Minutes: February 20, 2014

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 20, 2014 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 2, 2014 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
Gloria GalloP
James KensekP
Stephen PiccirilloA
Roy TanfieldP
Vincent ZinnoP

Professional Staff Present

Attorney John Ursin, Engineer Ceren Aralp, and Executive Director John Scerbo were also present.

1. Administration of Oath of Office

Attorney John Ursin administered the oath of office to Barbara Chorzepa as commissioner. Her term will expire February 2019.

2. Nomination of VTMUA Chairman

Motion to nomination Vincent Zinno made by Gloria Gallo.
Seconded by Roy Tanfield

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

3. Nomination of VTMUA Vice Chairman

Motion to nomination Barbara Chorzepa made by Gloria Gallo.
Seconded by Vincent Zinno

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

4. Open Meeting for Public Comment

Motion to open the meeting to the public made by James Kensek.
Seconded by Barbara Chorzepa
All in favor

Phyllis Pfiefer came forward as a member of the Vernon Township Historical Society. She asked the commission to reconsider the EDU assessment of .75 for the historical society headquarters because she feels it is excessive compared to other properties. She compared the non-profit historical society building to Vernon Electric on Church Street. Ms. Pfeifer said Vernon Electric consists of 3,200 square feet, is zoned commercial, has two full time employees 5-6 days a week, and was assessed .5 EDU. The historical society consists of 1,476 square feet, has no employees, no shower or tub, has 3-4 volunteers who are in the building 4-5 days out of the month, and is assessed .75 EDU. She asked the VTMUA to recalculate the EDU for the society based on what she feels is an inequity in comparison. The commissioners said they would reassess the property.

No other public came forward.

Motion to close the meeting to the public made by James Kensek.
Seconded by Barbara Chorzepa
All in favor

5. Consent Agenda

A. Resolution 14-08: Designating the Official Newspaper for 2014

B. Resolution 14-09: Schedule of Meetings for 2014

C. Resolution 14-10: Authorizing Signatures on Vernon Municipal Utilities Authority Checks

D. Resolution 14-11: Adopting the 2013 Rules and Regulations for 2014

E. Resolution 14-12: Appointment for Professional Services—Attorney

F. Resolution 14-13: Appointment for Professional Services—Auditor

G. Resolution 14-14: Appointment for Professional Services—Engineer

H. Resolution 14-15: Authorizing Contract for 2014 for Recording Secretary

I. Resolution 14-16: Resolution Creating a Fee for Dishonored Checks

J. Resolution 14-17: Resolution Authorizing Payment of All Regulated Utility Bills of Less than $1,000 Prior to Formal Approval

K. Resolution 14-18: Resolution Authorizing Payment of Non-Discretionary Emergent Bills Less than $500

L. Resolution 14-19: Appointment for Professional Services Sewer Oversight Agra Environmental Service, Inc.


Motion to approve consent agenda made by Roy Tanfield.
Seconded by James Kensek

Call for Discussion: Tom Buchney asked if Resolution 14-17 referred to the aggregate of all electric bills. Executive Director John Scerbo said they are treated as individual bills. Barbara Chorzepa said next year the VTMUA should put out Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for professionals for the commission. She said the VTMUA has a responsibility to get the best prices possible to keep its costs for professionals down.

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

6. Public Hearing on 2014 Sewer Rate

Motion to open the meeting to the public made by James Kensek.
Seconded by Gloria Gallo
All were in favor.
No public came forward.

Motion to close the meeting to the public made by Gloria Gallo
Seconded by James Kensek
All were in favor.

Barbara Chorzepa asked whether VTMUA commissioners Vincent Zinno and Roy Tanfield, who are also users and ratepayers of the sewer system, would be in conflict to vote on the rate. Attorney John Ursin said simply being a ratepayer does not pose a conflict. Commissioners may vote on matters of general application, and setting the 2014 rate is a matter of general application, he said. Every user pays based on the same pricing system. Mr. Ursin said commissioners need to recuse themselves on rates or other decisions that would uniquely and personally affect them or their businesses, families, and friends.

Ms. Chorzepa stated that she still did not feel it was appropriate for commissioners who are also users of the system to participate in decisions affecting their own rates or other decisions that affect them as well.

There is a zero increase in the 2014 sewer rate, the same as in 2013. The rate per EDU is $840 a year, the same as it has been since 2012.

Motion to approve the continued $840 EDU rate for 2014 made by Thomas Buchney.
Seconded by Gloria Gallo

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

7. Approval of Minutes of January 16, 2014 Meeting

Motion to approve the minutes made by Barbara Chorzepa.
Seconded by Thomas Buchney

Call for Discussion: None

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

8. Receipt and Filing of Correspondence

A. Letter from Stephen Piccirillo

Alternate VTMUA Commissioner Stephen Piccarillo sent a letter of resignation due to job constraints. The authority will ask the mayor to appoint a new alternate member.

Motion to accept the resignation made by Barbara Chorzepa.
Seconded by Roy Tanfield

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

B. Letter from Ward Huey

The VTMUA received a letter from Ward Huey, owner of H&H shopping plaza on Route 94, Block 141 Lot 15.05, requesting a hardship payment plan for his connection fees. The plaza consists of about 31 EDU for various retail stores, including two restaurants. Connection fees would be about $310,000. The VTMUA tabled action on the request until next month, pending the receipt of a revised letter from Mr. Huey with the correct connection fee, EDU amount, and the reason for the hardship.

Motion to table made by Barbara Chorzepa.
Seconded by Gloria Gallo

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

9. Resolution 14-20: Payment of Bills per the Bills List for February 20, 2014

Motion to approve the bills list made by Barbara Chorzepa.
Seconded by James Kensek

Call for Discussion: None

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

10. Resolution 14-21: Authorizing the Award of Professional Services Contracts and Advertising of Same

Motion to approve made by Thomas Buchney.
Seconded by Vincent Zinno

Call for Discussion: None

Ayes: Thomas Buchney, Barbara Chorzepa, Gloria Gallo, James Kensek, and Vincent Zinno
Nays: None

11. Attorney’s Report

John Ursin reported there is nothing new regarding the Coloccia v. VTMUA lawsuit except that it is near the end of the discovery phase and a hearing is likely to be scheduled sometime in the early spring. Commissioner Roy Tanfield stated that he wants the VTMUA to be aware that Mr. Coloccia has made several attempts to contact him to seek information from Mr. Tanfield. He said the only information he gave Mr. Coloccia was public information about the VTMUA. He told Mr. Coloccia he thought his suit had no merit and he would be well advised to withdraw it. Mr. Tanfield wanted the VTMUA to be aware of that conversation, which he said occurred last week.

12. Auditor’s Report

No report

13. Engineer Report

There are no new applications.

Engineer Ceren Aralp announced that Vernon Electrical Supply has supplied all additional information the VTMUA requested and is now approved for a building permit.

14. Executive Director’s Report

John Scerbo reported that the bills under the new billing system have been mailed. He also reported delinquency notices went out for 2013 for the first time. There were 361 delinquency notices, which are about 19-20% of the 1700 accounts. Mr. Scerbo said there are about 50 unit owners whom they have no way of reaching, with no forwarding addresses. He is investigating ways to track these users down. He said a small percentage of the users who are receiving their bills are not responding and the VTMUA has not heard from them. Roy Tanfield said he is on the Great Gorge Village Board, and they are having similar problems with delinquencies, so it is not exclusive to the VTMUA.

15. Commissioners’ Comments

Roy Tanfield discussed EDU versus water-based billing. He asked Engineer Ceren Aralp if she feels the VTMUA should continue using an EDU based system or switch to a usage based system of billing. Ms. Aralp said she did not think she was qualified to answer that question right now. Mr. Tanfield said he has availed Mr. Scerbo, Mr. Zinno, and Mr. Ursin of data that came in last night from Great Gorge Village with regard to the EDU structure, and he said it is stunning. He would like to make available to the entire VTMUA the results of his research. Mr. Tanfield said he has interviewed more than 25 people and has 10 pages of research and three pages of data with regard to water use billing vs. EDU based billing. He said his conclusion, based on extensive analysis, is that the VTMUA would be much better off if it were water bill based instead of EDU based. Mr. Tanfield said his studies were prompted by Senator Stephen Oroho, who suggested that he do it. He said he has gone to the BPU, DEP, investment bankers, the mayor, Senator Oroho, the VTMUA customers, the legal profession, and about a dozen other sources. Mr. Tanfield said Senator Oroho said he could not understand why the VTMUA was still using the EDU system because very few people use it anymore. He said he could scarcely find any other system in the United States that uses it. It would not cost the VTMUA anything except for transition costs if they adopted the usage based billing system, and it would increase their revenues, Mr. Tanfield said. He said what they have learned is that a number of people in Great Gorge Village are getting incredibly low bills because they’re a fixed rate when they are actually using very large amounts of water and are not paying for it while others are using almost no water and they’re paying too much for it.

Ceren Aralp said she does not have enough data to recommend switching to a different system. Roy Tanfield said he has spoken with the mayor, who is also in agreement with him. Mr. Tanfield said switching to the usage-based system would increase revenues for the VTMUA and make the process more flexible.

John Scerbo said the VTMUA would have to look at how many users in the system do not have water meters. Mr. Tanfield said water meters would cost $275 each, which includes plumber costs, to have them professionally installed.

Commissioner Barbara Chorzepa discussed Section 1.3 Disqualification of Commissioner in the VTMUA’s rules and regulations, which defines conflicts of interest. She said the VTMUA is not abiding by that section of the rules and regulations so she feels the section should be eliminated. She said she was just sworn in that evening to uphold that regulation, and she does not feel right about the regulation not being followed so she feels it should be removed from the regulations. She feels the regulation should be revised to reflect the attorney’s advice that because the VTMUA needs commissioners who are also property owners and ratepayers within the sewer system, there is no conflict.

John Ursin said while he authored most of the VTMUA’s regulations, he did not write Section 1.3. Section 1.3 was taken directly out of state statutes regulating MUAs. Mr. Ursin said that section is the state standard for authorities authored by the legislature.

Ms. Chorzepa said Section1.3B Statutory Conflict of the regulations states no commissioner of the VTMUA shall have any interest in any property included in the utility system. She said since there are commissioners on the VTMUA who own property in the sewer system, she would like to direct the attorney to revise the regulations and reword it in a way that accommodates the actual situation of the VTMUA. She asked for it to be placed on next month’s agenda. Vincent Zinno and John Ursin agreed to do that.

Ms. Chorzepa also questioned why only some VTMUA meetings are televised while others are not. Vincent Zinno said neither the commissioner nor the executive director calls requesting videotaping. Ms. Chorzepa suggested asking for every meeting to be videotaped and televised. Vincent Zinno suggested reaching out to the person who videotapes the meetings and ask him to come to every one.

Gloria Gallo said she went to the reorganization meeting of the NJ State Insurance Fund and she met John Hatzelis from SCMUA, who said the VTMUA could tour the SCMUA facility. John Scerbo will organize tours for the commissioners.

Gloria Gallo also questioned Roy Tanfield’s independent investigations of Great Gorge Village. She said it sometimes appears as though Mr. Tanfield is representing Great Gorge Village. She wants to be sure Mr. Tanfield is staying within the legal guidelines so that there is no conflict of interest.

Mr. Tanfield said he discussed the matter at length with Mr. Ursin, Mr. Scerbo, and Mr. Zinno and said the Great Gorge Village study was not done by him but was done by Comet Management, the management company for Great Gorge Village. He said he had no participation whatsoever in the collection, collation, or tabulation of the data. He said he only had a small role in selecting the algorithms that was used in determining the data samples. He said he feels he is making a great contribution to the VTMUA because he is opening dialogue with Great Gorge Village. He added there is immense resentment from Great Gorge Village, and he is working very hard to diminish that. He said Great Gorge Village is 75% of the cash of the VTMUA and 50% of its revenue.

John Ursin said one of the most important things for VTMUA commissioners to recognize is that none of them have the authority to act individually. In private conversations they should go to great lengths to make clear that anything they say is their own personal opinions.

Phyllis Pfeifer said that as a member of the audience listening she feels that what Mr. Tanfield just said is totally different from what he said before about the report, giving himself credit for spending a great deal of time, interviewing 25 people, and so on.

John Scerbo said commissioners who have ideas they think worthwhile for the VTMUA to consider should first bring it to the VTMUA to see if they want to participate or carry on with that idea as a project or issue that needs to be researched. He said he thinks commissioners walk a very fine line when they go out and do independent research that reaches a conclusion. When that research is discussed at a VTMUA meeting, it creates consternation among commissioners. He suggested that going forward any commissioners who have an issue that they think needs to be pursued need to bring it up as the commission meets to vote on it and pursue it. Mr. Scerbo suggested that when Mr. Tanfield spoke tonight about reports, he could have sent the reports to Mr. Scerbo to distribute them to the commissioners to look at. Mr. Scerbo also pointed out that Mr. Tanfield had given him and Vincent Zinno the name of a person whom Mr. Tanfield had spoken with who said EDUs were passe and Mr. Scerbo called that person, who said Mr. Scerbo that’s not true. EDUs are used in areas of the state where populations are small. Meters are used in larger populations. The individual quoted a number of towns around Vernon that are on EDUs because the populations in the sewer districts are small.

16. Chairman Comments

Chairman Zinno appointed committees for the year.

Appointment of Committees

A. Bills Committee—Gloria Gallo and James Kensek are on the bills committee.

B. Public Relations/Newsletter Committee—Roy Tanfield and Thomas Buchney are on the newsletter committee.

Motion to Adjourn the Meeting

Motion was made by Barbara Chorzepa
Seconded by Roy Tanfield
All in favor
Meeting was adjourned at 8:57 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on March 20, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary