Minutes: April 21, 2016

Call to Order

The regular meeting of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (VTMUA) of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2016 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on February 18, 2016 and was posted on the bulletin board in the municipal building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6.

Roll Call

Thomas BuchneyP
Gloria GalloP
Thomas McClachrieP
Edward SnookP
Joseph TadrickA
Edward SegerP
Vincent ZinnoA

Roll Call of Professionals

Attorney Richard Wenner, Engineer Ceren Aralp, Auditor Charles Ferraioli, and Executive Director John Scerbo were present.

1. Open Meeting for Public Comment

Thomas Buchney moved to open the meeting to the public.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was opened to the public.

Robert Constantine, Quartermaster of the VFW Post 8441, said he is at the meeting to try to get the VFW Post 8441’s EDU count reduced. He said they want to connect to the sewers but currently have an agreement with the VTMUA to postpone hookup. Mr. Constantine said the VFW installed a water meter and has learned that they average less than 300 gallons a day. Last week their daily average was 197 gallons. He said they are currently being charged for 1125 gallons daily. He thinks a lower rate would be fair. He brought with him a couple of months of meter readings and also invited the VTMUA commissioners to see the meter for themselves at the VFW post.

2. Close the Meeting for Public Comment

Thomas Buchney moved to close the meeting to the public.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The public portion of the meeting was closed.

3. Consent Agenda

Resolution 16-32: Payment of April Bills

Gloria Gallo moved to pay the April 2016 bills.
Edward Snook seconded the motion.

Discussion: Thomas Buchney and Gloria Gallo said the meeting was disruptive and they did not know what was going on during the role call vote, so Executive Director John Scerbo reiterated the roll call vote for the consent agenda.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Gloria Gallo, Edward Seger, and Edward Snook
Nays: None
Abstentions: Thomas McClachrie

4. Approval of Minutes

March 17, 2016 Regular Meeting

Edward Seger said he wanted to make a minor clarification. He was implying that the township has the authority to collect the appropriate data on failing septics or septic repairs; the VTMUA does not have the authority to collect data.

Thomas McClachrie wanted to make the clarification that although he commented directly after Vincent Zinno’s statement regarding lakes being impacted by septic systems, he wants it known that he was not participating in that specific discussion but was referring to surface water studies that had already been done in Vernon and in northern New Jersey by the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey.

Edward Seger moved to approve the March 17, 2016 regular meeting minutes with the clarifications. Edward Snook seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas McClachrie, Edward Seger, and Edward Snook
Nays: None
Abstentions: Thomas Buchney and Gloria Gallo

5. Receipt and Filing of Correspondence


6. Other Resolutions

A. Resolution 16-33: Amendment to Licensed Operator Agreement

The resolution adopted previously does not make mention of the maturity of the field staff and what they have learned over the last several years. The amended resolution reflects the kinds of things that the licensed operators should be doing, giving their level of maturity.

Edward Seger moved to adopt the amendment to the licensed operator agreement.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.

Further Discussion: Thomas McClachrie feels this resolution calls for a professional to report to a non-professional. He asked Executive Director John Scerbo if he had an N3 License. Mr. Scerbo said as executive director responsible for the field operations he does not need an N3 License, as long as they have a contracted professional who does. Mr. McClachrie continued that they cannot have a professional reporting to a non-professional and they cannot get advice from the non-professional on the certification of the professional. He claimed that procedures and protocol would require the professional to first contact the state, then the county, and then the executive director. He said if the VTMUA had the proper procedures in place they would know that. In case of an emergency, that is the procedure the VTMUA should follow, Mr. McClachrie said. He said the resolution implies that Mr. Scerbo would make the decision. Mr. Scerbo said that is not what the contract states.

VTMUA Attorney Richard Wenner said Mr. Scerbo is the executive director so it makes sense for the contractor to contact the executive director who works seven hours every day to be the point of contact. John Scerbo is the chief executive officer of the VTMUA, Mr. Wenner said.

Chairman Edward Snook stated that Mr. Scerbo would naturally contact anyone he is required to contact by law as well. A licensed DEP contractor is not going to jeopardize his license by not contacting the state as required by law, Mr. Snook added.

Mr. McClachrie said it should be spelled out in the contract because people do not always do the right things.

Mr. Wenner said it is already spelled out in the contract and the procedures are already in place and the licensed operator, Michael Furrey, is in the audience at the meeting and could confirm he understands his obligations, to which Mr. Furrey responded that he did.

Gloria Gallo asked Thomas McClachrie if he read the resolution because everything is already spelled out very clearly and the procedures are already in place.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Gloria Gallo, Edward Seger, and Edward Snook
Nays: Thomas McClachrie

B. Resolution 16-34: Audit Corrective Action Plan

Thomas Buchney moved to approve the audit corrective action plan.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.
No further discussion

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Gloria Gallo, Edward Seger, and Edward Snook
Nays: Thomas McClachrie

7. Attorney’s Report

No report

8. Auditor’s Report

No report

9. Engineer’s Report

A. Phase 1 Inflow & Infiltration Study

The engineer inspected certain areas of the system on dry days and on rainy days. Findings showed there are some manhole leaks and some areas on the golf course and on easements in the back of the buildings that were not accessible by truck. She has made some recommendations and asked the commissioners to review the report she presented to them so she can answer any questions they might have at the meeting next month. Some of the recommendations include repairing leaking manholes and inspectors using a handheld camera for inspections in areas that are not accessible by truck. She also said the Community Development Grant Program has listed Vernon Township as authorized to make an application for a grant but someone needs to attend the application meeting usually held in July. These grants might pay for repairs to manhole leaks, which are estimated to cost about $17,000. She needs authorization from the VTMUA to pursue the grants.

Edward Seger asked for the reason for the I & I. John Scerbo said some of the pipes in the system, particularly those in Mountain Creek and the condominiums, are very old, and they wanted a better understanding of the condition of those pipes. Mr. Scerbo also said another goal was to see if they were sending more water than was necessary and they picked it up from the SCMUA flows and there were correlations that enabled them to understand where were the problems exactly.

Ceren Aralp said it is also good practice to do an I & I to see what is in need of repair and what could further damage the system. She said it also helps to see if they are pumping additional rainwater or groundwater to the treatment plant. She also confirmed that they are still under the maximum.

Thomas McClachrie asked if the engineer compared them to the 2009 and 2010 reports when the system was still under the control of United Water. Ms. Aralp said she did.

Ceren Aralp will provide more information about the meeting and the application for the grant at the May meeting.

Chairman Edward Snook asked the record to reflect that commissioner Joseph Tadrick arrived at the meeting at 7:45.

10. Executive Director’s Report

Executive Director John Scerbo reminded everyone to complete their state required financial disclosure forms by the April 30 deadline.

He also said there was a situation over the last month at the condominiums where there was a backup in a bathroom. Comet Management was called in to do cleanup work and to check for clogs. Either Comet or a resident at the condominiums apparently took it upon themselves to remove the cap and attempt to clear the clog, which only the VTMUA has the authority to do. Mr. Scerbo will be sending a bill to Comet Management for the cost of the repair.

He also pointed out that he gave the commissioners the VTMUA quarterly financial statement for their review and would answer any questions they had.

11. Commissioner Comments

Thomas Buchney reported another newsletter would be going out with the next billing and asked the commissioners if they had anything they would like to include in the newsletter.

Thomas McClachrie said he sent VTMUA attorney Richard Wenner email asking several questions. He asked the attorney to provide justification for the connection fees. Mr. Wenner said he did not know Mr. McClachrie was asking for it but thought he was referring to a rate for seniors. Mr. McClachrie said he would like to request documentation that refers to sewer connection fees, including state statutes. He said the VTMUA needs justification for the connection fees. He also wants information on a reduction or freeze on sewer rates for senior citizens. Chairman Edward Snook said such a reduction or freeze should be income based. Mr. McClachrie would like to see some VTMUA policies for reducing rates for senior citizens.

Auditor Charles Ferraioli said he has one or two clients in other municipalities where there is a policy in place for seniors, but he cautioned that if rates are reduced for one segment of the users other users have to bear the additional costs.

Thomas McClachrie said the reason the VTMUA is not on meters is because if you do use a lot you don’t have to worry about it because the people who don’t use a lot are going to pay for it. He believes that as a community it is inherent to take care of the people who are getting older and are becoming more limited in their incomes. He wants the VTMUA to address it. He wants the attorney to look into an amendment of the VTMUA rules and prepare a resolution to accommodate senior citizens. Edward Snook said change the VTMUA makes should be income based.

John Scerbo asked Charles Ferraioli how those communities check income levels. Mr. Ferraioli said they show their annual tax returns. Mr. Scerbo said if the VTMUA were to consider a reduction for senior citizens’ rates, documentation would be required and the policies for who might qualify would need to be very clear.

John Scerbo said before such a reduction could be considered, they need to understand the amount and the impact of it before striking the next VTMUA budget. Thomas Buchney said the VTMUA needs to know in advance what the financial impact would be and how it would impact other ratepayers.

Thomas McClachrie discussed metering users and also environmental constraints that would exempt people from hooking up to the sewers. He asked for an amendment to the VTMUA regulations to conform to state regulations regarding those constraints. The exemptions need to be institutionalized, he said.

Attorney Richard Wenner said he does not believe the VTMUA’s regulations are in conflict with state regulations.

Thomas McClachrie discussed the Mountain Creek/Vernon agreement. Edward Snook said the agreement is between the township and Mountain Creek, not with the VTMUA. He said the VTMUA does not have authority to change the agreement. They can only follow the agreement.

Thomas McClachrie said he has submitted an OPRA request for the VTMUA’s finances. He asked for the 2013 finances and said based on the documentation he received, the VTMUA is not doing monthly or quarterly financial statements, as required by state law. John Scerbo said the VTMUA does do and has been doing quarterly financial statements. Mr. McClachrie said he did not get quarterly statements with his OPRA request, and Mr. Scerbo said Mr. McClachrie had not asked for quarterly financial statements. In his OPRA request Mr. McClachrie had asked CFO Elke Yetter and Mr. Scerbo for the VTMUA internal budget, which is what Mr McClachrie received and his OPRA request was satisfied. Mr. McClachrie agreed that Mr. Scerbo was correct.

12. Chairman Comments

Edward Snook commented on the VFW’s statements concerning their meter readings. He said they do not have a functioning kitchen where they cook and serve food. Everything has to be brought in. They do not run dishwashers, he said. They have asked the VTMUA to reduce their EDU count, and Mr. Snook said he wants the VTMUA to consider what they can do for the VFW. He added that very few functions are held at the VFW because they do not have a kitchen. He said they no longer serve lunch or dinner at the facility. The VFW is not asking for a waiver from connection; it is asking for a reduction in the EDU count. Mr. Snook said he wants the VTMUA to consider granting the VFW’s request and discussing it at the May meeting. The VFW is based on the classification of a banquet hall, and that is the reason for the EDU count.

Ceren Aralp said they could consider it under a different classification. The VFW EDU count had already been reduced in the past.

John Scerbo said previously he had gone to the VFW and was shown its books and the events that are held there. If they are going to justify a lower EDU count based on the same parameters they previously showed Mr. Scerbo when determining the EDU count initially he would be conflicted if he had to go and investigate it again he said. He suggested VTMUA commissioners investigate instead. The VFW EDU count was already lowered to about half of its original count. The matter will be placed on next month’s agenda for further discussion.

Thomas Buchney said changing the regulation could have a significant impact on other users, such as fire departments. Changing the regulations to allow for reductions for some users could hurt voluntary fire departments, he said, and there needs to be much more discussion before any decisions could be made.

Ceren Aralp said they needed to consider a specialized classification for the VFW if they do not fit the banquet hall or restaurant classification. Edward Seger asked about the different classifications. Ms. Aralp said he could find them under Subsection 4.3 in the VTMUA Rules and Regulations. The fire department is classified as office space and assessed EDUs as such, Ms. Aralp said.

Edward Snook said he and commissioner Vincent Zinno have met twice with two members of the township council and the mayor. He wants to send a letter to the council outlining what the VTMUA proposed and how he feels their meetings have gone and what steps they want to take next. He said they need to draft a letter so the VTMUA knows what they are talking about and what direction to take next. He said the VTMUA needs to state its position in the letter.

Richard Wenner explained that at the first meeting in February they appeared before the council and the council requested an update regarding the sewer expansion study issue. There was also a meeting with councilwomen Jean Murphy and Sandra Ooms, liaisons for the governing body. He said the letter would outline those meetings.

Edward Snook said the VTMUA is currently on hold on the expansion study issue. They cannot go forward with it at this time without further council approval.

Thomas McClachrie said the VTMUA needs to vote on actions, and he does not see where the VTMUA voted last year to take any action regarding an expansion study. Mr. Wenner said it was in the form of Resolution 15-93, approved by the township council.


Thomas Buchney moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:25 p.m.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on May 19, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary