Minutes: October 19, 2017

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, October 19, 2017 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 February 21, 2017 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 GalloP
Paul KearneyP
John PerryP
Edward SegerP
Edward SnookP
Kristin WheatonP

Roll Call of Professionals

Attorney Joseph Salvadore and Executive Director John Scerbo were present. Engineer Ceren Aralp arrived at 7:25.

1. Public Comment

Edward Snook moved to open the meeting to the public.
John Perry seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was opened to the public.

No one come forward for public comment.

2. Close Meeting for Public Comment

John Perry moved to close the meeting to the public.
Gloria Gallo seconded the motion.
All were in favor.

3. Consent Agenda

A. Resolution 17-41: Authorizing the Payment of Bills for October 19, 2017

Thomas Buchney moved to approve Resolution 17-41 for payment of the bills.
Paul Kearney seconded the motion.

Discussion: There was a question about a $413,000 line item paid to the township. John Scerbo explained that is a payment to the township, which in turn will pay the SCMUA.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Snook, Edward Seger, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

B. Approval of September 21, 2017 Minutes

John Perry moved to approve the September 21, 2017 minutes.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

Discussion: Kristin Wheaton asked to have the spelling of her name corrected from Kristen to Kristin.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Seger, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None
Abstain: Edward Snook

4. Correspondence

None

5. Other Resolutions

A. Resolution 17-42: Resolution to Adopt the Commissioner’s Handbook and Incorporate It into the Vernon Township Municipal Utility Authority Rules and Regulations

Thomas Buchney moved to approve Resolution 17-42.
John Perry seconded the motion.

Discussion: Edward Seger felt the handbook is broad and some aspects do not apply to the VTMUA. John Scerbo said they would only refer to and use those specific areas that apply to them. Edward Seger questioned the necessity of signing the handbook. Mr. Scerbo said it is similar to a company policy manual that an employee might sign. The handbook is a policy manual for the VTMUA. The signature merely states that the commissioner has received it and reviewed it.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Snook, Edward Seger, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

B. Resolution 17-43: Resolution to Adopt the Executive Director’s Job Description and Performance Evaluation

John Perry moved to approve Resolution 17-43.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.

Discussion: Edward Seger questioned how they would get feedback to understand and evaluate how the executive director is doing. He feels VTMUA members should also be copied on comments that go to the executive director. Mr. Scerbo said he passes comments on all the time to the chairman. Mr. Seger said he thinks an extra set of eyes should be on the public comments that come in to the executive director because if a negative comment comes in the executive director could choose not to share it. Commissioner Gloria Gallo said she thinks Mr. Seger’s suggestion is overstepping their boundaries. Mr. Scerbo said it is a matter of trusting him or not. Mr. Seger said they trusted someone on a board in another organization who ended up stealing money from them. Ms. Gallo said that has nothing to do with the VTMUA. Mr. Seger feels there should be a check, another set of eyes, on the comments. Mr. Scerbo cautioned Mr. Seger to further discuss the matter in executive session because Mr. Seger is discussing personnel. For the benefit of the public at the meeting, Mr. Scerbo stated multiple signatures are required on all purchase orders and checks, including the VTMUA chairman and the township finance officer in addition to his own signature, and there are already checks and balances in place that make it impossible for someone to steal money. Mr. Scerbo said he knows Mr. Seger just brought it up as an example but wants to be sure the public understands, and he again cautioned that such concerns should be discussed in executive session.

Edward Seger said he would also like Mr. Scerbo to notify the commissioners when he goes on inspections so the commissioners could go on the inspections if they choose to do so.

Chairman Thomas Buchney said there should be a committee of two commissioners to work on the actual performance evaluations. They need to also set up a biannual or quarterly meeting for the committee to do the evaluation, review it with the executive director, and then bring it to the rest of the VTMUA.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Snook, Edward Seger, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

6. Attorney’s Report

Attorney Joseph Salvadore said he had no report but would comment during executive session on pending litigation.

7. Engineer’s Report

A. Review of New Applications

Ceren Aralp said the historical society building at 293 Route 94, Vernon is under review. She said there is no approval ready for recommendation tonight for that building because she does not have an application for it.

John Scerbo said he gave Charles Nagy, owner of Green Team Realty, a commitment of approval by the VTMUA tonight. Mr. Scerbo would like to have the board’s approval tonight that if the engineer’s review comes through in the interim before the next meeting he can commit to Green Team an approval from the VTMUA. The commissioners could comment to him by email, and then confirm their approval at the next meeting. He said he committed to an answer by tonight because the real estate firm intends to begin work on the building unless something happens over at the board of education meeting tonight that prevents that. The building is going to be a real estate office, he said, and they are only using the ground floor. He said they are not using anything upstairs in the building.

Commissioners asked to clarify which building Mr. Scerbo was talking about. Mr. Scerbo said the one the guy bought already, specifying the historical society building. He said the new owner wants to know whether their EDUs would be higher or lower from what the current historical society bill is. Commissioners asked what the current EDUs were. Ms. Aralp said she does not have the information and needs to go over it with Mr. Scerbo.

Mr. Scerbo said when there is a change of use, the user is required to file an application, pay the fees, and give the application to the engineer to review for the express purpose of determining whether or not the EDUs are higher or lower. He said the VTMUA needs to approve the bill tonight so the new owner can go in and get business done in advance and is not held up for another month.

Ms. Aralp said when they reviewed the building for the historical society it was based on the square footage of the building, not on its part time use. She also stated that if it continues to be used as an office building she does not expect any change in the EDU rate from what the historical society is assessed.

Jessi Paladini, president of the Vernon Historical Society, said Ms. Aralp’s information was inaccurate. She said the historical society pays .25 EDU and is designated as warehouse use, not office. She said society members use the building on a limited, part-time basis, and they have no employees. She added that the building has not been sold yet, and the BOE has not given Green Team a contract yet for purchase. The historical society is still in the building and has received no notification to vacate. As of tonight there has been no decision concerning a contract between the BOE and Green Team, and the Green Team does not have a contract for the building.

Mr. Scerbo said Charles Nagy of Green Team Realtors has filed an application, has already made the payment, and has presented themselves as the owners of the building.

Edward Snook said as far as he knows the board of education has not even given the Green Team a contract yet for the building and the historical society is still in it. He does not think they need to go by the realtor’s timeframe since they do not have a contract for the building and they do not own the building. He said if they came to Mr. Scerbo and said they are the owners when they are not the owners they gave false information.

Mr. Scerbo said he gave them a commitment that they would have the approval this evening for a specific approved number of EDUs.

Edward Seger questioned how an applicant could say a certain floor of a building would not be used and gets a reduced EDU as a result. John Scerbo said there is nothing he could do about that. Gloria Gallo said if there is the potential for the use of the entire building nothing would stop the owner from using it.

Paul Kearney likened it to a two-family house and said the rate would be based on the bedroom count or on the number of floors, not on whether or not parts of it are used or not.

Mr. Scerbo gave the example of Shoptique Consignment on Route 515 and said the second floor is used only for storage. Edward Snook said he has been in the consignment store and there is merchandise on the second floor, and he has shopped on the second floor.

Ceren Aralp said they have to base each property on the square footage and the use, not on whether parts of the structure are used or not. She said with the historical society building, whether the real estate firm would use the second floor or not, there is always the option for them to bring in another tenant.

Jessi Paladini said Charles Nagy, owner of Green Team, contacted her just yesterday and said he would like to rent the second floor and the basement to the historical society for the society’s use. The matter is still under discussion, she said.

Gloria Gallo stated the upstairs is going to be used after all, contrary to what the applicant represented to Mr. Scerbo. Paul Kearney asked Jessi Paladini to reiterate whether Mr. Nagy made the offer to rent the upstairs. Ms. Paladini said that is correct. She had the conversation with Mr. Nagy yesterday. Mr. Scerbo said that if that is the case that Green Team is looking to rent the second floor he is going to tell them that the VTMUA did not approve the application tonight as a result of the proposed rental.

Paul Kearney asked if there are any measures in place for building owners who are in violation for claiming they would only use one floor but the VTMUA later finds out they have been using the entire building the whole time. Mr. Scerbo said he could write the building owner a summons to appear in municipal court.

Mr. Scerbo said the Green Team’s application came in about two weeks earlier. Ceren Aralp said she has never seen the application.

After a lengthy discussion regarding the amount of space in a building that would allegedly be used, Ms. Aralp said based on the rules and regulations if the building is used for office space the EDU count would be based on the total square footage, regardless of what space is used or not. She said that is how EDUs are based throughout the township. She further stated only one bill is sent for the entire building, regardless of the number of tenants in it.

Gloria Gallo said in light of the fact that the engineer does not even have an application for Green Team, there is no way they can approve the application tonight without even having accurate information. She said the commissioners should review and consider any application that comes in for the building at the next meeting if an accurate application comes in.

B. Old Business: None

C. Status of Asset Management Loan Application

Engineer Ceren Aralp deferred to John Scerbo, who said they are still on hold with the loan officer and are waiting on bond counsel to see whether they are going to hear anything back from NJEIT. The town has provided NJEIT with an easement that covers their ability to have access and rights to rebuild and maintain the pump station on the property. They are hoping that would satisfy NJEIT and the loan would go through because as is currently they are not approving the application. In order to revive it they need proof that the town owns the property and pump station, or they have an easement to access the property to do whatever they need to do.

D. Status of Sewer Expansion Study and Project Schedule

Ceren Aralp reported she updated the proposed sewer expansion map. She distributed them to the commissioners for review. She said the VTMUA and its expansion proposal are tentatively scheduled for review on the November 9 agenda of the Sussex County Water Quality Management Plan Policy Advisory Committee (PAC). The map contains the potential areas for extending sewer service. In reviewing the map, Ms. Aralp pointed to the McAfee area. She said there are two potential areas for expansion, along Route 94 and at the top of McAfee in the Pleasant Valley Lake community. The map also includes vacant lots. Ms. Aralp noted it might be prudent to exclude vacant areas along Route 94 where there might be wetlands or threatened and endangered species because that could prolong DEP approval of the expansion plan, and she suggests getting approval for the proposed expansion of the sewer service area as quickly as possible. John Scerbo said information on the vacant lots came from the tax assessor’s office.

The commissioners discussed the areas of Pleasant Valley Lake and Cedar Ridge. They agreed Pleasant Valley Lake is a community that would need to be in the sewer service area in the long run, so they might as well put it into the map for DEP approval now. Edward Snook said he does not know how some of the small lots in Pleasant Valley Lakes were even able to get septic systems in. He also noted there is significant rock in that lake community that would require excavation if they were to lay pipes there, but it is an ideal place to put sewers due to the environmental constraints.

Mr. Scerbo noted the resolution approved by the township council was for the Route 94 corridor from McAfee to the Warwick line. The map addresses both sides of Route 94 in areas where it makes sense to proceed with a proposal for expansion from the standpoint of having some population that would help fund any expansion and make it financially viable. However, once the VTMUA gets a determination from the DEP regarding what areas they will approve, they will then be able to do actual financials for those areas to determine what it would cost to design and construct the laying of the pipes, what they could expect back from that investment, and whether it makes financial sense and pays off so that they have some expansion that would help the township move forward towards the 2023 scenario.

Kristin Wheaton said the council directive was the Route 94 corridor. She said she understands it makes sense to include Legends, but the Cedar Ridge area across from Legends does not make sense to her in terms of a sewer service area. Mr. Scerbo asked her why it does not make sense to her. She said the purpose of the sewer area is to serve the town center; it is not supposed to have customers for the sake of having customers. She said it might make sense if there were an issue with septic system failures or problems with compliance in certain residential areas, such as bad water tables or that nature.

Mr. Scerbo said the council resolution did not specify the town center area only. Ceren Aralp said Legends does make sense. It already has a packaged plant, and it would make sense for them to come into the Vernon system. She said if the town system and infrastructure could serve Legends it could serve the High Ridge area as well. Mr. Scerbo stated he also had families from High Ridge that are having septic issues approach him about being included in the sewer service area. They are concerned that they have very small properties and if their septic systems fail they would not have enough property to fix or replace them. Laying sewer pipes in those areas could serve as an “insurance policy” for future use if necessary, he said. Those properties would only be billed for the capital expense of laying the pipes in the ground, and they would only need to hook up to the sewers if it were necessary.

Edward Seger said that with the absence of a system of monitoring the septics, they have no way of knowing when they might ever need it. Mr. Scerbo noted there needs to be legislation that septic systems are inspected and certified every so often. Currently there is no enforcement mechanism. Mr. Seger agreed.

Edward Snook said a septic system in Cedar Ridge could cost anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 to install because the lots are so small. Mr. Scerbo said the DEP is challenging the county for allowing homeowners to merely replace the baffles on the septics systems. One homeowner was denied the baffle remediation and spent nearly $40,000 to replace his system he said. He added the township has an inventory of septic systems that are 20+ years old and are nearing their useful lifespans. In some cases the septic systems are much older than that.

After much review of the map, the commissioners discussed attending the November 9 PAC meeting for review of the proposed expansion area. Once the PAC makes a decision the plan also needs freeholder board approval, and from there DEP approval is required. John Scerbo, Thomas Buchney, and Edward Seger said they would attend the PAC meeting. The VTMUA regular monthly meeting was scheduled for the same night but would be canceled if there were not enough agenda items so that the commissioners could attend the PAC meeting on that same night.

Mr. Scerbo noted there should not be a public meeting on the proposed expansion area until the map is completed and the VTMUA has had DEP approval.

8. Executive Director’s Report

Executive Director John Scerbo said the tax collector has requested the VTMUA use the same software system as the township so they do not have to switch between two different systems. Currently being used are Edmunds and MSI systems. He has asked the finance officer to provide information about the two different systems and what the associated costs would be and what it would take to implement. That is a capital improvement expenditure they might face in the 2018 budget.

He also said the interlocal service agreement with the township for the use of the finance officer and the administrative support expires this year. He emailed the mayor and the business administrator, telling them the VTMUA wants to continue those interlocal service agreements so they need to negotiate them as soon as possible as they need to include them in the draft of the 2018 VTMUA budget.

9. Commissioner Comments

Edward Seger asked if they have a final agreement from the town regarding the DPW operating the system in 2017. Mr. Scerbo said they still do not. The VTMUA currently uses two DPW employees for 28 hours a week each and pays their salaries and health benefits. This agreement with the township has been pending since February 2017. When the agreement is finalized and signed, the money owed to the township for these two salaries and benefits for will be retroactive to February 2017, when the VTMUA lost its agreement with Hardyston Township and had to do it on their own.

Commissioners also discussed the difficulty of accessing, retrieving, and printing their VTMUA emails as they currently exist in the township servers. Thomas Buchney said it is something to look into.

10. Chairman’s Comments

Chairman Thomas Buchney said he wants to put together a budget committee of two VTMUA volunteers. Mr. Scerbo said he would like to have a draft of the 2018 budget in hand by the end of November. Edward Snook said he would be on the budget committee. Another commissioner, including Mr. Buchney, could serve on the committee as available when a meeting is scheduled with CFO Elke Yetter.

11. Executive Session

WHEREAS, the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 permits the exclusion of the public in certain circumstances; and

WHEREAS, this public body is of the opinion that such circumstances presently exist.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority of the Township of Vernon as follows.

1. The public shall be excluded from discussion of and action upon the hereinafter-specified subject matter.

2. The general nature of the subject matter to be discussed is litigation relating to the Mountain Creek bankruptcy.

Thomas Buchney moved to go into executive session at 9:05 p.m.
John Perry seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Seger, Kristin Wheaton, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

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

12. Close Executive Session

Edward Snook moved to close executive session at 9:45 p.m.
Gloria Gallo seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

13. Return to Public Session

Edward Snook moved to return to public session at 9:45 p.m.
John Perry seconded the motion.

Roll Call Vote:
Ayes: Gloria Gallo, John Perry, Edward Seger, Edward Snook, and Thomas Buchney
Nays: None

The VTMUA went back into public session at 9:45 p.m.

Adjournment

Kristin Wheaton moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:45 p.m.
Gloria Gallo seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on November 9, 2017 at 7 p.m. If that meeting is canceled the next meeting would be on December 21, 2017.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary