21 Church Street, Vernon, NJ 07462
REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
MUNICIPAL UTILITY AUTHORITY
These minutes are a synopsis of the meeting that took place on 9/15/2022. 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 7:03 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; Rich Wenner, MUA Attorney; Steve Benosky, Engineer; Jaclyn McCabe, Recording Secretary.
Mr. Pitsker motioned to open the meeting for agenda items only, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by unanimous votes. Ms. McCabe informed no one from the public wished to speak.
Mr. McDermott motioned to close the meeting to the public for agenda items only, which was seconded by Ms. Snook and carried by unanimous votes.
Mr. Pitsker asked what the DeWalt tool set was purchased for. Ms. Bright responded it is for maintenance of the buildings and systems.
Mr. Pitsker motioned to approve resolution # 22-38, approval of the bills, seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by the affirmative votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Ms. Wheaton motioned to approve the minutes from 8/18/22, 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 motioned to approve the executive meeting minutes from 8/18/22, which was seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by the unanimous votes of Mr. Kearney, Mr. Pitsker, Mr. McDermott, Ms. Wheaton, and Mr. Snook.
Ms. Bright reported the PS 2 project is actively being worked on with the DEP. The bid specs were approved and bid dates are being finalized.
Ms. Bright updated on the sewer service area stating a meeting was held with the DEP this week; however, there has been turnover and Paul DeMuro is no longer on the case. Ms. Bright added the new individual needs to be brought up to speed on what Vernon is trying to accomplish. The last item to address is the Legends area for future development.
Ms. Bright reported the township has created a sub-committee of their own to review the transfer station, and will be met with on September 26th. The sub-committee consists of Mike Furrey and Brian Lynch of Council and Diane Wexler of the Environmental Committee.
Ms. Bright reviewed capital items reporting the stone was ordered and delivered to the easement area. The generators slabs have been received and will be installed so the generators can be running before winter.
Ms. Bright added she has been working closely with the developers that have come forward and giving them all information needed in order to connect to the system.
Ms. Bright reported there was one call out at pump station 2 for a high-water power failure. Mr. Lazier went out and reversed the polarity and changed the fuse, which solved the problem. Additionally, the new muffin monster is set to ship at the end of this month.
Mr. Benosky updated the last of the PS2 documents are expected to wrap up on 9/16/22, and the authorization to go out to bid will be granted early next week and we can go out to bid after that.
Mr. Benosky reported he has been sitting in and participating in the meetings with developers along with Ms. Bright.
Mr. Benosky will coordinate with Ms. Bright on filling in the easement ditch at PS1 now that the stone is delivered.
Discussion was held regarding the October and November meeting dates. The October meeting will continue to be held on October 20th. The November meeting is historically cancelled and a final decision will be decided in October.
Mr. Pitsker motioned to open the meeting to the public for items not on the agenda, which was seconded by Mr. Snook and carried by unanimous votes. Ms. McCabe informed no one from the public wished to speak.
Mr. DeYoung motioned to close the meeting to the public for items not on the agenda, which was seconded by Mr. Pitsker and carried by unanimous votes.
Mr. Bower had no comments.
Mr. McDermott had no comments.
Mr. Snook commented due to COVID there is more outdoor seating at restaurants and would if the EDUs should be reviewed as there are extra seats available. Mr. DeYoung responded this could cause hardship on some but should be looked at.
Mr. DeYoung commented he has been sitting in on the DEP meetings and they are very frustrating. He felt that he comes away with more questions than answers. Mr. DeYoung added we need to see what the Board would like to do about the Legends property and questioned if the developers were contacted. Mr. Kearney added they have to weigh the cost of refurbishing and running their own facility verses connecting to our system. Ms. Bright added there have been several meetings with the developers and cost associated with connection has been discussed; additionally, a TWA may be needed if they refurbish what they currently have. Ms. Bright added the DEP could turn around and tell them they have to hook into township sewer but there is no way to determine what the answer will be. Ms. Bright discussed the MUA connection fee would not be a problem for the developer but the SCMUA connection fee will be the issue as it is over seven thousand dollars per EDU.
Ms. Wheaton commented she spoke to Diane Wexler and was invited to participate at the next Environmental Commission meeting to discuss and form next steps for septage collection. Ms. Wheaton commented regarding the sewer service area and questioned if it would be a good idea to get a Senate member involved. Ms. Bright answered we have reached out, however, the issue is the DEP.
Mr. Pitsker commented he agreed with the comments made regarding the DEP and added to stay on point with them constantly. Mr. Pitsker inquired if the completion date of PS2 is July 5th, to which Mr. Benosky answered that is correct. Mr. Pitsker is concerned with getting paperwork in on time and keeping the upper hand on the DEP. Additionally, we have three major projects happening and they cannot fall behind with the DEP. Mr. Pitsker added we need people from the DEP to come here, or we go there, and show them what we need regarding the sewer service area and the Township water project. Mr. Pitsker added that more aggressive actions need to be taken. Mr. Kearney agreed with Mr. Pitsker and noted when the DEP comes out to review it gives a better understanding of what the needs are. Mr. Pitsker stated the DEP needs to understand the lay of the land so that we are not paralyzed with development.
Mr. Kearney commented as follows:
I was recently asked by a neighbor about comments they heard at a council meeting, that I personally did not hear but feel they need to be addressed. The comment, as I heard second hand, was that it seems as if the MUA hadn’t accomplished anything over the last six years or so. I feel I need to address this statement.
One issue that had stalled and may seem to still be that way to casual observers is the expansion of the sewer service area. After not being satisfied with the pace of progress the MUA changed engineering firms. Currently any lag in forward motion sits squarely in the lap of Trenton and the NJDEP. The MUA, the township, and our engineering firm can only do so much without receiving the go ahead from the states regulatory body. We are currently having regular meetings with the NJDEP with the expectations that the expansion area will be settled soon.
As for fiscal responsibility; the MUA agreements are from ideal. There is a large amount of debt that has to be paid and the entire MUA staff and board of commissioners has done the following to save money, which in turn can be used towards the debt.
Over 700 units EDU’s, the calculated method for billing, were found to be incorrect, the MUA corrected this resulting in over 110 additional EDU’s. that would have been $158,763 in user fees in 2022 alone. The adjustment for the third and fourth quarters will bringing an additional $79,000. Why these calculations were done this way, the current board does not know, but in a 10-year period, it is well over a million dollars in lost fees that are now being collected.
The VFW: the VFW situation was an embarrassment to the community as it was being fought in the press. This board met with the VFW, has a simple conversation, and they connected. This resulted in $1,443 in 2022 coming in.
In 2019 the MUA paid out $200,000 in shared services with the DPW. In 2020 the MUA changed this procedure by hiring part time workers and out own licensed operator. 2021 was the first full year and it produced a savings of $115,000.
Two properties were hooked up (Green realty and Faline Building) for a total of $14,000 in connection fees plus EDU’s.
The MUA changed shared service agreements for finance and administration for a savings of over $30,000 per year.
Assumed EDUs for the future: Housing of 55 1-bedroom unites rated at 33 EDU’s equating to $44,000 in user fees, the MUA is working with other proposed developers along the route 94 corridor.
Mt. Creek is required to pay for the renovation of pump station #2 as required in their 2019 agreement. It should be known that since the 2019 agreement, Mt. Creek has paid their financial obligations not just on time, but early.
The MUA has received Township Center designation from the state planning commission in 2021. As it currently stands these properties could bring in over 1,000 connections. EDUs are not known at this time, should this development happen, it could result in 600 to possibly over 1,000 EDUs depending on the usage of the properties. The MUA has requested federal funding to cover the cost of expansion. There are early discussions of possible development but it’s far too early to speculate them.
These savings may not seem to be large, but when added together it comes to a yearly savings of over $335,000. With the debt and payments that are looming, this MUA will continue to try to save money where ever possible, as well as grow the system to create more revenue.
I, along with all of the MUA personnel, try to be positive and do the right thing. Each and every one of us was not on this MUA when poor financial deal and decisions were made, but we collectively feel it is our obligation to fight this up hill battle and continue being fiscally responsible and try to move forward and grow because growing this system is the only thing that may save it from financial disaster and the debt falling back to the town and all of the Vernon Taxpayers.
Mr. Snook motioned to adjourn the meeting at 7:41 pm, seconded by Mr. McDermott and carried by unanimous votes.
Jaclyn McCabe, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved: 12/15/22
21 Church Street
Vernon, NJ 07462
Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Land Use Board