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

Minutes: January 27, 2014

The Regular Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 6:33 p.m. on Monday, January 27, 2014 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Brian Lynch presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on January 8, 2014, and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7.

Roll Call of Members

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

Resolution to Go into Executive Session

At 6:38 p.m. Council President Brian Lynch asked for a motion to go into Executive Session. Council Member Dan Kadish made a motion to close the meeting to the public and enter into executive session. Motion seconded by Council Member Dick Wetzel with all members voting in favor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personnel—Municipal Clerk Position

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

4. This resolution shall take effect immediately.

The Township Council entered into Executive Session at 6:38 p.m.

Return to Open Session

Moved: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

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

Salute to the Flag

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

Public Comments

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

Phyllis Pfeiffer, Glenwood, strongly advocated the Mayors’ raise, citing many examples of how the Mayor had not only saved the taxpayers money, but also reduced our debt since taking office in 2011. Ms. Pfeiffer noted that the previous Mayor had allotted $120,000 for the Mayors’ salary, because this was a new form of government, the Mayor did not know what the salary would be or if it would be part time or full time.

Bob Gerry, Vernon, stated that an election in November should decide on the raises and not the Council.

Doreen Edwards, Highland Lakes, stated that she approves and supports the Mayor’s raise. She feels that the Mayor and Town Council are very responsive.

Ron Meyer, stated that the Rickey Farm would be starting yard sale fundraisers in April to benefit local charities and non-political civic groups.

Gary Martinsen, apologized for not attending the last work session due to inclement weather. He shared his ideas for the Dollars for Profit, stating that where the money goes should be decided by the people and should be handled similarly to that of a grant process.

Krista Gerry, disagreed with the people who are in favor of the Mayor’s raise- especially after the resolution was passed over. Also disagreed with the Mayors use of Vernon Vibes to further his and the Council’s agenda as well as speaking against the three women running for Council. She strongly supported Dan Kadish and Jean Murphy.

Janet Morrison, Vernon resident, wanted to clarify information she received in regard to the cost associated with the water/sewer connection fee. She was told it falls solely on the residents of Stonehill Development and does not believe that this is fair. She believes that the COAH funds should cover the costs for low income families and cannot imagine how these families could possibly carry this burden.

Len Coloccia, Great Gorge Village, did not see any correlation between Sally Rinker and whether or not the Mayor deserves a raise mid-term. Mr. Coloccia finds it incredible that Council members want to give the Mayor a raise now and believe they should let the people decide in November.

Roy Wherry, stated that he had been with the Vernon Police Department for 39 years and reflected on the previous governments Vernon had during that time. He also noted that the current form of government is the most effective and efficient in his experience and urged that the Council vote yes on the Mayor’s salary issue.

Jodi Curry, Vernon, stated that Vic Marotta was a great Mayor in the 80’s, citing how he stood up for Vernon against Radon. She stated that she and her husband are in favor of the Mayors salary increase; he has been a full time Mayor who has held down taxes and managed the town well. She also thanked the Mayor and Council.

Debra Carosella, spoke regarding the dog park and the community garden. Ms. Carosella is not happy with the trees that were planted along Dorfred Terrace stating they are thin and small and do not provide the effective cover that was promised. She asked for assurance from the Council that the planned tree border is followed through.

Marika Bazzone, Glenwood, compared the Mayor’s salary to that of the Governor, stating that they are not part time positions, they are 24/7 positions. She was against raising the Mayor’s salary and asked the Council to make “the right decision.”

Bev Budz, Chair of Environmental Committee, addressed the issue of the trees near the dog park and community garden and assured Ms. Carosella that with the new grant money more trees would be planted and they would be larger. She spoke in favor of the Mayor’s raise and urged residents to stop the personal vendetta.

Lynn Van Gorder, Highland Lakes, stated that she strongly opposes the Mayor’s raise and questioned its fairness, along with the fairness of several other issues. Ms. Van Gorder mentioned the petition against the last proposed salary increase and asked the Council to vote “no” on this issue.

Angie Metler, 8 Nutley Ave., stated that she lived in Vernon for 12 years and has been dragged through the mud because of her love of animals. Finally with this Mayor, she feels part of the Township and supports his raise.

Howard Burrell, stated that he respects those who oppose the increase of the Mayor’s salary and is not taking sides. He believes that in these difficult times, Vernon needs a full time Mayor and that Vic Marotta is a full time Mayor. He believes that the salary costs of the Mayor and Business Administrator are reasonable, citing examples of several other municipalities in which the combined salaries are significantly higher. He asked that we take personal feelings out of the issue and think of the betterment of the Township of Vernon and what kind of individuals we would attract with a $30,000 salary vs. a $70,000 salary.

Closed to Public Comments

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

Mayor’s Report

Mayor Marotta distributed to the Council a year end budget summary. A discussion ensued regarding the Historical Society.

The Mayor wanted to wish Susan Nelson, the former Municipal Clerk the best in her future endeavors.

Approval of Minutes

Regular Meeting Minutes of November 14, 2013

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

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

Regular Meeting Minutes of December 9, 2013

Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dan Kadish

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

Regular Meeting Minutes of December 23, 2013

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Patrick Rizzuto

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

Reorganization Meeting Minutes of January 1, 2014

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

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

Work Session Minutes of January 6, 2014

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

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

Work Session Minutes of January 9, 2014

Motion: Dan Kadish
Second: Patrick Rizzuto

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

Resolutions Requiring Separate Action

A motion was made to approve Resolutions 14-30, 14-32 and 14-33.
Moved: Dan Kadish
Second: Dick Wetzel

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel
Nays: None
Abstain: Brian Lynch
Resolutions #14-30, 14-32, 14-33 were approved.

Resolution #14-30: Approving Active Volunteer Fireman for Membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association

WHEREAS, the Township Council recognizes the extraordinary contributions made by volunteer firefighters to our community and seeks to encourage their full participation in professional organizations; and

WHEREAS, Crystal Sisco, an active firefighter and member of the Pochuck Valley Volunteer Fire Department, is requesting approval to submit an application for membership to the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey hereby approves Crystal Sisco for membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

Resolution #14-32: Approving Active Volunteer Fireman for Membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association

WHEREAS, the Township Council recognizes the extraordinary contributions made by volunteer firefighters to our community and seeks to encourage their full participation in professional organizations; and

WHEREAS, Steve G. Styles, Jr., an active firefighter and member of the McAfee Volunteer Fire Department, is requesting approval to submit an application for membership to the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey hereby approves Steve G. Styles, Jr. for membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

Resolution #14-33: Approving Volunteer Firefighter Active Membership

WHEREAS, the Pochuck Valley Volunteer Fire Department has selected Christopher Clark for active membership on transfer from Sussex Volunteer Fire Department, and

WHEREAS, the Pochuck Valley Volunteer Fire Department has requested municipal approval from the Township Council of the Township of Vernon for said appointment.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey, that the application for active membership by Christopher Clark to the Pochuck Valley Volunteer Fire Department is hereby approved.

Attorney Kevin Kelly explained about filling the vacant position of Local Registrar, and suggested the Council make a motion to appoint Andrea Bates to this position.

Council President Lynch asked for a motion to appoint Andrea Bates to the position of Local Registrar. The motion was made by Council Member Dan Kadish, seconded by Dick Wetzel. A roll call vote was taken:

Ayes: Daniel Kadish, Jean Murphy, Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: None

Resolution #14-34: Appointing Registrar of Vital Statistics

WHEREAS, Vernon Township is required by law, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 26:8-1.1, to appoint a Registrar of Vital Statistics; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey statutes require and authorize the municipality to appoint such an official; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor has offered the name of Andrea Bates to serve in the capacity as Registrar of Vital Statistics, and Andrea Bates; and

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, as follows:

1. Andrea Bates shall be appointed as Registrar of Vital Statistics, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 26:8-1.1 for the term as prescribed therein, and provided Andrea Bates otherwise complies with the applicable educational requirements and license requirements applicable to such position; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this Resolution be filed with the State Registrar’s office.

Second Reading, Public Hearing on Proposed Ordinance

Council President Lynch asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #14-01 on 2nd reading by title only. First reading was held on January 13, 2014.
Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dick Wetzel

Ordinance #14-01: Ordinance to Provide and Determine the Salary for the Mayor of the Township of Vernon

Open to public comments on Ordinance #14-01 only:
Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dick Wetzel
All were in favor.

Gary Martinsen, stated that he believes that the ordinance should not set the salary for future Mayors; although this Mayor has done a good job, a higher salary would not guarantee good performance in the future. Based on his performance, he thinks Mayor Marotta should get a bonus.

Janet Morrison, stated she has no problem with Mayors’ performance and agrees with the bonus idea, but thinks the raise should be voted on.

Bob Gerry, feels that the Mayor is taking full control of the Council.

Owen Hyland, Highland Lakes, said the reason he gave consideration to Mr. Marotta when he ran for Mayor was because he said he was going to be a full time Mayor with a part time salary.

Bonnie Rubin, Highland Lakes, stated that making this a full-time position would raise the bar for future candidates, limiting who will run in the future. Ms. Rubin also questioned what will happen with Business Administrator position when Bill Zuckerman retires.

Len Coloccia, Great Gorge Village, advised Mr. Lynch that he is next up for re-election and he should think about how he votes because he will be in the voters’ cross-hairs. Mr. Coloccia feels the Mayor’s raise should be voted on in the next election.

Jessi Paladini, spoke about the change of government and how the Mayor and Council have turned the town around. She believes that the money should go to Mr. Marotta, not the next Mayor. Ms. Paladini is researching the salaries of Mayors in towns with the same form of government. She believes we need to educate and communicate to the residents on the Mayors’ accomplishments and let them vote.

Robert Oliver, Sand Hill Road, supports the Mayor’s increase, stating that the cost of our Executives are currently less than they have been in previous administrations and the quality is much higher.

Teresa Vihiti, Glenwood, believes that in the next election there should be an incentive as this job has more to do with day to day operations. Ms. Vihiti complimented Mr. Marotta on his job to date and believes he should be compensated for a job well done.

Carl Mulligo, believes the Mayor’s salary was set when he came to office and he knew what he was getting into. Mr. Mulligo feels that he is overtaxed and not getting representation.

Ben Schneider, Highland Lakes, stated that people are angry because they’re not being listened to and feels that we cannot see what the Mayor has done until the end of his term. Mr. Schneider added that if, at the end of his term, he does a good job, he should get a bonus.

Doreen Edwards, Highland Lakes, disagreed with Mr. Schneider, saying that the Mayor has proven himself for the last two years. People have to make it their business to see what the Mayor is doing. She feels that the town Council is the best it’s ever been.

Krista Gerry, stated that she has nothing against the Mayor. She wants the Mayor to do what’s right and listen to the people.

Phyllis Pfeifer, spoke that she did a lot of research on what the Mayor has been doing for the last two years. She stated that taxes have been reduced for two years in a row, as well as citing examples of how the Mayor has saved the township millions of dollars. The Mayor has done an incredible job—if there is a referendum, she will be out there with a “fact sheet.”

Mark Annunziato, believes that, when you contract to do something, sometimes things change. He suggested that the job description be updated in the future. Mr. Annunziato stated that he believes that the Mayor has done many positive things, but he should get what we’re paying him.

Anthony Inkers, believes that the Mayor is doing a good job and that is what he’s supposed to be doing. He is concerned about the percentage of the proposed raise and wonders where it will end. Mr. Inkers reiterated the fact that there is an upcoming election and the Council would be wise to listen to the people.

Mary Bradley, Vernon, does not feel that 87% of the people voted down the raise solely for the Mayor. The Mayor’s raise was a small part of what was voted down in the last election. She believes the Mayor should be compensated for the great job he’s doing.

Steve Vichiconti, is opposed to a salary increase and believes that the Mayor knew what he was getting into. He doesn’t feel that we need to pay that much to get qualified people and wants a Mayor to do the best for the community, not because he wants a living wage.

Sally Rinker, Vernon, stated that the Mayor is not a job, it’s an elected office, he is an elected official and it should not be called a salary but rather a stipend. Also, Ms. Rinker is concerned about what will happen when Mr. Zuckerman retires and questioned what a new Business Administrator would earn. She suggested that the Mayor was getting closer to $50,000 with benefits, which was strongly disputed. She suggested that the next Mayor should get the average of what other Mayors in this form of government are getting.

Mary Ellen Vichiconti, suggested that the Council should consider tabling this ordinance and have a town work shop on it. She stated a petition is ready to roll.

There being no one else wishing to speak, Council President Lynch asked for a motion to close to public comments on Ordinance #14-01.
Motion: Patrick Rizzuto
Second: Dan Kadish
All were in favor.

Council Discussion

Council Member Jean Murphy commented on what Mary Bradley had talked about and asked where the salary ordinance for the employees was. She then read a prepared statement and noted that of all the towns on the salary list she received, only four had the same form of government as Vernon Township. Ms. Murphy also spoke about Bill Zuckerman and his salary and stated that his appointment was not done properly. Ms. Murphy asked why we were discussing this ordinance when the code clearly states that the Mayor is allowed to serve as acting Business Administrator without any additional compensation. Ms. Murphy questioned the Mayor’s pension and what will happen when the next Business Administrator comes in. Council Member Dan Kadish read a prepared statement about the Mayor’s duties and said that he is an elected official. Mr. Kadish went on to say that the Mayor is an operational figure-head who is not empowered to negotiate and sign contracts, he is not salaried and not an employee.

Council Member Kadish thanked Gary Martinsen for his research. He also questioned Kevin Kelly about “Pay to Play” in reference to Mountain Creek and the integrity of Councilman Patrick Rizzuto. The Township attorney said he could not answer that now, but he would be happy to look into it. Mr. Kadish then said that the concept of an elected Mayor is service.

Council Member Patrick Rizzuto was upset about his personal integrity coming into question. Mr. Rizzuto stated at the time that the Council was presented with an elected Mayor, the Council was required by law to set the salary for the Mayor and they tried to dissuade him from accepting his present salary. Mayor Marotta, against their advice, accepted the salary of $30,000 because he believed that the people of Vernon would understand about a salary raise after the Mayor had an opportunity to go over finances and see exactly where things stood in the Township. The Council reluctantly agreed to this and told him they would increase the amount to $70,000. at a later date. Council Member Rizzuto gave a slide presentation which compared the organizational structures of both the previous form of government and the current form, which the people voted for in 2011. The community chose not to have a figurehead Mayor, as before. Per the administrative code, the Mayor is responsible for all day-to-day activities, such as negotiating contracts (with the approval of Council). Under this form of government, the Mayors’ responsibilities are identical to the previous town managers’ who were being paid salaries in the range of $125,000 to $151,000 and there was no public uproar about their salaries. This is contrary to what the community said to do—you wanted a directly elected Mayor who was here 24/7, and he is. You should recognize and reward that performance commensurate with the duties that are enumerated. Mr. Rizzuto also brought up the salaries of teachers and Board of Ed members to illustrate that these individuals had salaries commensurate with their experience and responsibilities. Mr. Rizzuto also spoke to the fact that the Mayor reported to the people, while the Clerk reports to the Council, which is why they appoint the Clerk. Mr. Rizzuto wrapped up his presentation by saying that his goal was to educate the community and that if anyone needed to reach him his home phone number was always available and they should contact him. All of the information given is from the Administrative Code and from decisions that the Council has made. The previous Mayor was a figurehead, but the community did not want that. Put aside your personal feelings—how can you give a Mayor who is responsible for 120 employees and a budget of $23 Million the lowest salary in the Township? Mr. Rizzuto ended by asking fellow Councilpersons to vote in support of this ordinance.

Council Member Wetzel stated that anything he could say would be anti-climactic to the previous presentation and questioned why there was such great animosity directed towards the Mayor, not the issue of the pay raise.

Council President Lynch stated In July of 2011, we transitioned to a new form of government, which meant all administrative codes and all of the things that governed Vernon Township needed to be worked on. The last thing the Mayor and Council wanted to speak about at that time was the compensation they would be getting. The question about raises for Council and Mayor came at the same time. It was agreed on by all Council members to put the Council raises on the ordinance. Mr. Kadish wanted parody with Warwick at the time, which was $12,000 and we did not agree with that.

Council President Lynch stated we have not heard an alternative to the pay raise for the Mayor. If you don’t like what the Mayor is doing, you don’t re-elect him. If you don’t like what the Council members are doing, you don’t re-elect them either. Vernon Twp has a Mayor who has been taking care of business. This is not about Vic Marotta; it’s about the transition that started in 2011 and about all of the people who voted for the Strong Mayor form of government. I was not in support of this, but I was wrong—It does work and we have a Mayor who does his job, as well he should. But, as both sides agree, this is not about whether or not the Mayor does his job—it is Councils’ job to set policy that runs Vernon Twp. The $30,000 salary was not for all future Mayors; the salary was set for five months (July-December). Mr. Lynch added that he doesn’t want to live in a town where the job of Mayor goes to the lowest bidder. The Mayor is responsible for all the duties of a Town Manager, for 120 employees and a budged of $23 Million. We can’t expect someone to do a job for $30,000 and expect $100,000 out of them. What person in this room can support a family on $30,000? It has to be torturous for the Mayor to sit here and listen to people speak about whether or not he deserves a raise. The Mayor is entitled to make a living wage.

A roll call vote was taken on Ordinance #14-01:
Ayes: Patrick Rizzuto, Dick Wetzel, Brian Lynch
Nays: Dan Kadish, Jean Murphy
Ordinance #14-01 was adopted.

Council President Lynch asked for a motion to change the February 3, 2014 Capital Budget work session to February 10th at 6 p.m. A motion was made by Council Member Murphy seconded by Council Member Kadish.

The Council President asked the Council and Mayor for their support in renaming the Sussex County Emergency Training Center to the Charles Thom & Bill Casselman Fire Academy, citing examples of both men’s dedication and achievements over the years.

Council President Lynch asked the Mayor and Council to support this name change by writing a letter on behalf of Vernon Twp. to the SCCC Board of Directors who will be making a decision on this issue on January 29, 2014. The Mayor stated that if it was the wish of the Council, he would gladly do so. The motion was made by Council Member Rizzuto and seconded by Council Member Kadish.

Council Member Murphy questioned the Executive Session minutes from December 23, 2013. Mr. Kelly said they were with him. Ms. Murphy stated the Council Meetings should be put on the Vernon Township web site, and asked if this could be done, and feels the Council should determine this since the Council determines which newspaper to advertise in. Mayor Marotta stated that putting the Council Meetings on the web site was unsuccessful in the past and further stated that Vernon Vibes is not on the web site and said there was a link only on our web site, Ms. Murphy said the link should be removed.

Adjournment

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

The Regular Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 10:07 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrea Bates,
Deputy Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 14, 2014