Township Council Special Workshop Meeting

The special workshop meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 1:00 p.m. on February 15, 2019 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 8, 2019 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

Present were Council Members Sandra Ooms, Mark Van Tassel, John Auberger and Council President Murphy. Also present were Mayor Harry Shortway and CFO Donelle Bright Decouto. Council Member Kadish was absent.

Public Comments (On Current Agenda Items Only)

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: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Items for Discussion

Recreation/Senior Center Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Recreation Director Mishelle Downtain to come forward to present the 2019 Budget for the Recreation Department and Senior Center. Ms. Downtain explained line item expenses for the Recreation department include office and material supplies, education for continued certification, program expenses, contracted recreation services - PAL Shared agreement, mileage and equipment rental of port-a-potty units for parks. Ms. Downtain explained the increase in program expenses is due to much received support for new programs created such as Bike Kite Day, Turkey Trot, Movies in the Park, Sidewalk Art, and Snow Shoe Race. Council President Murphy suggested speaking to the Wallkill Refuge who received Federal grants for permanent bathroom structures to replace temporary port-a-pottys. Ms. Downtain explained memberships to NRPA, and the Hiking Society give Township opportunities for grants, and discounted rates in supplies or training. Ms. Downtain explained proposed salary budget includes a proposed increase of Director salary from $45,000 to $58,000 due to increased workload and increased salaries of two part-timers.

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 with maximum cost to Vernon at $50,000. In 2018, Vernon far exceeded the maximum amount, close to $94,000, due to expanding senior population. Ms. Downtain explained that the County absorbs the cost difference.

In the capital budget, Ms. Downtain explained the Township’s need to address replacement of the turf fields at Maple Grange Park. Mayor Shortway asked Council if he should refrain from said discussion due to conflict with personal business renting the fields; Council had no objection. Ms. Downtain explained fields are beyond life expectancy and are a safety concern. She suggested using $80,000 from Recreation Trust for down payment then bond for the remainder. CFO Bright explained that although the trust fund has $195,000, some funds are earmarked for other specific purposes and cannot be used for the fields.

Ms. Downtain added the capital budget includes a request for new lighting system at Veterans Memorial Park at cost of $47,707.00 to increase the usage times and availability of the park. She explained that APT Paving already donated a partial paved walkway at the park and with the Open Space funds the hope to connect the parking lots. Mayor Shortway added the paved walking tract around Maple Grange Park also is beginning to crumble and needs repairs and suggested to use some of the remainder of the Open Space funds to complete the project rather than capital funds. Ms. Downtain commented that Recreation Department is not a revenue maker but provides services to the community.

Fire Prevention/Emergency Services Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Fire Marshal Lou Tosto to come forward to present the 2019 Budget for the Fire Prevention Department and Emergency Services. Mr. Tosto noted there was an increase in inspections from 1452 in 2017 to 1585 in 2018. The proposed 2109 budget includes office and material supplies, education, fire prevention materials for school programs, safety gear and enhanced computer program services. He added the proposed budget includes computer tablets for Fire Inspectors and Department Chiefs to access data base when at scene of fire call. Mr. Tosto explained salary budget includes 7 extra hours for part-time inspector for increased workload. Mayor Shortway added that should the Short-Term Rental Ordinance be adopted, number of inspections will increase dramatically. Also, computer program, Spatial Data, may be improved to allow application submissions online improving convenience for property owners. Mr. Tosto added he wrote grant applications for $400,000 for new tanker truck and $212,000 for fire equipment but have not yet heard if awarded.

Mr. Tosto stated amount given to Fire Departments and Ambulance Squads is same at $33,500 and repairs are proposed at $40,000 for fire-side repairs as DPW handles all mechanical repairs. Mr. Tosto stated the Fire Department Association has requested four new Chief Cars and that old Chief cars would be retained by the Deputy Chiefs. Council Member Auberger questioned if a washer/dryer was included in budget. Mr. Tosto stated no but explained that $5,000 was set aside for awarded bid to Minerva Cleaners for that purpose. Mayor Shortway added that Fire Departments were asked for an Equipment Asset Management Plan and SCBA inventory before any vehicles or equipment were added to budget which has not yet been received. Mr. Tosto added that the SCBA tanks bought in 2018 were used and need to be added to replacement plan so firefighters always have certified equipment.

Council Member Ooms questioned how much is in Fire Penalty Account. Mr. Tosto explained that businesses are given 30 days to comply with law before any fine is assessed and there have been no problems in Vernon. Mayor Shortway noted that owner of Northwoods may be assessed in near future.

Council President Murphy questioned where funds would be put if old Fire Truck is sold. Ms. Bright explained the revenue would go to fund balance and then may be earmarked in reserve account for future capital fire purchase. Council Member Auberger added that it may be more beneficial to trade in a fire vehicle or let DPW utilize outdated fire vehicles.

Municipal Clerk Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Municipal Clerk Lauren Kirkman to come forward to present the 2019 Budget for the Clerk’s Office. Ms. Kirkman explained the volume of resolutions, ordinances, OPRA requests and certified copies in 2018 as well as the vacant registrations and roadside solicitation permits being handled by the Clerk’s office.

Ms. Kirkman detailed the operating expenses including office supplies & materials needed for permanent files, education for the Clerk and Registrar certifications, and advertising expenses. She noted a proposed increase in elections due to new law requiring mail in ballots be sent out to all persons who voted via mail in in 2016. Ms. Kirkman added Vernon is working with Sussex County to explore cost to scan permanent Township records from the Clerk and Building Departments that includes a searchable feature. The salary budget is the same staffing level as the past with two full-time and one part-time employee of 20 hours weekly to assist in office coverage and statutory duties.

Construction/Department Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked Construction Official Dave Condon to come forward and present the 2019 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. Mr. Condon explained his department has received praise for the enhanced software which allows residents to access permit status online. He added his department currently has two full-time and one part-time 20 hour/week employee but is not noted in the salary budget and stressed that it is needed for better customer service. Mr. Condon stated there are no capital requests for the Construction Department.

Finance Budget Presentation

Council President Murphy asked CFO Donelle Bright DeCouto to come forward to present the 2019 Budget for the Finance Office. Ms. Bright described the various line items in the budget which includes a decrease in office materials and supplies, decrease in equipment rental due to competitive contract, decrease in membership fees and small increase in auditing services. Ms. Bright explained the salary budget currently includes three full-time employees and one part-time clerk for 20 hours/weekly at a substantial decrease. Mayor Shortway explained the Senior Account Clerk recently retired, and the PT Accounting Assistant moved into that position causing a need to fill the void of a part-time position. Council Member Ooms questioned why the Accounting Assistant wasn’t made full time to coincide with her duties so not to draw a Civil Service Desk Audit and suggested the issue be revisited. Mayor Shortway explained the request was not moved forward by Council and currently the Township is in a hiring freeze due to Mountain Creek Bankruptcy. The consensus of the Council was that they had not been asked to move forward on the position but were waiting on additional information about the position that had yet to be provided.

Mayor - Council - Commissions - Committees Budget Presentation

Mayor Shortway explained the 2019 Greenway Committee budget has been decreased by $500.00 as they have a volunteer recording secretary. The 2019 Beautification Committee budget has been increased by $500.00 to allow for increased scenic improvements for residents and visitors. Mayor Shortway stated there is no change in budgets for the Environmental Commission, Economic Development Committee, Historic Preservation Commission and the Arts Committee.

Council President Murphy announced the next Budget Workshop will be on February 25, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. for the Assessing and Police Departments.

Public Comments (On any topic, limited to 3 minutes per person)

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: Mark VanTassel
All members were in favor.

Council Comments

Council Member Ooms had no comment.

Council Member VanTassel had no comment.

Council Member Auberger had no comment.

Council President Murphy had no comment.


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 2:46 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 11, 2019