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

Minutes: February 10, 2014

YouTube video of the February 10, 2014 council meeting »

The Regular Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 6:50 p.m. on Monday, February 10, 2014 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Brian Lynch presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on January 8, 2014, and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6.

Roll Call of Members

Present were Council Members Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, and Council President Brian Lynch. Also present were Mayor Vic Marotta, Township Business Administrator William Zuckerman and Township Attorney Kevin Kelly.

Resolution to Go into Executive Session

At 6:51 p.m. Council President Brian Lynch asked for a motion to go into Executive Session Council Member Dan Kadish made a motion to close the meeting to the public and enter into executive session. Motion seconded by Council Member Dick Wetzel with all members voting in favor.

The Municipal Clerk read the following resolution to go into executive session:

WHEREAS, Section 8 of the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 permits the exclusion of the public in certain circumstances; and

WHEREAS, this public body is of the opinion that such circumstances presently exist;

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

1. The public shall be excluded from discussion of and action upon the hereinafter specified subject matter.

2. The general nature of the subject matters to be discussed is:

  1. Personnel
    1. Municipal Clerk
    2. Fire Marshal

3. It is anticipated that the above-stated subject matters will be made available upon final decision.

4. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

The Township Council entered into Executive Session at 6:51 p.m.

Return to Open Session

Moved: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: None
Time: 7:30 p.m.

Salute to the Flag

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

Public Comments

Council President Lynch asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: Daniel Kadish
All members were in favor.

Gary Martinsen, noted that the last meeting got a little heated and apologized for not being as good a citizen as he could have been.

Sally Rinker, Vernon, discussed an incident during the Council meeting of January 16, 2014, when the panic button was pushed by mistake.

Barbara Chorzepa, Vernon resident, was confused about the group of residents circulating a petition against allocations of funds for the Mayor, and questioned why this is allowable for them to do this with no evidence. She questioned the legality of their actions.

Bob Gerry, Vernon, claimed that while he was out getting signatures for petitions last week, people would not sign out of fear. When asked if he was saying that the government was threatening the people he declined to answer.

Sandy Ooms, Vernon, was concerned about the dangerous intersection at Route 94 and Sammis at which a family almost got killed. Mayor Marotta clarified that the location was actually near the Stewart House at Route 94 and Sand Hill Road. He then stated that Mountain Creek had asked for a crosswalk there and was denied by the town, the Planning Board and by the State DOT, which is why buses are being run for safety reasons. He agreed it was dangerous and that maybe we need to look and see if something else can be done.

Len Coloccia, GGV, said he agreed with Ms. Ooms about the intersection but was here to speak about the Mayor’s salary increase. He stated that he has heard many reasons why the Mayor should get a raise, including the fact that he puts in many hours. The Mayor attends meetings and functions—but hasn’t been to an MUA meeting recently. Mr. Coloccia questioned every point that was brought up at the last meeting by proponents of the Mayors raise. The issue of the salary cut for the Business Administrator was also discussed.

Closed to Public Comments

Seeing no one else from the public wishing to speak, Council President Lynch asked for a motion to close the public portion of the meeting.
Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dan Kadish
All members were in favor.

Mayor’s Report—State of the Township

Mayor Marotta gave a State of the Township Report as required by the Township Code.

The Mayor reported that the Township’s finances are in excellent shape and reviewed our most recent audit report.

Mayor Marotta stated our Cash Fund Surplus as of December 31, 2013 was 3.3 million dollars, it was under 1 million dollars at the beginning of 2011. Which has allowed us to apply 1 million dollars against taxes for Vernon Township residents for local property tax purposes.

The Mayor advised that appropriations for each of our 10 departments are down in 2014 from 2013. However, the information in the budget drafts indicated there would be an increase, caused by such things as OBAMACare which added $90,000. in federal tax to our health insurance plan, so that showed as an increase instead of a decrease. Mayor Marotta explained the purpose of having a “sinking fund” and how it works.

Our debt has been managed for the first time in more than a decade and Mayor Marotta explained the reasons for same. The Mayor reported that for the last two years the local property taxes have gone down, and said that the overall taxes have gone up and explained where the percentages of our tax dollar goes. the Mayor further explained that the State law places upon the local government the responsibility to see that the school and the County get 100% of their budget whether we collect it or not.

The Mayor discussed the number of employees that we currently have that is down from years past, mostly cause by attrition, shared services and employees moving onto other jobs. The Mayor stated the Police Department is undermanned as is the Department of Public Works, which also, is in need of equipment. For example currently 5 out of our 25 plowing trucks are out of commission, one is on order and one is in the budget for next year.

The Mayor spoke regarding the MUA and the two DPW employees that work under the MUA also, maintaining the sewer system. The contract with MUA may have to be revisited to hire additional people into the Road Department.

Mayor Marotta reported that 2013 was a very successful year for grants. Vernon Township received 6 grants that were pursued. These grants brought in $458,105.12 in revenue to Vernon Township. In addition, we have been approved for a $40,000.00 grant from New Jersey Highlands Council. That grant is to do a feasibility study to see the feasibility of creating a transfer of development rights program in and for Vernon Township. Vernon Township could be a pilot for the entire State.

Today the Mayor was informed that the Department of Forestry grant in the amount of $30,642.00 was increased to $354,960.00 for 2014. This is not tax money—the Tennessee Gas Company was fined for not living up to what they were supposed to do in Vernon Township regarding reforestation. This grant is for almost four years and will allow us to plant well in excess of 1,200 trees in the Township.

Vernon’s recycling center was recognized as the best in New Jersey in 2012. In 2013 the recycling center contributed $109,000. in revenue to the Township, which allowed for the purchase of a paper shredder at a cost of $11,000., and will be available for Vernon residents.

Capital Projects:

The intersection of Maple Grange Road and Route 517 was completed along with the eminent domain that was required for some of the rights of way to finish the project. The Mayor stated that this is a tremendous asset to the safety of the residents.

Mayor Marotta stated that the drainage projects in the Baldwin - Mott Drive area were completed early in 2013. In the middle of 2013, the northern part of Vernon Valley Lake drainage project was completed. Those three projects total well in excess of 2 million dollars. The Maple Grange/Route 517 intersection was a joint project with the County of Sussex, it included a grant from the State of New Jersey. But the other two projects, we did ourselves, and again, without raising taxes.

In 2013 there were new basketball courts and children’s playground that have been added to Maple Grange Park. Also the stations along the walking path have been completed.

The DPW’s electrical system was repaired, the generator was repaired, and we started the roof repair, Mayor Marotta added, which will be completed after the winter.

The Mayor reviewed the 6 year plan to repair and improve our roads, completing the Evergreen section of Sussex Hills, Pleasant Valley Lake and Cliffwood Lake in 2013. This plan is available for the public to review at any time. For the first time in almost a decade, the Township has had a plan, funded it and put it into effect.

Mayor Marotta spoke about applying for the New Jersey Department of Transportation grant, Phase I for the repair of Breakneck Road and also for the Lake Wallkill Road. We have also recently applied for a Federal Wildlife grant as we have become aware that Lake Wallkill Road is adjacent to the Wildlife Reserve, which qualifies it for Federal funding to repair the road.

Police Chief Roy Wherry retired near the end of October 2013, which led to a complete reorganization of the command staff of the Vernon Police Department. Our new Chief is Randy Mills, formerly Lieutenant Randy Mills, our Captain is formerly Lieutenant Steve Moran, our lieutenants are former Sergeant Brian Jernick and former Sergeant Dan Young. They form the core of an excellent management team of the Vernon Township Police Department. Several sergeant positions need to be filled at this time. In 2013 we appointed our first African American patrolman, our first Hispanic patrolman and the first female officer in over a decade. Mayor Marotta explained how the demographics of the community have changed. The Mayor also spoke regarding the acquisition of all wheel drive vehicles and the vehicles that will be needed in the near future.

Mayor Marotta spoke about the need for certain equipment in our Road Department. A 1993 pumper was put up for auction, and the bid received was so low that the Township decided instead to donate it to a training academy and put it to good use for training firemen.

Regarding the Lake Conway Dam, after thoroughly tracing back the original ownership, it was concluded that the Township owned the dam from day one. Mr. Kelly resolved the situation, and we are now in compliance already, thanks to the Township Engineer, Cory Stoner.

The Council granted non-exclusive rights to go through our Township to Fiber-Optics. The future will be digital and will be a long term benefit to the Township.

Mayor Marotta stated that we continue to sell in-rem property. As we have put the property onto the tax rolls, we don’t have to take money from the Township to pay.

The Mayor spoke about recommending zoning changes as we look to the future which will be changes to the Township Code. A decision should be made in 2014 regarding a pilot bond program for Mt. Creek. Mr. Marotta spoke about the EDU system and the billing for water. Mayor Marotta asked the Council to set aside time at a future meeting to see a presentation by United Water.

In 2014 the taxes are being kept stable and we have been able to maintain a stable tax rate which will attract businesses.

Mayor Marotta thanked the Council and said it was a pleasure working with them and he looks forward to a very successful year in 2014. The Council thanked him and also thanked him for his due diligence.

Resolutions Requiring Separate Action

Council President read through the resolutions on the agenda. Council Member Murphy asked if Resolution #14-35 could be separated out from the rest of the resolutions to which Council President Lynch agreed. Council President Lynch asked for a motion to approve Resolutions #14-36, 14-37, 14-38, 14-39 and 14-40.

Moved: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dick Wetzel

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: None
Abstain: Brian Lynch - from Resolution #14-36 only.
Resolutions #14-36, #14-37, #14-38, #14-39 and #14-40 were approved.

Resolution #14-36: Volunteer Fire Department Junior Membership

BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey, that all documentation is in order and the following junior fire department membership approval is hereby granted for Christopher George Ross, Vernon Township Fire Department (McAfee Fire Department).

Resolution #14-37: Authorizing Application and Execution of the “2014 Distracted Driving Crackdown” Grant Administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Police Department wishes to apply for funding from the National Highway Safety Administration “2014 Distracted Driving Crackdown” Grant; and

WHEREAS, the grant project consists of an enforcement overtime campaign from April 1 through April 21, 2014 to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, to offer deterrence through visible enforcement, and to issue summonses for relevant motor vehicle violations; and

WHEREAS, April is National Distracted Driver Month, which is a time to remind New Jersey motorists of the state’s distracted driving laws, which includes a ban on hand-held cell phone use and text messaging by all drivers and a ban on all cell phone use (hand held or hands free) by novice drivers; and

WHEREAS, participating departments will incur all costs and then submit the necessary documentation to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety for reimbursement up to a maximum of $5,000.00.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the Township of Vernon, hereby authorizes the submission of the application to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety for participation in the “2014 Distracted Driving Crackdown” Grant to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, that the Mayor, CFO and Township Clerk are hereby authorized to execute and sign any and all documents in order to effectuate the receipt of the Grant monies between the Township of Vernon and the Division of Highway Traffic Safety for the “2014 Distracted Driving Crackdown” Grant.

Resolution #14-38: Authorizing the Award of Contract for Professional Services

WHEREAS, there is a need for Professional Services to the Township of Vernon for updating the tax and zoning maps for the term January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014; and

WHEREAS, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-5 specifically exempts professional services from provisions of public bidding as provided in the Local Public Contracts Law; and

WHEREAS, said specified professional services are to be rendered or performed by a person or persons authorized by law to practice a recognized profession, and whose practice is regulated by law within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended; and

WHEREAS, the performance of said professional services requires knowledge of an advanced field of learning acquired by a prolonged formal course of specialized training and study as distinguished from general academic instruction or apprenticeship and training; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon is desirous to enter into an agreement with this professional as a fair and open contract pursuant to the provisions of the Local Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended; and

WHEREAS, the Chief Finance Officer has certified in writing that the value of this contract is available for these purposes subject to the adoption of the 2014 Municipal Budget; and

WHEREAS, the Local Public Contracts Law N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended, requires that this Resolution be publicly advertised.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon that they hereby authorize and approve the award of contract to VS Land Data, Inc. for the term January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 pursuant to a non-fair and open contract pursuant to the provisions of the Local Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A.-1 et seq. to update the Vernon Township tax and zoning maps.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the award of contract shall be contingent upon the completion and receipt of the following:

  1. A fully-executed professional services contract detailing the scope of services, established fees for said professional services, mandatory Equal Opportunity Language and Affirmative Action Certificate; and
  2. Receipt of all statutorily mandated “pay to play” political contribution forms pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.4 et seq.; and
  3. New Jersey Business Registration Certificate; and
  4. Upon the aforementioned professional being a member in good standing in his respective profession.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Mayor and Municipal Clerk are hereby authorized and directed to execute, seal and deliver the attached Contract for Professional Services on behalf of and in the name of the Township of Vernon and that the Municipal Clerk shall publish the award of contract as required by law with ten (10) days of passage of this Resolution.

Resolution #14-39: Authorizing the Award of Contract for Professional Services

WHEREAS, there is a need for Professional Services to the Township of Vernon for Tax Appeal, Appraisal and Consulting Services for the term January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014; and

WHEREAS, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-5 specifically exempts professional services from provisions of public bidding as provided in the Local Public Contracts Law; and

WHEREAS, said specified professional services are to be rendered or performed by a person or persons authorized by law to practice a recognized profession, and whose practice is regulated by law within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended; and

WHEREAS, the performance of said professional services requires knowledge of an advanced field of learning acquired by a prolonged formal course of specialized training and study as distinguished from general academic instruction or apprenticeship and training; and

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon is desirous to enter into an agreement with this professional as a fair and open contract pursuant to the provisions of the Local Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended; and

WHEREAS, the Chief Finance Officer has certified in writing that the value of this contract is available for these purposes subject to the adoption of the 2014 Municipal Budget; and

WHEREAS, the Local Public Contracts Law N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et seq., as amended, requires that this Resolution be publicly advertised.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon that they hereby authorize and approve the award of contract to Holzhauer & Holenstein, LLC, for the term January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 pursuant to a non-fair and open contract pursuant to the provisions of the Local Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A.-1 et seq. to provide Tax Appeal, Appraisal and Consulting Services in accordance with the attached contract for Professional Services.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the award of contract shall be contingent upon the completion and receipt of the following:

  1. A fully-executed professional services contract detailing the scope of services, established fees for said professional services, mandatory Equal Opportunity Language and Affirmative Action Certificate; and
  2. Receipt of all statutorily mandated “pay to play” political contribution forms pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.4 et seq.; and
  3. New Jersey Business Registration Certificate; and
  4. Upon the aforementioned professional being a member in good standing in his respective profession.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Mayor and Municipal Clerk are hereby authorized and directed to execute, seal and deliver the attached Contract for Professional Services on behalf of and in the name of the Township of Vernon and that the Municipal Clerk shall publish the award of contract as required by law with ten (10) days of passage of this Resolution.

Resolution #14-40: Transfer Resolution—Fund Balance Transfer

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon Municipal Budget requires certain modifications to cover potential expenses that may occur in excess of the original budget...

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon that the following Transfer of Appropriations (2013 Municipal Budget) in accordance with N.J.S.A 40A-58/59 and hereby approved.

FROM: TO: 
Current Budget: Current Budget: 
Group Insurance—OE$15,000.00Legal Services—OE$8,000.00
  Engineering Services—OE$7,000.00
    
Total Current Budget Transfers$15,000.00Total Current Budget Transfers$15,000.00

Council President Lynch and asked for a motion to approved Resolution #14-35.

Moved: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dick Wetzel

Council Member Murphy questioned the Business Administrator’s hours, his availability to fill in for the Mayor in his absence, and said that it should have been presented at the time of his appointment as Business Administrator. The Mayor said Mr. Zuckerman is full time at four days a week, 9 hours a day, and would be present if appointed as Acting Mayor in the Mayor’s absence.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: Jean Murphy
Resolution #14-35 was approved.

Resolution #14-35: Residency Requirement

WHEREAS, the Council of the Township of Vernon appointed William Zuckerman as Business Administrator at the January 1, 2014 Reorganization Meeting and

WHERES, the Township Code and N.J.S.A. 40:69A-44 calls for the Business Administrator to be a resident of the Township and

WHERES, the Township Council may approve residency outside of the Township.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Township Council that William Zuckerman may have residency outside of the Township during his tenure as Business Administrator.

First Reading on Proposed Ordinances

Council President Lynch read Ordinance #14-02 by title only.

Ordinance #14-02: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon in the County of Sussex, New Jersey Authorizing the Purchase of Various Equipment and Repairs in, by and for the Township Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:56-1 and Appropriating Therefore the Sum of $20,000.00 and Providing that Such Sum So Appropriated Shall Be Raised from the Capital Improvement Fund of the Township

Council Member Dick Wetzel made a motion to approve Ordinance #14-02 upon introduction, seconded by Council Member Patrick Rizzuto.

The Council discussed the ordinance and Council President Lynch explained the effectiveness of this purchase. Mayor Marotta explained how the police officers can do their job more efficiently with this instant information provided by E-Tickets.

Council Member Kadish questioned the word “down-payment,” Council President Lynch stated that tickets are not funded out of the ordinance. Mayor Marotta said the cost per ticket is an operating expense and should not be in the Capital Ordinance.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: None
Ordinance #14-02 was approved as introduced. Public Hearing to be scheduled for March 24, 2014.

Appointments

Environmental Commission

Mayor Marotta asked the Council to approve this appointment of Cathy McCartney to the Environmental Commission. Council President Lynch asked for a motion to appoint Cathy McCartney for a two year term expiring Dec. 31, 2016.

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

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

Municipal Utilities Authority

Mayor Marotta asked the Council to approve this re-appointment of Barbara Chorzepa to the Municipal Utilities Authority for a five (5) year term expiring February 10, 2019. Council President Lynch asked for a motion to re-appoint Ms. Chorzepa.

Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dick Wetzel

The Council thanked Ms. Chorzepa for her service.

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

Council Business

Council Member Murphy questioned the $60,000.00 in the line item of Resolution #14-12 for litigation—in the budget, it is listed in the line items. Ms. Murphy stated in prior years smaller amounts were budgeted. Ms. Murphy felt it was wrong for that to be in Resolution #14-12 and added she felt they did not vote on it.

Council Member Murphy questioned the budget regarding employee bonuses and asked where it is paid from, Mayor Marotta responded that they are paid out of funds that are available out of salary and wages. Ms. Murphy asked if there are bonuses in the budget for 2014, Mayor Marotta answered that it depends on what the Council approves. Ms. Murphy stated she would like to see it broken out in the budget.

Ms. Murphy also questioned the phrase “action will be taken” on work session agendas, she feels it should not be on the agenda if the Township Attorney is not there.

Council Member Murphy would like an explanation on the web site for the start times of the Council meetings for the public.

Council Member Kadish asked for a correction, stating that you can’t use his farm as an example of the development rights.

Council Member Rizzuto thanked Mayor Marotta for his very thorough and detailed synopsis regarding the Township and is looking forward to working with him next year and to see if things can be better in 2014. Council Member Rizzuto spoke about the disconcerting comments that were made tonight.

Council Member Wetzel complimented the Department of Public Works for the excellent job with snow removal. Mr. Wetzel also complimented Mayor Marotta and his staff for a very positive State of the Township report. Council Member Wetzel commented that he hopes the people that live along the dog park will be happy with more trees being planted.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the Regular Meeting agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council Member Patrick Rizzuto. Motion seconded by Council Member Dan Kadish with all members voting in favor.

The Regular Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrea Bates,
Deputy Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 28, 2014