Minutes: March 4, 2020

These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 3/4/2020. Copies of the recording are available at the office of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (the “MUA”).

1. Call to Order

The regular meeting of the MUA was convened at 7:13 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 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. Oath of Office

Vernon Township Mayor Howard Burrell administered the oath of office to Michael Furrey who was appointed voting member, Dave McDermott who was appointed voting member from alternate, Kristin Wheaton was appointed voting member from alternate and Andrew Pitsker who was appointed alternate voting member.

Mayor Burrell discussed the MUA, its background, addressed the planned future improvements to be implemented going forward and lauded the new commission boards’ efforts towards this goal. Michael Furrey came forward, credited former Vernon Township Mayor Harry Shortway’s assistance on providing MUA background information and commented on the enormous years’ long task to straighten out the MUA. Mr. Furrey discussed the selection of Chairman and Vice Chairman of the MUA. At this time Ms. Wheaton nominated Michael Furrey as Chairman, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried upon the unanimous vote. At this time Mr. Furrey nominated Paul Kearney as Vice Chairman, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried upon the unanimous vote.

Mr. Furrey discussed the board roles, attendance of professionals at MUA meetings and stated every decision made by the board to be submitted to Mr. Biagini to implement. Mr. Kearney commented on the cost, requirements for the professionals to attend each meeting and suggested they participate on an as needed basis for input needed from them. Mr. Pitsker agreed, commented on the cost of the professionals who attend each meeting and noted the importance of expense control. Mr. Biagini asked if there is a legal requirement for the MUA to have an attorney attend each meeting. Ms. Wheaton commented the engineer should be at the meeting whenever an applicant is in the audience. Mr. Furrey commented the attorney should attend actual meetings in the event a legal opinion is required while workshop meetings can be attended on an as needed basis with the engineer to participate whenever an applicant is present.

At this time roll call was taken:

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

The following professionals were present: Executive Director Matthew Biagini. Mr. Furrey stated Attorney Richard Wenner and Engineer Ceren Aralp would not be in attendance tonight.

5. Open Meeting to the Public

Mr. Kearney motioned to open the meeting to the public which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried upon the unanimous vote.

Mr. Harry Shortway came forward, identified himself as President, Vernon Town Council and expressed thanks to the MUA board for taking on the challenge of improving the MUA.

Mr. Kearney motioned to close the meeting to the public which was seconded by Ms. Wheaton and carried via unanimous vote.

Mr. Biagini stated the draft of the asset management plan is available. Ms. Wheaton commented Ms. Aralp can post it for distribution to the board members. Mr. Biagini stated the air release valves within the system need to be reviewed as part of the AMP. He advised the valves need to be assessed, tested and replaced if necessary as it has been at least twelve years since it was done. He said a contractor can be engaged to perform the evaluation. Mr. Furrey stated the inspection of the force main has to be done once the AMP is approved. Mr. Biagini concurred and advised the force main will need to be televised going down the railroad. He advised the railroad will need to be notified prior to digging inspection of the force main. Ms. Wheaton asked if the force main needs to be visually inspected. Mr. Furrey advised Sand Hill down to the Hardyston pump station was the original force main, was the weakest link in the system, inspection was attempted and when it was entered, it was flooded. Mr. Biagini advised that particular section of the force main needs to be televised with removal of one of the section elbow and commented the NJDEP will mandate this for all wastewater collection systems five years from now. He stated it should not hold up the plan.

Mr. Furrey commented the sewer service area map requires a critical decision on whether all customers are on it. Mr. Biagini explained the map layout with customers’, pump stations’, lift stations’ locations and Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority pump station. Mr. Furrey commented all customers’ lots and blocks should be entered on the map together with the sewer service area. Mr. Biagini advised Ms. Aralp can input this information and explained the proposed areas for expansion. Mr. Furrey commented when he was on the Sussex County Wastewater Management Committee the maps were updated every four to five years, noted this map was not done in 2012 and the SSA map should be clearly delineated. Mr. Biagini and Mr. Furrey concurred the map needs to be redone and updated by Mott McDonald. Mr. Pitsker asked if expansion details need to be entered. Mr. Furrey advised it was not critical at this time to do the expansion detail on the map. Mr. Biagini advised the map needs to be divided to show the delineation of service areas, pump stations and lift stations.

Sub-Committee Charters

Mr. Furrey discussed the charters and who will serve on the seven subcommittees. He suggested assigning two people to serve on each subcommittee.

Transfer Station Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey spoke about the background of the transfer station. He advised when a septic company has to do pump outs there are three only facilities for disposal: the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, a facility in New York State and the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission in Newark. He said the idea was floated to build a transfer station for Vernon to handle the discharges. He stated Dave Bauer of Earth Care reviewed the feasibility of it and discussed also with Vernon Township engineer Corey Stoner who will prepare a feasibility study for it with a final report issued within a month to the mayor. Mr. Stoner advised it was doable. Mr. Furrey stated there are two proposed locations to build it: one by pump station #2 off of Sand Hill Road or pump station #3 located off of route 94.

He commented while he served on the Vernon Environmental Commission there was discussion on establishing a mandatory septic cleaning ordinance, discussed a cost analysis and hiring an engineer to do the feasibility study. Mr. Kearney commented if the town establishes a mandatory septic cleaning ordinance it should be applied to all residents with a septic. Mr. Furrey concurred, advised it was presented to the Land Use Board which opposed it, there are compliance issues that could arise and advised he researched other communities such as West Milford and Jefferson. Mr. Biagini agreed, noting ordinance would place a burden on the Building Department for enforcement and noted that a permit is required to dump sewage. Mr. Kearney concurred noting there are vendors cleared through the town to handle the disposal. He commented the haulers regardless if there is an ordinance in place or not, there is enough material coming in to cover the 200,000 required gallons as they collect from other sources. Mr. Furrey advised the transfer station can be done without the ordinance. Ms. Wheaton and Mr. McDermott volunteered to serve on the committee.

Sewer Service Area Map Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey advised this is for the updating to the map and there was a meeting Vernon township had with the NJDEP to expedite the approval of the map. He advised the NJDEP will look at the map, this is all the mapping that needs to be done, looking at customers, where the sewer area can expand and stated he will serve on it. Mr. Kearney volunteered to serve on the committee.

Pump Station #2 Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey advised this is a critical pump station as it serves the town, is failing, undersized and in order to be funded through the state there has to be a project in place. Ms. Wheaton noted the AMP is required in order to obtain project funding. Mr. Biagini noted the MUA cannot fund the project and the funding must originate from the town. Mr. Furrey stated Donelle Bright completed the application to obtain the funding for the AMP. Mr. Biagini noted there can be no expansion with the AMP. Mr. Furrey said Ms. Aralp advised that Dewberry the engineering consultant for Mountain Creek did a design map approximately ten years ago. He said it is an involved process and volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. Ms. Wheaton volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.

By-Law/Personnel Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey stated he discussed with Mr. Pitsker. Mr. Pitsker advised he volunteered to serve on it. He stated it involves managing the by-laws, job descriptions, advertisements for each jobs posted. Mr. McDermott volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.

Feasibility Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey advised it will not be addressed at this time and stated it was for dissolution of the MUA. Mr. Biagini noted the conversations on dissolving the MUA are drifting away. Mr. Biagini volunteered to serve on the subcommittee and Mr. McDermott volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.

Water Supply Subcommittee

Mr. Furrey stated this has to do on the clean water side. Mr. Biagini advised SUEZ has to do work at Mountain Creek’s South Lodge, has a call into SUEZ to schedule a meeting between him, SUEZ, Mayor Burrell and Administrator Charles Voelker on the upgrades to the pumps and the electrical. He stated the cost could run $1.8 to $2 million. Mr. Furrey commented the water supply wells are down by Town Center. Mr. Biagini commented the submersible pumps need to be upgraded since they are at 400 gallons per minutes. He advised he spoke with SUEZ engineer Emad Sidhom today to set up a date to talk on preliminary work. Mr. Furrey volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. Ms. Wheaton also volunteered to be on the sub-committee.

Financing Sub-Committee

Mr. Furrey advised this has to do securing financing i.e. bonds, environmental infrastructure loans and coming up with money to accomplish the projects. Mr. Pitsker volunteered to serve on the sub-committee with Mr. Furrey likewise volunteering.

Newsletter Subcommittee

Mr. Pitsker advised there has not been a quarterly newsletter since 2016 and discussed with Mr. Biagini. He stated Mr. Biagini suggested cost controls postings and inserting a frequently asked questions document on the web site to answer questions posed by the public. Mr. Pitsker asked for suggestions on other subjects the board would to see posted. He said he would like to design it for ease of use with the focus on communication, cooperation and collaboration.

6. Commissioners’ Comments

Mr. Pitsker commented about the 2019 costs. Mr. Furrey stated the January minutes were approved at the February meeting and asked if all minutes were posted. Mr. Biagini advised Susan Girardi prepared the minutes, had them posted on the web site and the outside web contractor posts the minutes. Ms. Wheaton commented about issues with the MUA email. Mr. Biagini advised he would check into it. Mr. Furrey stated all expenses and costs spent will be tracked and monitored.

7. Chairman’s Comments

Mr. Biagini discussed the cost expended for the Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Furrey advised this money includes services covered in the Interlocal Agreement, costs the MUA $32,000.00 annually and goes on the town’s budget. He advised he discussed the position with Donelle Bright. Mr. Biagini stated it could be put out to bid and it is a part time position. Mr. Pitsker asked how much time would be needed as it would be a part time position, the responsibilities would cover more than tracking money and whether 15 or 20 hours a week would be sufficient. Mr. Kearney commented if somebody came from the private section there might be a longer learning curve to the position.


Motion to adjourn was made by Mr. McDermott seconded by Ms. Wheaton which was declared carried by Mr. Furrey at 9:04 p.m. upon the affirmative votes of Mr. Furrey, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Erichsen, Ms. Wheaton and Mr. Kearney.

Respectfully submitted,
Colette J. Borell
MUA Recording Secretary

Minutes approved: January 7, 2021