Minutes: August 23, 2021

YouTube video of the August 23, 2021 council meeting (executive session) »
YouTube video of the August 23, 2021 council meeting (regular meeting) »

The regular meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on August 23, 2021 via Zoom Webinar in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Harry Shortway presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 6, 2021 and on August 6, 2021 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

Present were Council Members John Auberger, Toni Cilli, Andrew Pitsker, Kelly Weller and Council President Harry Shortway. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker, and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski.

Salute to the Flag

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

Public Comments (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open the meeting to public comments.
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger
All members present voted in favor.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
MOTION: John Auberger
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Discussion Item

Community Safety Regarding Discharge of Firearms in a Residential Zone for Non-Hunting Purposes.

Council Member Pitsker started the discussion by saying that there are private gun ranges in the area and in the past two years there has been two bullets landing in residential areas. It is disturbing because gun control is important but more than anything safety comes with it. It is the responsibility of every gun owner to practice safe gun control. Council Member Pitsker explained that in a one-mile radius we have about three different gun ranges that are private and that will shoot on weekends and during the week. It is important that we have the right protection for all of the homeowners and the people who are running the gun ranges. These are private ranges and the concern is that there are no restrictions or zoning laws. It is important that we put some kind of guidance in place. Council Member Pitsker said the NRA does a safety performance standard for them. Cherry Ridge is a gun range and they do an extremely good job of it and they have good controls and safety practices. These private ranges need a little more control and restrictions.

Council Member Pitsker said we have been looking at a couple of different ways to put an ordinance together. He has talked to the neighbors in the area where this has happened and asking for their input which he provided to the township attorney. Council Member Pitsker would like to look into an ordinance for gun range safety and design as well as another ordinance for firearm discharge in residential areas. We have had a couple of instances where firearms have been discharged at a residence and this is a legal act but we need to control it. Council Member Pitsker understands that we live in a rural area but one bullet landing in the wrong spot could kill someone. He would like to hear other opinions about limiting the time for shooting and caliber sizes.

Council Member Cilli is not against guns but she does not know if she likes the idea of private ranges. One misfire could be tragic.

Vice President Auberger feels that we are going to have to look at this because of all of the residents so close to trails and different hiking spots that we have. He is all for guns and hunting but for public safety we have to do our diligence and investigate this.

Council Member Weller is all for hunting and gun ownership but if we are going to this for private ranges, we are going to have to look at putting some serious restrictions on it. All it takes is one stray bullet and it can be catastrophic. We need to do our due diligence.

Council President Shortway explained that this is not a second amendment issue because we are not saying anything about ownership or possession. Vernon is a rural and farming community. We have to weigh safety and the NRA provides guidelines. Council President Shortway does not think there is a better place to look. He did a lot of research and there is nothing in New Jersey except if you are going to ban it, it really is controlled by zoning. He feels we are going to have to get input from our engineer and police department.

Council Member Pitsker said that the NRA sourcebook defines the safety standards. He said he is looking for safe communities and he believes that is what we are all looking for. The residents are very concerned and time and hours of operation are part of that.

Council President Shortway feels that we are going to have to look at how to keep the neighborhoods safe without stepping on anyone’s rights.

Council Member Auberger feels that this cannot be put off.

Council Member Pitsker said there has to be a restriction on bullets being shot off back porches on New Years Eve. We do not know where these bullets are going to land. His biggest concern is that private gun ranges need to comply with safety.

Council Member Cilli asked if private gun ranges are separate from farms.

Council President Shortway said there are no restrictions for a farmer to take care of animals that are trying to get to his crops or livestock.

Administrator Chuck Voelker commented that there is a lot that has been taken out of the sourcebook from the NRA and he asked if the NRA provides a service for coming out to review what somebody has set up. If we could take that from our own personnel, set some guidelines and require a review/certification from the NRA, if they do such a thing, Mr. Voelker feels that this is something to consider.

Council President Shortway said he read that the NRA does not come out to do inspections.

Council Member Pitsker asked if they could open to the public for their comments.

All were in agreement to open to the public.

Mr. and Mrs. Turner - Vernon Township, Mr. Turner said would be in support of restrictions but does not feel it is possible. They would like to restrict this as much as possible as far as the time and scheduling during the week. They feel that what happens on the weekends goes on for hours and it is very annoying and intrusive to the public. Mrs. Turner said that one of their houses in Glen Harbor has been hit while there were children playing inside and outside. She knows the Council is trying to be preventative but a stray bullet has already pierced their house. In addition, we are not talking pistols, these were semi-automatic guns being shot for hours. It is deafening, dangerous and she does not know any farmer that uses a semi-automatic weapon to protect their livestock. Mrs. Turner said this is a neighborhood filled with children and people who walk and run. We do not go out anymore when the guns start. This is not the way we should be living in Vernon Township and we want our neighborhood to be safe and be able to go outside. Mr. Turner thanked Council President Shortway and Council Member Pitsker for all of the time they have spent on this.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, feels that we are heading down another slippery slope. She said if rapid fire bullets are already illegal in New Jersey, she would suspect that the Vernon Township Police would be front and center getting behind a violation like that. She does not know why we are constantly taking peoples rights away. People do have rights to own certain weapons and she does not know why certain calibers are going to be banned. She feels that we need to stop smothering people with rules. What happened in Glen Harbor was wrong and thank God no one was hurt or worse.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, feels that there is a serious issue in Glen Harbor. He does not feel the issue pertains to all of Vernon. He said it would be up to the Vernon Police Department to investigate and then based on the data we get from the police investigation, that is when then corrective action can be taken where it is necessary. Mr. Clarkin lives close to Wawayonda State Park and during hunting season he often hear guns being fired. He doesn’t not know of any incidents since 1995 that there has been trouble in Highland Lakes and we are very close to the Cherry Ridge Range also. Mr. Clarkin feels that the police should investigate and the Town Council can take action based on the results of the investigation. He said the Council is shooting from the hip because two or three bullets in a particular neighborhood may be concerning but in past years it may have been fifteen to twenty bullets a year. He feels that we need data and we need direction before we make ordinances that will affect the entire town.

Council Member Pitsker made a motion to end the discussion. Seconded by Vice President Auberger.

All members were in favor.

Plan Endorsement - Public Hearing

Mayor Burrell commented to the Council and the Public saying that Vernon Township recognizes the many benefits of working with the State Planning Commission and having a State Designated Town Center.

The Township is currently seeking full Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission. We seek this endorsement for the following two reasons:

REASON #1: Vernon’s Town Center Endorsement was set to expire on June 30, 2020. While that date was extended to January 4, 2022, due to the COVID-19 emergency, the Township, through our Municipal Planner Ms. Jessica Caldwell, has been working very hard to not only get our Town Center Endorsement renewed, but to also expand the Town Center’s bounders through the State Planning Commission’s Plan Endorsement Process; and ...

REASON #2: Town Center Plan Endorsement allows the Township to have access to the benefits that are included with having your Town Center formally endorsed by the State Planning Commission. These benefits include having prioritized access to local taxpayer saving financial grants and assistance from State agencies.

We began this Plan Endorsement process on May 7, 2020, and just a little over one year later, on July 7, 2021, we were successful in receiving approval for Town Center Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission.

Ms. Caldwell is here tonight to provide the Council and the public with a presentation on our Town Center and the Town Center’s Plan Endorsement process.

Jessica Caldwell of J. Caldwell & Associates, LLC presented a Power Point presentation to the public and the Council

Vernon’s Town Center & Plan Endorsement

  • Vernon Received Town Center Designation from the State Planning Commission on July 16, 2003. The Center Designation was set to expire June 30, 2020 but due to the COVID-19 health emergency was extended until January 4, 2022.
  • Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission is the current process to extend Vernon’s Town Center Designation. The Township held a public hearing regarding its application for Plan Endorsement on August 24, 2020.
  • The Township worked with the Office for Planning Advocacy and other state agencies over the last year to provide all needed information for initial Plan Endorsement. The Township’s petition for Plan Endorsement was approved by the State Planning Commission on July 7, 2021.

Goals of Plan Endorsement

Promote Economic Development

  • Encourage new businesses
  • Support existing businesses
  • Promote development opportunities
  • Encourage tourist and resort-oriented development
  • Increase access to tourist and recreational destinations
  • Encourage tourist and resort support businesses
  • Support and regulate short-term rentals

Stabilize Infrastructure

  • Stabilize and increase the user base for the sewer system to stabilize bonds and payments
  • Create additional public water capacity in the sewer service area
  • Ensure a balance between cost of infrastructure to users, developers and tax payers

Create an Expanded Town Center

  • Promote mixed-use, residential and commercial development in an expanded Town Center area
  • Support expanded infrastructure including sewer and water throughout the center area
  • Identify and encourage businesses that support local resiliency
  • Identify and support sustainability in the center, i.e. electric car charging stations, green infrastructure and solar power, etc.

Support Local Resorts

  • Help market and support local ski resorts, golf courses and resort-oriented businesses to ensure their survival

Town Center Vision

  • Four Season Recreational Community
  • Promote Agri- and Eco-Tourism
  • Promote Businesses that Serve Residents and Tourists
  • Create a mixed-use Town Center
  • Promote Strong Civic Life and Participation
  • Preserve the High Quality of Life in the Township through:
    • Economic Development
    • Promote Local Resorts
    • Open Space and Farmland Preservation
    • Natural Resource Preservation
    • Develop Recreation and Trails/Greenways
    • Sustainable Infrastructure and Budget

Plan Endorsement 10 Steps Process

  • Step 1: Pre-Petition Meeting - Township officials met with State officials via phone conference on May 7, 2020.
  • Step 2: Plan Endorsement Advisory Committee: Due to the COVID-19 Emergency. Waiver approved.
  • Step 3: Municipal Self-Assessment Report - this report was approved by the Township Council on August 24, 2020 and submitted to the State.
  • Step 4: State Opportunities and Constraints Analysis: completed by the State Agencies.
  • Step 5: Community Vision - Visioning was completed in 2019. Waiver approved.
  • Step 6: Consistency Review - completed by State agencies.
  • Step 7: Action Plan - State agencies and the Township agreed on an action plan for any items to be completed prior to Plan Endorsement. All items were moved to the PIA in Step 8.
  • Step 8: Plan Implementation Agenda: An agreement of items to be completed by the Township following Plan Endorsement.
  • Step 9: State Planning Commission Endorsement. Voted on July 7, 2021. (Will be finalized following approval by the Township).
  • Step 10: Monitoring and Benefits. Plan Endorsement lasts for 10 years.

Plan Endorsement Next Steps

  • Vernon’s Mayor and Council are required to hold a public hearing to review the Plan Endorsement approval from the State Planning Commission and take public comments. Tonight is the public hearing.
  • The Township Council must approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Planning Commission which establishes various responsibilities for both parties. The main item for the Township is to complete the Plan Implementation Agreement (PIA).
  • The PIA outlines various updates to the Township’s Master Plan and Ordinances that are required as part of the Plan Endorsement process. There are various timeframes established for the 10-year endorsement period.
  • The Township’s Land Use Board must also hold a public hearing on the Plan Endorsement approval. This hearing is scheduled for September 8, 2021.

Council President Shortway asked if Legends considered in the extension of the town center.

Ms. Caldwell answered no Legends in not in the town center.

Council Member Pitsker asked how this affects the sewer service area infrastructure and the plans for the future.

Ms. Caldwell explained that it provides an area where the State considers a compact development area. This does not completely coincide with the sewer service area, but is does assist the municipality by having the center endorsement. When the municipality plans to expand the sewer service area, particularly with Plan Endorsement, it is now recognized as being one of the same with Highland’s center designation and Highland’s approval as well. Such that we get to apply different standards with the DEP and we have a better chance of being able to expanding our sewer service area within the area of the center or in areas close to it.

Council Member Cilli asked what is the benefit of expanding our town center.

Ms. Caldwell explained that the State plan has designated areas for growth, so this provides from the State plan perspective, a larger area where we are proposing to have growth occurs within the municipality. When someone is applying for a permit for something from the State, this expanded area gives them a different designation if they were not in the town center.

Council President Shortway asked if the town center is expanded, then any development in the town center as expanded, will it fall under the current rule for the town center as far as architecture, lighting, and etc.?

Ms. Caldwell explained that we would have to update the zoning for the areas that are in the boundaries not currently in the town center zoning or we could make reference to this and call it the architecture design guidelines standards. This is the purpose of going in front of the Land Use Board. We will be updating the master plan and ordinances.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, questioned what the advantage of expanding the town center is and asked how much it is going to cost. He also asked if there was any plan to expand towards Maple Grange because there is a lot of new development there and many fields and farms that could be converted to be part of the town center. Mr. Clarkin would like to see detailed information of what the plan is to expand the town center.

Ms. Caldwell explained that the center designation is really a mapping designation from the State and an acknowledgment of the planning process and products that the township has adopted. This does not mean we are proposing any different development per say. There has been a vision for the town center since 2003 when the town center was adopted and approved. Our visions have stayed largely the same. Ms. Caldwell said this designation gives us the ability as a rural area to continue to work with the state on the sewer service area. Also, it provides us access to grants and assistance from the State and various State agencies. As far as cost, the cost for ongoing planning is really what the cost entails. We get a lot of funding through the Highlands Council for many of those projects and we look to over the ten years when we have requirements to complete planning projects, to get as many of them covered by grants. Ms. Caldwell feels that there are a lot of benefits to the community in terms of having this priority access with the State and the State Planning Commission, the DEP and various State agencies and working with them. Ms. Caldwell added that we have the limited ability to expand the center, we did try to expand it larger. As the Council President mentioned, Legends would be a natural area to include and perhaps going further west. Unfortunately, the State in terms of their designation wanted to look at a more compact development area. This leans towards a more higher density development in this area and the zoning has promoted multi story structures within the town center.

Jessi Paladini - Vernon Township, feel that there are numerous errors in the document. Ms. Paladini asked how many times are we going to pay to have this plan done only to let it expire. She feels it will be interesting to find out how much tax payers have paid for this planning since 2003 when it was initially approved. Ms. Paladini feels that the only one who is benefiting from this are the people planning it and asked how much more money is going to be spent on this.

Open Space Plan Update

Barbara Heskins Davis of the Land Conservancy of New Jersey presented a Power Point presentation to the public and the Council.

Goals - 2010 Open Space and Recreation Plan Update:

Protect and Preserve:

  • Water supply
  • Habitat for threatened and endangered species
  • Areas of cultural value
  • Greenways of open space
  • Farmland, with priority given to the SR 94 corridor, west to CR 517
  • High Conservation Priority Areas

Provide:

  • Recreational access for hiking, bicycling, paddling, cross-country skiing, fishing
  • Bicycle paths/lanes, canoe and hiking trails
  • Support four season eco-tourism
  • Additional community parks

Municipal Fund:

  • Reinstitute dedicated source of municipal open space funding
  • Focus on lands within the Highlands Planning Area
  • Annex undeveloped lands to existing state or federally protected open space

History of the Open Space Program:

Vernon Township Open Space Trust Fund:

  • 2000: Voters approved the establishment of an Open Space Trust Fund (1.1 c) a
  • 2001-2005: Tax was collected at rates ranging from 1.1c to 2.2c.
  • 2003: Open Space Plan completed.
  • 2006: OSTF ballot question to renew at 1c did not pass.
  • 2007: Referendum to renew at 0.5c did not pass.
  • 2010: Open Space Plan Update completed.
  • 2018: Referendum passed - 30% of the OSTF balance on recreational amenities.
  • 2019: Township used $300,000 for land acquisition and trails projects.
  • 2020: Township used 3% of fees from the Hotel and Occupancy Tax for open space.
  • 2021: Open Space Plan Update underway; OSTF balance is $566,000. County and State Funding:
  • Sussex County Preservation Trust Fund: $361,000
  • NJDEP Green Acres: $237,234.80

Vernon Township’s Next Steps

Update Goals
Review Income/Expenditures
Inventory Preserved Lands
Assess Greenway design
Identify Action Items
Submit Draft Report
Present to Planning Board
Element of the Master Plan
Submit to NJDEP Green Acres

Plan Update Schedule:

  • March 23, 2021 - Initial Meeting on Plan Update - Township Administration
  • June 1, 2021 - Greenway Action Advisory Committee - Kickoff Meeting
  • August 2, 2021 - Open Space Tour
  • August 23, 2021 - Public Meeting #1 with Township Council
  • Upcoming:
    • Delivery of Draft Plan Update
    • Presentation to Planning Board

Council Member Pitsker questioned that by simplifying the map, how does Ms. Davis see us getting a clearer action plan and weeding out the right opportunities to grab.

Ms. Davis explained that the Council should have a draft plan to review by the end of the year. The plan is a ten-year plan. We try to do this so you get success early but land acquisition takes a long time.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, though the presentation was excellent and he felt the Vernon taxpayers needed to see the dollar amounts.

Craig Williams - Vernon Township, explained that the Greenway Action Advisory Committee reviews the list provided by Ms. Davis of the previous Open Space plan and goals and they try to refine it and advise what should be updated. Mr. Williams will spend some time determining where and who owns the properties that would be suitable for kayak entry into streams, Wawayonda steam, Black Creek and Pochuck Creek. These are waterways that the Environmental Commission cleared years ago. Mr. Williams would like to include another kind of trail that does not exist in the Open Space and Recreation Plan. Mr. Williams has ideas to simplify the plan so that there are targeted areas for a clearer picture. He explained that the GAAC is working on agendas and continuing to collaborate.

Mayor Burrell and Council Member Cilli thanks Carid Williams for all of his hard work.

Minutes

July 26, 2021 - Regular Meeting
August 9, 2021 - Regular Meeting
August 9, 2021 - Executive Session

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve the above minutes.
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller - August 9, 2021 Regular and Executive Only, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN: Weller - July 26, 2021 Only
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve the above meeting minutes.

Resolutions

Resolution #21-184: A Resolution of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing the Adoption of the 2021 Sussex County, New Jersey Hazard Mitigation Plan Update

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-184
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #21-184

Resolution #21-192: Resolution Authorizing Approval of Memorandum of Understanding, Approval of a Plan Implementation Agreement, and Approval of Expanded Town Center Map in Conjunction with Vernon Township’s Petition for Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-192
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #21-192

Resolution #21-192: Resolution Authorizing Approval of Memorandum of Understanding, Approval of a Plan Implementation Agreement, and Approval of Expanded Town Center Map in Conjunction with Vernon Township’s Petition for Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission

WHEREAS, the State Planning Act recognizes that New Jersey requires sound and integrated land use planning and coordination of planning at all levels of government in order to conserve the state’s natural resources, revitalize the urban centers, protect the quality of the environment, and provide needed housing and adequate public services at a reasonable cost while promoting beneficial economic growth, development and renewal; and

WHEREAS, Plan Endorsement is a voluntary review process developed by the State Planning Commission to provide the technical assistance and coordination of the State for municipalities, counties, and regional agencies to meet the goals of the State Planning Act and State Development and Redevelopment Plan (State Plan); and

WHEREAS, the purpose of the Plan Endorsement process is to increase the degree of consistency among municipal, county, regional and state agency plans with each other and with the State Plan and to facilitate the implementation of these plans and guide where and how development and redevelopment can be accommodated in accordance with the State Plan; and

WHEREAS, the State Planning Rules and Plan Endorsement Guidelines incorporate, and expand upon, the principles of the Municipal Land Use Law in order to help municipalities plan for a sustainable future; and

WHEREAS, the State Planning Rules and Plan Endorsement Guidelines require the preparation and submission of a Municipal Self-Assessment Report as the means by which a municipality assesses the consistency of its existing community vision and planning documents with the State Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon prepared and approved by Resolution #20-174 a Municipal Self-Assessment Report and approved the Township’s Petition for Plan Endorsement at a public hearing before the Township Council on August 24, 2020; and

WHEREAS, the State Planning Commission on July 7, 2021, adopted via Resolution 2021-11, the Township’s Petition for Plan Endorsement including proposed changes to the State Plan Policy Map designations and Town Center boundaries as negotiated by the Office for Planning Advocacy (OPA), the Township, and relevant State agencies, and shown in Resolution 2021-11 attached with associated Exhibits A and B, is consistent with the State Plan, provided the terms of the Plan Implementation Agreement, Exhibit C, and Resolution 2021-11 are satisfied, and the Memorandum of Understanding, Exhibit D to Resolution 2021-11, as provided by the State Planning Commission, is executed by the Township, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:85-7.15; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon accept the negotiated changes to State Plan Policy Map designations and Town Center boundaries as negotiated by the OPA, and Township, and relevant State agencies, and shown in Exhibits A and B; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon accept the negotiated Plan Implementation Agreement, Exhibit C, upon receiving Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Mayor and Council of Vernon Township supports the State Planning Commission’s Plan Implementation Agreement for our municipality seeking Plan Endorsement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Memorandum of Understanding, Exhibit D, as provided by the Commission, shall be executed by the Mayor of Vernon Township pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:85-7.15; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of this Resolution be forwarded to the State Planning Commission

Resolution #21-193: Resolution Authorizing Award of Garage Door Installation to Durable Door Company for Bid #5R-2021

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-193
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #21-193

Resolution #21-193: Resolution Authorizing Award of Garage Door Installation to Durable Door Company for Bid #5R-2021

WHEREAS the Township of Vernon publicly advertised and received bids on August 17, 2021, at 9:00 A.M., for Garage Door Installation Re-Bid, Bid # 5R-2021, in accord with the New Jersey Local Publics Contract Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1) and in a Fair and Open Manner (N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.5 et seq.,) and

WHEREAS the Township received one (1) bid to wit:

BID# 5R-2021
Durable Door Company
Lump Sum
$38,341.00

And

WHEREAS, Durable Door Company 26 Broad St, Denville, NJ 07834 has provided for the most complete proposal and is the lowest responsible bidder combining all base bids plus alternates in accord with N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et. Seq., in the amount of $38,341.00; and

WHEREAS the Chief Financial Officer certifies funding is available in the amount of $38,341.00, through:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Bid #5R-2021 “Garage Door Installation Re-Bid” bid is hereby awarded to Durable Door Company 26 Broad St, Denville, NJ 07834 in the amount of $38,341.00 and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, that the mayor is hereby authorized to enter into a contract with Durable Door Company 26 Broad St, Denville, NJ 07834 in the amount of $38,341.00 to provide for the services as provided for in Bid #5R-2021

Resolution #21-194: Resolution Authorizing an Agreement with Petro Mechanics, Inc. for Fuel Tanks and Pumps in an Amount not to Exceed $286,000.00 (State Contract #T0849)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-194
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #21-194

Resolution #21-194: Resolution Authorizing an Agreement with Petro Mechanics, Inc. for Fuel Tanks and Pumps in an Amount not to Exceed $286,000.00 (State Contract #T0849)

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon’s (“Township”) vendor for fuel will be ceasing operations and there is a need for a new fuel source; and

WHEREAS, a determination has been made that it would be in best interests of the Township to install its own fuel tanks and pumps; and

WHEREAS, Petro Mechanics, Inc. has been awarded New Jersey State Contract #T0849 to provide and install fuel tanks and related equipment; and

WHEREAS, the Township, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:11-12(a) and N.J.A.C. 5:34-7.29(c), may by resolution and without advertising for bids, purchase any goods or services under the State of New Jersey Cooperative Purchasing program for any contracts entered into on behalf of the State by the Division of Purchase and Property in the Department of the Treasury; and

WHEREAS, the procurement of goods and services through a cooperative purchasing program is considered to be an open and fair process under the New Jersey Pay-To-Play Law, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.4 et seq.; and

WHEREAS, the Township has received a proposed agreement from Petro Mechanics, Inc. to provide and install fuel tanks and pumps in accordance with State Contract #T0849 for $286,000.00; and

WHEREAS, the Township may enter into said agreement via resolution which shall be subject to all the conditions applicable to the New Jersey Local Public Contracts Law; and

WHEREAS, a determination has been made that it is in the best interests of the Township to enter this agreement.

WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer has certified that funds in the amount of $286,000.00 are available effective September 2, 2021 in Line Items: C-04-21-012 and C-04-21-019.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon that the Mayor may execute an agreement with Petro Mechanics, Inc. in a form similar that attached hereto and in accordance with the terms and conditions of New Jersey State Contract #T0849 and the New Jersey Local Public Contracts Law.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution shall take effect September 2, 2021.

Resolution #21-195: Resolution Authorizing Purchase of Communications Equipment, Installation and Upgrade through Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council Contract #41 through Northeast Communications

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve resolution #21-195

Council Member Cilli asked what this is for and why do we need an upgrade.

Administrator Voelker explained that this is to replace communications equipment for the DPW. The system we had was worn out and not working property. The equipment the DPW is quite old and needs to be replaced.

Council Member Pitsker said this is for 32 vehicles and asked if this covers the whole fleet of vehicles and then some.

Mr. Voelker answered yes, this includes the vehicles as well as base stations for the police and DPW building.

Council Member Pitsker asked if there was a service warranty included.

Mr. Voelker explained that there is a certain warranty that comes with radios and installation that is a manufacturers warranty. He will have to find out the length of the warranty. Mr. Voelker said that we will probably have to utilize funds after that period of time for updates or repairs that become necessary.

Council Member Pitsker asked about batteries.

Mr. Voelker explained that most of the radios are mobiles and there are some portables.

Council Vice President Auberger asked about the radio that is going on the tower.

Mr. Voelker said he is leaving that up to Northeast to determine which tower it should go on.
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to approve resolution #21-195

Resolution #21-195: Resolution Authorizing Purchase of Communications Equipment, Installation and Upgrade through Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council Contract #41 through Northeast Communications

WHEREAS the New Jersey Local Publics Contract Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:11-11) authorizes Township of Vernon by resolution, and without advertising for bids or obtaining quotations, purchase any goods or services under the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council (6MOCCP); and

WHEREAS, the Township has the need on a timely basis to purchase goods and services utilizing the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council, duly authorized under law to extend contract pricing to local units, per N.J.A.C. 5:34-7.11 et. Seq.; and

WHEREAS the Township intends to enter into contract for procurement of communications equipment, installation and upgrade in the amount of $63,361.00, from Northeast Communications 244 East Union Tpk, Wharton, N.J. authorized under Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council Contract Item #41 from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021; and

WHEREAS the Chief Financial Officer certifies funding is available in the amount of $63,361.00_through:
Line Item

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, authorizes the Mayor to enter into a contract with Northeast Communications 244 East Union Tpk, Wharton, N.J. to procure communications equipment, installation and upgrade through the tenets of Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council Contract #41 in the amount of $63,361.00, pursuant to all conditions of the individual cooperative contracts

Introduction/1st Reading of Proposed Ordinances

Ordinance #21-28: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 330 Entitled “Land Development” to Regulate Multi-Generational Family Accommodations

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to introduce Ordinance #21-28
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Cilli, Auberger, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to introduce Ordinance #21-28

Ordinance #21-29: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending and Supplementing § 99-33 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Schedule IX: Stop Intersections”

Council Member Cilli said she lives right by this intersection and asked if she can vote on this. She also asked how it is decided what intersections get stop signs. She said she would think there are more dangerous intersections that are more of a priority.

Mr. Voelker explained that this was in an email received from Walter Marsico Jr. saying that he lives in that area and this intersection is unsafe without any type of sign. After receiving the email, we asked the Safety Traffic Officer of the Vernon PD to evaluate the intersection. The Safety Traffic Officer felt it was an appropriate location for a stop sign.

Township Attorney Zielinski told Council Member Cilli that it was okay for her to vote on this.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to introduce Ordinance #21-29
MOVED: John Auberger
SECOND: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Cilli, Auberger, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to introduce Ordinance #21-29

Ordinance #21-30: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 94 of the Code of the Township of Vernon Regarding the Police Division to Authorize the Hiring of Entry-Level Law Enforcement Officers without an Examination Requirement

Council Member Cilli asked if Veterans were still going to get priority.

Administrator Voelker answered yes.

Council President Shortway explained that if the veteran served a designated campaign or designated area, they will get full credit for the time they served.

Council Member Pitsker asked since the ordinance reads “without an examination requirement” will they have to take an examination at some point.

Mr. Voelker answered saying this will only pertain to officers who have been certified by the Police Training Commission, whether they are lateral transfers or come out of the Police Academy that has certified them. No more trailing is necessary because they have completed the required training.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to introduce Ordinance #21-30
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Cilli, Auberger, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion passed to introduce Ordinance #21-30

Public Hearing/2nd Reading of Ordinance

Ordinance #21-24: An Ordinance Amending, Revising and Supplementing Chapter 509 of the Vernon Township Code Titled “Taxation” Allowing for the Taxation of Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis items in the Township of Vernon

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-24

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-24
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-24
MOVED: Toni Cilli
SECOND: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-24
MOVED: John Auberger
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Kelly Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to adopt Ordinance #21-24

Ordinance #21-26: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 484 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Soil Fill Placement”

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-26

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-26
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-26
MOVED: John Auberger
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-26
MOVED: John Auberger
SECOND: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Kelly Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to adopt Ordinance #21-26

Ordinance #21-27: Capital Ordinance providing for improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure in Town Center by the Township of Vernon, in the County of Sussex, New Jersey, appropriating therefore the sum of $1,750,000.00 and providing that such sum so appropriated shall be raised from the Appropriated Reserve for the American Rescue Plan Grant

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #21-27

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #21-27
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #21-27
MOVED: John Auberger
SECOND: Toni Cilli
All Members were in Favor

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #21-27
MOVED: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: Toni Cilli

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Auberger, Cilli, Pitsker, Kelly Weller, Shortway
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to adopt Ordinance #21-27

Public Comments (Limited to 3 Minutes on Any Topic)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
MOTION: John Auberger
SECOND: Toni Cilli
All members were in favor.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, sent an email saying, I hereby request that Mayor Burrell ask for the resignation of Town Council President Harry Shortway for not listening to this constituency, not running a transparent government and a motion of no confidence.

Shawn Mazur - Vernon Township, emailed saying, I am a taxpayer in Vernon as well as an Army Veteran, Master Free Mason, a nationally accredited architect, a LEED accredited professional and licensed contractor working on the new Bliss Salon Suites in Vernon. I am also the former HPC commissioner as I was the Class A Architectural expert. I will say once again that I cannot believe that this council has misappropriated 1.75 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Grant to the MUA.I am also astonished at the amount of heavy-handed ordinances that continue to be created and pushed through by this council Why is this going on here? Whom is behind these nonstop ordinances? Even tonight you have 4 new ordinances being introduced. Ord no. 21-28 is a kick in the face to Vernon senior citizens and it’s frankly anti-Semitic as many Jewish homes have two kitchens. One being a kosher kitchen. Ord no. 21-30 lessens the requirements for entry level law enforcement officers. Seriously this has got to be the worst idea I have heard yet. Recently Vernon was all over the news with the Rivera groping case. I think we need stricter requirements so we employee smarter cops not lesser requirements for dumber ones. Finally, the worst for last... Ord no 21-31 Are you kidding me? This ordinance will put many Vernon landscapers out of business. In addition, a 10-foot max. breezeway and 4- or 8-foot max. height retaining wall with all sorts of setback requirements. Whom is writing up this garbage? In addition, a licensed architect or landscape architect can also design retaining walls. Why are they excluded? Is this more of your retribution Harry Shortway as I recently designed and sealed plans for a 10-foot-high retaining wall. This entire ordinance should be tabled. As for the petition for plan endorsement. I find this document to be very suspicious. Just look at pages 8 and 9. Specifically in the topic of “Historic Resources” you will see the Historic preservation commission is a very important part of this document as well CLG or certified local government pursuit. Wow! Would you look at that.... so, this council and mayor abolish the HPC thereby preventing any activity then lie to the state about the progress. Why don’t you tell the truth to the State in the comment/ update section? I will refresh your memories. You first de-funded the HPC then you all abolished it. Why is this not mentioned in the commentary? Please explain this. This means I want an explanation. In closing, I am calling for Mayor Burrell to rejoin the righteous and make a motion tonight for a vote of no confidence in Harry Shortway and call for his immediate resignation.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, commented on the 6:45 pm cut off time saying that if the meeting was in person, a citizen or tax payer of Vernon would be able to listen to comments and then make a note to themselves or just remember at the end of the meeting to speak about something. Mr. Clarkin explained that he sent two emails at 6:55 pm. He does not understand why there is a 6:45 pm cut off. He feels that if he sends an email at 7:00 pm the only reason not to read the email is that maybe no one has had a chance to proof read it or prepare for it. Mr. Clarkin said he sent two emails and if they are not read tonight, he will send them again to be read at the next meeting. He feels that the emails are very important subjects to him, as one of them touches on the upcoming election and what the town is doing to prepare for that election and what the town is doing to develop candidates to help lead us into the future. Mr. Clarkin would like his emails read and he finds it offensive that there is a 6:45 pm cut off.

Council President Shortway asked if Mr. Clarkin wanted to read his emails.

Mr. Clarkin answered saying that as well as he speaks, he does have a speech impediment and he finds it very nerve racking to do public speaking. He would rather not read the emails himself because of his speech impediment.

Council President Shortway told Mr. Clarkin that he speaks very well, but he made an exception tonight and allowed the emails to be read.

Mr. Clarkin sent two emails saying, 1.7 million Dollar from the Covid Relief Fund.
LET’S REPEAT THAT AGAIN-
1.7 million Dollar of a Federal Covid Relief Fund.

Mister Town Council President who from the state or federal government called and told you that the Covid Crisis was over and to use the 1.7 million dollars any way you see fit?

Mister Town Council President prior to taking the 1.7 million dollars of Covid Relief Fund for your own MUA Takeover Dream.

--How many Citizens of Vernon did you offer relief funds too?
--How many local Vernon businesses did you offer relief funds too?

Mister Town Council President
--Did you lose a business due to Covid Crisis?
--Did you lose a job due to Covid Crisis?
--Are you behind on
- Your Mortgage payments, due to the Covid Crisis.
- Your electric bill, due to the Covid Crisis.
- Your property taxes due to the Covid Crisis.

Well Mister Town Council President
--There are Citizens of Vernon that are experiencing all of these things and will continue to live through the pain.
--There are Vernon families that were middle class that are now far below the poverty level due to the Covid Crisis.

These families needed leadership from you and support.

You failed them once again.

Because YOU ARE ONLY FOCUSED ON YOUR AGENDA OF PARKS, WALKING PATHS AND SAVING THE MUA SEWERAGE SERVICE FOR YOUR CONDO AND THE MISMANAGED TOWN CENTER.

Mister Town Council President
--How many fire hydrants are in the town center?
--How many of those fire hydrants have water run to them and function as intended by the manufacturer?
--How many handicap access ramps does the Town Center have that lead to nothing.
--How many sidewalk crossing lights does the Town Center have that have no sidewalks?

The MUA Sewage Service has government bonds coming due that it cannot afford to pay. The MUA Sewage Service has salaries, health benefits and retirement funds that it cannot afford to pay.

The MUA Sewage Service has critical repairs long overdue that are needed to continue providing the minimal service to its existing customers that it cannot afford to have done.

Why in the world would you give a mismanaged business 1.7 million Dollars from the Federal Government for Covid Relief that were intended for Vernon Families and Vernon Businesses?

Mister Town Council President I call on you to resign now from public office effective November 1st and allow the citizens of Vernon to Elect Four Town Council Members in November of 2021 instead of just three.

Is the policy of this administration to promote our form of government and the American tradition of having free and open elections?

Is the policy of this administration to look for well qualified members of our community to serve as Town Council Members? Or is it the administration’s policy to quietly practice a policy of nepotism, protecting and supporting those currently holding those positions?

Leading up to the November 2021 election, what is the itinerary of activities planned to promote and recruit candidates for the available positions on the Town Council during September and October 2021.

Vernon will be electing three new Town Council members or re-electing the community members already holding those positions.

Which of those positions do you feel is in the best interest of the community?

Council President Shortway announced that Mr. Clarkin’s time was up. He let the emails be read even though they were sent after the 6:45 pm cut off time because Mr. Clarkin claimed he has a speech impediment.

Jessi Paladini - Vernon Township, feels that Vice President Auberger should have abstained from voting last week. Ms. Paladini asked the Mayor to ask for Harry Shortway’s resignation. She feels that Mr. Shortway and his wife tried to frame her, falsely accuse her and slander her. Specifically, when she was accused of collusion with the Mua in regards to the Historical Society building. Ms. Paladini told the Council that there would be legal action if she was slandered of falsely accused again that there would be legal consequences. Ms. Paladini feels that Council President Shortway and Council Member Weller violated election laws in their 2019 campaigns and she did not report this to the State. Ms. Paladini accused Council Member Weller of lying and falsely accusing her when she called for her resignation. Ms. Paladini feels that Vernon needs a whole new Council and she asked for Council President Shortway’s resignation because of a vote of no confidence. She asked Mayor Burrell to support that call for the resignation.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, commented on the $1,750,000 and she feels that the Council has confiscated money that was intended for the taxpayers of the township and they are using it for the good of a select few properties and purposes. She requests that the Council please reconsiders this because she feels that this is a misappropriation of the money and what it was intended for.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
MOTION: Andrew Pitsker
SECOND: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Mayor’s Comments

I take this opportunity to, again, thank the Council for their courageous action in standing up and supporting our town’s many volunteers against the few, but loud and prolific, negative Facebook minions whose lives seem to revolve around attacking our volunteers in particular, and in general, anyone else who dares not to agree with their point of view on any given issue.

I am so glad that I chose to join you in taking this bold and necessary supportive action.

The residents of our town continue to reap the benefits of our joint action to support our volunteers. We have seen this benefit in the form of a resurgence in the number of individuals who are willing to step forward and, again, serve as volunteers for our town.

That resurgence is reflected in part in a new appointment that I make tonight to the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC).

On tonight I appoint Ms. Stephanie Munson.

The capabilities of the EDAC will no doubt be greatly enhanced by:

1. Her 15 years in Operations Management;

2. Her ownership of a consulting company that helps commercial firms to meet governmental requirements;

3. Her 20 years of experience in Environmental Construction Project Management; and ...

4. The Certifications that she has earned from the NJ Department of Community Affairs.

Our team of volunteers continue to get stronger and stronger, and I welcome Ms. Munson to the service of her town!

Like most of us, over the past several months, I have put the intense focus on the deadly COVID-19 virus behind me, and have gladly focused:

1. On simply being out in our community, and actively involved with the people of Vernon Township as their Mayor, and as one of their fellow residents;

2. On the enjoyment of simply going places with my wife Reba; and ...

3. On just living a grateful life in this “new normal” environment in which we all find ourselves.

However, over the past few months, our nation has seen a dramatic rise in the presence of the COVID-19 virus; a rise that has been fueled by the wildly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading by overwhelming the host of unvaccinated individuals and communities in our country.

According to medical scientist and doctors, there is a real danger that this fast-reproducing Delta variant will use the significant number of unvaccinated individuals as hosts to mutate into an even deadlier COVID-19 variant.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said, that since June of this year, more than 85 percent of the new COVID-19 infections, and 99% of the recent COVID-19 deaths, have been caused by attacks from this Delta variant.

Given this recent and devastating surge of this deadly virus, I use my comments tonight to let the people of Vernon Township know that even while their Mayor and Council are focused on projects and actions that are aimed at enhancing the near term and the future economic development of our town, we are multitaskers; that is, we can and are focusing our attention and efforts on more than just one thing at a time.

And with this multi-focus, we have also maintained a keen awareness of our need and responsibility to take every reasonable action that we can to deny this COVID-19 virus, and its new and highly contagious Delta variant weapon, the opportunity to spread, to infect, and to take the lives of our residents.

The following are just some of the COVID related protective actions that we have taken, as a result of our acceptance and embracement of our need and responsibility to be vigilant against this virus, which is like no other virus that we have experienced in our lifetimes:

1. We have ensured the proper operation of the needed COVID suppression equipment, and have taken steps that we believe will enable us to be able to obtain an adequate supply of the CDC approved sanitizers that will be needed to routinely and effectively and efficiently disinfect the Municipal Center; to disinfect our parks and playground equipment; and to disinfect our law enforcement, DPW and first responder’s equipment and vehicles / on a required basis;

2. We have ensured the adequacy of the clear protective acrylic barriers that we have installed at those municipal service counters where the public must interact with a municipal employee;

3. We have ensured the proper operation of the Ultra-Violet Cleaning Lights system that we have installed in the Municipal Center’s HVAC system, so as to reduce the likelihood that our HVAC system will be the source of a COVID-19 exposer to either visitors to the Municipal Center, or our employees who work in the Municipal Center;

4. We continue to require that masks be worn by all who enter the Municipal Center; and we continue to maintain a supply of fee masks at the Municipal Center’s public entry location; and ...

5. To facilitate the ease of Vernon residents getting a COVID-19 vaccination, we have advertised, on the town’s Website and Facebook pages, the availability of the Sussex County Division of Health free Walk In COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. And, this past week, our town hosted one of these clinics in the parking lot outside of the Municipal Senior Center.

Vernon Township has done, and continues to do, an effective job of keeping down the COVID-19 transmission rate, and keeping this dangerous virus from victimizing more of our town’s residents.

For example, while Vernon Township has 17% of our county’s population, and through last week, our town’s 2198 confirmed COVID-19 cases since January 2020, equals just 14% of the county’s total 15217 confirmed cases during this same period of time; and our 19 confirmed COVID related deaths equals just 6% of the county’s total COVID related deaths for this time period.

In addition, since the June period of the Delta variant fueled surge, COVID-19 infections in our county have increased by 750 cases; however, COVID-19 infections in our town have increased by just 65 cases, accounting for only 9% of the county’s total increase.

Uncertainty abounds about the future impact of this virus.

I believe that the only real certainty that we have about this virus is this - - the world’s human herd, that is the world’s population, will eventually develop a survivable immunity to this virus.

This immunity will be achieved either by:

1. An overwhelming number of us getting fully vaccinated, and thereby denying this sinister virus the hosts it seeks in order to make new versions of itself; and/or ...

2. As a result of a large number of us getting immunity by going through the painful and debilitating conditions that come from being infected by this virus; and/or ...

3. By some of us choosing not to get vaccinated against this virus, and thereby needlessly losing our lives, and being removed from the human herd.

Our collective decisions and actions, will decide which of these paths that human survivable immunity against the COVID-19 virus will take.

In spite of the fact that we are seeing a national dramatic rise in the presence of the COVID-19 virus, I am still very hopeful, and somewhat optimistic.

A key reason for this optimism is the fact that while only 51% of American have been full vaccinated, almost 70% of the eligible US population have received at least a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; and, most of those who have received just one shot, have said that they will be getting their second shot.

In addition, within a few months, the Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve the current vaccines for emergency use authorization in pre-teens.

My optimism is also fueled by my life’s lessons, which have taught me that in even the most difficult of circumstances, there is always reason for hope.

I embrace the words of the great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he said that while being human compels us to accept and endure the finite disappointment that life often sends our way - - that is, the realistic but limited disappointment, like that of the COVID-19 virus - - however, he added that we should never lose infinite hope - - that is, the type of hope that is limitless.

I invite all Vernon residents join me in being hopeful about our collective willingness to take the actions that are necessary to bring this virus under control.

Council President Shortway asked Township Attorney Zielinski to give an update on the Marsico matter.

Mr. Zielinski explained that there has been a lot of discussion over the past few months regarding Walter Marsico and the fines that the Building Department issued to Mr. Marsico. On August 12, 2021 Mr. Marsico’s hearing was scheduled before the Sussex County Construction Board of Appeals. Mr. Marsico had appealed the various fines the County had levied against him. Mr. Marsico chose not to attend the Sussex County Construction Board of Appeals hearing. Nevertheless, the full Sussex County Construction Board required Vernon to put on its case and required Vernon to present testimony from its Construction Officials. At the conclusion of the hearings the Sussex County Construction Board ruled that the fines were appropriately issued and that the violations were appropriate. They did reduce the amount fined to Mr. Marsico to $3000.00. While the determination has not yet been memorialized, Mr. Zielinski believes that the Board is going to give Mr. Marsico a period of time to correct the violations. Hopefully that will occur and that will be the end of this ordeal.

Council Comments

Council Vice President Auberger said he assumed that the system to have live meetings has been installed and he asked when that was going to be taking effect.

Council President Shortway said he will be talking to the Mayor and Business Administrator about this. He is still concerned about the Covid-19 variant.

Council Member Weller had no comment.

Council Member Pitsker congratulated Eagle Scout member Maverick Brendli for the three paneled sign for Vernon’s Western Highlands National Scenic Byway and the community. The sign was dedicated this weekend and you can see the sign on Route 94 at the Valley Farmers Cooperative (the former Rickey Farm). Council Member Pitsker said scouting stays with you for life and is truly the start of becoming a true member of your community. Congratulations to Maverick and his parents who helped install the sign.

Council Member Cilli gave thanks to some volunteers as well. She explained that they were supposed to stain the fence at Maple Grange in the next few days but because of the rain it was canceled. We will reschedule and she will reach out to everyone who volunteered with the new date.

Council Member Cilli said the football booth at Maple Grange was painted by volunteers and it looks beautiful.

Council Member Cilli said she received a lot of emails today in reference to the meeting and she is hoping that they can received them sooner.

Council Member Cilli asked if anonymous chats can be stopped on Zoom during the meetings. She feels that if you want to speak your mind, she’s all for it but it is cowardly to say things without a name.

Council President Comments

NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, stated in a recent newsletter, “Trails are an increasingly important piece of the transportation network in New Jersey, providing safe corridors for walking and bicycling. These networks connect neighborhoods and communities while also providing important resources for public health and wellbeing.”

Bill Foelsch of the New Jersey Trails Council explained “Trails also serve as outdoor classrooms, improve the economy through tourism, and provide alternative transportation corridors to connect to population centers.”

NJDEP’s Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette is quoted in the same advisement, “Trails are truly at the intersection of conservation and recreation, providing access to preserved places and scenic landscapes,”

As reported in the NJ Herald last week, The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners approved trails grant program that will allow money from the county’s farmland, preservation, recreation and open space trust fund to be used to develop trails on permanently preserved open space lands.

We are on the path of sustainability by developing outdoor amenities. Let’s continue to move forward.

I am pleased to report that the Shotmeyers’ (doing business as RTS. 94 & 515, VERNON, L.P.) litigation against the Township contesting the redevelopment designation by the Township has been dismissed. Plaintiffs realized after receiving their OPRA responses that they had no claim and requested their case be dropped.

During the Vernon Council meeting on August 9, 2021, A member of Vernon’s Environmental Committee criticized the governing body by stating during her angry rant that they “walk like little Indians behind him,” (meaning this councilperson). I don’t believe the Committee Member is a racist but her comment was.

We need to understand the underpinnings of racism, and not ignore it.

American Indians and (other minority groups) have been victims of genocide and government-sanctioned racial discrimination throughout our history. We, as a society have made great strides to end racism and bigotry through Brown vs Board of Education and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The challenge continues.

Hate speech is protected during public comments at council meetings. As Council President and an American, I have a duty and moral obligation to express criticism of the EC member’s comment.

Ironic that a member of the Environmental Committee used the term Indian in an attempt to insult this Council when American Indians have always been stewards of our environment.

American Indian cultures, heritage and traditions are important and have enriched all of our lives.

The Iroquois Confederacy, (Six Nations) is the oldest living representative democracy. Our Founding Fathers were influenced in part by their government.

Women of the Six Nations enjoyed status, authority, and dignity.

Here in Vernon, through the efforts of the Vernon Township Historical Society, Nanticoke Lenape Indians of New Jersey and some local residents nominated and preserved the Black Creek Site. The Site is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

After six years of legal battles, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation emerged victorious in New Jersey.

The Appellate Court ruled and publicly affirmed in 2018 that the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation are a constitutionally organized, self-governing, inherently sovereign American Indian tribe along with the Powhatan Renape and Rampough Mountain tribes.

Our 41st and 43rd Presidents recognized the American Indian struggle for equality and appreciation for all who stand for equality for all:

“The heroes of America - from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. - are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation - stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.”

And;

“Every tribe of Native Americans is unique...Together generations of Native Americans have quietly strengthened and enriched the United States. American culture has been greatly influenced by the customs and traditions of this country’s native peoples, and all of us can be grateful for their outstanding example of environmental stewardship.”

Although Native Americans were oppressed, murdered and victimized by European settlers and by the American Government during Manifest Destiny; American Indians’ service to our Great Nation is truly remarkable.

For example, the Navajo code-talkers, whose use of their native tongue and secret code words was never broken by enemy forces.

Ira Hayes, a member of the Pima Tribe, was one of six U.S. Marines who raised our American flag over Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Let’s honor American Indian traditions and culture by standing shoulder to shoulder with these first natives of our great lands and provide equal opportunities for all people represented by our star-spangled banner.

Diversity is not enough; inclusion is the key for all Americans to have an opportunity to achieve their American Dream.

The word Indian, should never be used in a derogatory manner.

In conclusion, I quote President Obama,

“Let’s recommit to supporting tribal self-determination, security, and prosperity for all Native Americans. While we cannot erase the scourges or broken promises of our past, we will move ahead together in writing a new, brighter chapter in our joint history.”

Adjournment

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

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 9:21 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: September 27, 2021