Vernon Township

21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
Phone: 973.764.4055


Minutes: January 10, 2023

Vernon Township Environmental Commission

January 10, 2023 Reorganization/General Meeting Minutes

Vernon Municipal Building, 7 PM

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by Chair Diane Wexler.

Diane read the Statement of Compliance. Diane then led the commissioners in the pledge of allegiance and salute to the flag.

Roll call was taken for attendance – present were:

  • CRAIG WILLIAMS, Vice Chair, Liaison to Land Use Board


Nominations for Vice Chair

Catherina Sawoszczyk nominated Craig Williams for re-election as Vice Chair. Bonnie Tadrick seconded the nomination. Diane then asked for any additional nominations. None were offered. A roll call was taken, and the nomination was approved unanimously.

Resolution 23-01: Meeting Dates and Meeting Date Amendments

Diane Wexler asked the other commissioners if they wanted to move the February meeting date from Monday, February 20 because of President’s Day and the June meeting date from Monday, June 19 because of Juneteenth. The commissioners agreed to move the February meeting to Tuesday, February 21 and keep the original June meeting intact. Craig Williams made a motion to approve the schedule as amended; Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. A roll call vote was taken and the resolution was approved unanimously.

Resolution 23-02: Newspaper: The New Jersey Herald

The commissioners agreed to publish the meeting dates in the New Jersey Herald. Craig Williams made a motion to pass the corresponding resolution; Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. A roll call vote was taken and the resolution was approved unanimously.

Approval of Recording Secretary: Leslie Boen

Craig Williams made a motion to approve the appointment of Recording Secretary Leslie Boen for another term. Bonnie Tadrick seconded it. The motion was approved by unanimous consent. 


Approval of Minutes, December 13, 2022 Meeting

Eligible to vote were Diane Wexler, Bonnie Tadrick, Catherina Sawoszczyk, and Craig Williams. Catherina Sawoszczyk made a motion to approve the minutes as presented; Bonnie Tadrick seconded the motion. The December 13, 2022 minutes were then approved by unanimous consent.


Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.


Land Use Board Liaison Craig Williams said that the previous meeting was largely dedicated to paying bills and there was nothing else to report.


There were no applications officially under review to discuss. Craig Williams noted that the first application for a marijuana-growing project in one of the two areas approved for this activity is now in the pipeline and should be coming before the Land Use Board shortly.


Diane Wexler opened up the floor to old business.

EPA/Green Electrification Grants: Diane Wexler mentioned that, prior to reorganization, former commissioner Peg Distasi had been researching EPA grants for township green electrification projects. She asked new commissioner Jennifer Carlson if she would assume responsibility for this item of business going forward. Diane then suggested that the commission use the town’s grant writer to apply for these and other similar grants. Craig Williams questioned whether or not the town actually had hired anybody to do this; Diane replied that someone recently wrote two grant applications for township environmental projects. Craig countered that the Highlands Council wrote those grants on the town’s behalf. Diane mentioned that the school system has a grant writer and they might want to look into a sharing arrangement. She reminded the group that all employers have to meet a state-mandated benchmark for charging capacity­—providing sufficient charging infrastructure to equal one charging station for every four employees—by 2025. Diane noted that the township is well behind in this effort and needs to get moving as quickly as possible; securing grants for these purposes would expedite matters while minimizing costs to taxpayers. Jennifer agreed to look further into grant opportunities.

Catherina Sawoszczyk inquired if any of the other commissioners were aware of any other public entities in Vernon having substantial charging capacity at this point. Diane Wexler said that some of the Vernon schools have solar infrastructure; Craig Williams mentioned that the Vernon PAL does as well. Catherina then wondered what companies they used to do the installations and how they were able to afford them. Diane suggested that businesses and municipalities can get solar installations largely for free through a type of bargaining process and rental agreement, through which the solar company retains ownership of the infrastructure for a significant period of time but arranges for the purchaser to get enough solar power so that its electric bills are reduced to a reasonable amount per month. Catherina then proposed that they might need to contact the Vernon PAL to see how they facilitated their solar installations; Craig concurred.

Diane Wexler asked Craig Williams if he had made any progress finding out from GPU Energy if they’d be interested in helping the township facilitate its solar installation efforts. Craig replied that he had not but offered to follow up shortly. Catherina Sawoszczyk asked for which facilities the township would be seeking grants; Craig replied that the town would need solar coverage for the township municipal building and funding for electric vehicle charging stations, both for the general public and municipal employees.

New Trails/County Grants: Diane Wexler began by mentioning that former commissioner Peg Distasi had informed them about a county-sponsored grant program for new recreational trails at the previous meeting. Craig Williams agreed to investigate further.

PAL Wall Garden: Diane Wexler said she spoke to Kim Decker from LUB about a planned wall garden for the PAL; Kim agreed to speak to the PAL folks before they start working on it about including pollinators as part of the project.

Septic Pumping Groups: Craig Williams began by restating his strong belief that getting a group septic pumping discount program off the ground would be advantageous for everyone involved. Diane wondered if they could organize group discounting by neighborhood or lake community and proposed that they bring the idea up to the local LCPOA (Lake Community Property Owners Association), using the example of Lake Wallkill, which wrote a similar agreement into their by-laws, as a success story.

Craig Williams next offered a brief overview of the township’s recent efforts to make septic pumping changes, with the intention of getting new commissioner Jennifer Carlson quickly up to speed on the issue. He said that last year the commissioners held a meeting with the town council president, township treasurer, and several members of the MUA to discuss what could be done to make regular septic pumping more attractive and affordable to Vernon property owners. According to Craig, the township now plans to establish a local pumping station that can handle Vernon sewage, as well as oils from local restaurants, and has already identified and dedicated funding sources to pay for the installation project. He said that this move should reduce costs for taxpayers and offset what that the township regularly owes to the Sussex County MUA.

Craig noted, however, that they have gotten tripped up on one aspect of the septic pumping overhaul, which is to create a registry of local septic service providers that will agree to use the new pumping station and offer discounted service to Vernon customers as a result of the reduction in travel costs. He said that the township needs to revisit and get this part of the plan back on track, and suggested that an easy way to facilitate regular localized septic servicing within the municipality would be to organize the township into septic management zones or districts, with the properties in a given district serviced in the same discrete time period.

Diane said that her lake community, Barry Lakes, has been in contact with Lake Wallkill about their community septic servicing program. She suggested that this plan could act as a springboard for future interest from the other lake communities, both in smaller-scale neighborhood arrangements and in a town-wide septic pumping program. Craig concurred, offering that Highland Lakes is already looking to do much the same thing.


Diane Wexler opened the meeting to public comments. No-one from the public came forward at this time to comment. She then closed the meeting to the public.


Diane Wexler announced that the Land Use Board will be reviewing the township master plan some time in the very near future; amendments will include updates to stormwater management, farmland preservation, and open space plans. Craig Williams clarified that the Land Use Board has already seen and approved open space plans, but the township council has to agree upon it. He also mentioned that, once the town council approves and finalizes the plan, the Highlands Council will underwrite the effort – but advised that the township will need to do the initial financial outlays.

Catherina Sawoszczyk inquired as to whether the PAL wall garden would be the commission’s only garden installation project this year. Diane indicated that sticking to the wall garden would be the path of least resistance, because the area she had identified last year at Veterans Memorial Park for another pollinator garden would require a great deal of remediation work. Catherina asked if the garden they planted last year at Veterans Memorial Park needs any additional work; Diane replied that the plants they introduced last year are perennials and should grow back on their own, and township groundskeepers come out to weed the garden before Memorial Day. Catherina suggested that they assess the garden to see if any additional plants are needed. The commissioners concurred.

Catherina next asked the other commissioners whether or not they should plan to table at this year’s Earth Day festivities in Vernon, scheduled for roughly the middle of April. The commissioners agreed to do so.

Jennifer Carlson said that she is excited to be a part of the commission and happy to be helpful. Diane encouraged Jennifer to develop any ideas she might have for projects that they could then explore during next month’s commissioner comments section.

Bonnie Tadrick stated that she wants to work this spring on informational materials for the Environmental Commission’s page on the township website, similar to what the commissioners did last year to create awareness around the spotted lanternfly infestation and to educate the public about bee watering stations. She suggested vernal ponds and pollinator gardens as subjects they might want to highlight on the website this year. Catherina Sawoszczyk proposed that they develop a calendar and schedule posts about different environmental topics each month. Bonnie recommended that they steer the posts towards kids and parents, with the overarching goal of getting children and families involved in environmental stewardship. She then agreed to develop material for the website and offered to announce these monthly initiatives at town council meetings.

Jennifer Carlson wondered if they could get links leading directly to this content on the front page of the website, and if they could leverage Facebook for these purposes as well. Diane Wexler indicated that the township Facebook page is no longer in use, but suggested they explore alternative ways to get information out to the public at future meetings.


Before adjourning, Diane Wexler reminded the commissioners that the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 21, 2023.

Craig Williams made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Catherina Sawoszczyk seconded the motion. The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 PM. 

Respectfully submitted by Leslie Boen, Recording Secretary


Vernon Township

21 Church Street
Vernon, NJ 07462

Phone: 973.764.4055 

Township Hours

Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Emergencies Dial 9-1-1
Non-Emergencies Dial 973-764-6155


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