Minutes: November 23, 2020

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The regular meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on November 23, 2020 via Zoom Webinar in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Harry Shortway presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on January 7, 2020 and on November 19, 2020 and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7.

Roll Call

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

Salute to the Flag

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

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

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

Emailed comment for resolution #20-237.

Council President, Council Members, Business Administrator and Mayor. On behalf of the entire membership of Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Thank you. Thank you for your continued support to the organization.

Passing resolution 20-237 means a lot to our members. This will greatly assist us in our mission: Providing professional, compassionate, community care and providing service with a community focus.

The members of GPVAC take great pride in volunteering, maintaining equipment/ vehicles and being heavily involved in all community events. With the new ambulance we look forward to growing our organization even more. Currently our members have provided over twenty-five thousand volunteer hours, to the community.

Thank you, Kevin Duffy, Chief Operations Officer.

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, commented on Ordinance 20-21 saying that having an elderly parent live with her for eight years, she can tell you that not having a second access to the room would be a fire hazard. Ms. Distasi said they move very slowly and are usually on walkers and to get them out quickly is usually a major dilemma. Ms. Distasi feels that having access to a second door wherever the mother-daughter is would be better for fire than having them have to go through the main entrance.

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: Kelly Weller
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Item for Discussion

2020 Best Practices Inventory

Township Administrator Charles Voelker explained that the Department of Community Affairs send this questionnaire out to the municipalities every year to be answered The questions in it are considered essential for competency. There are also some unscored survey’s the DCA wants filled out to garner information about some of the practices that are being done in the municipalities. The DCA wants to see which municipalities are in compliance and that things are getting done properly. Mr. Voelker feels that the unscored survey has been helpful in determining some of the future core competencies that we are going to see and future mandates we will see from the State. We hope the future mandates will not be unfunded like we have seen in the past which make it difficult on the municipalities. Mr. Voelker said that overall we have been consistent with what we have done and what we are trying to do to maintaining our core competencies and also trying to show in the unscored survey aspects that we are trying to do more things with them. Question number 36 is in reference to Covid-19 response which is unique to this year.

Council Member Murphy inquired about question #O25 which asked if the municipality has updated their personnel manual. She said that the personnel handbook was mentioned in 2018 or 2019 and was just dropped and has not been reviewed lately. Council Member Murphy feels that this is something that should be taken care of.

Mr. Voelker said that three different labor attorneys reviewed the personnel manual and the last labor attorney to review it found a number of issues that were not corrected by the previous attorneys. He has the newest version for the Council to review and he will send it out to them. There are changed in labor laws that change every year and we can make an addendum.

Council Member Murphy said she doesn’t understand what policy we have been following since the Council has not voted on any updates.

Mr. Voelker explained that you have to go by the last version that has been passed by the Council.

Council Member Murphy read O25 of the Best Practices Inventory regarding an anti-nepotism policy.

Mr. Voelker said we do have that policy.

Resolutions

Resolution #20-236: Authorizing the Use of Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council for Proposed Improvements to Breakneck Road Phase II

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-236.
Moved: John Auberger
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-236.

Resolution #20-236: Authorizing the Use of Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council for Proposed Improvements to Breakneck Road Phase II

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon has a need for contracting services for Proposed Improvements to Breakneck Road Phase II; and

WHEREAS, the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council advertised and received bids for guide rail work and drainage inlet accessories; and

WHEREAS, the bids received allowed for vendors to extend their pricing to municipalities who are a member of the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council, a State regulated County Contract Purchasing System; and

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Engineer recommends the Township Council award contracts for guide rail work and drainage inlet accessories (subject to final approvals from the New Jersey Department of Transportation) through the use of the Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council to the following contractors:

1) Guide Rail Work: Road Safety Systems (Contract #26) in an amount of $138,863.60; and
2) Drainage Inlet Accessories: Campbell Foundry Co. (Contract #14) in an amount of $1,900.00;

WHEREAS, the Certified Municipal Finance Officer of the Township of Vernon has certified that the funds for these contracts are available in Account #C-04-20-011-01.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon that the vendors, Road Safety Systems and Campbell Foundry Co. be utilized for the Improvements to Breakneck Road Phase II through the respective Morris County Cooperative Pricing Council contracts at the amounts not to exceed listed herewith, subject to the final approval from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

This Resolution shall take effect immediately according to law.

Resolution #20-237: Resolution Authorizing Award of Contract to Vendor with National Cooperative Contracts for Ambulance for Glenwood Pochuck Ambulance Corps

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-237.

Council Member Pitsker asked if we know what additional materials we will need to be purchases to make sure this is outfitted for service.

Mr. Voelker said he spoke to Kevin Duffy, Chief Operating Officer of the Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps and he was told they would not need to purchase anything for the ambulance. The radios and tools will be transferred to the new ambulance. The only addition which is part of the purchase price of the ambulance is the Power Load Stryker Power Stretcher. This is something that is very important for volunteer crews particularly in Vernon where we have some properties that are a real struggle for our volunteers to get to. This will be a tremendous advantage due to the fact that they would not have to rely only on muscle from individuals.

Mayor Burrell added that this is a very smart move getting the Power Load Stryker Power Stretcher because all of our volunteer agencies are having trouble getting volunteers. We do not want to only select individuals who have the muscle able to do things and this allows us to be able use the intelligence, the skills and the flexibility of anyone who would volunteer.

Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: Auberger
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-237.

Resolution #20-237: Resolution Authorizing Award of Contract to Vendor with National Cooperative Contracts for Ambulance for Glenwood Pochuck Ambulance Corps

BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Township of Vernon. Sussex County, State of New Jersey as follows:

WHEREAS, in accordance with the requirements of the Local Public Contract Law P.L. 2011, C.139 (the “Law” or “Chapter 139” and N.J.S.A.52:34-6.2 the regulations promulgated there under in Local Finance Notice LFN 2012-10, the following purchase without competitive bids from vendor with a National Cooperative Contract is hereby approved for municipalities, and;

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon has the need to procure certain specialized fire equipment in accord with the Local Publics Contract Law N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1 et. Seq., and;

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon has previously acted in accord with New Jersey public procurement statutes and regulations as promulgated by formally joining a recognized and compliant national cooperative, being the Houston Galveston Area Cooperative, and;

WHEREAS, the regulations as set forth within Local Finance Notice LFN 2012-10 have been fully complied with, and;

WHEREAS, the Business Administrator has complied with the public notification provisions of public advertisement and has received no protests in accord with law and regulation, and;

WHEREAS, the equipment and corresponding Houston Galveston Area Cooperative contract proposal from First Priority Vehicles an authorized dealer under HGAC contract AM10-20, in the amount of $194,542.00 inclusive of a $5,600.00 trade in allowance for Ford GPC QG860, allowable under N.J.S.A. 40A:11-36; and

WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer certifies that funds are available in the amount of: $194,542.00 through line item: C-04-20-011.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Mayor is hereby authorized to effectuate the purchase of herein approved equipment for the approved cost of $194,542.00 through First Priority Vehicles an authorized under HGAC contract AM10-20.

Resolution #20-238: Resolution of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon Rejecting All Bids for 6-2020 Snack Bar Renovation

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-238.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-238.

Resolution #20-238: Resolution of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon Rejecting All Bids for 6-2020 Snack Bar Renovation

WHEREAS the Township advertised to receive bids for Bid# 6-2020 Snack Bar Renovation and received in a Fair and Open manner on November10, 2020 at 11:00 A.M.: and

WHEREAS the Township received bids to wit:

VENDORBID AMOUNT
AB Contracting LLC$95,000.00
Northeastern Interior$136,000.00
Wallkill Group Inc$153,000.00
PMY Construction Corp$163,296.00
Padovani Construction Co$224,800.00

and

WHEREAS the bidders proposed cost exceeded budgetary allotments in violation N.J.S.A. 40A11-13.2(a); and

WHEREAS, the Township is allowed under N.J.S.A 40A:11-13.2(a) to reject bids in such occurrences.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, that the bids supplied by all vendors are rejected according to the determination of exceeding cost estimates as provided for in N.J.S.A 40A:11-13.2 (a)

Resolution #20-239: Approving Active Volunteer Fireman for Membership in the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association (Spurlock)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-239.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Second: Andrew Pitsker

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: Auberger
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-239.

Resolution #20-239: Approving Active Volunteer Fireman for Membership in the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association (Spurlock)

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, Christopher C. Spurlock an active firefighter and member of the Pochuck 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 Christopher C. Spurlock for membership in the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association.

Resolution #20-240: Resolution Authorizing the Award of a Required Disclosure Contract with JEM Electric for Upgrades at Veterans Memorial Park

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-240.

Council Member Pitsker asked specifically what the upgrades are for.

Mr. Voelker explained that last year there was a fire that occurred on the pole that the transformer box was on. While we had it repaired last year so that the light would be in working order, it was highly recommended that we replace the old fixtures and power box.

Council Member Pitsker asked for an inventory list of what was being done and Mr. Voelker said he would get that to him.

Moved: John Auberger
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-240.

Resolution #20-240: Resolution Authorizing the Award of a Required Disclosure Contract with JEM Electric for Upgrades at Veterans Memorial Park

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon has a need for electric upgrades at Veterans Memorial Park through JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J. as a required disclosure contract pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.4; and,

WHEREAS, JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J., in the aggregate is expected to provide more than the pay to play threshold of $17,500.00; and

WHEREAS, the Director of Public Works has sought and received a minimum of three (3) quotes per, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-6; and

WHEREAS, JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J., has completed and submitted a Business Entity Disclosure Certification and a Personal Contribution Disclosure form which certifies that JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J. has not made any reportable contributions to a political or candidate committee in the Township of Vernon in the previous one year, and that the contract will prohibit JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J. from making any reportable contributions through the term of the contract, and

WHEREAS, the Chief Financial Officer hereby certifies that funds NOT TO EXCEED $25,105.00 are available as follows;

Line Item: C-04-20-011-00

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Mayor and Council of the Township of Vernon authorizes the Business Administrator to enter into a contract with JEM Electric 3 Robbins Trail Highland Lakes, N.J. not to exceed $25,105.00 for the electrical upgrades at Veterans Memorial Park; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Business Disclosure Entity Certification and Personal Contribution Disclosure form, Determination of Value be placed on file with this resolution.

Resolution #20-241: Resolution Approving Participation with the State of New Jersey Federal Grant Program Administrated by the Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Law and Public Safety

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-241.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-241.

Resolution #20-241: Resolution Approving Participation with the State of New Jersey Federal Grant Program Administrated by the Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Law and Public Safety

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon Police Department wishes to apply for funding of approximately $32,400 with a match of $228,370 in fringe benefits for an approximate project total cost of $260,770 for a project under the State of New Jersey Safe and Secure Grant Program, Subaward Period: 2/7/21-2/6/22, Grant #21-1922; and

WHEREAS, the Council of the Township of Vernon has reviewed the accompanying application and has approved said request; and

WHEREAS, the project is a joint effort between the Department of Law and Public Safety and the Vernon Township Police Department for the purpose described in the application.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey that

  1. As a matter of public policy the Vernon Township Police Department wishes to participate to the fullest extent possible with the Department of Law and Public Safety.
  2. The Attorney General will receive funds on behalf of the applicant.
  3. The Division of Criminal Justice shall be responsible for the receipt and review of the applications for said funds.
  4. The Division of Criminal Justice shall initiate allocations to each applicant as authorized.

Resolution #20-242: Resolution Requesting Approval of Revenue and Appropriation to be Included in the 2020 Budget as a Revenue and Appropriation of $32,400.00

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-242.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Jean Murphy

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-242.

Resolution #20-242: Resolution Requesting Approval of Revenue and Appropriation to be Included in the 2020 Budget as a Revenue and Appropriation of $32,400.00

WHEREAS, Vernon Township has been awarded a $32,400.00 New Jersey Safe and Secure Communities Grant Program from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety; Subaward Number: 21-1922; Subaward Period: 2/7/21-2/6/22; and wishes to include in its 2021 budget for this amount as a revenue.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Township Council of the Township of Vernon authorizes the inclusion of an item of revenue in the budget of the year 2021 in the sum of $32,400.00 with a match of $228,370 for an approximate project total cost of $260,770, which is now available as a revenue from New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a like sum of $32,400.00 is hereby appropriated under the caption Safe and Secure Grant, and it is authorized to be accepted and we do accept the Subaward.

Introduction/1st Reading of Proposed Ordinances

Ordinance #20-23: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 330 Entitled “Land Development”” to Regulate Multi-Generational Family Accommodations

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #20-23.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to introduce Ordinance #20-23.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Jean Murphy

Council Member Pitsker said this is for single family dwellings that are going to be converted. Council Member Pitsker wanted to make sure building, fire and zoning have reviewed this and he was told yes, all of those departments have reviewed this ordinance.

Council Member Murphy mentioned that a member of the public mentioned having an outside access. This is something in the future that can be addressed and revised. This does create having a second entrance and then renting these places out and they have in fact created a two-family home. Council Member Murphy knows of people who have had to sign a letter stating that they would have it removed once it is no longer used in that capacity.

Council Member Pitsker agreed with Council Member Murphy saying that the issue of ingress and egress was whether it was in tune with the building codes. He said it may be something that needs to be addressed later on.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion passed to introduce Ordinance #20-23.

Public Hearing/2nd Reading of Ordinances

Ordinance #20-21: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending and Supplementing Chapter 250, Article II Entitled “Fees and Escrows Enumerated” to Update Fees for Certified Copies and to Codify Fees for Vital Statistics

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #20-21.
Moved: John Auberger
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #20-21.
Moved: John Auberger
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #20-21.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #20-21

Ordinance #20-22: An Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Amending Chapter 484 of the Municipal Code of the Township of Vernon Entitled “Soil Fill Placement”

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #20-22.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Seeing no one wishing to come forward, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close public hearing for Ordinance #20-22.
Moved: John Auberger
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #20-22.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Second: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Auberger, Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: None
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #20-22.

Public Comments (Limited to 3 Minutes On Any Topic)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to opened the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Kevin Duffy - Vernon Township, wants to thank the Council for passing the resolution and for their continued support. He said it is truly going to make a world of difference and he is looking forward to a bigger and brighter future hopefully with no Covid.

Council President Shortway thanked Mr. Duffy for all that the men and women do for Vernon.

Mr. Duffy said that public appreciation means a lot to the members and with over 25,000 hours this year he has a wonderful team and he could not do it without them.

Jessi Paladini - Vernon Township, asked which snack bar were the bids rejected for.

Council President Shortway said it was Veterans Memorial.

Ms. Paladini commented that she has never seen items on the agenda where there is no discussion on them and they just appear on the agenda. She said there has always been work session and discussion and then there is a decision to put them on the agenda. Ms. Paladini said as she listened to Councilman Pitsker speaking about certain resolutions, he had no knowledge of what he was voting on. She thinks this happens more often than not. Ms. Paladini said these are the types of things that are on Best Practices, discussing agenda items, voting on things that you are well familiar with and not just voting. Ms. Paladini feels that there needs to be more discussion and when a resolution appears on the agenda every Councilperson who is about to vote on it should know exactly what he or she is voting on.

Martin O’Donnell - Vernon Township, spoke about Ordinance #20-23 in reference to the separate entrance for the accessory apartment. He feels that to not have an additional exit to the outside in an emergency situation for elderly people which most times this is for opens the town up to some legal issues if something bad happens. Additionally, if someone has an exterior entrance that already exists and is part of that particular section of their home, that creates a lot of additional costs if they have to close up an entry.

Mr. O’Donnell mentioned that at the September 28th Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to urge someone to step down from a board position. This person refuses to do so. Mr. O’Donnell reminded the Council that in the Vernon Code, Part 1, Chapter 5, Article 4, Section 5-13 D states “removal of Board or Committee Member. By majority vote, the Council of the Township of Vernon may remove any member of the board, committee, commission, authority or agency for cause, on written charges served upon the member, and after an opportunity for a hearing thereon at which the member shall be entitled to be heard in person or by counsel. A vacancy on the board, committee, commission, authority or agency occurring otherwise than by expiration of a term shall be filled for the unexpired term in the same manner as an original appointment.” Mr. O’Donnell said he would think that concurrence of the entire Council and the Mayor, the Council would look at their own code and act on it.

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: Kelly Weller
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Mayor’s Comments

Council members and other members of our Vernon Family, over the past several weeks we have heard an ever-increasing number of our medical, political, and civic leaders express growing concern over the recent increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in our nation, in our state, in our county, and in our town.

It’s clear that the second wave of the coronavirus is upon us. For those of us who heard, believed, and listened to the predictions of health professionals, we are not at all surprised about the existence of this second wave, because we know that we were warned that it was coming.

Those warnings from health professionals and historians of a second wave of the COVID-19 virus, was based in great part on their study of the last novel virus to attack our nation and the world, and to cause the same type of world-wide pandemic as this COVID-19 virus; that virus was the 1918 influenza virus.

The similarities between these two viruses are striking. / For example:

1. Human kind had no natural immunity against the 1918 influenza virus, just as we have no natural immunity against / this COVID-19 virus;

2. Like the COVID-19 virus, the 1918 influenza virus was highly infectious, and was spread primarily through respiratory droplets that passed when an infected person coughed or sneezed.

3. Medical science had no vaccine to protect the population against the 1918 influenza virus, and through the first phase of COVID-19 virus, we also have not yet been able to get the required full approval of a vaccine against this deadly virus;

4. Because medical science had no vaccine to protect the population against the 1918 influenza virus, worldwide efforts to reduce the spread of this virus were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing face coverings, isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene habits, the use of disinfectants, and limitations on public gatherings. This is the same situation that we find ourselves in today as it relates to the COVID-19 virus; and ...

5. These non-pharmaceutical interventions helped to greatly reduce the spread of the 1918 influenza virus, and they have also helped to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

One of the things that I find to be informative, disturbing, and cautionary about the history of the 1918 influenza virus, is the fact that the initial aggressive spring time attack of this dangerous virus was followed by a decline in infections during the summer months.

This led to most of the nations’ population believing that the worst of this virus was behind them; they falsely believed that this 1918 influenza virus would automatically continue to decline.

This resulted in a large majority of the nation’s population developing what is called “pandemic fatigue,” and that portion of our nation became weary of, and stopped practicing, the non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing face coverings, isolating, quarantining, increasing the use of personal hygiene habits, increasing the use of disinfectants, and limiting public gatherings.

The relaxation of these non-pharmaceutical interventions resulted in the resurgence of a highly contagious and very deadly fall and winter version of a second wave of the 1918 influenza virus. This second wave was followed by a third wave that lasted through the year 1920.

Estimates are that over this three-year period, the 1918 influenza virus infected about 500 million people, or about one-third of the world’s population; and, that it took the lives of at least 50 million, with about 675,000 of those lives being taken in the United States.

As for the COVID-19 virus, since October, when it began its second wave invasion, our county has had 1055 new confirmed cases, with 177 of those new cases being in our town.

While even one COVID-19 case is one too many, when measured against our municipality’s size, our number of confirmed total COVID-19 cases has equaled just 13% of the county’s total cases even though we have 17% of the county’s total population.

When most of you, like me, consider the massive negative impact of the 1918 influenza virus; when we consider the unpleasant period of the lockdown that we endured during the first wave of this COVID-19 virus; and when we consider the growing second wave of this virus - - I have no doubt that for most of you, like me, this causes some unease.

However, I ask that you join me in remembering that the 1918 influenza virus attacked us and world over a century ago, and since then, our nation and the world has made the type of significant medical advancements that enables us not to be automatically destined to go down the same dangerous and deadly path as our fellow citizens did when they were attacked by the 1918 influenza virus.

Things that we have in our favor include the facts that:

1. We now have more, and more medically sophisticated, testing than in 1918. In fact, a coming approach to testing, with lots of inexpensive, readily available and fast tests, could transform many of our daily lives, enabling us to do the kinds of things we’ve only been able to dream about for the past eight months.

2. We now have a more scientifically proven system of contract tracing than was available in 1918;

3. We now have antibiotics that we can use to treat the secondary bacterial infections that are caused by the COVID-19 virus; they had no antibiotics to treat the secondary bacterial infections that were caused by the 1918 influenza virus;

4. Our medical professionals now know a lot more about this virus, and about how to treat this virus, than they did just several months ago.

5. According to medical scientist, at least one vaccine is likely to win preliminary approval by the end of the year, with enough doses to first, protect health care workers and then to protect the most vulnerable elderly; and ...

6. While over the past several months, I have not reported to you on this virus, I and other New Jersey mayors have continued to have weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly COVID-19 phone conferences with our county’s health departments and the governor’s office.

In addition, the Vernon Mayor’s Office has continued to work very close with our Emergency Management Coordinator, Mr. Ken Clark. Through our work with Mr. Clark, we have made sure that these past several months have not been simply idle periods of time; they have been periods of preparation for this second wave.

One of the COVID-19 related response efforts that we have been actively involved in, is the development of a capability that will enable those Vernon residents who would like to view and/or actively participate in the meetings of their government, to be able to do so without the potential of exposure to the COVID-19 virus that they might encounter at a meeting outside of their home.

Over the past months, we have been focused not only on simply getting this capability for our municipality, but also on getting it at the most efficient cost to our taxpayers.

And, on tonight, I am pleased to announce that through close and confidential work with a key IT vendor, we are very near the point where we hope to be able to put in an order for the type of IT equipment that will enable the Town Council and the municipality’s sanctioned Boards, Committees, and Commissions, to conduct their meetings in any of three formats that they desire - - that being via in-person meetings, via virtual meetings such as Zoom, or via hybrid meetings that combine both the in-person and virtual formats.

As I said earlier, we are not destined to go down the same dangerous and deadly path as our fellow citizens did when they were attacked by the 1918 influenza virus. However, the only thing that will prevent us from going down that path, are the actions that we take to protect ourselves, our families, and our community until we do get that promised vaccine.

While medical scientist says that at least one vaccine is likely to win preliminary approval by the end of the year, these same medical scientists say that it will probably extend into late 2021, and/or into the year 2022, before enough people can be vaccinated to provide widespread protection from this COVID-19 virus.

And while no one really knows for sure what the next few months will bring, the fear is that COVID-19 cases will rise as the winter months require more people to spend more time indoors; as more individuals travel during this holiday season; as more individuals develop “pandemic fatigue;” and as more individuals struggle with conflicting COVID-19 safety messages from national and local leaders and influencers.

As for me, I will continue to rely on and trust the guidance and recommendations of proven, creditable health professionals. And they recommend that we prepare for this second wave by refocusing ourselves on doing those small but effective things that enabled us to keep the first wave of this COVID-19 virus from completely taking over our lives. And that is to practice what is called the three “W’s” - - (1) Wear face coverings, (2) Wash your hands, and (3) Watch your distance to others.

I close my comments by wishing members of the Council, members of our municipal staff, and all of the other members of the Vernon Family a good and safe Thanksgiving.

I know and understand that this Thanksgiving will be significantly different from our pre-COVID Thanksgivings; and, for some of us, there have been losses of love ones and other changes in our lives that have changed our Thanksgivings forever.

However, in spite of these hardships, we in Vernon Township still rise!

It is my request and my hope, that you all will join with me in being thankful for the fact that we are blessed to live in a town, where a large number of individuals are bidding up the selling prices of homes and property, because they, like us, view our town as a good place to live and raise a family!

Thank you Mr. Council President and other Council Members.

Council Comments

Council Member Murphy said that the Mayor had a brief budget meeting with the Department Heads and it was recorded and will be on the Township website as soon as it can be converted.

Council Member Murphy spoke about resolution #20-240. She said when Council Member Pitsker asked a question about this resolution our Business Administrator answered the question explaining that there was an issue with the electrical last year and this adequately answered the question. Council Member Murphy said for anyone to state that the Council is voting blindly is not true.

Council Member Murphy addressed Ordinance #20-23. She said there is a line in the ordinance that states “The accessory apartment must share a common entrance and may not have a separate exterior entrance.” Council Member Murphy explained what a common entrance could be and she feels that people are getting hung up on the word common entrance. She said common entrance means other family members are using the same entrance.

Council Member Murphy said as of lately we have the HPC and the EC members that were appointed by the Mayor. Council Member Murphy had a conversation with the Mayor prior to his appointments in January and she had a concern. She said the appointments were his choices. The Council recently unanimously asked for a resignation because we independently thought it was the right thing to do. She said that lately we are getting emails about things that are going on within these groups. Council Member said this is not something she wants to get involved in and this is the Mayor’s problem.

Council Member Auberger said hats off to the First Aid Squad over the weekend. They requested a firemen driver and he rode with them. Council Member Auberger said he has been on the fire service for over 30 years and his hats off to the commitment and the training that they have to go through. They are such an asset to this town.

Council Member Auberger said on the pager today there was a test being done by Sparta and he asked if we are under contract with Sparta for dispatching.

Mr. Voelker said he has not been contacted about a shared service and it may have just been a test being conducted but he will find out for sure. Council Member Auberger wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Council Member Weller said everyone stay safe and do the right thing and have wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving.

Council Member Pitsker said he did his homework and checked on the upgrades and wanted to know what the details were. He has done the research and has been working on this all weekend. He asked questions above the Administrator and went out to the site himself. Council Member Pitsker said if you assume you can think for him you are not a clairvoyant. He does agree that being new on the Council he would like to see more supporting documentation on resolutions and ordinances. He will not approve a resolution or ordinance without documentation or validation, and he went and did his homework.

Council Member Pitsker said the Beautification Committee have been working on the holiday activities. They are working hand and hand with the fire department putting up snowflakes.

Council Member Pitsker wished everyone a healthy, happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Council President Comments

Council President Shortway asked Mayor Burrell if Vernon received two environmental violations because of our storage yard.

Mayor Burrell answered saying absolutely not. He said we have not received a single violation.

Council President Shortway said an article written in the Advertiser News North by Mike Zummo on November 19, 2020 is a vivid example of yellow journalism. The article is inaccurate like all false news the article is unprofessional, unethical and a blatant lie. Council President Shortway requests that the editors at Straus Newspapers print a formal apology and identify the source of our grievance. Who reported this to Mr. Zummo and what steps were taken to support the credibility and reliability of the source of the information. Council President Shortway concluded with a quote from Walter Lippmann “There can be no higher law in journalism than to shame the devil.” Council President Shortway said he found it very offensive to our Township and the work our Governing Body and Administration are doing. They cannot even prove if the tires on the west slope are even from us or if it is even our property.

Council President Shortway wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Adjournment

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

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: December 14, 2020