Minutes: September 21, 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, September 21, 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 KearneyA
John PerryP
Edward SegerP
Edward SnookA
Kristen WheatonP

Roll Call of Professionals

Attorney Richard Wenner, Engineer Ceren Aralp, and Executive Director John Scerbo were present.

1. Public Comment

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

Seeing no one come forward for public comment, Chairman Thomas Buchney called for a motion to close the meeting to the public.

2. Close Meeting for Public Comment

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

3. Consent Agenda

A. Resolution 17-38: Authorizing the Payment of Bills for September 21, 2017

Gloria Gallo moved to approve Resolution 17-38 for payment of the bills.
John Perry seconded the motion.

Discussion: None

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

B. Approval of August 18, 2017 Minutes

John Perry moved to approve the August 18, 2017 minutes.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.

Discussion: None

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

C. Approval of Minutes for Joint Regular Meeting and Executive Session Meeting of Township Council and VTMUA, August 2, 2017

Gloria Gallo moved to approve the August 2, 2017 minutes.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

Discussion: None

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

4. Correspondence


5. Other Resolutions


6. Attorney’s Report

Attorney Richard Wenner gave the status of the RFPs. He said he hopes this RFP will generate more interest than the one put out last year at this time when they only had one operator provide a response that was nonconforming and inadequate. The timeline for this RFP is fairly aggressive, he said. They are looking for responses this fall with operations commencing in 2018. He thanked commissioner John Perry and Executive Director John Scerbo for their input into the RFP.

Executive Director John Scerbo said they are giving more time for vendors to respond and submit their bids. He said because of the tightness of the schedule last year he feels some people did not respond. Mr. Wenner said the threat of not renewing the interlocal agreement with the DPW for 2017 last year adversely affected the response time they put into that RFP last year. This RFP gives vendors more time. Mr. Wenner said they had only one response last year, which was non-compliant so it was not even a legitimate response.

Mr. Scerbo said he would advertise the RFP in the New Jersey Herald and The Star Ledger, the League of Municipalities website, and the ADA website. He will advertise in those same places again. The most costly of them is The Star-Ledger.

Commissioner Edward Seger said he thinks the RFP should be selected based on the lowest bidder. Mr. Wenner and the other commissioners disagreed. The said the bidder should meet all of the qualifications and the bid should not be selected based on the lowest amount. Mr. Seger also wanted to put in a matrix by which to evaluate bidders by point value. Attorney Wenner advised against a point system. He said they would be looking at lowest costs as well as the vendor’s ability to provide the service and the time in which the vendor would respond, among other things. He said the VTMUA does not have to accept the vendor with the lowest bid. Gloria Gallo said they should award the bid to the most responsible vendor based on experience and ability to operate, not on lowest cost. She said there is more flexibility with an RFP than with other kinds of bidding.

Mr. Seger feels they are walking a dangerous line by not telling vendors what their criteria are or what they are evaluating them on. If they do not accept the lowest bidder and evaluate vendors by other criteria it is arbitrary, he said. Mr. Wenner said he disagrees. Gloria Gallo and John Scerbo disagreed with Mr. Seger’s suggestion as well. Mr. Scerbo said every section in the RFP is an evaluation point of the bidder. Kristen Wheaton said the RFP as proposed is pretty standard. She said a scoring criteria might be a good idea, but Mr. Wenner said a scoring criteria opens the VTMUA to challenge or liability. Mr. Seger feels there should either be a scoring sheet or they should accept the lowest bidder. He feels without a scoring criteria they could be challenged. Ms. Gallo said in the 20 years she has been executive director of the Fort Lee Parking Authority she has never been challenged on an RFP. She said she has never had a problem. She feels a scoring criteria would be more restrictive and said they need to be comfortable in hiring the professionals. Kristin Wheaton agreed.

Chairman Thomas Buchney said Edward Seger is looking to quantify the bidders. Mr. Wenner said he would never recommend quantifying bidders. He said ranking higher in one category and lower in another category is not a good way to determine bid awards.

Mr. Wenner said scoring criteria would be a burden for the VTMUA to evaluate because it gives bidders the opportunity to challenge the VTMUA’s decision.

John Scerbo said putting in such criteria would limit and restrict them. Not including a scoring criteria gives the VTMUA the maximum ability to evaluate. Anyone who has done an RFP knows that every item is asked for a reason. Any vendors not giving responses and not adequately filling out the RFP know why they did not get awarded the bid.

After lengthy discussion on scoring criteria, the VTMUA decided not to have one. John Perry said he would like two items added to the RFP: 1) 60 minutes instead of 30 and 2) vendors must include a list of individuals authorized to access the pump stations and to notify the VTMUA immediately for any changes in personnel.

Thomas Buchney said the purpose of adding those two items was due to the problems they had previously regarding who was accessing the various facilities, the vandalism that occurred, locks continuously being changed, and questions about security.

Mr. Scerbo said his plans for 2018 include adding some capital money into the budget for some sort of security system at each of the locations, wherein logins would be captured automatically and recorded.

It was suggested by John Perry the VTMUA also advertise the RFPs in the New Jersey Water Environment Association. Mr. Scerbo said he would advertise there as well.

Gloria Gallo moved to approve Resolution 17-39: Authorizing the RFPs seeking a vendor to operate the sewer system with the two amendments and to advertise for same.

Kristen Wheaton seconded the motion.

Discussion: Gloria Gallo said she wanted to state on record that she thinks it is terrible they even have to go out for RFPs and thinks it is disgraceful they cannot have an interlocal agreement with their own town. It is very disappointing that they, as a part of the town, although they are autonomous, are swimming upstream against their own governing body with every step of the way. She said she would have thought instead the mayor would say, “How could we do this together? How could we solve this problem and move forward?” Ms. Gallo said instead she feels the mayor is against everything and added, “He is not helping. He is just impeding everything that we do, and I just want to make that comment.”

Edward Seger said once they get information back and see what it costs and see what kind of job they could do maybe in a few years he will understand that maybe it’s the right way or maybe it’s the wrong way.

Gloria Gallo said that is still her opinion. Edward Seger said until they go down that path it is hard to compare.

Richard Wenner said they are not bound to the interlocal agreement as of January 1. The town could offer a different interlocal agreement.

Gloria Gallo said they were hung out to dry, and the point she wanted to make is that being part of the town it is key for the governing body to work with their boards. Towns are successful when they have the support of their mayor and council, and the VTMUA has the issues they have because they do not have the support of their mayor and council.

The commissioners stated they are already paying the township for two, full-time employees plus benefits, so the town cannot say the DPW is shorthanded because of the VTMUA because they could hire two additional DPW employees with the money they get from the VTMUA.

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

Mr. Wenner had one other issue that is not on the agenda. He said bills have been going to Minerals directly and not to the unit owners. They are going to request that VTMUA billing be directly to the unit owners and not through the homeowners association. Mr. Wenner said they could address it at the October VTMUA meeting. Mr. Scerbo said the VTMUA would not consider changing that as long as there are outstanding bill payments. Currently, there are $32,000 per quarter in outstanding payments. He said part of the reason the association gets one bill relates to the condominiums being considered a hotel and because of a liquor license. In question is whether they actually have 100 hotel rooms available daily.

Mr. Wenner said to wait and see if they get the request about the billing in writing before they make any decisions.

7. Engineer’s Report

A. Review of New Applications: None

B. Old Business: None

C. Status of Asset Management Loan Application

Engineer Ceren Aralp reported the application had been finished and filed with all information provided. There was a telephone status conference between the trustee and John Scerbo, so she asked Mr. Scerbo to give the status on that.

Mr. Scerbo said after receiving approval from the engineering portion of the NJDEP, they expected to receive approval for their application, which they did not get. He said apparently the NJEIP was greatly concerned about the Mountain Creek bankruptcy and that there is a pump station that is an integral part of their collection system that needs to be rebuilt. As a result, they indicated they were not going to approve the application. Mr. Scerbo and Ms. Aralp spent time with the VTMUA bond counsel, who told them not to look at it negatively. He said the VTMUA is not credit worthy and is unable to bond. Mr. Wenner said they discussed the issue with attorney Mo Bauer and there might still be a chance and an action plan the VTMUA could take.

Mr. Scerbo said Elke Yetter found that the VTMUA had an easement for the entire block and lot that would allow the VTMUA access and even states an easement to rebuild a pump station. The NJEIP still wants them to follow their letter, however, to provide proof they could do what they want to do with the pump station before they could get a loan. The question is whether the township would have to be named on the application rather than the VTMUA.

D. Status of Sewer Expansion Study and Project Schedule

Ceren Aralp reported they met with NJDEP by teleconference with the mayor and John Scerbo. Based on that discussion, the DEP suggested doing a municipality chapter amendment might be the best way to go for the areas the VTMUA would like to include in the expansion study. Ms. Aralp prepared a sewer expansion project schedule. She said it would take about a year for review. They will revise the map not to include some vacant lands or lands that have habitat issues because that would delay the approval of other areas on the map that have no issues. Commissioners questioned whether all of the areas should not be initially included and just allow the NJDEP to remove those areas if they are sensitive or in question. Ms. Aralp said to be more efficient, they should exclude those areas as they could always amend it in the future to add site-specific areas.

8. Executive Director’s Report

Executive Director John Scerbo reported he received two letters, one from attorney Richard Wenner and one from a resident. There was a situation where there was a sewer backup on a weekend and it involved three condominium units. One of those unit dwellers was not home that weekend and came home and found a mess. She contacted her insurance company, who sent out an inspector. The inspector claimed he spoke with one of the VTMUA employees and that employee stated it was the township’s problem. Mr. Scerbo said this was not true, and it is not a township problem. What happened was that one of the condo residents tried to fix the problem and put a rebar down into the pipe and part of it came off and clogged the pipe and caused more of a problem. The VTMUA was able to get it out and Mr. Scerbo handed the matter over to Mr. Wenner and the field staff. The condo resident is asking the VTMUA to reimburse her $12,678 because of the sewage backup that occurred on the condo. Mr. Wenner said it was not the VTMUA’s responsibility. Mr. Scerbo said that was the third time they had a resident in the condos drop something into the cleanout and cause more of a problem, causing the VTMUA more of a problem and cost.

9. Commissioner Comments

Gloria Gallo asked if they ever did an official job description for Executive Director John Scerbo or discussed the performance evaluation they wanted to do for him moving forward.

Chairman Thomas Buchney said they did discuss it, and it would be a part of Mr. Scerbo’s contract next year.

Ms. Gallo asked if these were discussed during the last executive session. Mr. Wenner said they were discussed during the August 17 executive session. Ms. Gallo said she had spoken with the chairman prior to the meeting because she could not attend and had asked Mr. Buchney to include her comments with regard to the personnel issue during the executive session but they were not included. She said whether her comments would have made a difference in the decision is irrelevant, but she would have appreciated her comments being included. She said it was a courtesy that should have been given to her to include her comments and concerns, and she would appreciate the courtesy moving forward.

Mr. Wenner said the commissioners all should have received documentation from his office on the action that was discussed and voted on at the August 17 meeting concerning the executive director’s salary and position. All of the commissioners said they had not received anything from Mr. Wenner. Mr. Wenner said he would send it out to them.

John Scerbo said for the record unless the VTMUA has not yet reached a conclusion on his position and salary, no one has told him anything about what has been decided. The recording secretary stated it was voted on at the August 17 meeting when the commissioners came out of executive session. Mr. Scerbo said if it was voted on, no one has told him anything since August 17. He said it would be a courtesy to let him know what is going on, particularly when he is the one who brought up the issue of the job description and performance evaluation and insisted they do that as quickly as possible before next year.

Mr. Buchney said they voted on the salary at the August 17 meeting but have not yet done the performance evaluation.

Mr. Wenner said they could tell the executive director about the salary now, but he will forward a resolution to the commissioners. Mr. Scerbo asked whether the resolution addresses the job description and the performance evaluation or something else. It is about the salary, Mr. Wenner said. Mr. Scerbo reiterated no one told him about the vote taken at the August 17 meeting regarding his salary. Mr. Scerbo said he would like the job description and performance evaluation completed before the end of the year. Thomas Buchney said they can put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

John Perry asked for a monthly breakdown of where they are with their annual budget in comparison to where they were last year. Mr. Scerbo said he already sends them monthly. Mr. Perry said he must have missed it and would look for it.

Gloria Gallo asked if they have been receiving all monies from Mountain Creek to date that they are supposed to have. Mr. Scerbo said they have. He added, however, that their legal bills from their attorney regarding them in the bankruptcy case are mounting to about $5,000 a month. Mr. Wenner said that was reasonable and that Mr. Bauer is trying to keep them at a minimum and is giving the VTMUA a discounted rate.

10. Chairman’s Comments

Chairman Thomas Buchney said CFO Elke Yetter, in viewing past resolutions between the township and the purchasing of the sewer system, found some documentation on the lift stations and pipes in the ground for the Great Gorge Village condominiums that might point to Great Gorge Village having ownership of them. The township attorney is reviewing them.

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.

John Perry moved to go into executive session at 8:35 p.m.
Edward Seger seconded the motion.

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

The VTMUA went into executive session at 8:35 p.m.

12. Close Executive Session

Gloria Gallo moved to close executive session at 8:51 p.m.
John Perry seconded the motion.

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

13. Return to Public Session

John Perry moved to return to public session at 8:51 p.m.
Thomas Buchney seconded the motion.

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

The VTMUA went back into public session at 8:51 p.m.


Kristin Wheaton moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:52 p.m.
Gloria Gallo seconded the motion.
All were in favor.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:52 p.m.

The next meeting of the VTMUA will be on October 19, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Transcribed and submitted by Jessica Paladini
Vernon Township MUA Secretary