Minutes: February 15, 2018

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, February 15, 2018 in the Vernon Senior Citizens 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 21, 2017 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
John PerryP
Edward SegerP
Edward SnookP
Kristin WheatonP
Paul Kearney Alt #1P
David McDermott Alt #2P

Roll Call of Professionals

Executive Director John Scerbo, Engineer Ceren Aralp, and Attorney Joseph Salvatore were present.

1. Appointments—Oaths of Office

Kristen Wheaton was sworn in for a five-year term that expires February 2023.
Paul Kearney was sworn in as Alternate #1 for a five-year term that expires February 2023.
David McDermott was sworn in as Alternate #2 for a two-year term that expires February 2020.

2. Election of Officers

A. Chairman

Edward Snook moved to nominate Thomas Buchney chairman. Kristin Wheaton seconded the nomination. Edward Seger moved to nominate John Perry chairman. Paul Kearney seconded the nomination.

Roll Call Vote for Thomas Buchney:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney and Edward Snook
Nays: John Perry, Edward Seger, and Kristin Wheaton

Roll Call Vote for John Perry:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

John Perry was named Chairman of the VTMUA for 2018.

B. Vice Chairman

Edward Seger moved to nominate Thomas Buchney vice chairman; John Perry seconded the motion. Kristin Wheaton moved to nominate Edward Seger vice chairman, but the motion failed for the lack of a second.

Roll Call Vote for Thomas Buchney:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

Thomas Buchney was named vice chairman of the VTMUA for 2018.

3. Public Comments

Edward Snook moved to open the meeting to the public; Edward Seger seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Richard Bagni of Great Gorge Village came forward to express that his plea tonight is the same as it was since the VTMUA was first formed: he feels an unfair burden has been placed on Great Gorge Village owners regarding sewer fees that keep going up in cost. He said Great Gorge Village is the largest percentage of ratepayers and if the VTMUA does not find a solution to this, they are going to force out a number of residents in the village whose property values would be affected. He asked the VTMUA to meet with the township council to work out a way to relieve this burden.

Great Gorge Village resident Anita Pivirotto said she is retired and thought she could afford to live in Great Gorge Village when the sewer rate was much lower. She said the state of New Jersey considers Sussex County and Vernon dying towns. She said her sewer bill is now more than $1,000 a year, and it is a heavy burden for just one person living alone. She said something must be done so that the condominium owners can continue to afford to live there.

Noreen Moran of Great Gorge Village said she does not understand why they have to pay for the township sewer debt and said the debt should be spread across all taxpayers in the township to remove the burden from Great Gorge Village residents.

Dan Murphy of Great Gorge Village said it upsets him that the developer who built the condominium complex signed the sewer agreement with the township and then walked away from it and sold it to the new owners of Mountain Creek, who have since filed for bankruptcy.

Seeing no one else come forward, Edward Snook moved to close the meeting to the public. Edward Seger seconded the motion. All were in favor.

4. Consent Agenda

A. Resolution 18-08: Resolution Designating the Official Newspaper for 2018

In accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, the New Jersey Herald and the New Jersey Sunday Herald were designated the official newspapers of the VTMUA for 2018, with The Advertiser-News designated as alternate newspaper.

B. Resolution 18-09: Resolution Listing the Schedule of Meetings for 2018 through February 2019

BE IT RESOLVED in accordance with the Open Public Meeting Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7 et seq., the regular meetings of the Vernon Municipal Utilities Authority shall convene on the third Thursday (except as noted*) of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Vernon Township Municipal Building, 21 Church St., Vernon, New Jersey for the following dates.

March 15, 2018
April 19, 2018
May 17, 2018
June 21, 2018
July 19, 2018
August 16, 2018
September 20, 2018
October 18, 2018
November 8, 2018*
December 20, 2018
January 17, 2019
February 21, 2019 Reorganization Meeting

C. Resolution 18-10: Resolution Establishing the Authority to Spend Funds and Sign Checks

All checks of the VTMUA less than $500 shall require the signature of the chief financial officer. All checks in excess of $500 will require two signatures, one of them being the CFO of the VTMUA and the other can be the chairman, vice chairman, or treasurer.

D. Resolution 18-11: Resolution Adopting the 2017 VTMUA Rules and Regulations and the Commissioners’ Handbook as Amended, during 2017, as the 2018 Rules, Regulations and Handbook for 2018

E. Resolution 18-12: Resolution Appointment for Professional Services-Auditor Charles Ferraioli of the Firm Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Cerullo & Cuva, PA

F. Resolution 18-13: Resolution Appointment for Professional Service-Engineering Firm of Mott MacDonald

G. Resolution 18-14: Resolution Appointment for Professional Services Agreement with the Firm Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen

H. Resolution 18-15: Resolution Authorizing the Award of Professional Services Contracts and the Advertising of Same

  1. Authority Attorney—Richard Wenner of Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen
  2. Authority Auditor—Charles Ferraioli of Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Cerullo & Cuva, PA
  3. Authority Engineer—Ceren Aralp, PE, LEED-AP, Senior Project Engineer of Mott MacDonald
  4. Authority Licensed Sewer Operator—Jack Grosser, Vernon Township DPW
  5. Authority Recording Secretary—Jessica Paladini

I. Resolution 18-16: Resolution Authorizing the Hiring of a Contractor for 2018 as Recording Secretary

Jessica Paladini for the term of February 15, 2018 to February 16, 2019.

J. Resolution 18-17: Resolution Creating a Fee for Dishonored Checks

Any person or entity that presents a check to the VTMUA that is dishonored shall pay a fee of $20 to the VTMUA.

K. Resolution 18-18: Authorizing the Payment of Nondiscretionary Bills Less Than $500.00

This policy only applies to nondiscretionary emergent bills of less than $500 for bills the executive director recommends payment and for which the CFO certifies funds are available.

L. Resolution 18-19: Resolution Authorizing the Payment of Regulated Bills

The VTMUA finance officer is authorized to pay all regulated utility bills of less than $1,000 prior to the presentment to the VTMUA commissioners for formal approval provided that the list of bills is presented to the VTMUA commissioner for ratification at the next available meeting.

M. Resolution 18-20: Resolution to Adopt the Purchasing Policy and Cash Management Policies for 2018

N. Resolution 18-21: Resolution Approving Membership in the American Environmental Association

The executive director is authorized to make application for membership to the AEA and further authorized to expend the amount of $3,200 as payment for the annual membership fee.

O. Resolution 18-22: Resolution Approving an Inter-Local Agreement with the Township of Vernon for a Licensed Operator and Field Staff from the DPW to Manage and Maintain the Vernon Sewer Collection System

This term of agreement is retroactive from February 2017 to February 2018 and going forward from February 2018 to February 2019. The township shall have the option of renewing this agreement by sending notice thereof to the VTMUA by September of 2018.

Motion to approve resolutions 18-08 to 18-22 was made by Edward Seger. Edward Snook seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

Other Resolutions

A. Resolution 18-23: Resolution Authorizing the Payment of Bills for February 15, 2018

Edward Snook moved to approve Resolution 18-23.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

B. Resolution 18-24: Resolution Authorizing Addendum to Executive Director’s Contract for Health Benefits Wavier

This resolution gives VTMUA Executive Director John Scerbo an annual stipend of $1,395 in exchange for waiving of health benefits.

Thomas Buchney moved to approve Resolution 18-24.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

6. Approval of Minutes

A. Regular Meeting of December 21, 2017

Edward Snook moved to approve the December 21, 2017 minutes.
John Perry seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: John Perry, Edward Seger, and Edward Snook
Nays: None
Abstain: Thomas Buchney and Kristin Wheaton

B. Regular Meeting of January 18, 2018

Kristin Wheaton moved to approve the January 18, 2018 minutes.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

7. Receipt and Filing of Correspondence

None

8. Auditor’s Report

None

9. Attorney’s Report

Mr. Salvatore had no comments other than those concerning ongoing litigation, which he said he will discuss in executive session.

10. Engineer’s Report

A. Review of New Applications

None

B. Status of Asset Management Plan

Ceren Aralp said she is waiting to hear from the trust.

C. Status of Sewer Expansion and Project Schedule

They are scheduled to attend the freeholder meeting in March and are working with the county in the meantime. She also said the NJDEP only accepts digital applications now, and they are working on getting that done. She added that an error was caught regarding the number of lots on the map, but it was discovered and resolved.

D. EDU Calculation

Ms. Aralp said commissioners had questioned at the last meeting how EDUs were calculated. She gave the commissioners documentation on all the allocated EDUs. Mr. Scerbo noted that on lots where the EDU counts are higher than 10, they are most likely strip malls or shopping areas, such as the Acme shopping plaza where there are three restaurants or Minerals Hotel, and so on, and the landlords who own the properties are the ones receiving the bills. The commissioners further discussed the EDUs. Mr. Scerbo also discussed the status of the Vernon Deli and said the EDU count might be adjusted based on the number of seats and a public restroom the owner is considering. He also discussed the consideration of sending individual sewer bills for the Mineral Hotel condominium owners as opposed to the single bill currently sent to the hotel. The commissioners also discussed the golf course and other amenities.

11. Executive Director’s Report

John Scerbo said the attorney is reviewing the VTMUA’s rules and regulations and they are discussing providing some level of penalty for any entities that fail to inform the VTMUA about changes in use. Currently, a court summons is the VTMUA’s only option, but he is waiting on the attorney for a recommendation on other alternatives.

Mr. Scerbo also asked the commissioners if sending them text messages for pertinent information was helpful. The commissioners said it was. He said he will continue to do so when applicable.

He also requested a motion from the board for the purchase of a plaque of appreciation for Gloria Gallo and her years of service to the VTMUA and wants to invite her to the March or April meeting to present it to her. Edward Seger moved to approve the purchase. John Perry seconded it. All were in favor.

12. Commissioners’ Comments

Edward Snook said he hopes the Great Gorge Village condominiums owners understand they, the VTMUA commissioners, do not make the rules on how residents are taxed. The council makes that decision. Edward Seger said he thinks they understand because the condo owners talk about going to the township council. John Scerbo noted that state statutes only allow the VTMUA to spread its costs over its ratepayers. The VTMUA does not have the statutory ability to spread the debt across all taxpayers, he said. Mr. Snook noted that homeowners who are trying to sell their homes are also burdened with exorbitant costs for repairing and replacing their septic systems when they try to sell their homes, and those costs cannot be spread across all taxpayers just the same as the sewer debt cannot.

Thomas Buchney mentioned the Sussex County Policy Advisory Committee and said he met with them a number of times, and they asked if Vernon was interested in having a representative on the committee. He said if anyone is interested they should go to the mayor to make that recommendation. He feels it is important to have a Vernon representative on the committee. Edward Seger said he would be interested but does not know if he could attend every meeting and suggested an alternative representative from the VTMUA as well.

Edward Seger thanked Thomas Buchney for having served as chairman of the VTMUA.

13. Chairman’s Comments

Chairman John Perry thanked the commissioners for the opportunity to serve as VTMUA chairman. He said he would do his best to serve the township and also said he believes everyone on the VTMUA has the township’s best interest in mind. He said they would do everything within their power and within the law to come up with the best possible solution for the sewer ratepayers and do their best to keep costs down.

Mr. Scerbo asked the chairman to put together a committee of commissioners to work with him to craft a statement about the sewer expansion. He said it is important for people to understand that they plan to get funding for the expansion from the NJEIT, and that funding would be at a much lower rate than the current sewer bonds. Furthermore, he said if they follow the example their auditor gave them they could approach the expansion as if it were providing an insurance policy for all properties in the expanded area that should their septic system fail, and then they could hook up. Therefore, whatever the infrastructure debt number is they can charge all of those property owners. They don’t have to worry about when they hook up because they will have the debt covered. That approach is completely different from the approach previously taken for the initial sewer bonds, he said. He did not see a negative to that plan other than those who could afford it, but there is a solution to that. Those individuals would be able to access funds for community development or through a program that offers low payments over a time period. He said there are options for homeowners that would address their every concern. He believes homeowners would prefer paying less money to hook up to sewers than they would to replace their septic systems.

14. Executive Session

WHEREAS, the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 permits the exclusion of the public in certain circumstances; and

WHEREAS, this public body is of the opinion that such circumstances presently exist.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority of the Township of Vernon as follows.

1. The public shall be excluded from discussion of and action upon the hereinafter-specified subject matter.

2. The general nature of the subject matter to be discussed is litigation.

Thomas Buchney moved to go into executive session at 8:41 p.m.
Edward Segar seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Snook, Edward Seger, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

15. Close Executive Session and Return to Public Session

Edward Snook moved to close executive session at 9:15 p.m.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, John Perry, Edward Snook, Edward Seger, and Kristin Wheaton
Nays: None

The VTMUA went back into public session at 9:15 p.m.

Adjournment

John Perry moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:15 p.m.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on March 15, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary