Vernon Township is required to monitor drinking water for specific contaminants on a regular basis. Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not drinking water meets health standards.
During June 1 to June 30, 2020, the township did not complete all monitoring or testing for Total Coliform and E. Coli, and therefore, cannot be sure of the quality of drinking water during that time. Prior to serving water to the public in June, we failed to perform the state-approved start-up procedures for our water system.
As our customers, you have a right to know what happened and what we are doing to correct this situation. Because we failed to implement these procedures, we have violated a requirement of the Revised Total Coliform Rule.
Vernon received town center designation from the state planning commission on July 16, 2003. The designation was set to expire June 30, 2020 but due to the COVID-19 health emergency, has been extended until 120 days after the emergency declaration is rescinded.
The Municipal Self-Assessment Report was submitted to the township council August 24, 2020 and represents the township’s formal petition for plan endorsement to the state planning commission.
Plan endorsement from the state planning commission is the current process to extend Vernon’s town center designation. Plan endorsement reviews the township’s comprehensive plans for consistency with the state plan. The process includes a center designation.
Mayor Burrell’s Council Meeting Comments
Posted: August 25, 2020
The mayor addressed several issues at the August 24, 2020 meeting.
Mr. Council President and other council members, on tonight, I use my report to make one commission appointment, and to share with you and our residents my thoughts on two other items:
Commission Appointment: First, I want to thank Ms. Cara Brown for her service on the important municipal environmental commission. It is with great regret that I accept her resignation from this commission.
Ms. Brown served not only as a commission member, but also as the commission’s chairperson. I was not at all surprised at her outstanding performance on this commission, for I am very much aware of the leadership role that she played as an environmental science teacher in our town’s school district. In that capacity, she organized the Vernon Township High School Eco-Fair; she planned and ran the environmental education program at Lounsberry Hollow Middle School during the period 2006-2010; and she played a key role in helping the students at Vernon Township High School form a new chapter of the environmental organization, the Green Team.
I wish her good luck, and hope that she will consider serving our town again in some capacity.
Second, I want to appoint Ms. Diane Wexler to fill the unexpired term on this commission that was vacated by Ms. Brown. Ms. Wexler will be serving in a term that ends on 12.31.21.
Ms. Wexler is but one of several outstanding individuals who submitted volunteer applications to serve on the municipal environmental commission.
I chose to appoint her because she brings a significant amount of important experience to this commission. For example, during 2011 through 2016, she served on the environmental commission, and also served as the commission’s liaison to the municipal land use board.
She also currently serves on the Sussex County Vocational Technical School’s Board of Education, and for the past three years has served as that board’s vice president.
So, on tonight, not only do I appoint Ms. Wexler as a member of the municipal environmental commission, under the authority granted me by the State of New Jersey, I also hereby appoint her as the commission’s chairperson.
Item No. 1: Is the need for our town to increase the level at which we are responding to the 2020 Census.
As of this date, New Jersey’s response rate is 65.7%; the Sussex County response rate is 67.8%; but our town’s response rate is just 60.6%. And that’s not good.
These census results will be vital to our efforts to move our town forward, and to make our town an even better place to live and raise a family; and, a place where businesses will want to locate and prosper.
For example, census results affect planning and funding for employment and training—including programs for vocational rehabilitation state grants for dislocated workers.
Census results affect planning and funding for infrastructure—including programs for highway planning and construction, community development, and rural water and waste disposal systems.
Census results affect planning and funding for education—including programs such as Head Start, Pell grants, school lunches, adult education, and grants for preschool special education.
And, census results affect planning and funding for healthcare—including programs such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, state children’s health insurance, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
I encourage all Vernon residents who have not yet responded to the census to please do so. I have responded for my household, and it was easy and simple to do. It took only about five minutes.
Item No. 2: In my final comment, I speak more to the residents of Vernon because I believe that the council and I are in agreement on the best place to locate a municipal bicycle pump track. We believe that best place to be in the town center area, off of Black Creek Drive.
As I previously explained, I support this site because I believe that building the pump track at this location will significantly enhance the value of the proposed town center bike and walking trail, and contribute to helping that trail achieve one of its key objectives—that of attraction families, visitors, and other potential customers to that portion of our town that I and others believe will enable Vernon to achieve the maximum potential of its economic assets in a way that will improve the long term vitality of the township.
In addition, I believe that developing our town center in the area parallel to state Route 94/where the town center bike and walking trail is planned, and where the town already has sewer service lines and capability, will contribute to the creation of more paying MUA customers, which is essential if we are to reduce our significant municipality’s MUA related deficit. Reducing our municipality’s significant MUA related deficit will also contribute to our town being able to bring a halt to the ever increasing, and I believe unsustainable and unfair, MUA fees that’s draining the financial life out of the approximately 1700, or 7%, of our town’s population.
And, in spite of what has been touted in some Facebook posts, I have absolutely no reason to believe or conclude that this site, that I, as well as a great many others, who share my enthusiasm about the possibility of a Vernon pump track—I have absolutely no reason to believe or conclude that this location is nothing more than but one of the many beautiful and safe locations in our township for families and visitors to enjoy an amenity such as a pump track.
In my previous statement on this matter, I said to you that that I would not agree to, or approve, any plan that would build a family friendly facility on a site that I believed was not safe. And that’s a commitment that I will keep. Again, I ask, why would I do otherwise?
In this, as well as any technical matter faced by our town, where I am authorized to make the decision, I will always be guided by science—by the professionals that we pay to give us advice and guidance.
And the revelation tonight, of the results of soil tests performed by a premier New Jersey environmental consulting and engineering firm, on samples taken from 16 different locations, on the small portion of a 11.3 acres site that we plan to use to build our town’s bicycle pump track, is an objective and non-bias confirmation that this site is safe.
Mr. Council President and other council members that ends my meeting report.
Howard L. Burrell, Mayor
Get Rid of Bulky Waste Items in October
Posted: August 24, 2020
The Clean Communities program will be hosting a bulky waste clean-up day on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at the DPW complex located on Riggs Way in Vernon Township from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
This free event is being held for Vernon Township residents only. Please bring proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or utility bill for verification.
Bulky items that will be accepted include the following:
tires (no tires accepted on rims)
Residents are allowed four tires per household which must be removed from rims. No truck tires, construction debris or hazardous waste type items will be accepted.
Brush will also be accepted at this time free of charge, however, it must be separated from bulky waste items. Leaves will not be accepted. DPW employees will be available to assist residents.
For any questions or further information, please contact the Vernon Township Department of Public Works at 973.764.3021.
Vernon Mayor Expresses Support for Police Department
Posted: August 17, 2020
I thank Mr. Kenneth Burns for putting in the time and effort required to gain the approval of a municipal outdoor activity permit that was required to host the “Rally in Support of the Vernon Police Department,” that was held in our town this past Saturday.
I thank Mr. Burns because (1) this rally of support for the Vernon Township Police was well deserved, and (2) it gave me one more opportunity to express my public support for the police department that I work close with every day.
My support for the Vernon Township Police is not based simply on my seven short months as our town’s mayor, but also on the 40 long years that my family and I have lived in this beautiful town.
As we all know, so far, the year 2020 has not been a very good year for any of us—COVID-19 has sickened some of us; it has taken the lives of some of our family members, friends and neighbors; and it has negatively changed the way that we go about our daily lives.
However, in addition to having to deal with these coronavirus generated burdens and negative changes, the men and women in our police department have also had to endure the additional burden of being judged and unfairly held accountable for the wrong, shameful and sometimes deadly behavior of a select few police officers around our nation, whose wrong, shameful and sometimes deadly behavior has been well documented by cell phone camera videos.
For those who may believe that this wrong, shameful and sometimes deadly behavior of a select few police officers represents the behavior of all police officers, or who believe that all police officers are alike, I ask that you just think about that kind of exaggerated and unreasonable judgement for a few minutes.
I can’t help but to believe that when any fair minded, reasonable person thinks about that kind of exaggerated and unreasonable judgement, they will come to the logical conclusion that this kind of exaggerated and unreasonable judgement is not true for every individual in any group—be it all doctors, teachers, lawyers, religious leaders, men, women, blacks, whites or others—they are not all alike; we are all individuals.
I believe that our law enforcement officials should be judged by the same standard that was espoused by the great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—Dr. King said that we should judge each other by the content of our character and the quality of our behavior, and not simply the color of our skin; I modify that great piece of advice by Dr. King by saying that our law enforcement officials, should be judged by the content of their character and the quality of their behavior, and not simply the color of their uniform.
We in Vernon Township are very fortunate to have a good police department that’s led by an outstanding, forward thinking, and young chief of police; please join me in honoring them and thanking them for their service to the Vernon Township community!
Let’s continue to Move Vernon Forward!
Howard L. Burrell, Mayor
Mayor’s Update on a Key Tax Related Matter
Posted: August 14, 2020
My Vernon Family, in a July 10, 2020 communication, I addressed the most frequently asked questions that had come to me via e-mail, phone and through personal conversations, after the town mailed Vernon property owners their 3rd quarter 2020 estimated tax bills in late June.
The great majority of questioners requested clarification as to why, when the assessed value of their property had declined, their 3rd quarter 2020 estimated tax bills increased.
In my communication, I explained that this confusing occurrence was due primarily to the overall change in the town’s ratable base since the last property revaluation in 2009, and the property revaluation that our town had just completed as of October 1, 2019, for the 2020 assessment year.
As we know, during this 10 year period, property values changed several times, with some property values going up and some coming down.
Because of these changes in property values over this 10 year period of time, some individuals who were paying taxes based on the 2009 revaluation were paying property taxes that were too high, while others were paying property taxes that were too low.
I informed you that as a way of avoiding future sudden and large changes in tax amounts due, and to ensure that taxpayers are not paying taxes that are either too high or low, your mayor and council had agreed to apply to the state of New Jersey for approval to conduct property reassessments every year, rather than every 10 years.
I am pleased to announce that we have received that approval from the state.
With the implementation of the process of conducting property reassessments every year, rather than conducting the more costly and bureaucratic property revaluations every 10 years, Vernon Township will join with 116 other New Jersey municipalities who use this method of determining the value of the properties within their borders.
As part of my due diligence on this issue, I contacted the mayors of some of the towns who have had experience with using the annual reassessment method.
And, be it a municipality such as Paramus which has used this method for the last 2 years, or a municipality such as South Hackensack which has used this method for the last 9 years, or a municipality such as Bridgewater which has used this method for the last 15 years—they all said that the annual reassessment method is one that has been much better and more acceptable to both their towns and their town’s taxpayers.
Specifically, they informed me that their move to conducting annual property reassessments versus property revaluations every 10 years had greatly reduced the number of residents who felt the need to file tax appeals because they felt that their current property assessments were unfair or too high.
This reduction in tax appeals benefits the taxpayers and the town in that it saves the taxpayers the time and administrative/legal costs associated with filing a tax appeal; and, it reduces the amount of tax dollars that the town has to collect from the taxpayers to pay for the appearance of the municipal tax assessor and a municipal tax attorney at every tax appeal hearing.
For Vernon Township, a reduction in tax appeals will represent a significant savings since during the 10-year period between 2009 and 2019, our town averaged 490 tax appeals per year.
Unless a town requests and is granted a waiver, state law requires that an annual reassessment must begin within one year after the last 10-year revaluation. Because we believe that the annual reassessment procedure will be of such significant benefit to our taxpayers and our town, we have chosen to not request the waiver and to start our annual reassessment procedure at the earliest possible date, which is October 1, 2020.
By law, the annual assessment sampling period runs from October 1 - October 1. That means that during each assessment year, we will be analyzing 100% of our town’s property sales data that has occurred during this annual sampling period, but will inspect a different 20% - 25% of the properties each year.
In part, it’s the reduced number of inspections, along with not having to make major, costly corrections to our municipal tax map (which the state requires when a municipality does revaluations only every 10 years), that will contribute to Vernon being able to cut cost by conducting annual reassessments versus the every 10 year revaluations.
During this first annual assessment year, the 20% - 25% of the properties that we will be inspecting will consist of all of our town’s commercial properties, all of our town’s exempt properties that are not vacant lots (such as religious institutions/religious institutions’ property; the homes of veterans that are 100% disabled; fire department and volunteer ambulance corps facilities; the property of non-profit organizations, etc.), and all of our town’s residential properties that have been sold since the last revaluation, i.e., since October 1, 2019.
While we can’t start analyzing our town’s property sales data until October 1 of this year, we will take action to get a head start on doing the property inspections, and hope to start some inspections this month.
I will do my best to keep you informed on matters such as this that are aimed at keeping my commitment to Move Vernon Forward!