All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: March 7, 2016*
Township Council Special Work Session Meeting
The Special Workshop Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 7, 2016 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Dan Kadish presiding.
Statement of Compliance
Adequate notice of this meeting has been provided to the public and the press on February 19, 2016, 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. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss Department Budget Presentations. Official Action may be taken.
Roll Call of Members
Present were Council Members Jean Murphy, Sandra Ooms, Dick Wetzel and Council President Dan Kadish. Also present was Mayor Harry Shortway, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Elke Yetter. Council Member Rizzuto was absent.
Salute to the Flag
Council President Kadish led the assemblage in the salute to the flag
Council Member Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
There were no comments from the public.
Closed to Public Comments
Seeing no members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Kadish asked for a motion to close the public portion of the meeting.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Items for Discussion
Building Budget Presentation (including any Capital)
Dave Condon, Construction Official presented the Building Department Budget. Mr. Condon discussed the various budget lines including office supplies, education/conference/seminar and the League Conference. Mr. Condon noted that the prior Construction Official had retired and neither he nor I attended the NJLOM conference in 2015. Council Member Murphy did note that over the last few years budgets this budgeted amount has decreased. Mr. Condon then explained the Material & Supplies, the need for Spatial Data which is the computer program which documents every application, permit and inspection and is a set fee. Mr. Condon explained the line item request of $2,000.00 for Memberships & Publications includes various fees to Building & Plumbing Associations and also for publication of Code Books. Council Member Murphy asked if there are any capital requests. Mr. Condon stated there is a request for one new vehicle at a cost of $25,600.00 and further explained that the department has 2 older GMC Jimmys #220 & #222 which are in bad shape and would be prudent to replace noting that the department did receive one new vehicle in 2014 and one in 2015. Council Member Wetzel asked if a retired Police Car may be used? Mr. Condon said yes if it is a reliable vehicle. Mayor Shortway added he will check with the Police Chief to see for any available police vehicles.
Clerk Budget Presentation (including any Capital)
Clerk Lauren Kirkman presented the Clerk’s Department Budget and discussed the office supply line item. Clerk Kirkman stated the Education amount spent on 2015 was not $7,834.00 but actually $1,534.00 noting the number in the Council’s packet was in error. Clerk Kirkman reviewed the various line items and expenses including the annual League of Municipalities conference, the registered Municipal Clerk seminars and the Certified Municipal Registrar classes which are needed to receive required continuing education credits. Council Member Murphy noted that Vernon had sent employees to clerk classes to obtain a Registered Municipal Clerk (RMC) license in past years and questioned if it is included in 2016. Clerk Kirkman said the budget has some funds for regular training but not for clerk’s classes (RMC). Council Member Murphy added that she is against sending anyone to classes for clerk’s classes (RMC) because the burden is being put on taxpayers and Vernon is becoming a jobseekers.com; ‘come to Vernon and we will educate you.’ Clerk Kirkman discussed the materials and supplies line and noted that the advertising budget in 2015 was only $4,000.00 but the Township spent $6,000.00 because of the amount of ordinances and contracts that Council passed which required advertisement per state statute. Clerk Kirkman requested $6,000.00 for this year. The Election Budget, Ms. Kirkman clarified is out of the Township’s control because it is based on a contract entered into by the Sussex County Board of Elections. Clerk Kirkman noted Vernon has 20 districts and must pay for the purchase and maintenance of the machines, printing and postage for ballots. Clerk Kirkman stated the budget request included computer software for the Registrar’s new VIP program. Clerk Kirkman discussed the ordinance codification expenses.
Clerk Kirkman explained the request for Records Management in 2016. Clerk Kirkman noted that there are two storage trailers containing records located behind Municipal Building, these records have been in the trailer for almost 10 years, they contain black mold due to outdoor elements. Clerk Kirkman said quotes between $18,000-$25,000 have been received to restore these documents with no guarantee as to outcome. Another option if disposal is approved, records can be brought to Sussex County Waste Facility for disposal at a cost between $10,000-$15,000. Clerk Kirkman noted some of the records in the trailers are Building records which even if the state approves the disposal, they must also be approved by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) because they are life of a building records. Clerk Kirkman noted a request for destruction is drafted and is ready to be submitted to the state but funds are needed as well as approval for same to be submitted.
Clerk Kirkman noted that due to additional council meetings that have been added this year, that as a result, additional work was required by the Clerk’s office to be performed including making the packets and requested a secretary for transcription services. Clerk Kirkman noted the cost of same would be realized in personnel savings from the change in office staff in the Clerk’s office.
Clerk Kirkman requested a capital budget item of a copier due to the high volume of copies made by the Clerk’s office and the lack of a copiers that stapled in the building. Council Member Wetzel questioned what is the time window that we must dispose of the records. Ms. Kirkman stated that there is no time limit but the records will only get worse in the location that they are in and may cost more in restoration or disposal costs if we wait. The quotes Ms. Kirkman referred to are two years old so if and when we move forward, new quotes will need to be obtained.
Clerk. Kirkman discussed the changes in staff in the Clerk’s Office and requested to the possibility of adding a person who is trained and familiar with Clerk duties or is a higher level employee. Clerk Kirkman noted that she the Township has lower level staff in a high level office. Clerk Kirkman suggested also the possibility to hire part time people to perform small tasks and be more efficient.
Council Member Ooms asked if Ms. Kirkman wanted a Deputy Clerk. Ms. Kirkman said it is currently not in our ordinance and the Township would need to follow Civil Service notice requirements in order to accomplish that. Clerk Kirkman noted there is a current employee that may be able to perform the office functions within the Township but they are currently needed in another department. Ms. Kirkman added certain statutory timelines such as OPRA can be time consuming Ms. Kirkman suggested when fully staffed the Clerk’s office could increase revenues by completing passport applications for a fee noting that several other government entities have added this service and it could increase revenue as well as serve the public.
Clerk Kirkman reviewed other Clerk’s office fees that haven’t been changed in many years. The Council discussed a potential copier.
Fire Prevention Budget Presentation (including any Capital)
Mayor Shortway stated the Fire Marshall is not present due to a structure fire that happened last night and asked CFO Ms. Yetter to present Fire Prevention Budget.
Ms. Yetter stated the salary & wages included the Fire Marshal and two part-time inspectors which one works two weekdays and the other works a few hours on the weekend. Ms. Yetter stated operating expenses includes office supplies, safety items, arson classes, & materials for the Fire Safety Week in the schools. Ms. Yetter explained the computer services include the expense for Spatial Data, ESP reporting system and ‘Iamresponding’ for 3 of the Volunteer Fire Departments to receive emergency call information by text and responding firefighters may be tracked. The budget also includes uniform allowance for the inspectors for when they are doing inspections and annual membership fees for the Fire Association.
Council Member Ooms asked about the Fire Prevention Trust account because large amounts of money were taken out in 2011, 2012 & 2013 but not in 2014 or 2015. Ms. Yetter stated this was prior to her being the CFO and said it was it may have been to offset the costs of the fire prevention department. Council Member Murphy said there should be an analysis done on this account as well as the Recreation Trust Account.
Council President Kadish questioned why there was $0.94 as the balance in the 2012 Fire Prevention Trust Account? Ms. Yetter explained the Township can’t have a negative amount in line item and Vernon can’t supplement more on a department more than it is actually spending. Ms. Yetter further said that the dedicated Fire Trust can be used for specific purposes such as education, fire training, hazmat training, equipment for fire departments and will provide a list of what the account can be used for to be helpful to Council.
EMS Budget Presentation (including any Capital)
Ms. Yetter presented the EMS Budget. Ms. Yetter explained that in 2014 the fire departments were receiving $35,000 annually and in 2015 that had been reduced to $30,000. In 2016 the budget was increased to $32,500. Ms. Yetter explained Vernon now has a preventative maintenance program for all fire trucks before they break down due to past lack of accountability when Fire Departments were in control. Ms. Yetter added that another reason Vernon will continue using outside vendors is because DPW may not have specialized equipment to work on the fire trucks. Ms. Yetter stated that all ambulances in Vernon are maintained by the DPW. Ms. Yetter explained the state mandated account which includes hose, ladder, and mask fit testing which are per state rules. She added the clothing allowance per terms in the new Township Ordinance allows for up to $20,000 but seems to be coming under budget and this will get charged to 2015 budget. Council Member Murphy would like a breakdown of all departments and the clothing allowance they received which Ms. Yetter said she will provide.
Council Member Murphy restated that the fire departments will receive an increase of $2,500 in the 2016 budget and Council Member Ooms questioned in statutes if there is a maximum allowed? Ms. Yetter replied that per a Local Finance Notice she believes the total allowed is $150,000 but she is not sure if that is for one department or the aggregate. Council Member Ooms reaffirmed that there is a cap that a municipality can donate and Council Member Murphy asked if that also includes the Ambulance squads but Ms. Yetter answered that she will research and get the information requested.
Finance Budget Presentation (including any Capital)
Ms. Yetter presented the Finance budget. The salary and wage portion includes the CFO, in charge of Finance and supervisor of Tax Dept., debt management. CFO Yetter stated that the Township’s Accounting assistant who is part-time takes care of receipts, performs bank receivables, MUA finances, and assists CFO with spreadsheets. Senior Account Clerk handles all accounts payable, 10-99s, and our Principal Payroll Clerk processes payroll, pension, health care and new hire paperwork. Ms. Yetter states that the amount from the MUA shared service agreement is subtracted from the total.
Ms. Yetter detailed budget of office supplies, toner, invoices, file supplies and accounting software used by all departments in creating requisitions. The education budget includes the accounting assistant’s classes to perform more functions and the CFO needs CEUs for license. Ms. Yetter explained materials & supplies includes preprinted purchase orders and pay change notices and financial consulting is for actuary for post-retirement benefit calculation with rollover every two year with every third year more detailed; Vernon is in the 2nd year of cycle in 2016. Ms. Yetter continued to explain the administration fee is negative money we received for processing outside services for example when Police work at Mt. Creek or Ferguson’s and those businesses reimburse Township payroll costs. Ms. Yetter explained the membership line is for the CFO to attend the GFOA and for the Tax Collector to attend the annual Tax Collector/Tax Assessor associations. Ms. Yetter explained that our payroll service is paid by Lakeland bank up to $9,000.00 and should our cost exceed, we must supplement which is why there is budgeted amount of $1,000.00 and any balance would be returned to fund balance. Ms. Yetter stated she is taking the responsibility of preparing the annual financial statement, debt statement which is less work for Auditor so price not increased and kept at same as past four years.
Council Member Murphy questioned how much does the MUA pay Vernon for shared services. Ms. Yetter stated that they pay Vernon, excluding DPW, $79,000.00. Council Member Murphy stated there have been numerous OPRA requests made from the MUA to provide documentation time and time again which is a burden for clerk’s office. Ms. Yetter stated she is unaware of the requests but if it is a Township document like between Mt. Creek or SCMUA the clerk would have on file. Council Member Murphy added that the Township should receive compensation for fulfilling all of the MUA’s requests because they are autonomous. Mayor Shortway explained the MUA did request an OPRA be fulfilled from CDs but he told the MUA they are separate government entity and their own secretary needed to provide that service because that would put a burden on our Town Clerk. Mayor took steps to stop that process and maybe next year have extra help next year in the clerk’s office. Council member Murphy believes that issue of extra help in clerk’s office goes back two years ago for various reasons and don’t see any other department suffering and wonder how much work does the MUA generate. Mayor Shortway added he had talked to Director Scerbo and the MUA’s own secretary to handle to fulfill those requests unless it is with the Town.
Council Member Murphy how many hours does the part time person in Finance work? Ms. Yetter said she is working only 25 hours a week, certain times of year she may need to work extra hours but not up to benefit level. Council Member Murphy stated that all employees in finance have a specific role and the clerk’s office has many tasks that must be fulfilled and is only given a floater.
Council President Kadish questions the budget for roof. Ms. Yetter says roof is listed under Capital. The Township has in an ordinance $116,500 for the roof minus $48,000 we have left in Ord 14-12 which we would be used first and then pass another ordinance for balance of roof. Mayor Shortway said we can’t allow this to go on. Council Member Ooms stated we bonded for roof and DPW was majority of bond, and $25,000 was left over for repairs some of which was re-appropriated to Lake Wallkill Road due to not using it on roof in 2015 and added the salt shed was part of the new ordinance.
Council President Kadish asked about the Sprinkler system in the municipal building. Mayor Shortway explained it is a very complex issue due to lack of water; we are not in sewer service area but we have pipes. The tank doesn’t hold water and in 2013-2014 when we filled tanks using the fire trucks, leakage caused flooding in senior center costing thousands in damage. Mayor Shortway added he is meeting with Town Engineer and a Water Operator to look into the most economically feasible plan to get water and the options include an emergency plan to add to sewer service area or contract with Suez, to add more gallonage to Town Center then upgrades to pump systems may be needed or do we spend money to upgrade wells. The well system need a suppression system and there will be engineering and labor costs. Mayor Shortway is looking into the most cost effective plan and in mean time Police are performing a Fire Watch daily. Mayor Shortway added if this building ever has fire and the volunteers need to vent roof it may not support them. Council President Kadish stated we must look at well width and depth and have engineer see if the well can be dug deeper for aquifer—artesian well pressure very good; may be cheapest way to go. Mayor Shortway said every option to save money will be researched but we need to get water in ASAP; noting he didn’t want to spend any more of the taxpayer’s money than needed. Council Member Murphy said casing is only 6" where old police department was located.
Council Member Murphy asked will we have a follow up meeting before the budget. CFO Yetter explained that we can revisit any items. Council President Kadish confirmed that CFO would like to introduce on April 14, 2016 but between now and then Council President Kadish and Council Member Murphy want time to absorb the information. CFO Yetter asked if there is anything from the departments you want the mayor to address from the original budget request?
Council Member Murphy questioned the capital budget for Police and Mayor Shortway stated Chief said he can wait one more year for the $30,000 portable radios but we need to do the $155,000 for the 911. CFO Yetter explained that the Fire Departments already have the radios as well as all of the sergeants. Council Member Murphy stressed the need for public safety. CFO Yetter added that upgrades to towers can increase reception if we don’t purchase new radios. Mr. Voelker explained that due to topography there are communication issues for police and fire. He added information about a state system where the town would buy own radios and you pay annual fee per radio to communicate using the state’s repeaters. Vernon would need to test before purchasing but was successful in Fairfield and allows access to other municipalities or agencies and it may be a system Vernon may want to look into for extreme benefits.
Council President Kadish said should we have another meeting on Thursday? Ms. Kirkman said per OPMA there is not enough time for proper notice.
Council Member Murphy questioned if it be appropriate to give any requests to Mayor Shortway CFO. Yetter will provide Council a list of any changes in the Introduced budget and added the Capital budget is only a plan; we would have to do a capital ordinance to reserve the money.
Council President Kadish stated that only one project, Sammis or Maple Grange Road, is included in capital at $305,000. CFO Yetter added Vernon has applied for grants but not sure what we are getting at this time; but if you look at capital we requested $200,000 for grant, so balance to us is $105,000. CFO Yetter explained that Lake Wallkill remainder will cost $300,000 we are not taking any grants in consideration. Mayor Shortway is recommending Sammis instead of Maple Grange for safety of school traffic and if we are not awarded the grant we will have the choice to wait or bond.
Council President Kadish asked if there is any way to recoup money being spent on Lake Conway Dam? Council Member Wetzel answers that there is nothing else we can do because Vernon owns it. Council President Kadish questioned if Vernon can we recoup any of the costs from the residents who are gaining certain asset by us maintaining it.
Council Member Wetzel commented there is nothing in the budget for the band shell. Mayor Shortway stated we are putting the band shell in the 2017 budget for consideration only and if project is approved a capital ordinance would need to be adopted.
Council President Kadish inquired why Police vehicle purchases continue to be bonded instead of in capital budget. Ms. Yetter responded that it would be ideal to put it in capital improvement fund but there is not a lot in there and would have to raise taxes to increase that. In 2015, a detective vehicle was in the bond. Council President Kadish commented it is poor policy for bonding the purchase of vehicles just because they are 4wd vehicles due to vehicle life. Mayor Shortway would like a long term plan to get fund balance up.
Council President Kadish has been told that the women’s bathroom in senior center is in terrible shape panels rusting and falling off consider doing repairs.
Council Member Murphy asked if the elevator works? CFO Yetter said it currently works; it is up for inspection but major repair is suggested. Mayor Shortway added he wants to address these issues and not put on hold for future administrations.
Council President Kadish asked that he be given all issues the Council wants to consider by Thursday March 9, 2016.
Council Member Wetzel questioned that on the March 14, 2016 Gypsy Moths being declared a public nuisance. CFO Yetter stated that Vernon received notification that we will receive 31% reimbursement for this program and that figure will need to be changed in the budget which was previously estimated at 50%. Council President Kadish asked if there are any other grants available. Mayor Shortway said the Dept. of Agriculture representative said there is no additional funding available.
Council Member Ooms questioned if there were any changes to Boards & Committees budgets. CFO Yetter answered the only change was to amount of contract to PAL due to contract change for increased programs. The amended contract costs $20,000 more but Vernon is saving on salaries & benefit costs, education, programs costs and equipment rental. Council Member Ooms asked if we are passing up revenue by contracting with PAL. CFO Yetter explained that for the programs—Tree Lighting, Trunk or Treat, Vernon Day, Couch to 5K, Vernon 5K and Yoga in the Park, last year’s revenue was $9,106.00 and it cost Vernon $14,787.23 plus salaries. CFO Yetter added the PAL would now be responsible for sign up, advertising, personnel and our DPW would assist for set up/clean up at Maple Grange Park and the recreation aide would help out on average 10 hours a week. Council President Kadish asked who is coordinating the Senior Center? Mayor Shortway stated it is being run by Recreation aide.
Council President Kadish wanted to know status of Vernon Economic Development Advisory Committee. Mayor Shortway explained the current Shop Vernon program puts burden of program costs on merchants and taxpayers and the rebates only totaled $14,000 for 2015 and added similar programs usually only last three years. Council Member Murphy opined that Vernon is missing out not being a member of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce. Council Member Wetzel added that as a member of the original EDAC, billboards along our main roads were allowed and paid by businesses. Mayor Shortway stated a major goal is to improve marketing this town. Council President Kadish suggested using EDAC budget to pay for County Chamber. Mayor Shortway said he will meet with EDAC to give them new role on working on bringing new businesses to Vernon and maybe get something together by fall for fall events.
There were no council comments.
There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council Member Murphy, seconded by Council Member Wetzel with all members voting in favor.
The Special Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 11:25 a.m.
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Minutes approved: May 9, 2016