Minutes: February 18, 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, February 18, 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 January 15, 2015 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 GalloA
Thomas McClachrieP
Edward SnookP
Joseph Tadrick (Having had surgery, Mr. Tadrick was unable to attend the meeting.)A
Edward Seger (Mr. Seger participated by telephone.)P
Vincent ZinnoP

Roll Call of Professionals

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

1. New Commissioners

New commissioners Thomas McClachrie and Edward Seger were welcomed to the VTMUA. Edward Seger participated in the meeting by telephone.

2. Presentation

The VTMUA presented a plaque to James Kensek for his service to the commission. His term expired on January 31, 2016.

3. Nomination for VTMUA Chairperson

As it is the new year for reorganization for the VTMUA, nominations commenced for chairperson. Attorney Richard Wenner took the nominations.

Vincent Zinno nominated Edward Snook for chairman.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion

When Mr. Wenner asked if there were any other nominations, Thomas McClachrie said he nominates himself. There was no second for Thomas McClachrie, so his nomination failed.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Edward Seger, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook.
Nays: None
Abstentions: Thomas McClachrie

Mr. Wenner administered the oath of office to Edward Snook as chairman.

4. Nomination for VTMUA Vice-Chairperson

Chairman Edward Snook nominated Thomas Buchney vice-chairperson.

Vincent Zinno nominated Thomas Buchney for vice-chairman.
Edward Snook seconded the motion

Further Discussion: None

There were no other nominations for vice-chairman.

Chairman Edward Snook said the vote was unanimous for Thomas Buchney as vice-chairman.

5. Open Meeting for Public Comment

Motion to open the meeting to the public was made by Vincent Zinno.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney
All were in favor.
The meeting was opened to the public.

Richard Bagni of Great Gorge Village stated that 70% of the entire VTMUA sewer bill to the SCMUA is paid by Great Gorge Village residents. He said the VTMUA has no choice but to increase rates until it gets more users on the system. He said the rates the VTMUA is charging are 5-6 times higher than the rate United Water charges the residents for water usage. He said he pleads with the VTMUA to consider another means of taking care of its debt other than increasing fees.

Noreen Moran of Great Gorge Village asked if the township council passed the resolution approving the VTMUA to research the expansion of the sewer service area. Attorney Richard Wenner said the council did pass the resolution authorizing the application to the DEP to study the expansion. Ms. Moran said the town put in the sewer system hoping that businesses would come, and that did not happen and the burden fell on the property owners of Great Gorge Village. She said if the VTMUA expands the sewers into McAfee and businesses come that would be fantastic. If the same thing happens as with the town center and the businesses don’t come, which is her biggest fear, a huge debt will fall on Great Gorge Village and the township will have a ghost town and there would not be any users. If you look at McAfee and see the businesses that are there, putting aside Mountain Creek, there are small houses where people cannot afford to hook up to the sewer system, and business such as the sewing machine shop are suffering, she said. They will not be able to afford sewer connections. Who else is going to come in? She said she does not see anyone coming in to McAfee when they did not come into the town center. Please be real careful when you do the research, she said, because Great Gorge Village cannot take on any more of the VTMUA burden.

Commissioner Tom McClachrie asked Noreen Moran a question. He asked if it was her understanding that the VTMUA was doing this just for research and then they (VTMUA) have to come back.

Ms. Noran responded that she understands that the VTMUA must research the feasibility of expansion before the township could approve any expansion plan.

Mr. McClachrie said what the council ordinance establishes is for the semi-autonomous organization (VTMUA) is to go ahead, plan, get approval for extension of the sewerage area. Once the VTMUA gets approval for the plan, it can do what is cost effective for the VTMUA, assuming that the cost benefit analysis has already been done to justify those areas, McClachrie said.

Chairman Edward Snook reminded commissioners that the public comment time was not a question and answer period but rather an opportunity for the public to speak. Tom McClachrie said he disagrees. If questions can be fairly simply answered, they ought to be, he added. Vincent Zinno reminded commissioners that the proper procedure was to address the chair, and responses should come from the chair during public comment. He said members of the public who want answers to their questions should see VTMUA Executive Director John Scerbo for answers.

McClachrie asked for the VTMUA’s policies and procedures for running a meeting. Attorney Richard Wenner said they are run according to the Open Public Meetings Act and Roberts Rules of Order. Mr. McClachrie asked if he may use the bathroom and asked what he is sitting there for. He said it is imperative that they make connections with the ratepayers and make them understand the VTMUA is there to serve them. He said Ronald Reagan said those were the most horrendous words a person could hear is someone knocks at your door and says “we’re from the government and we’re here to help you, that there’s a problem, you should lock your door.” Perhaps they should get beyond that and start explaining to people at a nuance explanation, not just a carte blanche. The VTMUA cannot bond right now because it has a $7 million debt, he said.

Auditor Charles Ferraioli corrected Mr. McClachrie and said the VTMUA is not in debt and cannot bond. The township bonds for the sewers, he said, and the VTMUA has an agreement with the town. The VTMUA does not have a service agreement; therefore, any financing of capital projects, whether bonds or infrastructure trust it has to be done by the town. If the VTMUA moves forward with the project there would likely be another agreement with the township and the VTMUA that the VTMUA would service the debt, but the VTMUA cannot go into the bod market without an agreement.

Commissioner Vincent Zinno said Mr. McClachrie’s comments and concerns should be reserved for the end of the meeting when they have commissioners’ comments on the agenda, not when the meeting is open for public comment. Mr. McClachrie claimed there is no policy and procedure for within the commission itself.

Returning to public comment, Vernon resident Gary Martinsen approached the VTMUA and said he had five questions.

  1. Is there any law, rule, or regulation that prevents the VTMUA from gathering data or information about blocks, lots, septics, or to contact residents or the county until the DEP approves changes to the WWMP?
  2. Is there any law that prevents the VTMUA from doing any analysis or computation until the proposed plan is approved?
  3. Is there any reason the VTMUA’s engineering firm cannot do mathematical calculations or analysis until there is such approval?
  4. Is there any reason the VTMUA financial team and/or VTMUA director cannot do the calculations and analysis?
  5. Do any of the tasks I have asked about in the previous four questions require council approval to accomplish?

Mike Wilcox of Great Gorge Village said he bought a condo there two years ago. He came from Indiana. He said compared to his bills in Indiana, his GGV sewer fees are very high. He said the VTMUA system does not feel fair and he feels he is paying much more for sewers than he should be. He is one person in his condo but he is paying the same amount as other three-bedroom condos in GGV with 12 people. He feels the VTMUA needs to develop a long term plan because eventually the ground is going to be too saturated and septic systems are going to fail and there will be no place to put septics.

Mark Bower of Great Gorge Village told the VTMUA his water bill is very low in comparison to his sewer bill is more than five times as much. His monthly water bill is $15.23 while his monthly sewer bill is $82. He said he is saddled with a disproportionate share of the VTMUA’s debt. He implored the VTMUA to find a new source of revenue in order to provide the residents who are already overburdened by the sewer fees.

Ed Dilworth of Great Gorge Village said the residents of his community are very concerned about the sewer rates. He said the town enticed businesses to come in, a few came in, but if the VTMUA keeps increasing their fees, they’re going to be back to square one and they can’t keep relying on the people to pick up the tab for their past mistakes. He also said the VTMUA listened to a lot of Mountain Creek’s promises but many of them did not come through, and they need to take those things under consideration because the Great Gorge Village residents cannot keep picking up the tab for their mistakes.

Sally Rinker of Vernon said the biggest concern for the community is the lack of factual information coming forth on the matter of the need to study the expansion of the sewer service area. She said no one seems to be clear about what should be done. She said she trusts the auditor’s information because his numbers are black and white, but it has been quite frightening for those who have been paying attention. The first time there was any mention on the potential amendment and expansion of the sewer service area was at the VTMUA’s December meeting. She feels the township council was even confused or did not fully understand what the resolution before them was and the resolution should have ben rescinded. She said she does not believe that 53% of the septics along Route 94 are failing. When she sees such erroneous information coming forth, how does she rely on or have confidence in what the VTMUA is doing, she said? Why rush to the council to make a decision before getting all of the correct information? She feels the VTMUA created an alarming and untruthful situation in order to get the council to act on what they claimed was an emergency setting that is not warranted. She said the town needs to have faith in the VTMUA’s actions and that is what they are asking for.

6. Close the Meeting for Public Comment

Motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Vincent Zinno.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney
All were in favor.
The public portion of the meeting was closed.

7. Consent Agenda

A. Resolution 16-08: Designating the Official Newspaper for 2016

The New Jersey Herald and the New Jersey Sunday Herald were designated the official newspapers.

B. Resolution 16-09: Schedule of Meetings for 2016 through February 2017

The meetings are as follows:

March 17
April 21
May 19
June 16
July 21
August 18
September 15
October 20
November 10
December 15
January 19, 2017
February 16, 2017

C. Resolution 16-10: Authorizing Signatures on Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority Checks

All checks less than $500 shall require the signature of the CFO. All checks in excess of $500 shall require two signatures.

D. Resolution 16-11: Adopting the 2015 VTMUA Rules and Regulations as Amended, during 2015, as the 2016 Rules and Regulations of the VTMUA

E. Resolution 16-12: Appointment for Professional Services—Auditor

The current agreement with the firm of Ferraioli, Wielkotz, Cerullo, & Cuva has been renewed.

F. Resolution 16-13: Appointment for Professional Services—Engineer

The contract with Hatch Mott MacDonald has been renewed.

G. Resolution 16-14: Authorizing a Contractor for 2016 for Recording Secretary

Jessica Paladini was appointed recording secretary from February 2016 to February 2017.

H. Resolution 16-15: Resolution Creating a Fee for Dishonored Checks

Any person who presents a check to the VTMUA whose check is not honored by the financial institution shall pay a fee of $20 to the VTMUA.

I. Resolution 16-16: Resolution Authorizing the Payment of Non-Discretionary Emergent Bills Less Than $500.00

J. Resolution 16-17: Resolution Authorizing Payment of Regulated Bills

K. Resolution 16-18: Resolution Setting the Salary for 2016 for the Authority’s Executive Director

L. Resolution 16-19: Appointment for Professional Services of a Licensed Operator for Oversight of the Vernon Sewer System

Michael Furrey of Agra Environmental & Laboratory Services Inc. is appointed to VTMUA sanitary sewer oversight for a period of one year through February 16, 2017.

M. Resolution 16-20: Appointment for Professional Services—2016 VTMUA Auditor Contract

Charles Ferraioli was appointed VTMUA auditor for a one-year period ending February 16, 2017.

N. Resolution 16-21: Appointment for Professional Services—2016 VTMUA Engineer Contract

Ceren Aralp was appointed VTMUA engineer for a one-year period ending February 16, 2017.

O. Resolution 16-22: 2016 Contract for the VTMUA Recording Secretary

Jessica Paladini shall serve as recording secretary of the VTMUA at a rate of $15 per hour.

P. Resolution 16-23: Authorizing the Award of Professional Services Contracts and the Advertising of Same

Q. Resolution 16-24: Appointment of VTMUA Attorney 2016-2017

Richard Wenner of the law offices of Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis and Cohen & Cohen, PC shall serve as VTMUA attorney for a period of one year, ending February 16, 2017.

R. Resolution 16-25: 2016 Contract for the VTMUA Attorney

This resolution sets the rate for the VTMUA attorney at a monthly retainer of $2500. For litigation and third-party billing, the rate shall be $150 per hour for attorney and $95 per hour for paralegal services.

Motion to approve the Consent Agenda was made by Thomas Buchney.
Seconded by Vincent Zinno

Further Discussion: Attorney Richard Wenner said the title read for Resolution 16-18 is incorrect and should read “A Resolution Authorizing the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority to Execute An Addendum to the Employment Contract of Executive Director John Scerbo.”

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Edward Seger, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: Thomas McClachrie

8. Approval of Minutes

January 21, 2016 Regular Meeting

Motion to approve the January 21, 2016 Regular Meeting minutes was made by Thomas Buchney.
Seconded by Vincent Zinno

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: None

9. Receipt and Filing of Correspondence

None

10. Other Resolutions

A. Resolution 16-26: Payment of Bills for February 18, 2016

Motion to adopt the bills was made by Vincent Zinno.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney

Further Discussion: Vincent Zinno said the chair should appoint a commissioner to serve as the second signer of the bills list.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: None
Abstention: Thomas McClachrie and Edward Seger

B. Resolution 16-27: Awarding a Contract to Kraft Power for Inspection and Maintenance of the VTMUA Generators

Motion to approve the contract was made by Thomas Buchney.
Seconded by Vincent Zinno

Further Discussion: Thomas McClachrie asked if this contract reflects an increase in price. John Scerbo said it does not. He also asked if they could get a cheaper price on a two-year contract. John Scerbo said they could not.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Thomas McClachrie, Edward Seger, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: None

C. Resolution 16-28: Approving Membership in the American Environmental Association

Motion to approve the $2200 membership was made by Vincent Zinno.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney

Further Discussion: Thomas McClachrie said, “What the heck is the Environmental Authority, whatever it is? I’ve never heard of that before. Is that sort of like insider strictly for municipal utilities authorities? Is that what we’re discussing here? Is it a national environmental group? Is that it?” Executive Director John Scerbo said it has been in existence for a long time in the state of New Jersey. It has to do with utilities and authorities in the state of New Jersey. Thomas McClachrie asked, and we’re going to spend $3000 for this? John Scerbo said that is the amount of the membership fee. The commissioners clarified the fee is $2200. Thomas McClachrie said the VTMUA is in the red $113,000, which is the debt for this year’s budget, and they are going to spend $2000 on this? He said he could see where the commissioners are going with that, but his vote is going to be “no.” Chairman Edward Snook asked John Scerbo what the VTMUA gets out of the membership. John Scerbo responded they would get training sessions for board members and employees, a joint purchasing system that enables the VTMUA to get better rates for necessary items purchased in quantities, other purchasing savings such as through Morris County, the ability to access legal information and legal issues associated with what impacts utility authorities, and he could go on and on with the benefits.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Edward Seger, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: Thomas McClachrie

11. Attorney’s Report

No report

12. Auditor’s Report

Charles Ferraioli reported that they have the fieldwork done on the 2016 audit and letters have gone back and forth between the authority and the council.

13. Engineer’s Report

Review of New Applications

Engineer Ceren Aralp reported there was no new business but she received revised drawings just today, for the Valley View Apartments at 1517 Omega Drive, where there were easement issues and today she received a revised drawing that the applicant’s surveyor has prepared. It is under review.

Motion to accept the engineer’s report was made by Vincent Zinno.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney

Further Discussion: None

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Edward Seger, Vincent Zinno, and Edward Snook
Nays: None
Abstention: Thomas McClachrie

14. Executive Director’s Report

Executive Director John Scerbo reported that he attended the reorganization meeting of the State Insurance Fund. The message that he wants to bring back to the VTMUA is that the insurance fund is urging MUAs that they take a sincere look at security during 2016 and they participate in the “Active Shooter on Presence” program that is available to employees and board and commission members. He said the township is already looking to schedule that, and he will attend it and inform the commission about it when it is scheduled.

15. Commissioner Comments

Thomas McClachrie said the reason why he is here is because he volunteered for something that perhaps he should not have. He stated that he has a disability in that he cannot hear anything out of his right ear and his left ear is affected as well. He said his purpose on the VTMUA is to listen to the comments by the public. He stated he has only been to two VTMUA meetings since its inception, and this is his second meeting. His first meeting was this past January. He said the people, referring to the members in the audience, are coming to the meetings to complain about the “piracy on a sea of wastewater that is being aided and abetted by the politicians.” He said he is hearing the people in the audience say the VTMUA is “not a kosher operation.” He said he listened to the people and he listened to “the sell” that the MUA was selling and that is expansion. He said what you have to realize is that we are getting one group’s hopes up that something is going to occur that will lower their price and that will occur in three years. That probably is not correct, he said. He said the VTMUA would incur debt to expand. “If someone thinks that we’re not, then you better go take a look at how much it took to put in the sewers on the town center, and on that one the town paid over three million dollars.” He said when you look at these areas, just chalk up three million dollars because that’s the baseline, and from there the price is going up, unless the VTMUA can build it cheaper than the town can but he does not think that would be possible. He said he was not going to personalize things, but he has heard some misinformation or missing information from the VTMUA at the two meetings he attended. He said he has a background in sewers, adding, “It’s an eye opener; holy crap.” He told the audience, “I promise you this: I will not vote for one increase or anything until you people are on meters, and that’s it. I want meters out there. There is no reason why we should not be on meters. Yes, they’ve been charging by EDU but the reason why we don’t have meters is because we have a guaranteed income coming from all of you people out there, and that’s it. That’s the bottom line. As far as expanding it to wherever, we could do that without any resolution.” He said the VTMUA has to get more information out there and cannot raise the hope of the people and then drop them down again. He said the people have desires and concerns and they have hope for the future, and it’s imperative that the VTMUA takes care of that and addresses it. He said he might be going off on a tangent, but the VTMUA has to take care of its customers. When he looks at this, there are many layers to this onion called the MUA, he said. He said he is starting to strip them down and going through all the old contracts. When he first got here he was told there was only one contract that governed the VTMUA, but actually there are about six, he said. He said he thinks the VTMUA has tried. He said the commissioners have volunteered their time, but why the leadership or the professionals did not start steering in a different direction, but that’s in the past and there is nothing they can do about it. They need to start a new day, and that day should be probably today, and here I am, he said. He reiterated that he would not vote for any increase in user fees until all users are on meters, and he will not vote for any budget increases for the VTMUA. He said he would like to see the VTMUA budget drop back to 2012 rates when users were paying $800 per EDU. He said when he travels six miles from Vernon over to Warwick, users are paying only $50.

Commissioner Vincent Zinno told Tom McClachrie that he had stated he was an expert in this field, he would like to know what are his qualifications so that the VTMUA can utilize his expertise correctly with the professionals.

Tom McClachrie said his degree is in environmental science with a minor in geology and soils. He asked Vincent Zinno what his background is.

Vincent Zinno responded that he is in the construction industry.

16. Chairman Comments

Chairman Edward Snook asked the commissioners to bear with him for a few meetings because taking over a chairmanship is not the easiest thing but they commission will work to answer the public’s questions. He said he would work with Tom McClachrie.

He further stated that there were some committee appointments to make. He asked for someone to review the bills besides himself and asked for a volunteer. He asked Tom McClachrie if he wanted to be on the bills committee, but Tom declined. He said he spends a lot of time going through the VTMUA’s contracts and has asked the engineer and executive director for ten years worth of flow to examine and also wants to examine the TWA and he has quite a bit of work to do.

Vincent Zinno volunteered to be on the bills list.

Chairman Snook asked for volunteers for the newsletter committee. John Scerbo said he and Tom Buchney are both on the newsletter committee. There should be two commission members on the newsletter committee. Edward Snook said the committee would consist of John Scerbo, Thomas Buchney, and Gloria Gallo.

Edward Snook created a new committee—the expansion committee. He appointed himself and Vincent Zinno to the committee.

Adjournment

Having no additional business, Edward Snook called for a motion to adjourn the meeting.

Vincent Zinno moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:15 p.m.
Thomas McClachrie seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on March 17, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary