Township Council Special Workshop Meeting

The Special Workshop Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 5:00 p.m. on February 15, 2018 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Jean Murphy presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on February 7, 2018 and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss Department Budget Presentations. Official Action may be taken.

Salute to the Flag

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

Roll Call of Members

Present were Council Members John Auberger, Sandra Ooms, and Council President Murphy. Council Members Kadish and Van Tassel arrived later in the meeting as noted. Also present were Mayor Harry Shortway, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Elke Yetter.

Public Comment

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to speak, Council President Murphy asked for a motion to close the public portion of the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.

Council Member Van Tassel was present at 5:03 p.m. and Council Member Kadish was present at 5:07 p.m.

Items for Discussion

Tax Assessor Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Tax Assessor Lynne Schweighardt to come forward. Ms. Schweighardt explained line item expenses for the department include office supplies, education, appraisal costs for tax court appeals, computer software services, and membership fees. Regarding the Revaluation, she explained the State rejected the submitted tax maps in total needing many revisions making it difficult for the Revaluation to be completed in 2018. Council President Murphy questioned if her office had count of vacant homes in Township which Ms. Schweighardt explained the Zoning Officer and she have been working together to determine the amount that are truly vacant.

Recreation/Senior Center Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Recreation Director Mishelle Downtain to come forward. Ms. Downtain explained line item expenses for the Recreation department include office and material supplies, education for NRPA playground safety certification, contracted recreation services—PAL Shared agreement, and equipment rental of port-a-potty units for parks.

Ms. Downtain explained line item expenses for the Senior Center include office supplies, equipment costs for kitchen facility, education, busing contract and activities/programs. Ms. Downtain explained busing is run by Sussex County called Skylands Ride and its costs with maximum cost to Vernon at $50,000. In past years, Vernon has far exceeded the maximum amount with County absorbing the difference. The transportation services take residents to ACME, Walmart, doctor’s offices, Shoprite and pharmacies as requested. Council Member Ooms questioned why PAL services cannot be paid from trust fund. Ms. Yetter explained the trust fund is only used for programs/activities where a fee is charged, and cost is expended to break even.

Building Department Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked construction Official Dave Condon to come forward and present the 2018 Budget for the Construction Office. Mr. Condon described the various line items in the budget which includes office supplies and materials, software maintenance, memberships and education. Currently, Mr. Condon explained Vernon does not have a substitute electrical code official and the additional part time clerk floats between various departments as needed. Mr. Condon added that January of 2018 has been very busy and there has been steady increase of contractors flipping vacant houses.

Fire Prevention/Emergency Services Budget Presentation

Mr. Voelker noted that Fire Official, Lou Tosto is not present and presentation will be moved to meeting of February 21, 2018.

Administration Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Mr. Voelker to present the Administration Budget. Mr. Voelker explained the various line items such as office supplies, education, memberships, advertising, and meeting expenses. He noted the increase in Postage line item is due to Township planning to process estimated tax bills in June. Mr. Voelker noted that although technology amount staying same, Joint Insurance Fund is continually reviewing security in Township’s software for vulnerability of cyber attack and added continued training for employees is planned. Mr. Voelker explained Professional Services line includes QPA services which previously were held by former employee. He added Vernon will be proactive in employee training through free webinars offered by the Joint Insurance Fund.

Council Member Kadish questioned the preparedness of Vernon in case of emergency such as active shooter situations. Mr. Voelker explained he is continually working with DPW head and Police Chief for training on various scenarios to improve communication for better coordination of response by the many emergency groups. Mr. Voelker explained the Senior Center could be potential shelter but cost of supplies and coordination of volunteers would need to be examined.

Council Member Auberger noted emergency volunteers are covered for Workers Compensation insurance but questioned if workplace training is also available by the Insurance Fund. Mr. Voelker will explore what is offered by the Fund for additional training.

Council Member Ooms questioned what services were provided by Township Planner. Mayor Shortway explained planning services included Redevelopment in 2017 to prepare the study for Land Use Board to review. Redevelopment approval will attract new developers which in turn will be added to the sewer system to maintain EDU rates. Ms. Yetter added that line for Town Planner is for Master Plan and Redevelopment has been moved to the Land Use Budget in 2018.

Finance Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked CFO Elke Yetter to come forward to present the 2018 Budget for the Finance Office. Ms. Yetter explains there are three full-time and one part-time employees performing the duties of the office as well as shared services for the MUA. Ms. Yetter described the line items which include material and office supplies, finance software, education/seminars, payroll and audit services which was negotiated to only a 1% increase. She noted the administration fee is charged to businesses utilizing police outside services and is therefore negative.

Clerk Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Municipal Clerk Lauren Kirkman to come forward to present the 2018 Budget for the Clerk’s Office. Ms. Kirkman explained the salary portion which includes two full-time and one part-time employee to assist in office coverage and statutory duties. Ms. Kirkman described budget items of materials and office supplies, and advertising. Ms. Kirkman explained the election supplies budget was decreased by $5,000 because specific costs charged by County were deemed per state statute not allowed. Ms. Kirkman discussed records storage in the building and trailers. The Council discussed options of remediation of files and if grant is available to maintain files since they are deemed permanent records by state. Ms. Yetter suggested to utilize 2018 budget of $2,000 to investigate options and move forward with decision if funds available later in year.

Council Comments

Council Member Kadish had no comment.

Council Member Ooms had no comment.

Council Member VanTassel had no comment.

Council Member Auberger questioned with new roof in place, what is the plan to replace the damaged interior ceiling tiles still in use. Mr. Voelker explained plan is to wait until water is brought to Municipal Building and notes there are approximately 200 tiles needing replacement.

Council President Murphy asked all Council if there are any other budgets needing to be discussed at Special Meeting of February 21, 2018. The Council was in favor of adding the following to the February 21, 2018 agenda: Police/Animal Control; DPW; Fire Prevention; Insurance; Mayor & Council; Legal Services; Commissions/Committees; Capital and Debt. Council President Murphy requested Special Meeting to be held on February 26, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. to present Council Budget Recommendations to the Mayor with regular scheduled meeting immediately following at 7:00 p.m.. Ms. Yetter added the Budget must be introduced by March 16, 2018 or 1st meeting thereafter.


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 Van Tassel with all members voting in favor.

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 6:42 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren E. Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 12, 2018