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