Vernon council mulls disbanding MUA

Vernon. Vernon Township Council President Harry Shortway and Councilwoman Jean Murphy will serve on a committee to discuss whether it is feasible for the township to disband the Municipal Utilities Authority. The committee, which is still being formed, is scheduled to report back on July 1.

14 Jan 2020 | 02:34

The Vernon Township Council approved a committee on Monday to explore the possibility of disbanding the township’s Municipal Utilities Authority.

Council President Harry Shortway and Councilwoman Jean Murphy will serve on the committee, which will report back on July 1 with a recommendation.

Over the years, the users of the sewer rate to the Town Center paid high connection fees and rates to hook up to the public sewer. Also Mountain Creek owes over $25 million to the MUA, which in turn pays the Sussex County MUA.

“I believe the mayor needs to have the ability to make decisions,” Shortway said. “He’s in charge of this asset.”

Murphy said when Mountain Creek were in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the township was advised to leave the MUA intact.

“Are we exposing the township because we’ve had these discussions right back to 2016 and a lot of these things you’re bringing up are not new to the council,” she said. “It may sound good to have control over all the assets, but we really need to have a legal opinion”

Township attorney Josh Zielinski said there are two issues the committee should answer. The first is whether the MUA should be disbanded and what legal effect it would have on the township.

“We need to stop stewing about this,” Mayor Howard Burrell said. “We need to stop talking about who did what back when. We need to take action.”

Both Shortway and Burrell had both said MUA commissioners have come to them and told them the MUA should be disbanded.

“The current situation on the MUA is really unsustainable,” Burrell said. “We have a sewer system that is supposed to benefit the entire town. There are a very small group of citizens that are paying a lot of money. It’s on them. It’s not fair and it’s not really sustainable.”