Minutes: October 26, 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 October 26, 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 October 23, 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 Jean Murphy, Andrew Pitsker, and Council President Shortway. Also present were Mayor Howard Burrell, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and Township Attorney Josh Zielinski. Council Vice President Auberger was not present.

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: Jean Murphy
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members present voted in favor.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Shortway asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Jean Murphy
All members were in favor.

Resolutions

Resolution #20-225: Authorizing a Date for Municipal Tax Sale

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-225.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-225.

Resolution #20-225: Authorizing a Date for Municipal Tax Sale

WHEREAS, the governing body of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, desires to collect all taxes, assessments and other municipal charges that are now delinquent; and

WHEREAS, The Tax Collector is directed to sell all municipal delinquencies through December 31, 2019 in a manner prescribed by N.J.S.A. 54:5-19, and as amended by Chapter 99, Public Laws of 1997.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Council of the Township of Vernon, that the Tax Collector is hereby authorized and directed to sell all municipal liens in accordance with New Jersey law, both as stated above, on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 via Electronic Tax Sale.

Resolution #20-226: Authorizing the Execution of an Agreement between the Township of Vernon, New Jersey and County of Orange, New York for Use of the Orange County Fire Training Center

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-226.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-226.

Resolution #20-226: Authorizing the Execution of an Agreement between the Township of Vernon, New Jersey and County of Orange, New York for Use of the Orange County Fire Training Center

WHEREAS, the Township of Vernon, State of New Jersey and County of Orange, State of New York, Department of Emergency Services wish to enter into an agreement for the use of the Orange County Fire Training Center; and

WHEREAS, the County of Orange, New York is the fee owner of the County Fire Training Center located at 9 Fire Training Lane, New Hampton, New York; and

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Fire Department, Pochuck Valley Fire Department, McAfee Fire Department and Highland Lakes Fire Department (hereafter “Fire Departments”) desire to utilize these facilities and will cover all costs associated with the use of these facilities at no cost to the Township; and

WHEREAS, the Chiefs of the various Fire Departments have requested that the Township of Vernon contract for the use of these facilities on their behalf so they may use the various fire training and classroom facilities.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey that the Mayor and Clerk are authorized to execute an agreement, which is attached hereto and made part hereof, between the Township of Vernon, New Jersey and County of Orange, New York for the use of the Orange County Fire Training Center for the Township’s Fire Departments, commencing June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2022.

Resolution #20-227: Local Government Emergency Fund (CRF) Grant

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-227.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker

Council Member Pitsker asked if we have captured all the costs and is there a deadline for that.

Administrator Chuck Voelker explained that there is a deadline that he believed extends beyond the end of the month. The CFO will be submitting for the full amount of the grant. The Township will not qualify for any time that our employees were not present at work due to quarantining.

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-227.

Resolution #20-227: Local Government Emergency Fund (CRF) Grant

WHEREAS, as the public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the most significant negative financial impacts faced by county and municipal governments throughout New Jersey result from extreme economic contraction, deficits in tax and fee revenues, and extraordinary increases in public safety and health and human services expenditures; and

WHEREAS, severe fiscal stress limits the ability of counties and municipalities to maintain essential services and take the steps necessary to fight COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, without substantial federal assistance, residential taxpayers would absorb the primary impact of meeting these extraordinary needs and closing any associated operating deficits; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”), through the Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS” or “Division”), has been deemed the lead agency for the distribution of the Local Government Emergency Fund (the “LGEF” or “Program”), provided through an allocation of the State of New Jersey’s CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF Funds); and

WHEREAS, counties and municipalities excluded from the federal government’s direct CRF allocation plan, as well as those counties and municipalities that are currently the most impacted by COVID-19 in comparison to their available resources, are eligible for LGEF funds pursuant to a maximum distribution determined by formula; and

WHEREAS, a total of $60 million is currently being made available under the Program, with a potential $60 million more to be allocated; and

WHEREAS, LGEF Grants exist to support costs incurred as part of a local unit’s response to COVID-19.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Council, that the Township of Vernon will apply for a LGEF Grant in the amount of $131,901.00.

Resolution #20-228: Resolution Authorizing Leasing of Certain Vehicles through Sourcewell National Cooperative #060618-EFM through Enterprise Fleet Management Services Inc. (Four Vehicles of Quote No. 4793334-Color Vermillion Red)

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to approve Resolution #20-228.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion carried to approve Resolution #20-228.

Resolution #20-228: Resolution Authorizing Leasing of Certain Vehicles through Sourcewell National Cooperative #060618-EFM through Enterprise Fleet Management Services Inc. (Four Vehicles of Quote No. 4793334-Color Vermillion Red)

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

WHEREAS, the governing body of Vernon Township approved in Resolution 19-164 authorizing leasing of certain vehicles through Sourcewell National Cooperative #060618-EFM through Enterprise Fleet Management Services, Inc., and this is an extension of that resolution; and

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 vehicles through lease program for Township services 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 Sourcewell National Cooperative, and;

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

WHEREAS, the equipment and corresponding Sourcewell National Cooperative contract is #060618-EFM for Enterprise Fleet Management Services Inc.; and

WHEREAS, the cost savings determination as required under LFN 2012-10 is the cost of contract as there is currently no cooperative lease program in effect under the New Jersey Division of Purchase and Property; and

WHEREAS, the quoted cost under the Sourcewell National contract for four (4) vehicles is $140,817.60 (Quote No. 4793334); and

WHEREAS, that the governing body of Vernon Township pursuant to NJAC 5:30-5.5(b) (the certification of available funds), states that the Chief Finance Officer shall either certify the full maximum amount against the budget at the time the contract is awarded, or no contract amount shall be chargeable or certified until such time as the goods or services are ordered or otherwise called for prior to placing the order, and a certification of availability of funds is made by the Chief Finance Officer; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Business Administrator is hereby directed to effectuate the contract with Enterprise Fleet Management Services Inc. under Sourcewell contract #060618-EFM in accord with the provisions of the tenets as established within 40A:11-1 et seq.

Introduction/1st Reading of Proposed Ordinances

Ordinance #20-20: Capital Ordinance Providing for Various Improvements by the Township of Vernon, in the County of Sussex, New Jersey, Appropriating Therefore the Sum of $37,000 and Providing That Such Sum So Appropriated Shall Be Raised from the Capital Improvement Fund of the Township

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

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

Council Member Pitsker asked for an outline of the capital ordinance.

Administrator Voelker explained that part of the ordinance is for a new recording devise for the police department. There is a State mandate that they have all of their phone lines, radios and other things that function through radio and/or phone recorded so that the can be kept at a determinate minimum time. This way they can be used for appropriate prosecution and for OPRA requests. Mr. Voelker said the present recording devise is over ten years old and at the end of life and has begun to fail and we felt this could not wait until the 2021 budget.

The next part of the ordinance is for a lease to replace our hardware for our desktops in the administrative offices. This will be done in two parts, half this year which is approximately eighteen computers and the following year would be another eighteen computers. The present computers are between nine and ten years old. The new computers would be faster with Windows 10 operating systems and they will also have cameras and microphones for virtual meetings.

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

Public Hearing/2nd Reading of Ordinances

Ordinance #20-18: Ordinance of the Township of Vernon, County of Sussex, State of New Jersey, Authorizing Acceptance of an Easement for the Property Known as Block 395, Lot 5 on the Official Tax Map of the Township of Vernon

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #20-18.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #20-18.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
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 #20-18.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Andrew Pitsker
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #20-18.
Moved: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Jean Murphy

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #20-18

Ordinance #20-19: Ordinance Extending Lease Agreement Between the Vernon Township Board of Education and the Township of Vernon, and Sub-Lease Agreement Between the Township of Vernon and the Dog Owners Gathering Society of Vernon Township, Inc., for Certain Unimproved Real Property Identified on the Official Tax Maps of the Township of Vernon as Block 308 Lot 2 (old Block 133 Lot 2.05)

Council President Shortway read by title Ordinance #20-19.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to open public hearing for Ordinance #20-19.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Second: Kelly Weller
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 #20-19.
Moved: Jean Murphy
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Council President Shortway asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance #20-19.
Moved: Kelly Weller
Second: Jean Murphy

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Murphy, Pitsker, Weller, Shortway
Nays: None
Abstain: None
Absent: Auberger
Motion passed to adopt Ordinance #20-19

Public Comments (Limited to 3 Minutes On Any Topic)

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

Peg Distasi - Vernon Township, requests that the Council revisit the ordinance for the Wallace dumping situation. The ordinance does not hold up to the appeal of the case. Ms. Distasi said the ordinance was supposed to be revisited and tightened up according to her memory and she does not think that it was ever done.

Jessi Paladini - Vernon Township, explained that after she was accused of calling David Ongaro of the DEP when she in fact had not called him, she then did call him. Ms. Paladini said that after Mr. Pitsker and a few others said her photographs did not represent what was actually on site, Mr. Ongaro told her that the photographs represented precisely what is on the site and he too has some photographs. Ms. Paladini read “As I evaluate the challenges that we face in achieving this objective, it’s no secret that one of the key impediments is the various political, social and personality-based factions that actively and aggressively operate in our town, both in person and on social media platforms.

As I have spoken to individuals who are members of some of these factions, I have no doubt that while some have good civic intentions, much of their comments and actions have in fact served to keep our town divided and from moving forward.

I believe that it’s important from the outset that I make it clear to all individuals and factions, including those who may have supported me, that if for some reason you may have thought that I could and can be used as some type stealth weapon to get back at, to humiliate, or to somehow hurt another specific individual or faction - - I want to make it clear that you were wrong. I won’t allow myself or my four years as our town’s mayor to be used in this or any other divisive manner.” This is a statement that as made on January 1, 2020 by our Mayor hat he was going to put an end to the social media slander and negativity. Ms. Paladini is wondering what has happened since he now leads any elected official we’ve ever had in social media, vitriol and slander. She said it is really sad that even our government official Facebook page allows anybody to say the most reprehensible things. It is a shame because once again Vernon Township is the laughing stock of Sussex County.

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: Andrew Pitsker
Second: Kelly Weller
All members were in favor.

Mayor’s Comments

Mr. Council President and other Council members, on behalf of myself, and our joint constituents that make up the population of Vernon Township, I want to thank the Council for tonight’s unanimous approval of Ordinance # 20-18, which gives me the authorization to execute an agreement accepting an easement through a portion of a piece of property owned by Mr. Andrew Mulvihill.

This easement will allow our town to construct our planned Walking and Biking Trail along a route that will enhance the trail’s environmental beauty and scenic view.

I also want to thank Mr. Mulvihill for his support of this first phase of our town’s Walking and Biking Trail project. His Minerals Hotel; his Minerals Sports Club; his Elements Spa; and his Kites American Grill combine to make up our town’s fifth largest ratable. I thank him for the gift of this easement to our town, and for this act of good, supportive corporate citizenship.

The Council’s approval of this ordinance tonight, combined with the Council’s approval of Ordinance # 20-17 at the September 28, 2020 Council Meeting, removes the final two obstacles that have been preventing me from being able to move forward with advertising for bids for this first phase of our town’s planned Walking and Biking Trail project.

This first phase of our town’s Walking and Biking Trail project will start on town owned property located near the Municipal Center, and will proceed to town owned property located at Black Creek Drive.

I have previously expressed my strong support for this Walking and Biking Trail project.

As I have also previously explained, my support for a walking and biking trail in this portion of our town, where we already have sewer service lines and capability, is based on my strong belief and hope that a walking and biking trail will be a positive factor that will contribute to the achievement of a key economic development objective, of attracting more paying MUA customers into our town center area.

Attracting more paying MUA customers into our town center area, is essential if we are to reduce our municipality’s significant MUA related deficit and stabilize our municipality’s MUA sewer rates.

My strong belief in the economic benefits that can derive from a Municipal Walking and Biking Trail, is based on facts that I derived from my due diligence on this matter, and my study of the benefits of walking/biking trails in towns and communities throughout our nation.

Just three of these include the facts that:

  1. Walking/biking trails actually boost spending at nearby local businesses.
  2. Walking/biking trails make communities more attractive places to live. When considering where to move, homebuyers rank walking and biking paths as one of the most important features of a community. / And...
  3. Walking/biking trails influence businesses location and relocation decisions. Trails can make communities attractive to businesses that are looking to expand or relocate, both because of the amenities that they offer a business’ employees, and the opportunities that they offer businesses to cater to local residents and other trail visitors.

These benefits and others represent a huge economic return on the money invested into trail projects. Economic impact studies reveal that the costs of land acquisition for trails, plus trail construction and maintenance costs, are far outweighed by the economic benefits generated by trails.

The people of this township who have given us their vote of confidence to move our town forward in a thoughtful, positive manner, expect us to not simply talk about what we would like to do or plan to do; they want us to take the action needed to put our town in a better civic and economic position, in both the present and the future.

Consistent with those expectations, I plan to move forward immediately with the advertising for bids proposals to start the construction of our town’s Walking and Biking Trail project.

It is my hope to receive bids in early November, and to present to you a recommendation to award a bid at one of next month’s Council meetings. Weather permitting, it is also my plan and hope to have construction of our Walking and Biking Trail to begin by the end of next month.

Mr. Council President and other Council members, on this past Saturday, our town hosted its 10th and season finale Vernon Township Farmers’ Market. I had the good fortune of being able to attend all 10 of these great outings.

It would be a gross understatement to label this season of our municipal farmers’ market as being anything but a major success.

It’s my understanding that the Vernon’s Farmers’ Market was started two years ago by municipal volunteers, Ms. Toni Cilli and Ms. Cheryl Shortway, with strong support from the ad hoc Greenway Action Advisory Committee.

This year, our Farmers’ Markets developed into biweekly events that were highly anticipated by many in our town and in the surrounding communities.

Because the COVID-19 virus forced many of us to be confined to our homes for uncomfortable periods of times, and closed or reduced our access to many other venues and places, the Vernon’s Farmers’ Markets took on an even more anticipated and special outdoor event.

As the weather became more pleasant, our Farmers’ Markets saw visits by a steady stream of both, long time and new Vernon residents, plus frequent visits by a meaningful number of out of town visitors who often stopped by our Farmers’ Markets before and/or after walking a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

While the municipal coordinator of these farmers’ markets was our town’s outstanding Director of Recreation and Community Development, Ms. Michelle Downtain, these farmers’ markets could not have been possible, nor could they have been a success, without the host of dedicated municipal volunteers who donated their time and the effort for the town that they love.

I am very much aware of the fact, that it is our town’s volunteers who do many of the things that make Vernon Township a good place to live and to raise a family. The kinds of things that these volunteers do, are the kinds of quality of life things that our town could never afford to do without great volunteers. I take this opportunity to, again, thank them on behalf of not just their town government, but also on behalf of all of us in Vernon Township.

We look forward with eagerness to an even better 2021 Vernon Farmer’s Market season!

Council Comments

Council Member Murphy said that this past Thursday there was a County Open Space meeting and the Black Creek property was supposed to be discussed. Bob Canace was supposed to be present to discuss it with the committee and didn’t show up. Council Member Murphy was not going to attend the meeting because she was going to recuse herself but the committee needed a quorum.

Council Member Murphy asked if the December 3rd workshop meeting was to go over the town code.

Council President Shortway explained that the workshop meeting would be to go over the town code, Open Space, salary procedures and the building department.

Council Member Murphy asked that the fire prevention application for a smoke certification also be a discussion item on the workshop meeting agenda because it is time it is able to be done on line.

Council Member Murphy asked if there has been any progress on the Brook Hollow Bridge. She would like to know if the Association or the Town has contacted the County since it is County related.

Council Member Murphy asked about the short term rental application and if it has been proceeding. She asked for an update on this at the next meeting.

Council Member Murphy said she will be contacting the Local Finance Board about the salaries because she likes to get answers for herself. She said she does not want to go through a whole new budget season where there is discussion over outrageous salary increases and who sets them.

Council Member Murphy asked Council President Shortway about the minutes from the June 9, 2020 Wastewater Feasibility Committee meeting.

Council President Shortway said he has them and he will forward them.

Council Member Weller thanked Mayor Burrell for recognizing the volunteers for the Farmer’s Market. She said everyone who volunteers are absolutely amazing and it was so unbelievably successful. Council Member Weller said we were able to arrange to be part of the Holiday Market at Mountain Creek in Cobblestone Village. All of our vendors plus another 15-20 more vendors will be in attendance. Unfortunately, due to Covid we were not able to do the Toys for Tots fundraiser but we will be doing our own Toys for Tots thing in the community and that will go on at the Holiday Market. The Holiday Market is November 21, 2020.

Council Member Pitsker thanked Council Member Murphy for asking about the short term rentals and he is wondering if we have started to collect fees.

Council Member Pitsker mentioned the DPW area and proposed bike track. He said he has been looking at the 2,600-page report from Excel, the very thorough document on the testing and remediation plan. Council Member Pitsker asked Administrator Voelker if he has gotten anything from Excel about the piles and what is the plan for them.

Council Member Pitsker has recently been to the DPW site and he has seen some progress. He notes areas where he has seen solid waste and debris and it is being cleaned up. He said he is not painting a picture of what is not there, he is doing his own research and walking the site. Council Member Pitsker said it is the responsibly of the Town and everyone is doing a great job by saying we own it, we fix it.

Council President Comments

Council President Shortway wanted to thank the Mayor and Mr. Mulvihill for the obtaining the easement and making that easement go forward. As far as the Farmer’s Market he said great job by the Recreation, members of the Environmental Development Advisory Committee and the Beatification Committee who continue to do a great job. He loves the scarecrows that are around the Municipal Building.

Council President Shortway said he appreciates everyone wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Let’s protect ourselves and protect each other.

Municipal Clerk Gianattasio reminded everyone about the NJ League of Municipalities Convention which is coming up and to register if you would like to.

Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council Member Weller, 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 7:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Marcy Gianattasio, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: November 9, 2020