Vernon township council and MUA to hold joint meeting

Sewer completion, expansion plans, up for discussion

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What: Township Council Joint Meeting with Vernon Municipal Utilities Authority
When: Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7 p.m.
Where: Municipal Building, 21 Church Street, Vernon N.J.
The agenda:
Town Center Sewer Expansion
Potential Expansion of the Vernon Sewer Service Area
Disposition of Pump Station 2, Pump Station 3 and Lift Stations

Both the Vernon Township Council and the Township Municipal Utilities Authority will sit down together for a joint meeting Thursday night to hash out plans for the sewer service in the township.

To try and lessen the load on ratepayers, a plan for the MUA to expand the Vernon sewer service area from the town center to the Route 94 corridor and McAfee areas of the township will be discussed. The intention to expand was endorsed by the Township Council through a resolution on April 10, despite criticism from some council members and similar plans being suspended or denied in the past.

Council President Jean Murphy objected to the resolution, saying that she felt it was premature since the joint meeting was set up prior to Council Member Patrick Rizzuto bringing the resolution forward. Now that the council has endorsed the expansion without a plan, the goal of the meeting has shifted to hammering out the details of the plan.

“We need to find out what the MUA’s plans are for the expansion,” Murphy said. “We’re just trying to find out what direction it's going to go in and what kind of plan that they have, because whether or not this will be done in phases or what. It’s (the meeting) to bring everybody to the table to look at how to proceed.”

Recently, Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway has said water is his top priority in 2017, with his main goal to complete and expand the township center sewer service area.

The town center, which is mostly designated within the sewer service area already, needs pipes installed for it to be completed. Shortway wants to expand the town center designation to three lots on Route 94 and a lot on the end of Black Creek Drive, which would then become a redevelopment area.

Once the town center designation and redevelopment area are approved, any businesses coming in can negotiate a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes with the mayor’s office, ultimately stimulating development in the Vernon town center area.

He thought he had a compromise that the council could agree upon, but then the council passed a resolution on April 10 before the joint meeting.

“I don’t know where they’re going to go with the sewer service area,” Shortway said. “That’s totally up to the MUA now. The council passed a plan. There was no plan attached. It will never pass through the DEP.

“I was hoping that Thursday night, because I think I had a compromise with all five members, where to expand,” Shortway continued. “But the other resolution passed at the last minute. So I don’t know where they’re going with this.”

Vernon MUA Chairman Thomas Buchney said that at the meeting, they will likely touch on the “nitty gritty” of how they would go about completing the township center sewer area, as well as the larger task of expanding into the areas of Route 94 and the McAfee area mentioned in the resolution.

“That’s going to require a tremendous amount of work in the future,” Buchney said. “And as long as the MUA and the council can all start off on the same foot, I think that makes it easier in the long run. So that’s what we're looking to do with this joint meeting.”

Pump, Lift Station repairsPump Station 2, Pump Station 3 and the Lift Stations are also on the agenda for the meeting. Shortway has long said that Pump Station 2 is in desperate need of repair, to the point where it is hazardous and could result in raw sewage flowing into the Black Creek if not taken care of. The pump station was supposed to be repaired by July 2013, but never was.

He hopes to put pressure on Mountain Creek, the owners of the pump house, to finally fix it. Pump House 3 will also need repairs in the near future.

As far as the Lift Stations, they are reaching the end of their year-long life, and will need to be repaired as well. The problem is the ownership of the stations is unclear, according to Shortway.

At the meeting, Shortway hopes to determine legally who is responsible for the lift stations, whether it's the township or the condominium association, so they can plan to have those repaired as well.

Asset management planHe also said he plans to continue to push for the MUA to complete an asset management plan, something he has criticized the MUA for not having in the past.

“They’ve (the MUA) had over five and a half years, where's the plan?” Shortway said. “We need to know how we’re going to plan this, where the money has to be spent in the future, whether it's this year immediately or down the line 10 years from now. We have to have answers.

“We can’t make plans without knowing what we have,” Shortway continued, “and if they’re not going to do it, I think this office is going to take the bull by the horns are we’re going to get it done.”

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