21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
MUNICIPAL UTILITY AUTHORITY
These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 8/18/2022. Copies of the recording are available at the office of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority (the “MUA”).
This regular meeting of the VTMUA commenced at 7:01 pm.
Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate notice of this regular meeting was provided to the public and the press on December 27, 2021 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.
The following members were present:
The following professionals were present: Donelle Bright, Administrator, CFO; Howard Lazier, Licensed Operator; Rich Wenner, MUA Attorney; Steve Benosky, Engineer; Jaclyn McCabe, Recording Secretary.
Mr. Snook motioned to approve resolution #22-33, to enter into executive session for purposes or personnel matters, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. DeYoung motioned to reconvene the regular meeting, which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. Pitsker made the motion to authorize what was discussed in executive session, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. McDermott motioned to offer employment to Edgar Portillo, for part-time sewer repairer, pending background check, which was seconded by Mr. Kearney and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. Pitsker motioned to open the meeting for agenda items only, seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by unanimous votes. Ms. McCabe stated hands were raised from the public.
Ms. Distasi stated the executive session should be held prior to the meeting starting and it was rude to make the public sit and wait. Ms. Distasi suggested the MUA follow what the Township does.
Ms. Paladini inquired what the first matter voted on after executive session was. Mr. Wenner responded it is a personnel matter. Ms. Paladini asked if this was considered public information. Mr. Wenner answered efforts are made to not air dirty laundry as the matter was due to personnel.
Mr. Snook motioned to close the meeting for agenda items only, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by unanimous votes.
Mr. Kearney inquired about a duplicate payment of a bill. Ms. Bright responded that the company just sent us the 2021 invoice as well as the 2022. Mr. Pitsker inquired about the budget. Ms. Bright answered we are at 61% year to date.
Mr. McDermott made the motion to approve resolution #22-35, approval of the bills, which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. Kearney asked Mr. Bower why he abstained from voting during the 6/16/22 meeting. Mr. Bower answered, as it was his first meeting, he did not feel that he had enough information to vote.
Mr. Pitsker made the motion to approve the minutes from 6/16/22, which was seconded by Mr. DeYoung and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Mr. Snook, Mr. DeYoung, and Mr. Bower. Mr. Kearney and Ms. Wheaton abstained from voting.
Mr. Pitsker made the motion to approve the special meeting minutes from 7/15/22, which was seconded by Mr. DeYoung and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Pitsker, Mr. DeYoung, and Mr. Bower. Mr. Kearney, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook abstained from voting.
Ms. Bright informed that the muffin monster at pump station 2 is not in working order. This resolution is a formality since the muffin monster is a necessity and needed to be ordered to ensure the system is functioning properly. Mr. Kearney asked if the station was being checked more often to ensure the system is still running. Mr. Lazier answered on work days the sewer repairers check the station more often to ensure it is functioning properly.
Mr. Pitsker motioned to approve resolution #22-36, Ratification of The Emergency Declaration to Procure and Install Emergency Grinder at Sandhill Pump Station, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Ms. Bright discussed this resolution is for the 55+ housing projected that is going to be placed at 7-11 Theta, which will result in 33 EDU’s. Ms. Bright added the engineer for the project is in attendance. The original letter sent by Mr. Benosky had comments which needed to be addressed before final calculations are made. Ms. Bright stated that the engineer for Theta 456 Associates had addressed all comments and Dewberry will send an updated review letter. Mr. Benosky added there are not any additional items to be discussed and all items are satisfied. Mr. Pitsker inquired if the parking lot and basement drainage go into the sewer system. The Engineer for the project stated the drainage goes into an underground re-charge system and does not discharge into the sewer system. Mr. Pitsker added that the plans are very good and thoroughly laid out. All members wished good luck on the project.
Mr. Snook motioned to approve resolution #22-37, approving EDU calculation for theta 456 Associates, 7-11 Theta, seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, and Mr. Snook. Ms. Wheaton abstained from voting.
Ms. Bright updated the pump station 2 project stating that the next step is for the SED plan to be reviewed. Ms. Bright stated there are now weekly calls with the DEP to keep the project moving.
Ms. Bright stated she reached out to the DEP 4 times without response regarding the sewer service area. Ms. Bright added the DEP Director to the last e-mail and finally received a response and will hopefully hear back soon.
Ms. Bright stated that the town council created a subcommittee to look at the transfer station.
Ms. Bright updated the capital items and informed that stone is being ordered for the easement ditch. The generators are waiting to be installed as pads need to be laid first. The construction on PS3 is being held up due to the fact the contractor who was picked is having trouble obtaining the public works certificate. Ms. Bright stated she will hold a meeting with Mr. Benosky on the evaluation of the force main. Ms. Bright added the replacement of lift stations is on the list but not a priority as there are other property developments occurring which would like to connect to the sewer. Ms. Bright added the valves at ps3 are going to be removed from the list as they are not a priority.
Mr. Lazier updated there was a widespread power outage and the system held up without issue. Mr. Lazier stated there were calls from the condos this month, specifically regarding a line which was identified as an issue in 2017. Mr. Lazier used the camera on the lines and did not find a crack but did find a flat spot, which is being monitored.
Mr. Lazier added the pump at Black Creek had a failure alarm. However, when it was pulled the pump is in working order but the relay switch was failed and are in the process of finding a replacement switch.
Mr. Lazier stated the pits need to be cleaned more frequently instead of on an annual basis.
Mr. Lazier proposed for a company come out and camera the lines in the condos. Ms. Wheaton questioned what the basis is for this. Mr. Lazier answered to check for any trouble spots and to give a layout of the actual system. Mr. Lazier added tree roots have come through some of the lines. Ms. Bright said she thought this was a good idea as it is an old system. Ms. Bright said we can look into the company used last year to see how much it will cost. Mr. Pitsker inquired if we could use the camera we have if there are areas of concern. Mr. Lazier stated we can as our cameras can travel 300 feet. Mr. Pitsker responded maybe we can do that first and if it gets worse, we can do more. Mr. Kearney asked if we have the original report from when this was started years ago, and if we do check the lines that were identified then. Ms. Wheaton stated she does not see the benefit of this if there are no problems. Mr. Lazier added this would be for preventative maintenance.
Mr. Benosky stated Ms. Bright covered most of the areas. Mr. Benosky added that the ps2 project is in its final stages and some final approvals have been given in the last few weeks. Mr. Benosky stated there are contractual items left and after that can go out to bid.
Mr. Benosky reported regarding the sewer service area and the new developments, confirmation is trying to be obtained that they will be in the sewer service area.
Mr. Pitsker commended Mr. Benosky and Ms. Bright on getting these projects done as they are frustrating and require patience.
Discussion was held on obtaining annual water usage from Veolia. Mr. Bower stated Veolia informed him that a non-disclosure agreement would need to be signed before information would be given. Ms. Bright stated when we called from the government entity that was not a requirement. Mr. Kearney stated that if a non-disclosure is signed will the information be able to be used in an open public meeting. Mr. Bower answered it depends on what is being disclosed.
Mr. Pitsker made the motion to authorize Ms. Bright to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Veolia, if necessary, seconded by Mr. Kearney and carried by affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Mr. Snook motioned to open the meeting to the public for items not on the agenda, which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried by unanimous votes. Ms. McCabe informed no hands were raised.
Mr. Pitsker made the motion to close the meeting to the public for agenda items only, which was seconded by Mr. Snook and carried by unanimous votes.
Mr. DeYoung had no comments.
Mr. Snook commented on the transfer station and if the town would bid out to multiple contractors. Mr. Kearney replied he would assume multiple vendors.
Mr. McDermott commented he and Mr. Pitsker met to review the idea of getting relief for senior citizens and disabled veterans and the report has been forwarded to the Commissioners. Mr. Kearney asked if this is something that can be done, billing in a different way, and it must be confirmed before it is put into action. Mr. McDermott stated research was done by Mr. Wenner and it is legal as it is the different rate with the same calculations.
Mr. Bower commented comparing the number of seats in a car to the number of bedrooms in a residence, in order to depict why the billing is unfair. Mr. Bower stated it was his understanding, by cases Mr. Wenner has shown, that the EDU charge may be unfair and it does say that there are multiple ways to bill, and usage is most accurate. Mr. Bower added it is quite clear all members of the same class are equal, but what makes a class or a subclass, for example metered versus non-metered subclass. If we pursue this, we would be the only MUA to challenge this.
Mr. Pitsker commented he attends the DEP weekly meeting, which are usually 15-minute updates. Mr. Pitsker added this is the most critical project to complete, everything else is on the back burner, and hope to complete this by April/May of 2023. Mr. Pitsker spoke to Mr. Bower stated he agrees that meters would be fairer but there is a lot of work to be done and considered, and before going to court, there needs to be a solid decision with cost attached to it. Mr. Bower answered he agreed but the cost associated cannot be attached.
Ms. Wheaton commented she has missed some meetings and wanted to understand the status regarding cost to estimate to determine if metering is feasible. Mr. Kearney answered the price is primarily cost prohibitive, which is why when the information from Veolia is produced, it will be the first step to get an idea of cost, as sewer meters are very expensive. Ms. Wheaton stated she thought it was requested that the engineers put a memo together. Ms. Bright answered they have been working on this but because of the different types of meters needed, gravity and force, and this is for the subcommittee to review. Ms. Wheaton asked which subcommittee. Ms. Bright answered the metering committee and they will look at this and bring it back before the board. Mr. Kearney added this conversation is premature and all aspects are being looked at. Mr. Pitsker asked Ms. Wheaton if she spoke to the Environmental Board regarding the septage collection and was answered she has not.
Mr. Kearney commended Ms. Bright and Mr. Benosky for diligently working on the pump station and dealing with the DEP, the work does not go unnoticed and it is appreciated. Mr. Kearney requested, although he knows some things do come in late, that the packets be complete before sending so that they are available for review. Ms. Bright stated she did not notice the document was missing and should have sent a text stating the late e-mail. Mr. Kearney commented regarding meters and stated when the residents came there were valid points raised and he does not disagree that the billing is not really fair. Mr. Kearney added he wants to explore and exhaust all the information and want this done correctly if we do change it as we do not want future commissioners cleaning up a mess. Mr. Kearney stated to the residents in the condos, we hear you and we are looking into this, and it will not be an overnight change. Additionally, if we do this the budget must stay the same and some people will pay less and some will pay more. Mr. Kearney stated Ms. Distasi brought up a valid point regarding the executive session and asked for clarification on the rules of when to hold the session. Mr. Kearney stated they should be held at the end in the future.
Mr. Kearney motioned to adjourn the meeting at 8:41 pm, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by unanimous votes.
Jaclyn McCabe, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: 9/15/22