Minutes: September 17, 2020

Regular Meeting/Work Session Minutes

YouTube video of the September 17, 2020 meeting »

These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 9/17/2020. 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 on September 17, 2020 remotely via Zoom and called to order by Chairman Michael Furrey at 7:06 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. Roll Call of Members and Professionals

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

The following professionals were present: Donelle Bright, Administrator; Colette J. Borell, Recording Secretary and Attorney Richard Wenner. Mr. Wenner entered the meeting at 7:16 p.m.

5. Open Meeting to the Public

Mr. Kearney motioned to open the meeting to the public, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and declared carried by Mr. Furrey.

Ms. Jessica Paladini came forward and asked if the public comment period was going to be opened up again at the end of the meeting and if this was the only public session. Mr. Furrey advised that if it is necessary it will be re-opened up to the public at the end of the meeting prior to adjournment.

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

6. Approval of the Bills

Mr. Pitsker asked if the Sentinel system is up and running. In response to Mr. Pitsker, Ms. Bright advised the Sentinel system is active and is checked daily. She updated there will be more invoices for additional services to be rendered on the relocation of the boxes because they need to be heated and will be moved before the cold weather sets in. Mr. Furrey commented that Ray Cornetto of North Jersey Pump and Controls, LLC performed the work and detailed the summary of work in his invoice and gave a list of items that remain to be done. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Bright confirmed Mr. Cornetto provided an update on the items for the lift stations and what needs to be done in preparation for the colder weather operations.

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

7. Approval of Minutes

a. July 2, 2020 Regular Meeting

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

8. Work Session

a. RFQ Responses for Engineering Services

Ms. Bright explained Ms. Wheaton’s RFQ proposal spreadsheet scoring and said that all of the boards’ comments were incorporated in one tally up spreadsheet of all their scores. Ms. Wheaton advised the scoring included the firms’ experience and reputation in wastewater collection conveyance, with the NJDEP and wastewater permitting, the New Jersey Water Bank or their predecessor, the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, their price proposal and any other factors that may have presented themselves during the MUA review of their proposals. She noted the commissioners’ final individual scorings were submitted to Ms. Bright by 9/11/20.

Ms. Wheaton advised through this screening process a selection was made for Van Cleef Engineering Associates, LLC and Dewberry Engineers Inc. as the top ranked engineering firms, with Mott McDonald ranking third. She advised the board that in tonight’s meeting they should confirm which firms to invite for interviews on 10/1/20.

Mr. Furrey commented the top three firms will be focus of the short list for consideration and presentation. He raised the issue of the potential conflict of interest with Dewberry with respect to the firm’s work on behalf of Mountain Creek. Mr. Furrey asked Mr. Wenner about a potential conflict with respect to this. In response to Mr. Furrey Mr. Wenner commented that a concern could arise if there was an application that a general engineering firm appointed to do work for the MUA was also representing another client, i.e. Mountain Creek, on work performed on the same project, i.e. pump station #2. He commented that Dewberry on their end did not see a conflict, however in terms of the work on pump station #2 for both clients there may be an issue with the scales being tipped towards the ultimate party who will be paying the invoices. He advised the work should be rendered free and unfettered from outside influences with a fair and balanced approach, especially with Mountain Creek being a significant customer of the MUA. At this time Mr. Wenner asked Ms. Wheaton to provide an engineer’s opinion on this. Ms. Wheaton commented each firm was requested to issue conflict of interest statements and present their procedures and policies which required the firm to offer their clients unbiased information. She advised Dewberry did have a policy with the inclusion of a fire wall to ensure the parties are aware of the potential conflict of interest and their satisfaction of their resolution of these issues. Ms. Murphy commented that Dewberry did perform work for the winter activity center however it is unrelated to the pump station and the sewer. She noted Dewberry’s involvement with Mountain Creek is directly connected to the Pump Station #2 project. Mr. Furrey stated that Dewberry has previous experience with the design of the system, which is a benefit however the question of the conflict should be resolved. Mr. Pitsker asked if a dialog with Joe Hession was held. In response to Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Furrey informed Mountain Creek was looking at a conflict from their angle as well. Mr. Furrey advised he was satisfied with the legal opinion on the conflict of interests.

Ms. Wheaton advised the board that the firms should be presented with questions formulated by the MUA at this meeting and then the firms can build their answers into their presentation and therefore expedite the question and answer period. Mr. Pitsker proposed interviewing Van Cleef, Dewberry and Mott McDonald in that order. Ms. Murphy stated her sole concern was with the potential conflict of interests. Mr. McDermott and Mr. Kearney commented about the turn around time of work response from Mott. Ms. Wheaton commented she was unaware Mott had the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority as a client. She noted there are conflicts with the firms in a variety of areas and suggested negotiating a contract with the firm that is not conflicted. Ms. Murphy concurred that often the same firm would be engaged in work for everyone. Mr. Furrey suggested a five-minute presentation followed by a Q&A session for each firm, totaling 30 minutes and advised the board that the next meeting will be devoted entirely to the firms’ presentations. Ms. Wheaton commented that she did not believe five minutes would be sufficient time for their presentations. Ms. Murphy added that there may be items that are specific to the MUA needs that they can speak to. Mr. Kearney concurred that that should be part of their presentation.

Ms. Wheaton clarified the five individual proposed questions to be asked of the firms as follows:

Question #1 - “Discuss project examples that relate directly to the scope of work described in the RFQ.”

Question #2 - “Elaborate on your experience and lessons learned in working with NJIB.”

Question #3 - “Correlate the personnel shown in your project staffing chart to the rates in your price proposal.”

Question #4 - “What are some important considerations for the implementation of a septic transfer station in association with the pump station rebuild.”

Question #5 - “While the RFQ is focused on wastewater engineering services, the MUA is now also evaluating the procurement and expansion of water supply through infrastructure currently owned and operated by SUEZ. In your presentation please address your firm’s capabilities to assist the MUA in this regard and whether any conflict’s of interest exist for your firm.”

Mr. Pitsker asked whether any of these firms are full service provider firms who can sub-contract out additional work, i.e. inspection services or other specialty work. In response to Mr. Pitsker, Mr. Furrey commented while some engineering firms have good relationships with contractors, the larger engineering firms tend to shy away from contractors and that it depends on the firm however noted it would be beneficial if the firm has a contractor who can handle special work. Mr. Pitsker commented that the force main issue is dragging. Mr. Furrey informed they would expedite to complete it with the current engineer at this time. Ms. Bright confirmed that the firms will be notified for the meeting by October 1, 2020. Mr. Furrey asked for copies of the firms’ presentations ahead of the meeting. Ms. Murphy asked if the firms should be asked about any companies they would recommend working with. Mr. Furrey advised that it would depend on what the project is and clarified it is the force main project as the current priority.

Mr. Furrey commented that there will be re-scoring on all the firms by the board with their updated opinions with a final determination to be selected. Mr. Pitsker advised that he set up a price table for all the firms and would circulate to the MUA for review.

9. Administrative Update

Ms. Bright informed the safety review was reviewed with Ceren, who provided the drawings on file for the pit in case it needs railings installed based on the specifications provided by Howard Lazier. She advised that a couple of the vendors turned down the offer of quoting on the force main specs however one did response with respect to the mechanical portion of the CCTV. She advised that a meeting is scheduled with the town and SUEZ representatives about the water connection and she would provide an update. She updated Mountain Creek sent the original review plan for pump station #2.

She discussed the map for the NJDEP and and the discussion held with Paul DeMuro regarding the three specific areas they want removed from the sewer service area map. She advised she received the maps from Ms. Aralp and said she was not comfortable with the maps because NJDEP asked for the removal of these certain areas within the map as follows:

One area is to the left off of Sand Hill Road by the railroad tracks which is in the existing sewer service area and the NJDEP wants it removed due to the bobcat and rattlesnake encroachment as threatened and endangered species designation. She noted the second area is over by the Black Creek Development and the other area is over by the golf course and Dale Kelly’s farm. She said that the NJDEP wants all of the following areas removed from the sewer service area: all of the Legends property where McAfee and Route 94 meet and portions in the town center behind the former Rite-Aid, including vacant lots as well as areas already approved in the condos. Ms.Wheaton commented that the existing sewer service area has already been approved and noted it is inconsistent with the original plan.

Mr. Furrey stated these areas that were deemed environmentally sensitive were previously noted, however at no time was there a request regarding the removal of the areas within the town center. He commented that the three maps need to be reviewed carefully to determine if the MUA is in agreement with removing these areas requested by the NJDEP. Mr. Furrey stated he was not in agreement with removing certain areas especially anything in town center especially the areas that are already developed as well as the Legends areas. Mr. Kearney commented plans were made based on these parcels already approved and noted what if these parcels had been developed already. He commented now the NJDEP wants to change the existing area and it does not make sense. Ms. Bright stated when she and Ms. Aralp spoke with Paul DeMuro at the end of July there was no discussion about the other parcels.

Mr. Furrey commented approval of the sewer service area was given to the Sussex County Water Quality Management Group by the NJDEP in 2012 and it was endorsed by the freeholders. Ms. Bright advised that she does have an updated list of all the lots and blocks in the areas and commented the NJDEP is inconsistent with their decision now that they are asking to remove large portions of the sewer service area. Mr. Furrey stated the 2015 map for Mr. Kelly’s farm was the last to be added to the sewer service area to which Ms. Murphy noted that Mr. Kelly added himself to the map with the NJDEP. Ms. Bright advised the only remaining item other than the SSA areas is the HUC analysis which Ms. Aralp is still working based on all the HUCs in town. Ms. Bright noted she did not see anything in the HUC analysis requiring the removal of these areas. Mr. Furrey advised this is a land use issue and that an opinion from Mr. Wenner and Ms. Aralp will be needed. He noted that the sewer service area sub-committee members will be asked to weigh in on this decision to try to come to some kind of conclusion.

Ms. Bright informed there is one large current account currently outstanding in the vicinity of $135,000.00 for quarters 1-3. Mr. Furrey requested Mr. Wenner’s review and opinion on direction.

Motion was made by Ms. Wheaton to open the meeting to the public; which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried via unanimous vote.

Ms. Jessica Paladini came forward and asked why there are properties still not hooked up to the sewer system and if there was a list of properties not hooked up. Mr. Furrey stated it was being looked into. Ms. Bright advised that she is confirming the total with engineer Ms. Aralp. Ms. Paladini asked why the side of Route 94 opposite to Taco Bell is not hooked up. Mr. Furrey updated that the MUA is aware of it and is under investigation to be part of the evaluation of the potential expansion of the sewer service area. Mr. Kearney explained he had understood it was cost prohibitive at the time of the initial installation.

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

10. Commissioners’ Comments

Mr. Pitsker commented the NJDEP is dragging the sewer service area map issue out and linked the delay to the IBank funding requirement. Ms. Wheaton asked whether the interviews for engineers need to be conducted remotely; Mr. Furrey confirmed same. Mr. McDermott stated he and Ms. Bright searched the files for the VFW map that was attached to their application from 2019. Ms. Bright confirmed that the records show the application document; however, the design was missing and advised Steve Wenzel of the VFW. Mr. Kearney commented outgoing MUA members have traditionally been given a plaque after departing the board for their volunteer efforts and asked if this policy could be reinstated. Mr. Kearney advised the nominees would be John Perry, Angela Erichsen, and Thomas Buchney. Ms. Bright confirmed to follow up on same.

11. Chairman’s Comments

Mr. Furrrey asked about the status of the applications, resumes and interviews for the part time sewer positions. In response to Mr. Furrey, Ms. Bright advised a third application and resume had been received for the part time sewer employees and she and Mr. Lazier will conduct the interviews. Mr. Furrey commented that there was an operations manual which he wanted to have updated since it was done in 2012 and noted it is required by the NJDEP for compliance. He requested Ms. Bright and Mr. Lazier review and update with the addition of the Sentinel tracking and maintenance system and distribute the final copy to the board for their review. Mr. Pitsker asked if the board could obtain a demonstration of how the Sentinel system operates. In response to Mr. Pitsker, Ms. Bright stated that she would provide a screen shot of the operating system to the board. Mr. Furrey brought up the conversation he had with Ms. Murphy about the sewer service system and potential conflicts of interest between Agra Environmental and the MUA. He discussed the operation of the system in partnership with SUEZ when it was sold to the MUA and the business relationship of Agra running the system during this period. He advised that the SUEZ relationship ended in 2016 and he joined the MUA in 2020. Mr. Furrey asked Mr. Wenner for an opinion to be rendered about any conflicts of interest with respect to this matter. Mr. Wenner confirmed he would review and advise the board of his determination.

12. Adjournment

Motion to adjourn was made by Mr. McDermott, seconded by Mr. Kearney and declared carried by Mr. Furrey at 8:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Colette J. Borell
MUA Recording Secretary

Minutes approved November 5, 2020