was unfair to come prepared with that information. Council Member Murphy said as with many things in this township, the votes are predetermined. Council Member Murphy stated she found it very difficult to believe that someone would show up with that vote and not even have a discussion. Council Member Murphy stated that last year when three (3) of the statutory employees received increases, she believed one was omitted, even though that one had just started. Council Member Murphy stated that, from what she understood, a few years prior the CFO had received back-pay increase, even though they had also been working for the township less than a year. Council Member Murphy stated she thought this should be revisited as it may have been done incorrectly.

Council Member Kadish stated there are many things they cannot talk about because they are in process, but this administration, in his opinion, is filled with cronyism which gives them a tremendous amount of power with little room for deliberation for those people who wish to question or wish to explore. Council Member Kadish stated some of the manipulations in recent weeks include trying to get certain people who are running for office into lawsuits and he felt this was deplorable.

Council Member Murphy stated she wanted to add that hopefully petitioners would not waste taxpayer’s money by falling into pitfalls and filing lawsuits against the town.

Council Member Wetzel stated he respected Council Member Murphy’s research, however he will stand by the attorney’s decision until it is proven wrong, and if it is, he will change his vote.

Council Member Lynch was not present.

Discussion ensued amongst the Council.

Council President Rizzuto commented that previously he believed that Council Member Murphy voted against BANs that would have put the Township in default. Council Member Murphy commented that she believed this was an attempt to divert.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council Member Murphy, seconded by Council Member Wetzel with all members voting in favor.

The Regular Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 8:56 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: September 14, 2015