Township Council Special Workshop Meeting

The Special Workshop Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was convened at 7:00 p.m. on February 26, 2018 in the Vernon Municipal Center, 21 Church Street, Vernon, New Jersey with Council President Jean Murphy presiding.

Statement of Compliance

Adequate notice of this meeting had been provided to the public and the press on February 16, 2018 and was posted on the bulletin board in the Municipal Building in accordance with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-7. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss Department Budget Presentations. Official Action may be taken.

Roll Call

Present were Council Members Sandra Ooms, Dan Kadish, Mark Van Tassel, John Auberger and Council President Murphy. Also present were Mayor Harry Shortway, Business Administrator Charles Voelker and CFO Elke Yetter.

Salute to the Flag

Council President Murphy led the assemblage in the salute to the flag.

Public Comment (For Current Agenda Items Only, Limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Seeing no members of the public wishing to come forward, Council President Murphy asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: John Auberger
Second: Mark Van Tassel
All members were in favor.

Items for Discussion

Council Comments and Recommendations (Budget)

Council Member Auberger recommended the proposed light package costing $3,000 for the Fire Marshall vehicle be removed from the 2018 budget and the DPW seasonal help be reduced as it is not needed. He questioned what the difference in state contract price between 2-WD and AWD police vehicles is and if price and need can be justified. Mr. Voelker explained the price is not that much different and the AWDs offer better clearance and interior space needed for required equipment but will follow up with exact costs.

Council Member Kadish recommended additions to the budget of viewing screen and additional microphone for the council chambers. He added the necessity to clean or remove the old building department records covered in black mold in the outside trailer as well as digitizing the current records for better access by public. Mr. Voelker explained Administration is not opposed to remediation of the records but noted follow up is needed with the county for shared services. Council Member Kadish recommended applying for a grant. Mayor Shortway stated cost for a grant writer is not in budget and he is actively searching for volunteers to help. Council Member Kadish stressed the necessity of 4WD vehicles to assist during floods or blocking roadways and wants Township to have plan for a major disaster with stockpile of needed supplies.

Council Member Ooms questioned if the Township owes any funds back to the DEP for the return of unused funds in the No Net Loss Tree Grant. Mr. Voelker stated the Township has not received any notification for monetary loss and Ms. Yetter added the Township only received funds for trees that were planted. Mr. Voelker added the Township was unsuccessful in a bid in relation to planting for the grant in part because grant was very restrictive. With the return of the unused funds, Vernon Township is now able to apply for other less restrictive grants to move forward with new plantings.

Council Member Ooms agreed that the lights for the Fire Marshall vehicle should be removed and generally would like to see entire budget reduced. Council Member Ooms was questioned as to what specifically she would like to see reduced but she had no further direction at that time.

Mayor Shortway noted that 2017 was the first time the fund balance was regenerated in the past few years and with the county ordered Revaluation and financing of water in Town Center, the budget was challenging. Ms. Yetter explained the budget is an increase of 3% but because of the decreased assessed value, it appears as a 4.46% increase or $0.16/day for taxpayers.

Council Member Van Tassel questioned if a retired patrol car can be utilized for the Animal Control department instead of purchasing a new van or possible other departments. Mr. Voelker explained dimensions of patrol vehicle, specifically height, which would not be conducive to load animals in cages and store needed equipment. Mr. Voelker added the Land Use Vehicle used by the Zoning Officers is used for community wide search of violations and needs room for storage of collected out-of-date event signage. He added that currently the Zoning Officers are sharing the Assessor’s or Building’s vehicles.

Council Member Van Tassel questioned if the Township requires the private communities who receive salt & ice materials, to have a secure storage spot. Mayor Shortway agreed that accountability of the community’s usage of road materials needs to be addressed. Council Member Auberger suggested it may be more cost effective by going back to previous procedure when the Township did not supply their materials. Mayor Shortway explained cost of salt is $53.00/ton and grits are $9.00/ton and the Township needs to analyze the real cost including gas/man power/time/benefit cost etc. Mr. Voelker suggested that legislation be drafted for Lake Communities to have secure storage facility or surveillance cameras to better monitor the supplies before next winter. Mayor Shortway added in 2010, a report was prepared for the Township finding certain communities should be reimbursed costs for snow plowing using difficulty factors ranging from 1.1-1.5 times the actual cost, but previous administration reimbursed all with same 1.5 rate which needs to be addressed.

Council President Murphy recommended increasing the Volunteer Emergency groups budgets which Mr. Voelker added that the groups invoices are being reviewed as some expenses were not reimbursable. Council President Murphy questioned with the additional help in the building department, can the hours be extended to the public as many contractors start early. Mayor Shortway stated he will explore the suggestion and Mr. Voelker added the new online forms should be available online soon for added convenience.

Council President Murphy stated she would like the benefit offered to employees who waive their medical benefits given by the Township to be discontinued. Mr. Voelker explained that since the Township has provided this benefit already in 2018, that legislation could be created to be effective January 1, 2019. He noted that also due to the Township using the State Health Insurance plan, five employees are no longer eligible for the benefit. Ms. Yetter added that the Township that at this time employees do not have the option to enter the State Program.

Mr. Voelker stated that the Township has requested a grant from the Joint Insurance Fund to cover the cost of the camera surveillance system.

Council President Murphy questioned if funds from the Fire Prevention Trust Fund can be used to purchase the Police Messaging Trailer. Ms. Yetter stated a new trailer is approximately $20,000 and there are not enough funds in that account at this time.

Council President Murphy questioned if the profits from the Recycling Center can be solely dedicated to purchase Department of Public Works equipment. Mayor Shortway explained any profit is added to regenerate the fund balance. Council President Murphy noted there is $80,000 line item for paid ambulance service and suggested that if the funds were not needed for the service that perhaps they may be used to drive membership or utilized for a LOSAP program.

Council Member Auberger questioned what the Township will be doing with roll-off truck that is being replaced. Mr. Voelker explained he is not sure at this time but depending on condition it could be put up for auction. Council Member Auberger noted when motor vehicle accidents cause damage to Township guard rails, the Township needs to follow up with insurance companies for repayment of the damages. Also, he added that salvageable sections of the rails can be stockpiled for future repairs.

Council Member Kadish recommended the Township pursue more revenue options such as renting out township owned acreage to farmers.

Public Comments (On any topic, limited to 3 minutes per person)

Council President Murphy asked for a motion to open the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Mark Van Tassel
Second: John Auberger
All members were in favor.

Jessi Paladini, objected to the Township giving up the funds for the Tree Grant. Ms. Paladini questioned the funds in the budget for the Beautification Committee. Ms. Paladini express her dissatisfaction over the $250,000 grant applied for the Trail system.

Seeing no more members of the public wishing to come forward, Council President Murphy asked for a motion to close the meeting for public comments.
Motion: Mark Van Tassel
Second: Dan Kadish
All members were in favor.

Council Comments

Council Member Auberger had no further comments.

Council Member Kadish had no further comments.

Council Member Van Tassel had no further comments

Council Member Ooms questioned if newspaper reported who had arrived was aware that the Regular meeting for tonight was cancelled.

Council President Murphy had no further comments.


There being no further items of business to be conducted on the agenda, a motion for Adjournment was made by Council Member Auberger, seconded by Council Member Van Tassel with all members voting in favor.

The Meeting of the Township Council of the Township of Vernon was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Lauren E. Kirkman, RMC, CMR
Municipal Clerk

Minutes approved: March 26, 2018