Minutes: August 20, 2012

The regular meeting of the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, August 20, 2012 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey.

Statement

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on July 27, 2012 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
Barbara ChorzepaP
Doug DobrzynskiP
Gloria Frato-GalloP
James KensekP
Vincent ZinnoP
Edward H. RolandoP

Also Present

John Ursin, Esq.
Chuck Ferraioli, Auditor
James Coe, Engineer
Aida Cahill, Secretary

Salute to the Flag

Mr. Rolando led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

Mr. Rolando turned the meeting over to Mr. Ursin who gave a history of the Vernon sewer system, stating that construction began in hopes for growth of business. Mr. Ursin advised that the 2005 agreement between Mountain Creek and the township outlined how the costs would be shared. In 2010 Vernon began paying SCMUA and then in 2011 the township council formed the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA). The MUA began meeting in July 2011 with the task before them of setting up the Rules and Regulations, including connection fees and rate structures. On July 1, 2012 the sewer assets of United Water were purchased so that the sewer could operate as one unified system. It was noted that unless the township bought the sewer assets of United Water, Vernon would have been charged as a bulk customer. Mr. Ursin stated that the MUA understands that people are upset and issues need to be addressed.

The attorneys for Stonehill requested that the due date for the third quarter bill be extended until October 16, 2012.

Motion to extend the 3rd quarter sewer bill due date until October 16, 2012.
Moved: Gloria Frato-Gallo
Second: Vincent Zinno
All were in favor.

Mr. Ferraioli, MUA Auditor gave a brief financial overview. Mr. Ferraioli advised that the State of New Jersey required a yearly budget. He further explained that the process began by using United Water expenses and SCMUA fixed expenses for a first year’s budget $1,360,000. Revenue of $800 per unit for Town Center and Mountain Creek was used, but still generated deficits. Based on that, the commissioners decided to introduce a rate of $840 per Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU). Mr. Ferraioli advised of rates for some of the surrounding towns.

Open Meeting to Public Comments

Mr. Rolando explained that the public comment portion of the meeting would be limited to 5 minutes per speaker with a total time of 45 minutes.

Craig Thompson, property manager for Stonehill requested the consideration of holding the next meeting at a larger venue. Mr. Thompson then introduced their attorney, Arthur Neiss. Mr. Neiss surrendered his time to the public.

Jennifer Appleby, questioned why all Vernon residents were not being charged for the sewer. Mr. Ursin explained that by law only users of the sewer could be charged. Ms. Appleby requested adjustment of the user rates for the next budget.

Howard Greenblatt commented that he has always tried to conserve water and questioned what happens if nobody pays their sewer bill. Mr. Rolando advised that non-payment was subject to tax lien.

Tom Kelly spoke regarding Mr. Rolando’s sons company having contracts with Stonehill. Mr. Ursin explained that such contracts were before the MUA was ever formed. Mr. Kelly suggested that the lift stations were part of the purchase of United Water and should be taken over by the MUA.

Paul Nolton questioned if commissioners had calculated how much the increases were going to be for Great Gorge Village (GGV) residents and stated that many residents are being hurt by these increases. Mr. Rolando stated that the MUA was not part of the United Water negotiations.

Len Calosia stated that GGV is over assessed and flat rate for sewer is unfair and requested a more fair solution.

Pat Lasorsa questioned what could be done to change the rates now that the public is attending the meeting. Mr. Rolando stated that the commissioners are listening and will consider public comments. Mr. Ursin explained that additional users will stabilize the rates.

Tina Held stated that flat rate is an unfair practice and questioned Mountain Creek’s involvement, as well as how much Mountain Creek pays for user rates.

Kristie Malloy questioned how tenants get notified of bills when bills are going to the owner. Mr. Ursin explained that the MUA has to use tax records to send out bills.

Anita Biggs questioned if lift stations were built on easements. Mr. Ursin stated that this is being reviewed by the attorneys.

Jeff Kushna requested a rate freeze until the commission has a better understanding of a fair rate structure.

Bob Garchock questioned why tax payers were not included in decision to purchase the United Water sewer system. He also questioned how the purchase was made and if there was any relationship between United Water and the township.

Richard Bagni stated that flat user rate is unfair and requested that a charge based on consumption be used. Mr. Bagni questioned Mr. Rolando’s business interests as they may relate to the sewer.

Linda Duval spoke regarding increase in rates and elderly people living alone who can’t afford it.

Carol Gaffney thanked the commissioners for extending the billing due date and expressed hope that there would be a resolution to the rate concerns by October.

Susan Scott, president of Stonehill Association, suggested owners pay their bill because non-payment is subject to tax lien. Ms. Scott expressed concern regarding the user rate and requested that MUA consider public comments.

Rick Boyce suggested having the entire town contribute toward sewer fees and base the bill on consumption.

Jodie Chenisi questioned why people didn’t vote to buy United Water and why rates aren’t included in taxes.

Cindy Mooney questioned why United Water was purchased and questioned which businesses in the Town Center would be required to hook up to the sewer.

Close Meeting to Public

Motion to close the public comment portion of the meeting.
Moved: Vincent Zinno
Second: Barbara Chorzepa
All were in favor.

Mr. Rolando called for a brief recess.

Applications Under Review

Motion to approve Block 231, Lot 12 for 3 EDUs
Moved: Doug Dobrzynski
Second: Gloria Frato-Gallo
All were in favor except for Mr. Rolando who abstained.
Alternate #1, Doug Dobrzynski voted in favor.

Motion to approve Block 145, Lot 1.04 for 1 EDU
Moved: Vincent Zinno
Second: Barbara Chorzepa
All were in favor.

Correspondence

  • Consisted of multiple letters from residents opposing the sewer user rates.
  • SCMUA meeting minutes.
  • Notification of Sewer Service Area Maps from the NJDEP. Hatch Mott MacDonald will print out the maps.

Bills List

Motion to approve the bills list items #1 through #20.

Mr. Buchney questioned the Statewide Insurance Fund. Mr. Rolando explained that this had to do with MUA insurance coverage.

Moved: Thomas Buchney
Second: Vincent Zinno

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Vincent Zinno, Ed Rolando
Nays: Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Frato-Gallo
The bills list was approved.

Engineer Report

There was no report at this time.

MUA Discussion

Mr. Buchney questioned how much of a rate increase United Water requested from the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

Ms. Chorzepa questioned if there were any improvements needed to the pump stations. It was noted that pump station #2 & #3 needed upgrades. Pump station #1 is new and Mountain Creek was responsible for upgrades of the pump station on Sandhill Rd.

Mr. Zinno questioned how future bills lists would be handled. Mr. Ursin stated that a bills list resolution would be voted on at the meeting and there should be a time when the commissioners could view the actual invoices and vouchers.

Ms. Frato-Gallo suggested adding the Stonehill Association to the mailing list for any future notifications.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn at 9:15 p.m.

Moved: Gloria Frato-Gallo
Second: Barbara Chorzepa
All were in favor.

Respectfully submitted,
Aida Cahill, Secretary
Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority

Date approved: October 15, 2012