Minutes: January 21, 2021

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These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 1/21/2021. Copies of the recording are available at the office of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority.

1. Call to Order

The regular meeting of the MUA was convened at 7:04 p.m.

2. Statement of Compliance

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 213, PL 1975, adequate notice as defined in Section 3D of Chapter 231, PL 1975 of this regular meeting was provided to the public and the press on December 22, 2020 by delivering to the press such notice and posting same at the municipal building and filed with the office of the MUA as well as posted on the website.

3. Salute to the Flag

4. Roll Call of Members and Professionals

The following members were present:
Michael Furrey
Paul Kearney
Andrew Pitsker
Kristin Wheaton
Dave McDermott

The following individuals were absent: Jean Murphy

The following professionals were present: Donelle Bright, Administrator; Harry J. Shortway, Vernon Town Council President, Colette J. Borell, Recording Secretary, Howard Lazier, Licensed Operator of Record, Brian Tipton Attorney Special Counsel, Richard Wenner, MUA Attorney and Steven Benosky, Project Engineer.

At this time Michael Furrey stated Harry Shortway was to be sworn in. Mr. Pitsker asked Mr. Shortway be sworn in prior to Executive Closed Session. Mr. Wenner administered the oath of office to Mr. Shortway as alternate commissioner of the MUA.

At this time Mr. Furrey requested to move to Executive Session. Mr. Pitsker motioned to move to Executive Session for purposes of discussion of potential litigation, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Kearney, Mr. McDermott and Ms. Wheaton.

Ms. Bright advised the public this meeting will reconvene to address any decisions made and additional public comments.

At 8:15 p.m. Mr. Pitsker motioned to close Executive Session and reconvene, which was seconded by Ms. Wheaton and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Kearney, Mr. McDermott, and Ms. Wheaton.

5. Open Meeting to the Public

Mr. Kearney motioned to open the meeting to the public, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried upon unanimous vote. Ms. Bright stated no emails, comments or phone calls were received to give public statement.

Seeing no members of the public come forward, Mr. McDermott motioned to close to public, which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried upon unanimous vote.

6. Approval of Bills: Resolution 21-03

At this time Ms. Bright tabled the approval of the bills until the next meeting due to only two bills pending for review.

7. Approval of Minutes:

a. January 7, 2021 Regular Meeting

Ms. Bright noted the following minor changes to the date in the statement of compliance from January 20, 2020 to December 22, 2020 and the correction of the minutes’ date in the Agenda from January 7, 2020 to January 7, 2021.

Mr. Pitsker motioned to approve, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried upon the unanimous vote.

8. Resolutions:

a. Resolution 21-04: Authorizing the Award of a Required Disclosure Contract with Ferraro Construction for Air Release Valve Replacement

Ms. Bright explained Ferraro Construction was previously awarded and issued a purchase order for the pressure gauge installation of the force main evaluation portion for the pump station. She stated it is part of the asset management plan and because they are going over the $17,500.00 threshold for “Pay to Play” they needed to fill out all the disclosure information and a resolution was required to allow them to go over that threshold. She advised even though the MUA is not going over the bid threshold, the resolution is required. Mr. Pitsker asked about the cost and whether once paid if it goes into the grant program for evaluation of the force mains and pump stations. Ms. Bright confirmed it is part of the asset management plan, the MUA will be reimbursed for these amounts it pays out, she will submit them through IBank for reimbursement to the MUA. Mr. Furrey confirmed this is all part of the asset management program.

Mr. Pitsker moved to approve the resolution, which was seconded by Ms. Wheaton and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Ms. Wheaton and Mr. McDermott.

9. Public Hearing: 2021 Budget

Ms. Bright explained this is for the 2021 budget, a public hearing needs to be held, opened to the public for comments and after the hearing is held a resolution to adopt the budget is proposed afterwards.

Mr. Furrey motioned to open the meeting to the public, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried upon the unanimous vote.

Ms. Bright stated no members of the public came forward to give comments.

Mr. Pitsker moved to close the hearing to the public, seconded by Mr. McDermott and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Kearney and Ms. Wheaton.

10. Resolution 21-05: 2021 Budget Adoption

Mr. Pitsker asked if the updated budget numbers are posted on the MUA web site. Ms. Bright confirmed they were and once approved the updated adopted budget will be posted. Mr. Pitsker asked if public comments were received. Ms. Bright confirmed there were none.

Mr. Pitsker moved to pass the resolution, seconded by Mr. McDermott and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Kearney, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton and Mr. Pitsker.

11. Resolution 21-06: Executive Session

Mr. Pitsker move to approve Executive Session for purposes of discussion of potential litigation, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and declared carried by Mr. Furrey upon affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Kearney, Mr. McDermott and Ms. Wheaton.

12. Administrator/Licensed Operator Update

Ms. Bright stated Matthew Duffy and Zachery Von Oesen attended general safety training on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 with some confined space training. She advised she reached out to several companies about the initial confined space training which is a full day course and is coordinating the training in conjunction with the Vernon Township Fire Department who also has staff to confine space train to obtain a cost effective price for both groups. She said since the budget passed they can now move forward on additional purchases for backup pumps and other items on the capital list for this year and has a purchase order for two needed pumps.

She stated Acme contacted her on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 via letter from their engineer who acknowledged in it the MUA is using the standard calculation for EDUs however asked for a decrease of fifty percent in total allocation for EDUs citing it should be based on their water usage. Mr. Furrey stated the vacancy issue was addressed at the last meeting when the MUA asked for documentation for vacant units from Ron Pascal the Vernon Plaza (the “Plaza”) property owner. He asked if the vacancies were addressed in the letter. Ms. Bright confirmed they were not and had not received the documentation to date. Mr. Pitsker commented he saw four vacant units in the plaza. Mr. Furrey stated if the MUA is going to respond it should be addressing the vacancies first with a hardship case based on vacancies to be considered next. Mr. Benosky clarified the spreadsheet Mr. Pascal provided was for five units. Ms. Bright confirmed that was the correct number of vacant units, however did not see the number of EDUs these units are calculated for. Mr. Benosky stated the math can be done by backing into the unit calculations. He noted the spreadsheet listed unit #1, unit #6, unit #7, unit #9 and unit #11. Mr. Benosky said there are two asterisks and unit #11 as an asterisk regarding the bagel store and maybe there are four vacancies. Mr. Furrey asked if they totaled up the EDUs. Mr. Benosky stated no, they did it based on flow but it could easily be calculated into EDUs in for those units and that it is not much for the smaller flows. Mr. Furrey asked if they paid their bill for 2020. Ms. Bright confirmed they still owe payment for their 2020 bill. Mr. Furrey asked how to proceed on handing their nonpayment of their 2020 billing. Mr. Kearney stated they approached the MUA at the end of 2020 with respect to their billing, it still remains unpaid, if the MUA decides going forward the rates are too high and changes the rate, the fact remains the account still owes the 2020 bill. He commented they should be required to pay the 2020 bill and the MUA can then listen to the hardship application. Mr. Pitsker stated Mr. Benosky should do an engineering re-evaluation based on the MUA calculations what the EDUs are less those four/five vacant buildings. He commented just because the plaza calculations go from 56.95 EDUs, asking for reduction down to 20.5, they are basing it on flow rate and the MUA should base it on the hard calculations used by the MUA. Mr. Benosky commented he believed billing is based on the MUA regulations, if it was accounted for the vacancies it would come out to a 10% discount as opposed to a 60% discount. Mr. Pitsker agreed and advised it should fair to all rate users, rate payers and if the plaza wishes to negotiate in good faith all outstanding bills should be paid up in full. Mr. Furrey asked for Mr. Wenner’s legal opinion on the outstanding bill.

Mr. Wenner concurred with Mr. Kearney and Mr. Pitsker’s recommendation against having conversations with the property owner until the settlement of their outstanding 2020 bill, at this point they are not acting in good faith and hold off having any constructive conversation with them until they make the MUA whole. Mr. Pitsker stated based on Mr. Wenner’s opinion, a letter should be transmitted to the Mr. Pascal indicating the MUA’s willingness to negotiate in good faith upon payment in full of the 2020 bill. He commented the EDU calculations should be checked and verified by Mr. Benosky.

Mr. Benosky stated the property owner provided the square footage calculations of the units along with the number of employees. He said it will be reviewed, evaluated, verified and/or assumed to be factual. Mr. Furrey agreed with his recommendation and asked him to check his calculations and facts for review at the next meeting. Mr. Kearney stated it is unknown as to the accuracy of those “supposed” meters they installed versus the EDU calculations. He commented the MUA does not know their accuracy, if the meters are on all the time, noted they can be manipulated, i.e. similar to automobile odometer tampering and come up with numbers favorable to the property owner. Ms. Wheaton commented the calculations should be based on EDUs, noted it should not be termed “negotiations” rather it being a recalculation based on vacancies. She said an audit needs to be conducted of the vacant stores footage to revisit the EDU calculation. Mr. Pitsker concurred with her opinion, noted the EDU calculations are based on standards set forth on the MUA web site and stated the property owner’s meters are not registered with the MUA.

Ms. Bright stated the GIS mapping was received from Mott McDonald, Mr. Benosky forwarded it to Paul DeMuro of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (the “NJDEP”) and they are looking to set up a meeting with Mr. DeMuro regarding his review of it. She commented she reviewed the Township’s updated Town Center planning map with the changes made, however noted Legends was not included in that map and said the NJDEP will need to comment on this omission.

She advised with regard to the financing timeline for pump station #2, she spoke with bond counsel about it and he stated the MUA needs to wait until IBank approves the project after Mr. Benosky uploads all the required documentation and then can move forward on the bond ordinance. She stated once approved, it will not take long to do the ordinance, would be a six week turnaround, be an ordinance unto itself and not fixed into other debt.

Mr. Lazier advised there were two backups at the condominiums that occurred with one at Purgatory involving heavy grease coming up out of the pipe out of the manhole that was two feet long. He commented it was a small spill that was caught in time. He stated vendor Mike of Mike’s Mobile came out to check pump station #1’s crane. Mr. Furrey stated Mike corresponded with him about the issue. Mr. Lazier explained Mike came out to check the crane and hoist for pumps, it was not greased, was lacking gear oil which was applied and got it working and was able to lift a pump out. He stated upon fixing it, it was noted the newer one pump just installed was not hooked correctly to be pulled and was fighting the whole crank and pinching it on the line. He advised the pump was hammering and the whole bottom of pump #1 is loose so every time it shuts down due to hammering it loses a couple of inches. Mr. Lazier stated it should be fixed as soon as possible before a pipe is lost or a pipe explodes from the hammering effect. Mr. Furrey stated Mike’s Mobile wrote an email about what was found and provided an estimate to Ms. Bright to do all the work. He asked about the wiring issue with the backup pump in the wet well. Mr. Lazier stated the wire was a seal sensor that was noted during Mike’s Mobile first service call several months ago where the wire was up underneath the motor.

Mr. Furrey asked Ms. Bright to share the email and quote with the board. Ms. Bright confirmed she would and stated upon speaking with Mike about the repair estimate it would take about four to five hours work at approximately $4,800.00.

Mr. Furrey asked about the issues with the wet well, the scheduled yearly maintenance for the pump out work and asked if it was done on this particular pump station. Mr. Lazier stated upon inspection there was sludge in the bottom, it was not too bad and was probably cleaned out in the past year. He advised the yearly clean out maintenance work was scheduled for all the pump stations. Mr. Furrey asked Ms. Bright about doing these repairs and the required approval to procedure. Ms. Bright confirmed once approved the repairs can proceed.

Mr. Furrey asked about the muffin monster at pump station #3 and whether a new one should be purchased. Mr. Lazier stated the old muffin monster was removed and taken apart by Matthew Duffy and Zachery Von Oesen with assistance from the machinist. Mr. Kearney asked if this means the pump is now unprotected because there is no muffin monster. Mr. Lazier confirmed correct, there is nothing there to control it and explained the inner gears of the muffin monster were totally destroyed. Mr. Kearney asked what the status was on the new muffin monster order. Ms. Bright advised she was waiting on a quote from GP Jager Inc. (“Jager”), was advised they were looking into pricing information, they were provided with the serial number and have reached out again to them. Mr. Kearney stated it would be a shame if the MUA lost a pump if the vendor did not respond and had to not only pay for the muffin monster but also for a new pump. Mr. Furrey asked Mr. Lazier if he considered this an emergency. Mr. Lazier confirmed it was, the muffin monster was needed and stated when Mike’s Mobile was doing work at the lift station he checked out what was there in terms of a muffin monster and would obtain a quote. Mr. Furrey stated he believed Mike would obtain it from the same vendor and after speaking with Mike he preferred the MUA purchase it with him installing it.

Mr. Furrey stated the muffin monster needs to be ordered immediately as this is now an emergency, have it repaired soon and cannot wait any longer as it will damage the pump with the possibility of an overflow. Mr. Kearney stated no muffin monster leaves the pump asset vulnerable without it being there. He stated skipping one wrong step with the pump would require replacement of both the muffin monster and the pump let alone the cleanup associated with it. Mr. Lazier stated that was the reason why the muffin monster was removed because the weir was not working and the pump was backing up. Mr. Furrey concurred with Mr. Lazier’s decision to remove it and stated the next step is to purchase a new muffin monster. He asked Mr. Benosky about other vendors who could supply it. Mr. Benosky advised there are other vendors who make similar products, however Jager is the best vendor in north Jersey to supply the muffin monster. Mr. Furrey asked to move immediately to order the muffin monster from Jager. Mr. Pitsker asked Mr. Benosky about standardized fits, valve sizes and whether there are ESTM standards that could be applied with respect to a backup plan for a different muffin monster. Mr. Benosky stated this is not the same as a valve, these ones require different pieces, i.e. the chute there is a nonstandard setup and that a muffin monster would work best. He stated there is another manufacturer for it in New Jersey, Franklin Miller who makes a similar model. Mr. Furrey stated that is a good backup plan, asked Ms. Bright contact Jager tomorrow to provide a price and if none is provided move forward on purchasing the muffin monster from an alternate vendor. He commented the muffin monster may not be in available in stock, with a possible delayed delivery date and the order needs to be expedited immediately. Mr. Furrey asked about the status of the confined space training. Ms. Bright, Mr. Lazier confirmed it was both safety training and confined space training done yesterday and stated it was Mike’s Mobile who conducted the training. Mr. Furrey asked Ms. Bright to contact Sawmill the company who did the safety review and ask them about confined space training. Ms. Bright advised she spoke with Dave of Sawmill today and advised there was another company she spoke with as well. Mr. Furrey asked if the training is done remotely or in person. Ms. Bright advised Dave said Sawmill conducts the class in person allowing for social distancing and other COVID requirements. She said the other company did not specify the maximum class size and she would find out and provide it.

Mr. Pitsker asked if Ms. Bright and Mr. Lazier if they have the project list completed for capital improvements. Ms. Bright and Mr. Lazier stated they have the list from before and there are additional priority items to add to the list. Mr. Pitsker asked about the status of the quotes for the electrical panels for the lift station for the capital list. Ms. Bright advised quotes are in on everything for the capital list, once the budget is approved and in the system the quotes can be submitted. Mr. Pitsker asked if there is any work on the list that Mr. Benosky needs to do.

Mr. Furrey stated once the list is finalized it should be assembled into priority order by Ms. Bright and Mr. Lazier with the list shared with the board for review. Mr. Pitsker commented on the need to get the items on the list done especially to avoid potential operational issues. Mr. Furrey stated once it is put in priority order and finalized it can be provided to Mr. Benosky for the engineering evaluation to be reviewed at the next meeting to discuss his involvement. Mr. Benosky stated the generators will need to be reviewed and discussed.

13. Commissioners’ Comments

Ms. Wheaton asked Mr. Benosky if there was any progress made with the NJDEP on industrial user permitting. Mr. Benosky stated not hundred percent, have heard from a few people and can schedule a meeting for a more in depth discussion next week.

14. Chairman’s Comments

Mr. Furrey asked about the status of Jean Murphy’s board seat. Ms. Bright advised she did not received notification Ms. Murphy would not be at this meeting. She stated she is not sure how the board wishes to proceed about her alternate #1 spot which runs through 2025. She said if Ms. Murphy is not going to be active it is up to the board to decide how to move forward. Mr. Kearney asked if there was a statement in the By-Laws about missing meetings. Mr. Wenner advised a commissioner to the MUA is appointed by the governing body and only the governing body can remove a commissioner. He stated they can be removed prior to the expiration of the commissioner’s term for neglect of duty or misconduct. He said the process in general is the governing body, being the Vernon Township Council would file charges (i.e. provide notice) advising the commissioner they are seeking to remove them from the position of commissioner to the MUA and they have right to a hearing. He said the hearing can be no less than ten days from the date the charges are issued. He stated it is due process afforded to the commissioner of any MUA by statute. He advised the charges would state they are seeking to remove the commissioner for failure to appear at “x” number of meetings to which they were appointed to serve, they will have a hearing on “x” date and advise them they have ten days from the issuance of those charges to respond. He advised whether it is a meeting, three meetings or a certain number of meetings missed all are sufficient cause. He advised in this situation not having heard from Ms. Murphy in his opinion at a minimum the MUA should request the governing body draft and issue charges seeking to remove Ms. Murphy from the MUA. He said at that point she would have the right to the hearing and state her case. He said either way she would be removed by the governing body from the commission and confirmed the MUA could not remove her. Mr. Kearney stated that was not what he was looking to do, he was seeking to determine if all was well with her and if she wished to remain involved with the MUA. Ms. Wheaton agreed, stated that was the approach with Angela Erichsen, suggested Ms. Murphy be contacted by Mr. Furrey or Ms. Bright to determine if she is planning to participate on the board and if not to submit her resignation. Mr. Pitsker asked if she was sent the agenda via an alternate email address regarding the meeting. Ms. Bright advised she was not provided with an alternate email address. Ms. Wheaton asked if she still had the log in information. Ms. Bright confirmed she does and her Vernon Township email is still active. Mr. Furrey advised he would contact her separately and if she does not respond will pursue the path recommended by Mr. Wenner.

15. Adjournment

Motion to adjourn was made by Mr. Furrey seconded by Ms. Wheaton which was declared carried by Mr. Furrey at 9:08 p.m. upon the affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton and Mr. Kearney.

Respectfully submitted,
Colette J. Borell
MUA Recording Secretary

Minutes approved February 18, 2021