BY ERIKA NORTON

Increasing revenue is the main goal, according to Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway, but in order to do that, major investment in the water infrastructure needs to occur.

At the Township Council meeting Jan. 30, Shortway laid out his plans for the coming year, announcing that “water is the number one priority for 2017.”

“I’ve been here for over 25 years,” Shortway said. “We have a town center that is stagnant.”

To increase revenue, Shortway intends to attract businesses to come to Vernon by improving water and sewer capacity, and by offering five-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) deals.

Water infrastructureThe main concern developers have are with sewer and water, according to Shortway. Before even talking about taxes, he said they ask, “Do you have sewer, do you have public water?”

Along Main Street in downtown Vernon, there are water pipes but no water in them, according to Shortway. And along County Road 515, which has the ACME supermarket and other businesses, sewer pipes were installed but not water pipes.

“I just shake my head,” he said, “I don’t know what the logic behind that is.”

His plan is to ask the township council to approve a bond that would include installing a water pipe along 515 at least down to Vernon Crossings so those businesses can hook up to public water. Public water is safe, he said, something you can rely on.

Another issue is that there is no fire suppression system in the Vernon Township Municipal Building or the Department of Public Works building, which is a safety hazard according to Shortway. The problem is there is not enough volume and pressure out of the two wells that Suez Water owns in Vernon to instal these systems.

Shortway said the township’s options are to either upgrade those wells to 200 additional gallons per minute or to drill a third well for 600 gallons per minute. A ground tank is also needed to increase the water pressure because the current tank is corroded.

Once the water and sewer infrastructure is available, Shortway then wants to designate the town center as “redevelopment” so the township can negotiate PILOTS for new businesses coming in.

“Vernon is a great place to do business,” Shortway said. “We have 23,000 people here. We have the ski resorts, people are in and out. We know unfortunately they’re traveling right through us and going to Warwick, nothing against Warwick, but I would like them to stop here and maybe stay at the Appalachian or stay at Minerals. We’ve got a 3 percent occupancy tax from that so that helps the budget. We need to increase revenue here. We need revenue, we need businesses, we need people to come.

“We’re considered a tourist destination with the ski reports and we have all the golf courses here, we need them to stay here. We need to provide the amenities that people need to stay here, it all comes back to water, everything you do. You can’t waste water without water.”

Mountain CreekShortway also said that the new owners of the Mountain Creek Ski Resort have been making the temporary repairs the township pressed them to make to Pump Station No. 2. In 2012, Mountain Creek was told there were unsafe conditions in Pump Station No. 2 and repairs to the electric power system, the venting system and a walkway and the railing that were really dangerous.

They were supposed to be fixed by 2013, but it was not done. As of now, Shortway said they are making repairs because without them, “Pump house two is a disaster waiting to happen.”

As far as how sewer and water will be affected if Mountain Creek expands, like they have proposed, Shortway said they need to see specifics.

“What are the specific plans? he said. “What are the gallons that we’re looking at?”

He also wants to create an Asset Management Plan for the township so they can plan how the Vernon will grow.

“Where are we now? he said. “Where are we going to be in 10 years? At what time will Pump House 3 need to be repaired? We need to know where we are. We need to know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.”