Minutes: January 10, 2022 (R)

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This meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 6:30 p.m. on January 10, 2022 via Zoom Webinar and in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Patrick Rizzuto presiding.

STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE

Adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on January 6, 2022 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.

SALUTE TO THE FLAG

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

ROLL CALL

Present were Council Members Natalie Buccieri, Michael Furrey, Brian Lynch, Harry Shortway and Council President Patrick Rizzuto. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker, Municipal Clerk Marcy Gianattasio and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski.

SALUTE TO THE FLAG

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

Council Member Lynch asked everyone to stand and have a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives in the fires in the Bronx as well as in Philadelphia in the last week.

SWEARING IN COUNCIL MEMBER BRIAN LYNCH

SWEARING IN COUNCIL MEMBER NATALIE BUCCIERI

SWEARING IN COUNCIL MEMBER PATRICK RIZZUTO

Municipal Clerk Marcy Gianattasio administered the Oath of Office to Council Member's Lynch, Buccieri and Rizzuto.

INCOMING COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS

Council Member Buccieri thanked her family and community for all of their support during her campaign for council. She is truly honored to represent her community and she appreciates everyone who supported her. Council Member Buccieri explained that her goal is to work with the Council, Mayor and administration for the best of Vernon. She asked for patience because she will have a lot of questions but collecting data is very important. She looks forward to a good future for our township.

Council Member Lynch thanked everyone who is here tonight and everyone who supported him and the people who didn't support him, he is here for them as well. He thanked Council President Rizzuto for running with him and having a decent campaign.

INCOMING COUNCIL PRESIDENT COMMENTS

Council President Rizzuto commented saying, I would like to thank the residents of Vernon for expressing their most welcome support for me in our recent election. As a resident of Vernon since 1968 I have yet to see voters make a statement with such clarity as I have in this current election. With a plurality of almost 1000 votes between myself and the closest incumbent I believe the community has tasked us with a clear challenge, to restore trust in our government and a greater respect for the limited financial resources that are entrusted to us.

So many people have come to me, in church, while shopping or having some coffee at the Bean and expressed their appreciation and good wishes in addressing the issues that we will face in the weeks and months ahead. My comment to them has been to reassure them that will continue to do what we think is best for Vernon and its residents. Understandably we will not all think the same on many issues and as Council president I will try to encourage open debate as we arrive at what we were elected to do; make decisions. On those occasions where an issue engenders significant public interest, I will try involve the public in a more active dialog so as to gain greater insight and community involvement. With this dialog comes a greater individual responsibility, to personally avail yourself of the process and to critically evaluate what is being proposed and if it benefits the township and its residents.

Let us try and address these problems that seen to haunt us: Rising taxes and rising spending at an alarming rate for amenities that seem unavailable and unnecessary to so many of our fellow residents. Is it possible to reduce appropriations to a level where we may have no increase in our municipal tax? I don't know but perhaps this is a goal we should set.

Let us try to put to rest the clamor over acquisition and recreation projects and allow us to move forward. Hasty and questionable decisions on land acquisition, construction schedules and incomplete project reviews continually raise questions which gives rise to more doubt and questions from the public. These questions and many more will have to be addressed and patience will be required as we work towards a brighter future.

I thank you again for your kind support and would like wish all of you a very Happy, Healthy, Blessed New Years. May 2022 bring fulfillment to your dreams, health to your family and unity to our country.

MAYOR COMMENTS

Mr. Council President and other Council Members, at the beginning of this new year, I believe that it's appropriate for me to use my comments to provide you and the public a summary of my perspective of the work done by the Mayor and Council team through this past year.

The year 2021 ended the second year of my service in one of the most meaningful and rewarding civic positions in which I have served during these 42 plus years that Reba and I, and our family, have lived in this town that we feel so fortunate to call home.

These past two years have for sure presented me with some challenges; however, the fact that there have been challenges has not at all been a surprise to me - - for being Mayor of a municipality, be it a municipality that's large or small, has always had its challenges.

And, at the current time in our nation's history, those challenges have become even more intense, more bitter, and more personal due in great part to:

1. The fact that a large and growing number of individuals have chosen to use the internet in general, and their Facebook accounts in particular, for less that positive purposes; and ...

2. The fact that at this critical time in our nation's history, we Americans find ourselves deeply divided, not only at the municipality level, but also at the county, state, and national levels on a host of issues.

Over these past two years, the key challenges that have consumed the overwhelming amount of my attention and effort have been related to my close work with my municipal governing partners - - those being the two outstanding groups of Council members - - on the following four key challenges:

ONE: On effectively and efficiently dealing with and adjusting to the potentially harmful and operational restricting conditions caused by the never before experienced COVID-19 virus.

TWO: On our joint efforts to make our town an even better town in which to live and raise a family;

THREE: On our joint efforts to move forward with investments that will lead to developing and improving the infrastructure of our Town Center, so as to improve our town's potential to be better off economically, both in the near term and in the future; and ...

FOUR: On our joint efforts to have our town viewed by commercial interests as a good place to locate and prosper.

And in spite of the challenges faced during these past two years, our municipal government has been able to make significant progress, due totally to the fact that I have had the good fortune of being able to work with a good, mostly cohesive, and positive thinking Council who has been able to put personal and personality-based disputes aside, in the best interest of moving our town forward.

Anyone who is familiar with the somewhat embarrassing political history of our town, know that having governmental officials to put personal and personality-based disputes aside in the best interest of the town, has not been an easy or simple thing to accomplish in Vernon.

But over these last two years we have done just that!

KEY CHALLENGE # 1: Finding a way to effectively and efficiently deal with and adjust to the potentially harmful and operational restricting conditions caused by the never before experienced COVID-19 virus.

Our progress in effectively and efficiently dealing with and adjusting to the challenges forced upon us by the COVID-19 virus, has been reflected in part in the Mayor and Council's awareness of, and focus on, the need to ensure that our municipality does what it can to keep our residents safe from this predatory virus, especially when they are receiving municipal provided services.

This has included our purchase the equipment, plus supplies of CDC approved sanitizers, that has enabled us to routinely and effectively/efficiently disinfect the Municipal Center; disinfect our parks and playground equipment; plus disinfect our law enforcement, DPW and first responder's equipment and vehicles on a required basis.

For the safety of our residents and our Municipal Center employees, we have installed clear protective acrylic barriers at those municipal service counters where the public must interact with a municipal employee.

And, we have installed an Ultra-Violet Cleaning Lights system in the Municipal Center's HVAC system so as to reduce the likelihood that our HVAC system will expose either visitors to the Municipal Center, or employees who work in the Municipal Center, to the COVID-19 virus.

In addition, we check all municipal employees' temperatures daily in the mornings; we require that masks be worn in all public spaces within the Municipal Center; and we provide free masks for all who enter the Municipal Center without a mask.

The preventative actions and safety practices that we in Vernon Township have taken, and continue to take, have resulted in far fewer COVID - 19 cases in our town than what was projected by either the Sussex County or State of New Jersey Departments of Health - - for example, while we are 17% of the county's population, through 2021, we have accounted for just 14% of the county's COVID - 19 cases.

KEY CHALLENGE # 2: The Mayor and Council's efforts to make our town an even better town in which to live and raise a family.

The success of the Mayor and Council's efforts to make our town an even better town in which to live and raise a family, have been reflected in great part in the very positive feedback received from the large and wide-ranging host of Vernon families who have eagerly participated in municipal events such as:

1. Vernon's National Night Out. This event was simply outstanding, and served as one more reminder that we live in a great town!

2. This year's Municipal Holiday Tree Lighting. The crowd, which most have said was the largest that they can ever remembering seeing at a Municipal Holiday Tree Lighting event, was awesome; and the event was full of fun filled activities!

3. And Vernon's hosting of a toy drive stop for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Operation Toy Train program. The leader of the Marine Corps Reserve contingent repeatedly commented on how Vernon had made its stop more than just a stop where individuals simple provided toys that were loaded on the train, but a stop that was a welcoming, patriotic and holiday themed civic, family, and community event.

This year, Vernon was even recognized at the State level as being a good place to live and raise a family. That recognition came in the form of Vernon being one of just three of New Jersey's 565 municipalities to be selected and invited to discuss its Mayor's Wellness Campaign initiatives at this year's New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City.

KEY CHALLENGE # 3: The Mayor and Council's joint efforts to move forward with investments that will lead to developing and improving the infrastructure of our Town Center, so as to improve our town's potential to be better off economically, both in the near term and in the future.

The Mayor and Council have made significant progress in starting the process of making the long overdue investments in developing and improving the infrastructure of our Town Center.

This action is critically important to improving our town's potential to be better off economically, both in the near term and in the future.

We are in the process of implementing a plan of action to use the 2.2 M$ obtained in Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to expand the availability of water service in our town.

At the present time, Vernon does not have the sufficient water infrastructure needed to fully develop its Town Center - - our Town Center currently relies on a limited amount of water from the Suez Water Company, and a host of private wells.

We need a better and more extensive water supply capability in order to achieve our town's economic development objectives of increasing our commercial tax base, creating jobs, and stimulating our town's economy by encouraging new business activity and/or expanding existing business activity.

We are in the process of adding two special amenities, a Town Center Walking & Biking Trail and a Bicycle Pump Track, that will serve as magnets to attract a host of existing and new individuals to our Town Center.

The documented positive civic and commercial results of these types of amenities in other municipalities like Vernon throughout our nation, provides us with firm, logical reasons to believe that enterprising business owners will view these host of individuals as potential new customers; and, these potentially new customers will be a motivation to these enterprising business owners to develop new businesses in our Town Center.

The Mayor and Council's actions have been motivated by our understanding of the simple fact that we need this type of Town Center commercial development in order to provide more municipal tax dollars to help or homeowners share the cost of an effective and efficient municipal government; and to provide our residents the additional services and convivences that they want and need.

IMPROVING OUR TOWN's POTENTIAL TO BE BETTER OFF ECONOMICALLY, BOTH IN THE NEAR TERM AND IN THE FUTURE!

KEY CHALLENGE # 4: The Mayor and Council's joint efforts to have our town viewed by commercial interests as a good place to locate and prosper.

As part of the Mayor and Council's objective to have our town viewed by commercial interests as a good place to locate and prosper, we first made some significant staff changes to our Municipal Building Department - - a department with a performance factor that's not only critical to our residents, but also to those commercial interests who are considering our town as a possible location.

The actions that the Mayor and Council have taken has generated significant improvement in our Building Department.

While I don't yet have the final performance results for all of 2021, through the first half of last year, our Building Department had already conducted 3488 inspections, or 75% as many inspections as they did during all of 2020; they had also issued 1130 permits, or almost as many as the 1913 permits that they issued during all of 2020.

And, because the combination of implemented management efficiencies, along with the increased funds received by the town from the increased number of inspections and permits, will cover the cost of the Building Department's salaries and operating expenses for 2021, the town was able to offer the necessary and valuable Building Department services to the public at no cost to the taxpayers.

Another key and critical action that we took towards achieving the objective of having our town viewed by commercial interests as a good place to locate and prosper, was to continue the sound financial management practices that had been started under former Mayor Shortway's leadership.

The success of these actions have been reflected in the Credit Reports that our town has received over the past two years from Moody's Investors Service, the world-renowned company that ranks the creditworthiness of organizations that borrow money through bonding.

In 2020, Moody's awarded Vernon Township the bond rating of Aa3, the rating that Moody's awards to organizations that are, and I quote from their rating guide, "Rated as high quality and very low credit risk".

In Moody's press release concerning Vernon's 2020 bond rating, they stated, and again I quote, "The negative outlook for Vernon has been removed".

In Moody's 2021 evaluation of Vernon Township's financial operations, they reconfirmed the strong Aa3 bond rating that they gave in 2020, and awarded Vernon two additional specific new AAA ratings - -which are the highest ratings given - - in two key financial categories.

Those categories were:

1. The excellent manner in which Vernon has managed and maintained a sufficient Fund Balance for 2021 - - that is, the amount of funds that the town maintains in its savings account to cover the costs of those unforeseen, unknown and unknowable expenses that pop up from time to time; and ...

2. The excellent manner in which Vernon has managed and maintained a sufficient Cash Balance for 2021 - - that is, the amount of cash that the town maintains on hand to pay its normal operating costs without having to take funds from its savings account.

In addition, the Mayor and Council's plans to build both, the Town Center Bicycle Pump Track and the Town Center Walking and Biking Trail, were cited by Moody's as positive considerations in the very good credit rating that they gave Vernon for 2021.

Quoting from Moody's June 24, 2021 Credit Opinion on Vernon, Moody's stated "To improve the attractiveness of the area, the township is working on a town center project which will add new amenities in the community such as a walking trail, and a biking pump track".

Commercial enterprises took notice of this greatly improved business environment in Vernon.

This improved environment was reflected in the strong demonstration of confidence in our town and in its future, by the time, the effort and the money that several commercial enterprises have invested in our town; for example:

1. In the opening of a new Skylands Medical Group Urgent Care facility. Skylands Medical is an independent primary-care based multi-specialty medical group with locations in other municipalities in Sussex, Warren, and Morris counties. They opened their initial office in Vernon in October; and, because that office has been so successful, they now plan to expand the footprint and the level and variety of the services that they offer in Vernon. To accomplish this expansion, the Skylands Medical Group has purchased the former Highlands State Bank Building in Vernon's Town Center, and are in the process of making the needed renovations to adapt this building for the expanded services they will provide.

2. This improved environment is also reflected in the opening of two new Beauty Boutiques; a new Vintage Record Store; a new outstanding Deli; a new creative Insurance Agency; a specialty carpet store; and a community based Applied Behavior Analysis Center that works with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as other behavioral disorders;

3. This improved environment is reflected in the complete renovation, the significant enhancement, and the renaming and rebranding of a historic town located bed and breakfast. The former Apple Valley Inn / is now the dynamic Fox & Bear Lodge!

4. This improved environment is also reflected in the reopening of one of the Town Center's favorite and iconic restaurants, the Mixing Bowl; in the rebranding and reopening a health fitness facility; and the major renovation and updating of our town's laundromat;

5. This improved environment is reflected in the final stages of the completion of a significant exterior and interior renovation of a building in the heart of our Town Center District that has remained unused for 11 years. This is a key commercial project which will not only greatly enhance the appearance of our Town Center District, but will also house a leading New Jersey Real Estate Company that provides both commercial and residential real estate services;

6. This improved environment is reflected in the plans by a national brand name firm to completely rehabilitate and update a Town Center strip mall property, that has been vacant for at least five years, and in their plans to add needed second story rental housing, a convenience store, plus electric and gas fueling stations; and lastly ...

7. This improved environment is reflected in the plans by a Vernon Township resident to build a state of the art, attractive car wash in our Town Center.

As I move into this third-year of service in one of the most meaningful and rewarding civic positions in which I have served, I do so with both optimism and the courage and willingness to do everything that I can to ensure that the progress that we have started over these last two years will continue.

Two of my civic and political mentors and heroes, are the 35th President of the United States, the honorable John Fitzgerald Kennedy; and the great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Among the many reasons for my fondness for these two outstanding Americans are the optimistic and visionary nature of their words and actions.

President Kennedy said, "Once you say you're going to settle for second best, that's what happens to you in your life." As Mayor, I only control half of our municipal government - - the other half is controlled by the Council. However, you have my commitment that as long as I am your Mayor, I will do everything that I can to ensure that Vernon does not go backwards, or embrace second best ideas; Vernon deserves the best!

My other hero, Dr. King said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy". I again commit to you, that as long as I am your Mayor, I will not shrink from either challenges or controversy; I will do everything that I can, to continue the progress that we have made in Moving Vernon Forward!

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the meeting to public comments.
MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Brian Lynch
All members present voted in favor.

Zoe Heath - Vernon Township, welcomed the new Council. Commented on resolution #22-01, she feels that having hybrid meetings is good for people who cannot be at the meetings in person but she suggested that the guidelines for not reading emails out loud at the meetings should be clearer.

Craig Williams - Glenwood, spoke on behalf of the Green Way Action Advisory Committee saying the committee was not a tax burden to the residents and has been a positive force trying to piece together health endeavors in terms of walking and bike paths. If the GAAC has a future the focus will be to find outside funding for continuing ideas.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township, supports resolution #22-01 saying that she is in favor of reading of emails being optional and by acclamation. She feels that we should never have a circus again like the on November 22, 2021 where emails were read by non-residents regarding the pump track.

Ms. Paladini is concerned with some of the appointments on the agenda because she feels that they are not lawful. She said she did not see any advertising for vacant positions as they are required to be. Ms. Paladini explained that is the Mayor's roll to be on the Land Use Board and she feels that he cannot give this roll to anyone else especially a private citizen. Ms. Paladini went on to explain some of the other Land Use Board appointments that she feels are lawless.

Email received: My name is Jacqueline Haley and I would like to comment on the benefits of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee. As you know, this committee was formed in 2016 for the purpose of advising the Mayor on matters related to sustainability, passive recreation, and general economics within the town. I have been serving on the Greenway Action Advisory Committee for the past year and I hope to continue my participation. One of the things I observed during the past year is that the committee members have a wealth of knowledge about Vernon and its existing amenities, based on years of dedication as volunteers. I cannot overstate how impressed I have been with the people involved with this committee. It would be such a shame to waste these volunteer resources. Economic development is triggered and sustained by numerous means. Vernon's beautiful open space and abundant recreation options are clearly a draw for new residents and visitors. Community appeal spurs further residential and commercial development, both in terms of providing a client base for businesses and in terms of attracting employees. Let's build on what we have!

Email received: My name is Robert Haley, from Highland Lakes. I am writing to comment on the benefits of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee, which advises the mayor on matters related to sustainability, passive recreation, and general economics within the town. I hope to serve on the Greenway Action Advisory Committee over the coming year. Vernon is truly a beautiful place, with all kinds of recreational amenities that so many residents like me enjoy. As a member of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee, I hope to help preserve and enhance the township's existing greenspace and passive recreation treasures. I also hope to assist in the "marketing" of these amenities both within the Town and to the outside world. As Vernon builds its reputation as a destination for open space and outdoor activities, surely new businesses will be attracted to provide stores, services and restaurants.

Email received: Susan Berkley, I'm new to Highland Lakes and excited to have an opportunity to be considered to serve on the Greenway Action Advisory Committee. Part of the draw for me and my husband to move here was the outdoor activities offered in this beautiful area - I would love to have an opportunity to help highlight this part of our community to those within and outside of the community as I believe this could help with economic growth here. The more people choose to spend time in and around Vernon and can easily find all of the great outdoor options available to them, the more demand there will be for products and services.

Email received: Michael Cheski, I have been appointed and served on the Vernon Township Greenway Action Advisory Committee (GAAC) since its inception in 2016. We have worked, discussed, researched and evaluated options to expand and complete township walking and cycling trails. Voters of Vernon Township have voted for this in a majority. Widely available research has proven the benefits for a town's economic development. I expect the town council to vote in majority to continue the GAAC. I hope they recall that we are a volunteer committee dedicating our time for the benefit and health of our fellow citizens. Please see and pass on the attached article, "Lake Hopatcong Regional Trails Plan Helps Communities Connect Healthy Living and Local Businesses," from the NY/NJ Trail Conference Fall 2021 newsletter as an example of local positive impact. I cannot attend this evening's meeting.

Email received: "I am Stephanie Blaine and I live in Glenwood. Ordinance 21-25 clearly states that 'eligible locations for facilities for cannabis retailers shall be no less than 2000 feet from any school, public park, public hall field, child care center, or the Vernon PAL facility'. I support such retail business in Vernon - make no mistake about that. I also believe strongly that it is not an undue burden on potential retailers to choose a site location within that distance constraint. Vernon is geographically large enough to accommodate such businesses and maintain that distance from these particular public places. Maintaining existing legislation as it is, does not hamper a business or any resident from easy access to such a business. I would oppose legislation, or legislation changes, which effectively shut out this type of business from our township; that would be contrary to what the majority of voters wanted - and inappropriate. Existing legislation does no such inappropriate thing, and does not make it difficult for any business owner to open a business of this sort here in Vernon. I therefore ask Council members to change nothing in Ordinance 21-25. Thank you."

Email received: Kevin Duffy, on behalf of Shannon Scully [1st Lieutenant], Michael Griffin [2nd Lieutenant], Robert Haley [Sergeant] and myself, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mayor Burrell, Township Administrators and Township Council on swearing in the operational leadership of Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Unfortunately, tonight is our mandatory yearly training on blood borne pathogens, PEOSHA Fit Testing and harassment in the work place. Because of this, we are all unable to attend tonight's township council meeting. As it has been, it's an honor to work alongside the township's leadership and council. I along with the rest of my team look forward to another great year! Thank you for entrusting us on continuing to provide service with a community focus and professional, compassionate, community care.

Email received: Climeen Wikoff, I am writing this email on behalf of Dan and Dani Segal of Healthy Thymes Market. I have known Dan and Dani since I moved into town 24 years ago and have been a customer of their store for many years. I appreciate the business services they provide as well as the efforts they have made on behalf of this community throughout the years they have lived and worked in town. I trust that they did their due diligence in finding a company, Shryne Group, that has the experience and expertise to competently run a safe and secure cannabis store or dispensary. If Vernon is going to have cannabis retailers in town, it would be preferable to have those shops run by reputable companies and helmed by members of our community who have the best interests of our town at heart.

Sean Clarkin - Vernon Township, feels that it is important for Vernon tax payers to send an email in to be read at public meetings. He also feels that nonresidents should not be attending meetings, unless they are on the agenda.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, feels that ordinance #21-25 should not be changed in any way because the town center is a commercial center and cannabis has been approved to be located only in our commercial center and to place a park in the middle of the town center is wrong. Ms. Distasi believes that the pump track should not be located in a business area.

Seeing no other members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.

MOTION: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey
All members present were in favor.

CONSENT AGENDA

Resolution #22-03: Reauthorizing Petty Cash Funds for Calendar Year 2022

Resolution #22-04: Adoption of the 2022 Temporary Municipal Budget

Resolution #22-08: Authorizing the Award of a Required Disclosure Contract with "Spatial Data Logic" for Permitting/Licensing Software

Resolution #22-09: Resolution Authorizing the Township of Vernon to Participate in Opioid Litigation Settlements

Resolution #22-10: Authorizing the Award of a Contract for 2022 Between A & E Clothing and the Township of Vernon to Locate Clothing Donation Bins at Municipal Recycling Center

Resolution #22-11: Resolution of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing the Execution of Sourcewell National Cooperative Contract #030321-KON with Konica Minolta Document Solutions for the Rental of Multifunctional Copier Systems

Resolution #22-12: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Proposed Improvements of Guide Rails on Barrett Road and Glenwood Mountain Road with Road Safety Systems, LLC

Resolution #22-13: Appointment of Special Police Officers

Class 2 - Scott Waleck, Roy Wherry
Class 1 - Jim Vette, Mike Sauer, Doug Vince

Resolution #22-14: Authorizing the Municipal Tax Assessor and the Special Municipal Attorney to Defend the Township Before the Sussex County Board of Taxation for Tax Appeals

Resolution #22-15: Appointment of Public Agency Compliance Officer

Resolution #22-16: Appointing Business Administrator as ADA Coordinator

Resolution #22-17: Authorizing Signatures on Township Checks Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:5-16

Resolution #22-18: Resolution of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, and State of New Jersey Appointing Deputy Custodians of Records

Resolution #22-19: Authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement with Signature Information Solutions for "Inquiry Only" Access to Certain Tax Collectors Tax and/or Utility Records via Edmunds and Associates

Resolution #22-20: Authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement with Accurate Abstracts for "Inquiry Only" Access to Certain Tax Collectors Tax and/or Utility Records via Edmunds and Associates

Resolution #22-21: Authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement with Valtech Research for "Inquiry Only" Access to Certain Tax Collectors Tax and/or Utility Records via Edmunds and Associates

Resolution #22-22: Authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement with Action Title Research for "Inquiry Only" Access to Certain Tax Collectors Tax and/or Utility Records via Edmunds and Associates

Resolution #22-23: Authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement with Priority Search Services, LLC for "Inquiry Only" Access to Certain Tax Collectors Tax and/or Utility Records via Edmunds and Associates

Resolution #22-24: Resolution of the Township of Vernon Appointing an Alternate Municipal Prosecutor

Resolution #22-25: Resolution of the Township of Vernon Appointing a Municipal Prosecutor

Resolution #22-26: Resolution of the Township of Vernon Appointing a Substitute Municipal Court Judge for a Term of (3) Three Years

Resolution #22-27: Resolution of the Township of Vernon Appointing a Municipal Public Defender

Resolution #22-28: Resolution of the Township of Vernon Appointing an alternate Municipal Public Defender

Resolution #22-31: Continuation of the Economic Development Advisory Committee

Resolution #22-32: Granting Authority for Approval of Certain Purchases Through New Jersey State Contracts and/or Purchasing Cooperatives for 2022

Resolution #22-33: Designation of Official Newspaper for 2022

Resolution #22-34: Authorizing the Mayor and Municipal Clerk to Sign an Agreement with the County of Sussex for Nutrition Site Premises for Senior Citizens

Resolution #22-35: Authorizing the Award of Contract for Professional Services

  1. Township Labor Attorney - James L. Prusinowski of Trimboli & Prusinowski, LLC
  2. Special Township Attorney: Tax Appeals- Robert McBriar, Esq. of Schenk, Price, Smith & King, LLP
  3. Township Bond Counsel - Robert Beinfield, Esq. of the firm Hawkins Delafield & Wood, LLP
  4. Municipal Prosecutor -Alicia Ferrante, Esq.
  5. Township Auditor -Nisivoccia & Company, LLP
  6. Township Engineer - Cory Stoner of Harold E. Pellow & Associates
  7. Township Planner - Jessica Caldwell of J. Caldwell and Associates
  8. Public Defender - James D. Opfer, Jr.
  9. Township Financial Advisor - Phoenix Advisors, LLC
  10. Appraisal Services - Associated Appraisal Group, Inc.

Resolution #22-36: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Proposed Improvements of Guide Rails on Barrett Road and Glenwood Mountain Road with Riverview Paving, Inc.

Resolution #22-37: Authorizing Change Order #1 of Contract for Proposed Improvements of Guide Rails on Barrett Road and Glenwood Mountain Road with Denville Line Painting, Inc.

Resolution #22-38: Establishing Interest Rates for Delinquent Property Taxes and Assessments

Resolution #22-40: Resolution of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing the Hiring of an Internet Technology Support Company through the Competitive Contracting Process

Resolution #22-41: Transfer Resolution-Balance Transfers

Resolution #22-42: Resolution Authorizing a Memorandum of Understanding with U.A.W. Local No. 2326

Resolution #22-44: Designating Meeting Dates of the Township Council for the 2022 Calendar Year

Resolution #22-45: Resolution to Adopt a Cash Management Plan-2022

Resolution #22-46: Authorizing a Contract with Munidex to Maintain the Township's Vital Statistics Software for 2022

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to approve the consent agenda.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve the consent agenda.

Resolution #22-01: Resolution Establishing the Township of Vernon Policy for Hybrid Meetings of the Vernon Township Council

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to lay resolution #22-01 on the floor for discussion.
MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

Council Member Buccieri asked Township Attorney Zielinski if the State of New Jersey amended their guidelines or resolutions regarding receiving emails from the public.

Mr. Zielinski explained that the DCA recommends that the public have a means to participate either through video conferencing, telephone conferencing or emails. It is the discretion of the Council to allow emails to be read or not.

Council Member Buccieri feels that since we are able to be here in person and allow a Zoom option, this gives double the opportunity prior to Covid for the public to comment and this is enough for the public to participate.

Council Member Lynch is concerned about any email that comes in could be fraudulent or threatening. He feels we are giving the public plenty of opportunity to attend the meeting.

Council Member Furrey is uncomfortable with the fact that Covid is raging and we need to be cognizant of people's safety and welfare. He is concerned about reducing the restrictions especially not wearing masks. In terms of the emails, Council Member Furrey feels that it limits public participation. Tonight, people who could not be here were able to get their opinions heard through email in regards to the Greenway Action Committee. He feels that this resolution should be tabled until the pandemic is not raging.

Council Member Shortway asked is the Council could postpone this until we see a decline in Covid cases. Also, if we are going to change the three-minute speaking limit to five minutes, the ordinance needs to be amended.

Council Member Buccieri said that she trusts and respects the citizen's decision to wear a mask, socially distance or attend in person or not.

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to approve resolution #22-01.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Lynch, Rizzuto
NAYS: Furrey, Shortway
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve resolution #22-01

Resolution #22-02: Resolution for Council to Vote on Legal Representation

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to approve resolution #22-02

Council Member Lynch commented the mayor appoints the Township Attorney with the advice and consent of the Council.

Council Member Furrey said that the way he understands is that in this form of government, the Mayor appoints the Township Attorney. He feels that it is a slippery slope of not coming to an agreement between the Mayor and the Council. It is clearly the Mayor's appointment with advice and consent from the Council.

Council Member Lynch feels that the Council needs to work together and have discussions on why we have different opinions. He explained that coming in all he heard was no for no other reason except just to say no.

Council President Rizzuto commented saying that the essence of this type of government is that there is a working relationship that is established between the office of the Mayor and the Council. In this form of government, the Mayor has the right and authority to bring forth a very key appointment. The appointment of Township Attorney is a key appointment which is usually the first appointment on the agenda and once that name is brought forward, it then becomes the responsibility and duty of the Council to have its views made know. Council President Rizzuto explained that law says advise and consent. The law also makes a provision that if there is no consent on the part of the Council, there is a carry-over rule which allows the mayor to maintain that particular representation under the existing contract. Council President Rizzuto said the mayor has established his authority to bring forth that appointment and the Council established their right and responsibility to have a vote taken.

Council Member Shortway commented that it is clearly defined and everyone recognizes that the Mayor does not wish to change attorneys and we should all respect that. As far as comments, we all get to speak at the end of the meeting if you desire. He feels that Mr. Zielinski and his law firm have served Vernon Township quite well and have protected the taxpayers. Council Member Shortway said that the Mayor has no desire to have a different attorney so why put out a request for proposals.

Council Member Furrey said that he has 100% confidence in Josh Zielinski and his firm. Josh has done great things for the township.
MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Michael Furrey

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Lynch, Rizzuto
NAYS: Furrey, Shortway
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve resolution #22-02

Council Member Buccieri made a motion to circulate a request for proposals for legal services for Vernon Township to be handled by the Township Council.

Township Clerk Gianattasio will give the RFP to the Township qualified purchasing agent to handle.

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Rizzuto
NAYS: Shortway
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve the circulation of a request for proposals for legal services for Vernon Township to be handled by the Township Council

Resolution #22-05: Appointments to the Land Use Board

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

Council Member Buccieri asked since the Council received feedback from Ms. Paladini, would Mr. Zielinski explain the appointments.

Mr. Zielinski explained that under Municipal Land Use Law 40:55D-23 Class I--the mayor or the mayor's designee in the absence of the mayor or, in the case of the council-manager form of government pursuant to the Optional Municipal Charter Law, P.L.1950, c.210 (C.40:69A-1 et seq.) or "the municipal manager form of government law" (R.S.40:79-1 et seq.), the manager, if so provided by the aforesaid ordinance. Mr. Auberger will serve as the Mayor's designee in the absence of the Mayor. If the Mayor is present at the meeting, Mr. Auberger will not be there.

Class II--one of the officials of the municipality other than a member of the governing body, to be appointed by the mayor; provided that if there be an environmental commission, the member of the environmental commission who is also a member of the planning board as required by section 1 of P.L.1968, c.245 (C.40:56A-1), shall be deemed to be the Class II planning board member for purposes of this act in the event that there be among the Class IV or alternate members of the planning board both a member of the zoning board of adjustment and a member of the board of education.

Class III--a member of the governing body to be appointed by it.

Class IV--other citizens of the municipality, to be appointed by the mayor or, in the case of the council-manager form of government pursuant to the Optional Municipal Charter Law, P.L.1950, c.210 (C.40:69A-1 et seq.) or "the municipal manager form of government law" (R.S.40:79-1 et seq.), by the council, if so provided by the aforesaid ordinance.

Mr. Zielinski said that the code goes on to state that in different forms of government there are difference appointment schemes. He also noted that since he has been the Township Attorney, he did notice that not all provisions of Vernon's code have been updated since the change of government took place. This is one section of the code that he recommends that the Township Council revise so that it is consistent. Mr. Zielinski also noted that during public comment there was a comment that the code controls over the statute and this is not correct. The State Legislator controls not the township code.

The Council voted on the appointments separately:

1. John Auberger, Mayor's Designee
Class 1 1-year term expiring 12/31/2022

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Michael Furrey

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried for the above appointment

2. Brian Lynch, Council Member
Class III 1-year term expiring 12/31/2022

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried for the above appointment

Attorney Zielinski explained that according to the statute the members of Class IV shall hold no other municipal office, position or employment.

3. Willard McPeek
Class IV 4-year term expiring 12/31/2025

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried for the above appointment

4. Diane Wexler
Class IV 4-year term expiring 12/31/2025

MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

Council President Rizzuto questioned this appointment because Ms. Wexler currently serves on the Environmental Commission can she serve on the Land Use Board as a Class IV member.

Attorney Zielinski explained the state provides Class II--one of the officials of the municipality other than a member of the governing body, to be appointed by the mayor; provided that if there be an environmental commission, the member of the environmental commission who is also a member of the planning board as required by section 1 of P.L.1968, c.245 (C.40:56A-1), shall be deemed to be the Class II planning board member for purposes of this act in the event that there be among the Class IV or alternate members of the planning board both a member of the zoning board of adjustment and a member of the board of education. If there be a municipal environmental commission, the member of the environmental commission who is also a member of the planning board, as required by section 1 of P.L.1968, c.245 (C.40:56A-1), shall be a Class IV planning board member, unless there be among the Class IV or alternate members of the planning board both a member of the zoning board of adjustment or historic preservation commission and a member of the board of education, in which case the member common to the planning board and municipal environmental commission shall be deemed a Class II member of the planning board. Mr. Zielinski said if Ms. Wexler is presently on the Environmental Commission, she would have to resign from that seat to be a Class IV member of the Land Use Board. Mr. Zielinski went on to explain the state states, for the purpose of this section, membership on a municipal board or commission whose function is advisory in nature, and the establishment of which is discretionary and not required by statute, shall not be considered the holding of municipal office.

Council President Rizzuto asked if at this time the Mayor would like to withdraw this appointment.

Mayor Burrell said that he did plan to appoint Ms. Wexler as a member of the Environmental Commission and he does trust the reading of the statute, therefore he will withdraw this appointment and make another appointment in the future.

5. Kelly Mitchell
Alternate 1 2-year term expiring 12/31/2023

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried for the above appointment

6. Mark Vizzini
Alternate 4 2-year term expiring 12/31/2023

MOVED: Mike Furrey
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried for the above appointment

Resolution #22-06: Authorizing the Award of Contract for Professional Services for Qualified Purchasing Agent

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

Council President Rizzuto asked how we pay the QPA.

Administrator Voelker said he gets a flat fee of $7500.00.

Council President Rizzuto explained that he read in the contract that he will train one person in the municipality. He asked if that was training to become a QPA or another function.

Administrator Voelker explained that he trains all of our administrative department heads so that when we are seeking proposals, he trains them to get the proper proposals and that they are being entered into the record correctly when we go to make a determination.

Council President Rizzuto asked if a member of our own staff could be trained to qualify to be the QPA.

Administrator Voelker explained that with the QPA's knowledge he feels that we are getting an exceptional deal.

Council President Rizzuto asked if would not be advisable to have a senior member of our staff as the QPA so that we are not paying out $7500.00 a year.

Administrator Voelker said when he first came to Vernon an employee was getting a stipend of $15,000 as the QPA. We feel that this is a better deal. Administrator Voelker said there are a lot of legislation and laws that change. He said he is not opposed to training someone in the future.

Council Member Shortway commented that if we train an employee to be the QPA they may have to be moved to a higher position according to Civil Service.

Council Member Lynch is in favor of this resolution. He feels the difference in a professional QPA and an employee is a big difference.

Council Member Furrey commented that a QPA is very valuable and hard to find. They save the town a great deal of money. If you train an employee, you run the risk of them leaving to go to another place to work.

MOVED: Natalie Buccieri
SECOND: Brian Lynch

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve resolution #22-06

Resolution #22-07: Resolution of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing the Award of a Police Special Duty Scheduling and Processing Vendor Through the Competitive Contracting Process CC#11-2021

Council President Rizzuto asked if we have used this company before and what do we pay them.

Administrator Voelker said we have used them before and we do not pay them. They are paid by companies who are requesting police services.

Council Member Lynch is in favor of this resolution because he has family members who are police officers and companies like this make sure everything is being done correctly.

Council Member Furrey asked if they do traffic control.

Administered Voelker explained no, they are an agency who contract with the entity who is requesting and make arrangements with the police administration as to who gets assigned.

MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve resolution #22-07

Resolution #22-29: Continuation of the Beautification Committee

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

Council Member Lynch said that the Beautification Committee has done such a wonderful job in Vernon that they need special recognition. They make sure the town looks great and they need to hear from the Council what a great job they are doing.

Council President Rizzuto asked if their budget has been increased and he agrees with Council Member Lynch that they are doing a great job.

Council Member Furrey said even the business owners are noticing the great job the Beautification Committee does.

Council Member Rizzuto said maybe we can task a designee from the Beautification Committee to communicate with some of our service groups to discuss investing in some long-range ideas that can be funded over a period of time to add some lighting in the town especially during the holidays.

Mayor Burrell said he would love to put aside some money to make our town look even more beautiful. He feels that businesses would be happy to support this.

Mayor Burrell said perhaps the Council could appoint a liaison to the Beautification Committee.

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carried to approve resolution #22-29

Resolution #22-30: Continuation of the Greenway Action Advisory Committee

MOVED: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

Council Member Furrey explained that he was one of the original members of the GAAC that started in 2016 and that committee was extremely dedicated to building trails and bike paths. He firmly believes that this is for the betterment of the local economy and it has been proven that these local trail systems do a tremendous benefit to the community. The DOT is willing to give grants up to 1.5 million dollars for every linear mile of trail built. He encourages the Council to vote yes to this so the projects that have been started can get done.

Council Member Lynch asked how much grant money has been received through Sustainable NJ.

Council Member Furrey named some grants received through Sustainable NJ which he believes was $3000.00

Council Member Lynch asked how much is in the budget for the GAAC.

Council President Rizzuto believes is $500.00.

Council Member Shortway said that this does make us eligible for grants and he believes that a grant writer or someone who is trained to apply grants would be more effective. It gives us the sensibility to XXXXX money and also earns the sustainable points which we are now bronze. Council Member Shortway explained that this is also good advertising and marketing for the Township. Mr. Dan Kadish is the person who came up with the name for this committee.

Council Member Buccieri commented that she appreciates the time put in by the committee, Mr. Williams being present at this meeting and the emails that were received in reference to this committee but she does not support our township spending more funds to make trails. She has no problem with the committee pursuing grants and opportunities for funding if they can fully fund those pursuits. Council Member Buccieri thinks it is wonderful if a group of citizens want to pursue avenues of fully funded projects that do not fall on our taxpayers but she does not know if this is the goal of the GAAC.

Council Member Furrey explained that one of the problems the GAAC had was they could not act as an Open Space Committee which is the Township Council and we were not authorized to spend funds. We were instrumental in pointing the Council in the right direction and advising.

Council Member Buccieri said she does not want to support a committee if it tied our Council to providing funds. She asked if we approve this committee is there a tie that we are providing them funds because she does not feel that she support the GAAC if she was not going to support their endeavors.

Council Member Shortway suggested that they be kept an ad hoc committee and do not give them a budget to spend money.

Mayor Burrell said he supports this committee and he has not determined how much money would go into their budget. He believes last year it was $500.00.

Council President Rizzuto asked if the committee could authorize any of our professionals to do work.

Mayor Burrell said no they could not and he has not been asked to authorize any professionals for GAAC. He asked that Council supports this committee and during the budget process the Council could decide on their budget.

Council President Rizzuto is concerned that the interaction between this committee and professionals creates expenditures. He does not see the benefit of this committee.

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Furrey, Shortway
NAYS: Buccieri, Lynch, Rizzuto
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion does not carry to approve resolution #22-29

Resolution #22-43: Appointment to the Vernon Township Municipal Utility Authority

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

Council Member Shortway asked if this resolution could be tabled to vote on the appointments in separate resolutions.

Council Member Buccieri feels that we could vote on the appointments separately.

Council Member Shortway said he supports Mike Furrey for the MUA because of the numerous actions he has taken in the past such as, cutting operations by $300,000, connection fees cut in half, sewer rates stable for the past two years and he has the experience.

Council Member Lynch commented that it is confusing why someone would resign from something that they want to be in.

Council Member Furrey explained that he resigned that as the Chair of the MUA because of the time commitment. He considered coming back as an alternate because he could still be part of the MUA but would not have all of the requirements and less time commitment.

Council Member Shortway made a motion to table resolution #22-43. Seconded by Council Member Furrey.

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Furrey, Shortway
NAYS: Buccieri, Lynch, Rizzuto
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion does not carry to table resolution #22-43

A roll call vote was taken to approve resolution #22-43 AYES: Buccieri, Lynch, Rizzuto
NAYS: Furrey, Shortway
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carries to approve resolution #22-43.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR

Resolution #22-39: Appointment of Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Clark

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey

A roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Buccieri, Furrey, Lynch, Shortway, Rizzuto
NAYS:
ABSTAIN:
ABSENT:
Motion carries to approve resolution #22-39.

MAYORAL APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, AND COMMITTEES

Environmental Commission
Board of Recreation
Beautification Committee
Economic Development Advisory Committee
Greenway Action Advisory Committee

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to place this on the floor.
MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Michael Furrey

Mr. Council President and other Council members, I take this opportunity to, again, thank the host of volunteers who serve on municipal boards, committees and commissions. By them volunteering their thoughts, their ideas, their time and their efforts, they enable our town to provide our residents the types of services that we could never financially afford to provide without them; and, they contribute significantly to Vernon being an even better town in which to live and raise a family.

I never cease to be impressed, not only by the high degree of enthusiasm displayed by those who volunteer to help our town, but also by the talent, the experience and the training that so many of our volunteers bring with them to the positions in which they serve.

At this time, I am going to make appointments to four different committees, boards, and/or commissions. I reserve my right to make other appointments at a later date as appropriate.

My initial appointment is to fill the single vacancy that exists on the MUNICIPAL ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSION.

For the past 17 months, this position has been held by Ms. DIANE WEXLER.

When I appointed Ms. WEXLER to this Commission in August of 2021, she was but one of several outstanding individuals who submitted volunteer applications to serve on the Municipal Environmental Commission.

At that time, I chose to appoint Ms. WEXLER to this commission because of the significant amount of important experience that she would bring to this Commission. This experience included her previous service on this Commission during the 5-year period between 2011 through 2016, and her previous representation of this Commission as its liaison to the Municipal Land Use Board.

And because her leadership has more than lived up to my expectation, I hereby not only reappoint to this Commission for another 3-year term, but under my authority as Mayor, I also appoint her to serve as this Commission's Chairperson during that 3-year term.

My next appointments are to fill four vacancies on our MUNICIPAL BOARD of RECREATION, a board that has proven itself to be very effective in planning, organizing, directing, and coordinating well organized recreational activities for Vernon's families in general, and Vernon's youth in particular.

Three of those vacancies are due to the fact that positions on this Board that were held by Ms. STEPHANIE SCILINGO, Ms. CAROLYN CACACE, and Ms. DENISE URBANIAK have this year come to an end.

Because they have been such key parts of the Board of Recreation's success in our town, I hereby reappoint them to new 3-year terms on this important Board.

I also appoint three new volunteers who have stepped forward to use their time, their energy, and their efforts to ensure that we continue to have strong recreation programs in our community.

These three new members are Ms. EBONY ERICKSON, Ms. DENISE MORRELLO, and Ms. TAMMY PEEK.

My third appointments are to our MUNICIPAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE.

Under the dynamic and creative leadership of Ms. JENNIFER LUBLINER, along with key members Dr. NICHOLAS PIRRO and Ms. KEREN GONEN, this Committee did an outstanding job of encouraging, promoting, and assisting business growth and business retention in our town. And therefore, I gladly reappoint each of them to new terms on this Committee.

I add to this Committee Mr. ED DeYOUNG, who I am also pleased has agreed serve another year as the Mayor's Representative to the Board of Education and Town's Liaison Committee; and Ms. SUSAN BERKLEY, who will bring her 30 years of Marketing experience to the Committee.

My fourth and final appointments are to our town's outstanding MUNICIPAL BEAUTIFICATION COMMITTEE.

This is a committee that has received lots of praise, thanks, and other glowing words of appreciation from all segments of our town, as well as from those who live in other towns, but pass through our town.

Their beautiful plantings in the summer, spring and fall, and their outstanding holiday decorations in the winter - - which this year included snow men and a few joyful gnomes - - lifted our spirits, and caused our hearts to smile with pride at how good and welcoming our town looked.

So it is with pleasure that I bring this team back again for the year 2022.

I hereby reappoint the individual who has led this Committee so successfully during my two years as Mayor, Ms. MARY ELLEN VICHICONTI. I also reappoint the other creative team members who have worked diligently, side-by-side with her - - I speak of Ms. STEPHANIE SCILLINGO, Ms. REBA BURRELL, and Ms. KAREN GONEN.

This year, I add to this team Ms. JoANNE DUNAKIN.

RECOMMENDATION TO AMEND ORDINANCE #21-25

Dani and Dan Segal

MOVED: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri

All in favor to open the floor for this presentation.

Dan and Dani Segal of Health Thymes along with Patrizia Zita of the Shryne Group gave a presentation to the Council requesting to amend ordinance #21-25 an Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending and Supplementing Chapter 330 Entitled "Land Development" to Permit Retail Sales of Legalized Cannabis. Section 2, Part 1 of the ordinance reads, Eligible Locations: Facilities for Cannabis Retailers shall be no less than 2000 feet from any school, public park, public ball field, child care center, or the Vernon PAL facility. The Segal's business is not in compliance with this ordinance therefore they are asking the Township Council to consider amending ordinance #21-25 to accommodate their business so that they may move ahead with the proposed business proposition with the Shryne Group.

Many of you know us. We are a local family. We are Dan & Dani Segal. We have lived in the Highland Lakes, Vernon community for over 42 years. Our children excelled in the Vernon School system, and have gone on to become highly regarded professionals in their fields, as well as amazing parents themselves! Our son is Dr. Noah Segal and our daughter, Ilana, is a certified doula. Proudly, we now have 6 grandchildren!

We are in the "healthy living" business. Many of you have shopped at Healthy Thymes Market on Rt. 94 over the years. We are so honored that you have trusted us to assist in your well-being, as well as your children's and entire family's health! It truly is an honor that we take very seriously. We have proudly dedicated our adult lives to our passion of servicing our community's healthy lifestyle needs!

Furthering Dani's education to achieve her PhD in nutrition (specializing as a non-pharmaceutical & Holistic Practitioner), after donating a kidney to her sister, while raising 2 children AND owning a business was not easy, but we had a vision and felt it was imperative to achieve the trust in our local families and customers, and the goals we were committed to.

We chose to invest in our hometown, opening our business in 1989 - Healthy Thymes Market (originally Seed-N-Sprout) in Vernon for great reasons:

We love our community of Vernon and have a strong vision and passion to offer to our neighbors and the surrounding families the opportunity to have a market where they could get educated about the best healthy lifestyle choices, and trust the products sold to be of highest and purest quality for their families support, as well as offering safe products that honor not only our bodies, but also the environment and our Mother Earth.

We are passionate about giving back to our community and wanted to offer jobs and careers to our local community members, hiring local people that shared our commitment to safety and wellness. We realized that we would possibly offer an exciting career in the healing arts field to young people who chose to work at HTM, and that has happened with many of our former young employees going on to further their education in health, medicine, nutrition, as well as botanical healing!

We wanted to offer financial support to our fellow community members by paying our taxes to our hometown community - completely and on time. We strongly desire to see Vernon grow.

In being committed to our goals and our vision, we continue to educate ourselves, and the community - still very excited about raising the health & wellness bar for our home town, where we are so proud to say our children excelled.

We have proudly spent our adult lives involved in our community on many levels:

- Dani has presented healthy nutrition discussions at every grade level in the Vernon Schools, as well as the senior center and many other local venues, including the surrounding hospitals; we have participated in numerous civic organizations; as well as many local business organizations.

- Dan has served as chairman of the board at Highland Lakes, served on the Vernon Chamber of Commerce as VP, has organized and focused Earthfest on being more environmentally friendly and informative, started the Julia Schlesinger award, served on the Countryside Xchange, formed VIRA (Vernon Independent Retailers Association), served as EDAC chair, and as a member of the EDAC - Dan was responsible in developing and implementing the Shop Vernon Program, and he served on the sign ordinance committee in town.

As leaders and known "experts" in town, and as a minority and a woman owned company, we have worked hard to always keep our passion, commitment, vision and goals towards raising the health and wellness bar for each and every customer, for each and every community member in the forefront.

Especially during such difficult times as this pandemic.

At this time, we have an extremely unique opportunity.

Choosing to take the next step towards a brighter future for the families of Vernon, we have an amazing opportunity to partner with the Shryne Group in a cannabis dispensary license. We have had the hard task of helping many people get off their pain meds, to assist their healing from inflammatory challenges, PTSD, insomnia, depression and anxiety - using botanicals and lifestyle changes. These people are our local veterans, moms, fathers, seniors, school teachers, bus drivers, police, doctors, etc. These are our community people!

The Shryne partnership opportunity will allow the town of Vernon to realize great future financial support and security to build a beautiful town center, and to maintain the pump track and more!

Our Town has chosen to allow cannabis use and support groups that have partnered with locals with strong cannabis expertise. At the forefront of selecting local groups, we look to the group's cannabis operational success as well as the presence of a strong community development plan, creating a direct benefit to New Jersey residents.

On behalf of the Vernon Town Council, I would like to extend this letter of support to Shryne Group, Inc., or its Designee (hereinafter "Applicant") to operate a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility in Vernon, New Jersey. The proposed location for the facility is at 263-265 Route 94 Vernon, NJ 07462. We approve that this property is zoned properly for the use.

Our Town Council met with the owners and local partners of the Applicant earlier this month. We were incredibly impressed with the work the group has done in California from both an operational and community development perspective. We learned that the group is one of the largest operators in the California market. The group has chosen local strategic partners that we have had a very positive experience working with in the past. We are confident that the group will have a positive impact on the local and state cannabis market for consumers, the economy and the local community.

The Applicant showed us their large-scale operations in California, including 15 Retail Locations, 3 Cultivation, 3 Manufacturing and 3 Distribution Facilities. We are confident that the build out and operation of this type of facility will have a positive impact on our Town and the state of New Jersey.

The local partners have operated a vitamin shop in the town for 20 years. They have watched this town grow and have played an integral part in its community development over the years.

It is well understood and accepted by all in Vernon that our Town and the state of New Jersey are experiencing unprecedented economic instability due to the aftermath of the pandemic. We are assured that the operation of Applicant's cannabis businesses in our Town, especially by a group with proven success in another highly regulated market, will assist with the resurgence of our economy on a local and state-wide level.

We discussed the Applicant's environmental plan as well the group's community outreach work in other states to understand and assist in the development of their plan here in our town. We greatly appreciated the group being interested in tailoring its community development plan to the needs of our city and state.

In California, the group:

  • Is the largest vertically integrated operator in the California market, and also owns the #1 bestselling brand (sold in 90% of dispensaries)
  • Has 1,500 employees throughout the State and are unionized through the UFCW
  • 15 Retail Locations, 3 Cultivation, 3 Manufacturing and 3 Distribution Facilities
  • 70% of the employees are minority; 60% female
  • Founded by a military Veteran - Veteran owned and contributed over $700,000 in 2020 to veteran causes
  • Hire veterans through various veteran organizations
  • Have a workforce development program for employees which translates to college credits
  • Worked with the following groups to make meaningful positive impacts on the community: food banks, food drives, homeless support organization, support local police force, veteran organizations, water supply groups, PPE donations.

In New Jersey, the group will:

  • SGI is committed to donating a minimum of $175,000 annually, in addition to the local taxes, for the town to use in the development and upkeep of the following: to develop the town center including but not limited to:
    • Expand water infrastructure
    • Build a bicycle pump track
    • Develop a walking trail
    • Create approximately 20 jobs within the first year
    • Have a diverse workforce of minorities, women, veterans, and other social equity aspects
    • Work with a local soup kitchen/food bank as a sponsor and volunteer
    • Partner with schools for curriculum and scholarship opportunities
    • Participate in incubation and education of microbusiness licensees
    • Host a seminar open to the public to educate the public on how to seal/expunge their cannabis related charges eligible for expungement - participate in rehabilitation/re-entry programs
    • Donate and partner with veteran organizations
    • Incorporate and implement other aspects of their California community development program into their New Jersey community development program
    • Collaborate with our city council on a yearly basis on what is important to us

It is with great honor I provide this letter of support to fully endorse Shryne Group, Inc. or its Designee, for a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing license. I support this endeavor in the Town of Vernon.

PUBLIC COMMENT (Limited to 5 Minutes on Any Topic)

Council President Rizzuto asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
MOTION: Brian Lynch
SECOND: Natalie Buccieri
All members were in favor.

Zoe Heath - Hidden Valley Section, voted to decriminalize cannabis use. Feels that the ordinance could be worded differently so that Healthy Thymes can pursue an endeavor that would help the town.

Andrea Henley - Vernon Township, explained some of the benefits of cannabis and she supports the Segals and Healthy Thymes becoming a cannabis dispensary. Ms. Henley is against mask wearing in schools.

Joe Tadrick - Vernon Township, asked if the pump track is designated as a park and if so where is that designation listed.

Mayor Burrell feels that the pump track from a legal standpoint is designated as a park.

Attorney Zielinski gave an analysis of the pump track location saying it is not a municipal designated park. It is a public area available for the public to recreate in which meets the definition of a lower case "p" park. He explained that the ordinance does not specify "municipally dedicated park". If it is a publicly owned piece of property and people go there to recreate, it is considered a park. Mr. Zielinski also explained that Maple Grange Park is considered a municipal dedicated park.

Virginia Mendez - Highland Lakes, spoke on behalf of Dan and Dani Segal. She is in support of amending the ordinance.

Nick DuBois - Highland Lakes, is in support of Dan and Dani Segal and he is in support of amending the ordinance.

Ron Williams - Glenwood and owner of McAfee Hardware, is in support of Dan and Dani Segal. He is also in support of amending the ordinance.

Steve Dunlop - Williamsville Estates, commented on an easement that the Mayor was working on with the Mulvihill Group and an ordinance that was passed. An attorney for the Mulvihill Group indicated that the Mayor decided to move in a different direction and the easement was never given. Mr. Dunlop feels that the Mayor misrepresented himself when he said he was going to send out an RFP for the trail because he had already put the RFP out before he said he was going to. Mr. Dunlop feels that the Council needs to do an investigation of the Mayor's actions and take some course of action. He was surprised that the Township Attorney would allow the Mayor to put out an RFP for property that was not owned by the Township.

Richard Weaker - Vernon Township, feels that we need to work with a business that has been in Vernon for a long time and he is in favor of amending the ordinance.

Jessica Paladini - Vernon Township, is upset because she feels that this matter was not on the agenda tonight and this meeting was stacked in support of the Segals. Ms. Paladini feels that the Township Attorney was wrong about the Land Use Board appointments. Ms. Paladini commented that the GAAC did spend an outrages amount of money on professionals and services. She applauds the Council for getting rid of the GAAC.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, commented that everything that Steve Dunlop said is correct and she recommends that the Council look into this. Ms. Distasi feels that the previous Council land locked a business from being able to function as a business because they placed a park, that should be in our recreation area, in a business area. She is asking the Council to do something to accommodate this business to be able to continue. Ms. Distasi recommends that the Council right an exception for this business to be able to function.

Randolph Mowry - Vernon Township, is in support of amending the ordinance to accommodate Dan and Dani Segal.

George Nicoroph - Vernon Township, appreciates the hybrid meetings. He is in support of amending the Cannabis ordinance to accommodate the Segals. Mr. Nicoroph feels that the township is in need of a social media policy that governs what can and cannot be said on social media and what the actions are for going after different committee members.

Jennifer Lubliner - Vernon Township, is the current Chairperson of the Economic Development Committee. She is in favor of amending the ordinance to accommodate Dan and Dani Segal.

Ann Larson - Vernon Township, does not feel the ordinance should be changed and the whole thing is wrong. She said we are changing the law for the hope they can get a license.

Al Losco - Glen Harbor, feels that it is a shame that the safety gun ordinance was tabled. He feels that this is something that needs to be done to act on the gun safety ordinance. Mr. Losco is in support of amending the cannabis ordinance.

Cheri Shortway - Vernon Township, commented that she is very insulted by the fact that the new Council said the GAAC had no value. She explained that people spoke tonight about keeping the GAAC because they knew the new Council was not in support of the committee. Ms. Shortway said the GAAC and residents who volunteers were just alienated. She explained that the GAAC started six years ago and they started the farmer's market, they have cleared trails with their own hands and tools. Ms. Shortway said that in 2018 the people of Vernon voted on a mandate to use open space money for the creation of trails, a pump track and other amenities.

Eric Card - Highland Lakes, asked the Council to check on the Shryne Groups contract. He is having problems getting permits to install a pool and would like the Council's advice. Mr. Card said he has tried to contact the mayor several times and he has not received an answer.

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: Michael Furrey
SECOND: Brian Lynch
All members were in favor.

COUNCIL COMMENTS

Council Member Furrey commented saying Mayor, Town Council and residents, my comments tonight is focused on several important issues that face Vernon Township

Conflict of Interest: Firstly, I want to clear up any issue that has been mentioned in a local newspaper and by several local residents of a conflict of interest. It is no secret that I own AELS for over 20 years and I do work in the Township as well as towns all over NJ. Since I have become an appointed Town council member, I have cancelled any business contracts with the Township which amounted to about $1000/year. However, Agra does continue to provide operational consulting services with the Vernon BOE helping to provide clean safe drinking water for some of the schools. I have consulted with our township attorney and BOE attorney and they concluded there is NO conflict of interest. In fact, Agra has donated several thousands of dollars in water testing for those impacted by the "Dirty Dirt Landfill" issues. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

COVID Policy: It is my opinion that the previous town council and current Mayoral Administration has done an outstanding job with bringing back in person meetings while increasing the participation of the pubic. The current resolution on tonight's agenda is deeply disturbing in the middle of surge in omicron variant cases throughout the country. I pleaded in writing to the current Town Council President to take a pause and return to remote meetings to help protect health and safety of all involved. These pleas were ignored and not taken seriously. It is my opinion, these three council members who voted yes are jeopardizing the health and safety of the all involved and should be held accountable for their irresponsible actions. They should ashamed of their action. Contrary to many, this is not a political issue, it is a health and safety issue. I call upon our current Mayor Burrell to pursue any lawful avenue for reversing this ridiculous action tonight and return these meetings to a safe and healthy environment.

Current Township Attorney: I want to publicly state that I have 150% confidence in Attorney Josh Zielinski and his firm and I do not support tonight's resolution to publicly announce any council opposition or "no confidence" vote towards his firm. The decision of the hiring of an attorney clearly and legally falls under the purview of the current mayor and the council is only here to advise and consent. I believe the search for a replacement attorney is a complete waste of taxpayers' money and has no merit and appears to be personal not professional in nature. Mr. Zielinski has proved his value over the last several years especially with the Mountain Creek bankruptcy, their work on the dirty dirt issues and more recently with their impeccable work on the current SCMUA court appeal.

The Water and Sewer System Dilemma: By now most people in Vernon are familiar with the issues surrounding the MUA. I spent almost 2 years on the MUA as chair during a very difficult time. I helped take a failing MUA and stabilize rates and lower expenses considerably. I stated at the first meeting as chair that I will never vote for any unfair rate increase as a member of the MUA and I still have that same position. I resigned as chair for work and family related issues but chose to still stay involved as an alternate. The proposed appointment in December 2021 was not a stunt as some council members have stated but rather than an attempt to get reappointed on the MUA to help the town I live in. I recently resubmitted an application and it was disappointingly dismissed by certain council members. Notwithstanding I will still stay committed to the process and I will work towards making the MUA a success. I was promised by the Council President to make the MUA a discussion item tonight to provide an update everyone on the progress but I was denied. I once again tonight request that quarterly joint Council/MUA meetings be held to address all these issues, working hand and hand for the good of all Vernon. I call upon all the council members to take this issue seriously or suffer the consequences from any inaction. I urge that everyone research Resolution 13-202 which led to the unfair service charges of about 330k/per year. I fully support the pursuit of the SCMUA lawsuit appeal and oppose any current council action towards cancelling that process. I repeat, this current service contract arrangement is costing rate payers nearly $330,000/year and may lead to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will move the burden to all taxpayers, whether any resident or business is on the sewer or water system or not. We all want to hear from our current council about their position on the most critical issue that faces Vernon Township.

I formally request that these comments be introduced into the meetings as a permanent record of my position as a council member. I stay committed to this town and promise that I will make every effort to work with my fellow council members and Mayor but I will never sacrifice my integrity and I will always do what is right for Vernon residents.

Council Member Buccieri commented that she heard from Ms. Distasi from the Environmental Commission because she wanted to update the Council. Hearing from our committees and commissions on a yearly basis would bring a good line of communication. Council Member Buccieri said getting a written report and yearly presentation from the MUA is very important

Council Member Buccieri is scheduled for newly elected official training as well as budget training and she looks forward to attending these training classes.

Council Member Lynch feels that he has heard a lot of degrading remarks during the election and he said that being accused of not caring about the health and safety of the Vernon residents after you just purchased a piece of property that has lead contamination is very rich.

Council Member Lynch asked about a property on Karen Road where an ice patch continuously builds up. It is the town's property and he asked if the Administrator or Mayor can get this fixed.

Administrator Voelker said he has already spoke to the property owners. He explained that when they looked at into where the problem is, they saw no water leaking out. Mr. Voelker said he will contact the property owners again and ask them to call the DPW when they see the water leaking out and then we will investigate further.

Council Member Lynch asked the Township Attorney what will happen to the contract for the trail if the Baldwin Property cannot close and the property cannot be transferred.

Attorney Zielinski explained that if the Township does not own the property, unless they have permission to build on the property, the property cannot be built on.

Council President Rizzuto asked the Township Attorney if the contract cannot be honored what kind of position can the contract take.

Mr. Zielinski explained that he spoke to the Township Engineer and he was told that within the bid, there is a notice to proceed which tells the contractor to proceed and move forward. The Township Engineer has not issued this yet and he does not believe that this can be issued until the town owns the property.

Council President Rizzuto asked if the Township Attorney can research if there will be claims against the town from the contractor if the property doesn't close.

Council Member Lynch asked that everyone get their fireplaces and wood stoves inspected and maintained.

Council Member Shortway commented that in 2009 the law changed and the DEP does not oversee remediation and you now have to hire your own remediation professionals.

Council Member Shortway thanked the GAAC member for all of their hard work over the last six years. We did a lot of work connecting the present trails to the town center but one great victory was the farmer's market. It took a couple of years to get going but it was a huge success.

Council Member Shortway explained that high sewer rates are the single most deterrent preventing new businesses from opening their doors in our Town Center. Unsustainable sewer rates are a direct result of Resolution 13-202 that amended the 2005 agreement with SCMUA by increasing the minimum daily flow from 265,000 to 461,000 gpd. Average daily flow was 208,000 gpd at that time and now. This translates into paying over $300,000 annually to treat air. The sewer users are now responsible for approx. 253,000 gpd of unused allocation. How is this fair and reasonable? Why should 11% of Vernon's property owners pay for this error by elected officials? The current user base will not sustain the debt service associated with the capital financial obligations as a result of and associated with the SCMUA bonds, and Ordinances 11-22 & 23, and the service fees imposed by Resolution 13-202. The financial obligation imposed by resolution 13-202 subsidizes other communities and developments outside of Vernon. This obligation concerns service fees, not capital debt service

Our law suit filed against SCMUA alleges defendant is in violation of N.J.S.A 40:14B-22. The complaint is an attempt to rectify an illegal agreement adopted by the 2013 council. A contract is not enforceable if contrary to state law. Vernon businesses and residents are subsidizing sanitary water operation costs in other SCMUA serviced communities. This includes Crystal Springs in Hardyston, where Mr. Andrew Mulvihill owns vast assets. Mr. Mulvihill is also the owner of Crystal Springs Development that owns Minerals and the LLC is consistently delinquent in paying their MUA bill. As of Dec. 1, 2021 Crystal Springs Development owes $80,576. It was our elected officials who brought this weight down upon an approximate 11% of the numerical property taxpayers.

(Additional allocation was not required by the present sewer users. 265,000 gpd was available and only 208,000 gpd was being used, however they are paying for the additional guaranteed flow of 461,000 gpd. I fear the MUA will collapse in 2024 without borrowing millions more to increase the infrastructure in an approved SSA and/or large rate increases.

I look forward to other councilpersons' solutions to be presented to solve this problem.

Council President Rizzuto asked that Council Member Shortway wait to post this on his Facebook page until the Council makes their decision.

COUNCIL PRESIDENT COMMENTS

Council President Rizzuto asked Attorney Zielinski what the status of the appeal for the SCUMA lawsuit and who is the attorney pursuing the appeal.

Attorney Zielinski responded that the Notices of Appeal have been filed by the Township of Vernon and the VTMUA. Mr. Zielinski and his firm are prosecuting on behalf of the township and Brian Tipton with Florio and Perrucci are prosecuting for the VTMUA. Mr. Zielinski believes that briefs are due by the end of March.

Council President Rizzuto asked Mr. Zielinski that since the judge ruled with prejudice are his feelings positive.

Mr. Zielinski does not want to go into legal specifics but he does believe that Judge McGovern committed some grave errors when he dismissed the complaint with prejudice. He feels that the township has a very strong basis to appeal.

Council President Rizzuto commented that when the MUA was created the township required from the MUA a written report to be given in February and a follow up oral report to be given at the following meeting. He asked that the MUA give a written report to the Council at their meeting of February 14, 2022 and an oral report at the meeting of February 28, 2022 with a question-and-answer period.

Council President Rizzuto said that as far as the meeting of January 24, 2022, please understand that Council Members Buccieri, Lynch and himself are new and what we hear and find out may be two different things. With regards to the pump track and the Baldwin property purchase that we have discussed, we would like a completed update at the meeting of January 24, 2022.

Council President Rizzuto would also like to know why we walked away from an easement which has been mentioned by Mr. Dunlop. He feels that the easement could have been obtained yet we chose to go for a $289,000 purchase and taking a piece of commercial property which was said could not be built on because of severe environmental sensitivity and bobcat habitat. He does not understand how the property was appraised up to $289,000 and could not be built on. He feels that there are a lot of inconsistencies and he wants all of these questions answered.

Council President Rizzuto asked Council Member Furrey if he could give an update to the Council on the H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 Highlights for the Drinking Water Community at the January 24, 2022 meeting. He feels that because of the state of the economy, this may be a help to us in terms of drinking water as well as waste water. Council President Rizzuto said he respects that Council Member Furrey has extensive knowledge in water and water purification but as far as providing the seat on the MUA he does not have the confidence because Council Member Furrey quit.

Council President Rizzuto said regarding the gun ordinance, he would like to look at this in the near future at a meeting.

Lastly, Council President Rizzuto commented about a press release from the DCA. He explained that the DCA Awarded $10 Million in Local Recreation Improvement Grants to 162 local governments across the state.

ADJOURNMENT

At 12:43 am Council Member Lynch made a motion to adjourn the Reorganization meeting. Seconded by Council Member Shortway. All were in favor.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: February 14, 2022