Township Council Special Workshop Meeting

Call to Order

The special meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 1:00 p.m. on March 11, 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 March 5, 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 for the Appointment of Vacancy on the Council and discuss the Township Budget. Official Action may be taken.

Roll Call

Present were Council Members Sandra Ooms, Mark Van Tassel, John Auberger and Council President Murphy. Also present were Mayor Harry Shortway, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Donelle Bright.

Salute to the Flag

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

Appointment to the Township Council

Council President Murphy read the title of Resolution #19-84. Council President Murphy asked if any Council Members had any questions or discussion on this matter. No Council Member had any comment.

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to approve Resolution #19-84.
Motion: Jean Murphy
Second: John Auberger

A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Mark Van Tassel, John Auberger, Jean Murphy
Nays: None
Abstain: Sandra Ooms
Absent: None
Motion passed.

Mayor Shortway administered the Oath of Office to Council Member Patrick Curreri. Council Member Curreri thanked the Council for his appointment to fill the vacancy of Dan Kadish who will be difficult to replace but will do the very best to honor his legacy.

Resolution #19-84: Resolution Appointing Patrick Curreri to the Vernon Township Council

WHEREAS, Councilman Dan Kadish was elected to the Council of the Township of Vernon and sworn into office on January 1, 2016; and

WHEREAS, on February 25, 2019 Councilman Kadish passed after years of service to the Township of Vernon; and

WHEREAS, the death of Councilman Kadish created a vacancy on the Council of the Township of Vernon; and

WHEREAS, Patrick Curreri has been determined to be qualified to hold the office Township Council Member; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40A:16-5(a) and N.J.S.A. 40A:16-7, a vacancy in the office of Council Member is filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the Council.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Vernon that:

  1. Patrick Curreri is hereby appointed as a Council Member to fill the vacancy on the Council of the Township of Vernon created by the passing of Councilman Kadish and shall serve the unexpired term of Councilman Kadish.
  2. This Resolution shall take effect immediately upon adoption according to law.

Public Comments (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 minutes per person)

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

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


Council President Murphy asked for a motion for a short recess.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to take a short recess at 1:06 p.m.

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to return to the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to return to meeting at 1:11 p.m.

Items for Discussion

Department of Public Works Budget

Council Member Ooms questioned how the salary of part-time recycling workers is determined. Mr. Voelker explained salary range is set by Ordinance and noted in 2018 difficulty existed in attracting reliable people to perform job in elements causing Vernon to utilize existing full-time DPW workers at higher salaries to cover. He added Vernon has one employee working a four-day 27 hr./wk. schedule and one that works only Saturdays.

Council President Murphy noted the budget is significantly higher than previous years. Council Member Murphy indicated the Township needed to look at where cuts can be made. Council President Murphy discussed how the part-time position in Tax Collector being made full-time will help significantly to collect delinquent taxes and is a wise investment.

It was noted that the majority of DPW’s salaries are contractual and budget for snow & ice materials are generally predicated on weather. It was further noted that the Capital Budget included a Tow-behind Sweeper, leaf debris back and single axle truck.

Ms. Bright suggested Vernon utilize a lease to purchase program for the Police and DPW and will provide more detailed information to Council about rotation possibilities, increased efficiency, lower costs, reduction in maintenance and higher residual value. Council President Murphy questioned if all Police vehicles must be SUVs. Mr. Voelker explained SUVs are similarly priced to cars, are all-wheel drive, have better ground clearance and are better for drivers working 12-hour shifts. Council President Murphy stated that Council is interested in hearing further information on the lease program. Ms. Bright suggested the company come before Council with a presentation.

Ms. Bright explained in recent years, Road Improvements were bonded for and there are some funds left in prior Ordinances to do needed road repairs such as Karen Road. Going forward she recommended Vernon use cash instead of bonding to decrease the debt service because in 2023 the SCMUA payments will need to be permanently financed. Ms. Bright explained that $240,000.00 was added to the budget as a revenue for the 2019 NJDOT grant but noted if it is not received, the work cannot be done.

Council Member Auberger suggested when the Township does major road improvements to salvage the old guardrails for emergency repairs when needed or to scrap the metal for money.

Tax Assessor Budget

Council President Murphy noted that the Assessor will be retiring on May 1, 2019 and questioned if salary budget should be lowered to reflect someone new being hired. Ms. Bright explained the salary should be based on experience and noted that extra funds could be used for the retiree’s payout. Ms. Bright advised the Council that the salary range for Assessor is $75,000 - $110,000. Mr. Voelker added that anyone who recently passed the Assessor exam cannot be given Certification until July 1 of the following year per statute.

Recreation/Senior Center Budget

Regarding the replacement of the turf fields at Maple Grange Park, Ms. Bright stated she spoke to Division of Local Government Services who said Vernon can use the Recreation Trust Funds to offset the down payment because it was dedicated for that purpose. Council Member Ooms commented that the salary increase request for the Recreation Supervisor was too high. The council discussed the existing service contracts to the Vernon PAL at cost of $45,000 to facilitate the recreation programs and now more programs are being created leading to more work for this department. Council President Murphy noted that the Senior Center is run very efficiently and suggested that the Supervisor limit her time there and spend more time on Recreation. Mr. Voelker explained the supervisor is the lowest paid department head and is very low compared to other towns. Council President Murphy explained the salary range for the Recreation Supervisor is $45,000 - $65,000 and employee was started out on the low end. Mr. Voelker explained that the PAL has many resources of employees, volunteers, facilities, supplies to run our programs more efficiently than Vernon can at this time. Mayor Shortway added that the newer programs have been run by many volunteers of the Boards and don’t utilize Township manpower. Council Member Ooms opined that all programs should be returned to Vernon and a part-time employee be hired to assist the Supervisor which should lower costs. Mayor Shortway added that Civil Service determines proper titles based on duties but does not set salaries. Ms. Downtain came forward to explain that while she does assist serving lunch to the seniors on a daily basis during her lunchtime, she also meets with the Coordinator to discuss needs of senior events. Mayor Shortway added that any time worked on weekend events is then taken as compensatory time, not overtime.

Council Member Auberger commented that any of the Open Space Walkway improvements at the Flats or Maple Grange would need to be approved by Council. He questioned if the Lighting upgrades could be put off for another year. Ms. Downtain explained that if the turf fields and lighting are combined, the financing rates will be lower. She added that the back-turf field has been closed due to inspection results which is negatively affecting many spring sports practices and games. If approved by Council, the earliest new fields could be installed would be in mid-July and if not, Vernon would need to spend at least $12,000 this year to do repairs. Also, with the fields closed, revenues from rentals fees will decrease. Council Member Ooms summarized that there is $195,000 in the Recreation Account currently of which $80,000 is planned to be used as down payment for the turf fields and $40,000 is to be used for Lighting. Ms. Downtain explained the lighting at Veterans Memorial Park is outdated and not conducive for needs of sports groups and financially makes sense to do both at same time. Ms. Bright noted that the third turf field will also be needing replacement soon at an estimated cost of $525,000. Ms. Downtain added that lighting improvements is definitely a major part of the bigger plan which includes the greenway and band-shell. Council President Murphy noted that the PAL is thinking of adding an indoor field facility and wondered how that would affect Vernon fields. Ms. Downtain opined that if that idea came to fruition, it may allow Vernon fields to be rented more, increasing revenue. Ms. Bright was asked to provide payment figures for bonding to Council Members.


Council President Murphy asked for a motion for a short recess.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to take a short recess at 2:52 p.m.

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to return to the meeting.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Sandra Ooms
All members were in favor.
Motion passed to return to meeting at 2:57 p.m.

Construction/Building Budget

Ms. Bright stated a part-time position for $13,000 was inadvertently deleted and has been corrected. Council President Murphy noted that this position was temporary beginning 9/25/18. Ms. Bright stated if the employee is employed longer than six months, the position then would become permanent. Council Member Auberger commented he is in favor for retaining this position if there is a need. Mr. Voelker explained there were plans for another employee to move but that had changed. Mr. Voelker stated that efficiency and public service increased in the building department due to this part-time position. He added that a full-time position resigned and then two part-time positions took its place.

Council President Murphy stated the Township needs to make the decision now whether to keep this temporary position or not. She added that changing the part-time position in Tax makes sense but questioned if the part-time position in building is needed at this time. Council Member Auberger asked if the temporary part time position in building was still needed. Mr. Voelker explained that the work was being caught up and that the Spatial Data-Enterprise system had finally come to fruition which has decreased phone calls. Council President Murphy noted we had a part time person in tax and in building, now the part time in tax is being made full time and questioned the status of the building part time staff. Council Member Auberger asked if the work is caught up then was the position still needed. Council Member Ooms questioned likewise if the position was needed. Mr. Voelker stated he had not anticipated the person remaining in building beyond the end of December but that they were still helping because Spatial Data-Enterprise had not been fully implemented. Council Member Ooms questioned if the position is still needed. Mr. Voelker discussed to end temporary part-time position by the end of the week, before the position exceeded the six-month time frame.

Finance Budget

Council President Murphy proposed that the Township departments should be open from 8-4 daily and should work a 40-hour week at higher pay to improve public service and to eliminate part-time positions. Ms. Bright suggested the departments be open one late night for commuters. Mr. Voelker explained the office hours are defined in the bargaining agreements and would need to be renegotiated when contracts are due. He added that now is not the time to pursue increasing salaries to fund the extra hours as the budget is under scrutiny.

The Council discussed there are four positions in the Finance office including: CFO with a salary TBD, Principal Payroll Clerk, Senior Accounting Clerk who was the PT Accounting Assistant, and a vacant PT Keyboarding Clerk. Ms. Bright explained that her position is also the CFO to the VTMUA and is currently negotiating with them for additional shared services for Purchasing for $20,000-$30,000 which will further help offset the Finance Budget. Council President Murphy questioned what position will handle the extra workload from the MUA and is concerned a request to increase positions will follow. Mayor Shortway explained that Vernon Township owns the assets and currently has no say in the maintenance. Council Member Auberger summarized that Council needs to set the CFO salary and may consider hiring a part-time keyboarding clerk to fill the vacant position.

Fire Prevention/Emergency Services Budget

Council Members discussed the request to increase part-time inspector’s weekly hours to twenty-one from fourteen and the capital funds request to replace SCBA packs for volunteer firefighters for $100,000.00. Council Member Auberger questioned if the Township ever purchased cleaning equipment for the Fire Departments in previous budget or was it removed. Mr. Voelker explained after research and discussion in 2017, township decided to go out for Proposals and awarded a contract for 2019 for this purpose. Ms. Bright stated the Township has paid out $32,000 in 2018 for clothing allowance for the volunteers based on criteria in Ordinance.

Police-Animal Control Budget

Council Member Ooms questioned about the requested Traffic Messaging Trailer and Water hookup in Town Center in the 2018 Capital budget. Ms. Bright reviewed 2018 Capital Improvement Plan and found both were in the Plan was but were later removed when Capital Ordinance was approved by the governing body. Ms. Bright explained that the funds for the Capital Improvement Plan are raised in the current fund then moved to the Capital accounts by an approved Ordinance which may be used in multiple years.

Mayor Shortway questioned where the reimbursement of $45,000 from the Highlands Grant will be deposited now that the Township complied with the Water Study. Ms. Bright explained she needs to research where the funds to pay the professionals came from and if revenue was anticipated.

Council Member Ooms asked Ms. Bright how funds from the sale of Township properties in 2018 can be used. Ms. Bright explained the revenue was unanticipated and can now be added to the 2019 budget.

The Council discussed the Police Department Capital Budget Items including two vehicles, fingerprint machine and a backup generator. Mr. Voelker explained the necessity of all three items for public safety and noted that Vernon has a shared service agreement with Wantage to locate antennas on this tower which the generator serves for emergency power.

Municipal Clerk Budget

Ms. Kirkman stated to Council that $6,000.00 for Agenda Software can be cut from the Clerk’s Software Support budget if reductions are needed and noted increase in election services are due to new law requirements.

Administration Budget

Council President Murphy stated the Purchasing Agent salary for $8,500 listed in the Administration salaries should be removed as Vernon has a professional contract with Sean Canning. Council President Murphy indicated there was no need for duplicate funds in the budget.

Mayor-Council—Commission/Committees Budget

The Council made no comments.

Legal Services and Engineering Budget

Mayor Shortway stated there is $175,000 in the budget because Vernon anticipates Litigation with Mountain Creek and possibly the Landfill remediation issue.

Ms. Kirkman added there is a request in the Capital Budget for a Sound System in the Meeting Room as Court and Land Use Board are required to record all meetings. Mr. Voelker explained there is $40,000 in the Capital Budget for the Fire Alarm System in the Municipal Building as it is not functioning as it should.

Insurance Budget

Council President Murphy confirmed that there are no changes in the Insurance Budget due to Township moving to State health Benefits Plan in 2018 with substantial savings. Ms. Bright commented she had experience with self-insurance plans which may initially show decreases but cautions that with high number of retirees in the pool of employees, rates could increase.

Debt Service & Capital Budget

Ms. Bright explained that it is important to pay off notes from Ordinances #11-7, 11-8 and 16-18 over the next four years, increase the useful life of bonds going forward. She added that the $6 million of Utility Debt is not included in the Township Debt Service. Mayor Shortway noted that Ordinance#11-23 funded the MUA operations and professionals when it was created and is being paid by all taxpayers. Ms. Bright explained that even though Mountain Creek did not yet pay the $242,000 bond payment owed, Vernon Township had to pay it from our cash flow. Ms. Bright explained between the Vernon MUA and the Township, $1 million was paid to SCMUA.

Other Budgetary Items

Council Member Ooms questioned who sets the tax from hotels owed to the Township. Mr. Voelker explained the State sets the tax rate from hotels and motels and a portion is reimbursed to the Township. Council President Murphy noted that Vernon Township is not receiving any taxes from the many short-term rentals.

Mayor Shortway stated Vernon should look at the Watershed Properties after the revaluation is completed for assessed values. Regarding the vacant property Ordinance, Vernon collected $84,000 in 2018. Mr. Voelker added owners were required to pay by March 1 in 2019 but some contractors have and an amendment is currently before Council for approval.

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: Mark Van Tassel
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

There were no further comments from any Council Member.


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 4:26 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: April 8, 2019