Minutes: July 16, 2020

These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 6/4/2020. Copies of the recording are available at the office of the VTMUA.

1. Call to Order

The regular meeting of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) was convened at 7:15 p.m., July 16, 2020 remotely via Zoom.

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 January 20, 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:
Chairman Michael Furrey
Paul Kearney
Dave McDermott
Kristin Wheaton
Andrew Pitsker

The following Professionals were present: Donelle Bright, Administrator; Colette J. Borell, Recording Secretary, Engineer Ceren Aralp and Attorney Richard Wenner.

5. Open Meeting to the Public

Ms. Wheaton moved to open the meeting to the public.
Mr. Pitsker seconded the motion
All were in favor.
The meeting was opened to the public.

Ryan Develez came forward. He stated he bought the property located at 324 Route 94, also known as Brookside Florist in August 2016. He stated he is currently being billed 1 EDU and needs help with the hookup due to a bedrock situation. He requested removal from the quarterly fees until the connection is complete. He further advised during the connection attempt they hit bedrock in the driveway; and the owner at the time was advised it was impossible to connect. Mr. Furrey recommended to Mr. Develez that it would best for him to hire an engineer. Mr. Develez advised that he went through the MUA meeting records and his property was referenced in three separate meetings in December 2015 through to June 2016 prior to his taking ownership. He stated that the board specifically discussed the hardship case of his property; he noted Mr. Thomas McClachrie mentioned the hookups could not be done due to bedrock there and Executive Director John Scerbo advised that the florist should never be hooked up. Mr. Kearney advised the current board members were not present at that time. Mr. Furrey suggested the hiring of an engineer and the board could make a determination after notification that the property could never physically be hooked up to the sewer. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Aralp confirmed that the owner at the time stated it was more costly to connect due to the bedrock issue. She said there was an agreement between the owner and the MUA that there was an allowance for them to stay where they were and it would be revisited in the future. Mr. Furrey advised Mr. Develez that the MUA would look at the history and try to get some background on what happened. Mr. Develez said he will provide Ms. Bright with that information. Mr. Develez said he contacted former Executive Director Matthew Biagini, who inspected the property and advised in March 2020 that he would bring it to the board’s attention. Mr. Wenner advised that the board could relax rules and regulations via resolution, but the resolution would need to be in the best interest of the MUA and not necessarily in the best interest of the rate payer.

There being no further comments to be heard, motion to close the meeting to the public was made by Mr. Furrey, seconded by Mr. Pitsker and declared carried by Mr. Furrey with all in favor.

At this time Mr. Furrey referred to the discussion of the appointments of Jean Murphy and Mr. Pitsker to the MUA and Vernon Town Council respectively and addressed potential conflicts of interest in serving both positions on the board and council. Mr. Wenner advised that the MUA board has two member openings and, historically, the board has moved alternates up to the vacancy of the regular board member. He memorialized his opinion in the July 15, 2020 email to Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, the township attorney Josh Zielinski and Ms. Bright, and is summarized as follows:

“The statutory framework under which the MUA was created is. NJSA 40:14B-1. The language Andy send was from NJSA 40:14A-1 which deals with sewerage authorities. Regardless, the language from both is substantially similar. The statutes list various interests which, if held by the member, would disqualify the member from serving. The statues then state that the holding of office or employment in a county or local government unit IS NOT such an interest which would disqualify the member from serving. The statutes further state that the governing body can appoint one or more of its own (members, not a member) to serve on the authority. Therefore, it is my opinion that a) the language Andy sent, while inapplicable to the MUA as it deals with sewerage authorities, is not in conflict with the opinion I gave and b) that there is no conflict in Andy serving on the MUA and also on the council nor is it a conflict for Jean to serve on both.”

Mr. Wenner stated that the MUA can make a motion to include the copy of Mr. Wenner’s email in the minutes.

Mr. McDermott moved to include the copy of the email in the minutes and seconded by Mr. Pitsker.

Mr. Pitsker asked Mr. Wenner if the copy of the email was shared by Mr. Zielinski with the Vernon Township Town Council.

In response to Ms. Bright, Mr. Kearney and Mr. Furrey confirmed a letter should be sent to the Vernon Township Council on the positions, requesting clarification.

There being no further comments to be heard, motion to include the emails in the minutes was made by Mr. Kearney, seconded by Mr. Pitsker and declared carried by Mr. Furrey with all in favor.

6. Resolutions

A. Resolution #20-27 Approval of Bills

At this time Mr. McDermott questioned if the MUA was still paying for the legal fees for the bankruptcy. Ms. Bright confirmed there would be no further billing from Norris McLaughlin going forward. Mr. Furrey followed up with the comment that legal work must be approved by Ms. Bright.

There being no further questions on the bills list to be heard, motion to pass the resolution was made by Mr. McDermott, seconded by Mr. Pitsker and declared carried by Mr. Furrey with all in favor.

7. Work Session

A. Sewer Service Area and the Asset Management Plan

Ms. Aralp informed the board of the conference with NJDEP regarding the sewer service area (“SSA”). The reviewer advised that the MUA needs to update the HUC analysis table and there was no need for a nitrate dilution model. The MUA may have to do a build-out analysis and she hoped the information for the current area and remainder of the township was on file with the land use board. The bigger issue is the habitat map and the NJDEP is suggesting these areas be removed from the sewer service area and the property owners be notified. Ms. Aralp advised this needs further discussion and the area largely encompassed the Legends golf course and Sand Hill Rd. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Aralp explained that the HUC analysis table can be used to update the state’s nitrate dilution model. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Bright confirmed she would check with the township engineer regarding the build-out information for Ms, Aralp and would also touch base with Jim McDonald.

Mr. Furrey advised that when dealing with the NJDEP it is critical to document everything; he added that Michelle Putnam is the assistant commissioner and contact for government affairs. Mr. Pitsker asked about establishing timelines and costs for the project and Ms. Aralp confirmed she would email same. In response to Mr. Pitsker, Ms. Aralp explained the NJDEP asked about the existing habitat and existing amendments are at the request of the NJDEP. Mr. Furrey stated that these are environmentally sensitive areas and that the Legends area was one of the maps that was added in 2015. Ms. Aralp confirmed same, noting there are other lots that were close to pump station #2. Mr. Furrey stated Legends has a private failed sewer plant and is already in the SSA; he confirmed these areas would be removed from the SSA. Ms. Bright clarified they were being asked to remove the areas in question from the map, but they could be added at a later time at the expense of future developers. She stated she has already checked with land use and there doesn’t seem to be approved development, but she will get confirmation. Ms. Wheaton concurred that those who have to amend the SSA could face problems.

At this point Mr. Furrey asked for any other questions from the board to which there were none.

With respect to the asset management plan, Ms. Aralp stated the RFP was provided. Ms. Aralp clarified that Mott McDonald does not contract out work as detailed in the RFP, as it is an insurance liability issue. She advised she could provide contractors. She stated that she would have to do the analysis and build on the proposal and costs to stay under the $100k threshold. In response to Ms. Wheaton, Ms. Aralp confirmed surveyor work could be contracted, but not installation of permanent equipment. Ms. Bright stated that she will get the RFP out for quotes. In response to Ms. Wheaton, Ms. Aralp stated it was best to put the jobs together due to coordination. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Aralp confirmed these jobs would require shut down of pump station #3. Mr. Furrey asked Ms. Aralp if she had a chance to look at pump station #1’s erosion of the pipe line and she advised that she would take a look at a time that works for the operators.

B. Pump Station #2 Update - Funding Source

Ms. Bright stated the application was ranked this morning with details requiring review. It does not state when it will be done and an update will be provided.

C. Purchase Needs

1. Sentinel Systems

Ms. Bright stated she reached out for quotes on the sentinel systems and discovered they were already in place on all the pump and lift stations. She advised she has no data and spoke with one of the vendors and that minimal data was being transmitted. She has reached out for quotes from vendors.

Mr. Kearney questioned why the system was not set up correctly to monitor remote facilities other than alarms and Ms. Wheaton stated that she will hold off commenting until all the quotes are in. Mr. Furrey stated that the positive is that the MUA already has the system set up and it should not cost more to expand. Mr. Furrey asked Ms. Bright when this system was purchased and to share that information with the MUA. Mr. Pitsker stated that he sees the bills every month and Ms. Bright confirmed that it does take data as the vendor explained, but it does not feedback to a central system. Ms. Wheaton stated that the board was looking for a tool to notify of alarms.

Ms. Aralp responded the flow data could be recorded from the past 12 to 18 months for each pump station and Mr. Furrey concurred that it can collect wet wells, pump information, voltage clogs, etc. There are 12 inputs that can be monitored and collected into a cell phone. It can log when a person enters that building.

2. Generators for Lift Stations

Ms. Bright obtained a second quote from Home Depot, but it is not in stock and may have to go with the original vendor quote. Mr. Pitsker suggested installing a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip. He explained the chip can track the generator via GPS. Ms. Bright thanked Mr. Pitsker for looking into a vendor for the RFID chip.

3. Safety Review

Ms. Bright updated that Mr. Grosser had provided items to her this afternoon and Mr. Furrey asked her for a summary and timeline for the board.

8. Commissioners’ Comments

Mr. Pitsker commented on the good solutions that are coming together with greatly improved communication and stated the safety issues are critical to address. He also questioned the status of the outstanding meeting minutes. Ms. Bright stated that the June 4, 2020 draft is done and needs to be reviewed and updated the MUA that the priority now are the 2019 outstanding minutes that need to be completed. Mr. McDermott commented that everything looks good. Mr. Kearney followed up that he had no comments. Ms. Wheaton also commented on the outstanding minutes and the status of the outstanding OPRA requests. Ms. Bright updated that the OPRA requests are under review and that documents were uploaded to Drop Box for one OPRA request regarding recordings.

9. Chairman’s Comments

Mr. Furrey commented that the team is working well and stated the sub-committees will be reviewing their volunteer appointments. He stated, moving forward, the meeting agendas will address sub-committees for updates and reports back to the MUA during the regularly scheduled meetings.

10. Executive Session (Closed to the Public)

Mr. Pitsker moved to go into executive session at 9:05 p.m. for the purposes of contract discussions.

Mr. McDermott seconded the motion, which was carried via unanimous vote.

After a short break, the MUA went into executive session.

Mr. Furrey moved to close executive session at 9:30 p.m.

Mr. Pitsker seconded the motion and carried via unanimous vote.

Mr. Furrey moved to return to public session at 9:35 p.m.

Mr. Kearney seconded the motion and carried via unanimous vote.

11. Adjournment

There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Mr. McDermott, seconded by Mr. Pitsker with all members voting in favor. The regular session workshop meeting of the Vernon Township Municipal Utility Authority was adjourned at 9:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Colette J. Borell
MUA Recording Secretary

Minutes approved: July 30, 2020