The Vernon Township Council on August 8 approved an ordinance to buy back two properties that were mistakenly sold at an auction, one of which had township communication equipment on it.
The measure passed, 4-1, with Councilman Brian Lynch voting against it.
The township plans to buy back properties at 6 Mondamin Road and 16 Shomokin Road from Jay and Michelle Thienel for $25,000.
The Mondamin Road property had one of Vernon’s five repeaters that are used to extend the range and quality of the township’s overall communications.
Mayor Howard Burrell said the $25,000 used to buy back the two properties came out of the $1.075 million in revenue the township earned from the auction. He said $675,000 of that was used to limit township residents to a 0 percent tax increase when crafting the 2022 budget.
He also said the agreement to buy back the property returns to the Thienels the money they paid for the two properties, the documented settlement and title charges, plus the insurance cost. The property at 6 Mondamin Road was sold for $8,630 and 16 Shomokin Road sold for $875, for a combined $9,505, according to data listed in the Sussex County Parcel Doc Viewer. The remaining $15,495 of the buyback price went toward the additional expenses; a complete cost breakdown was not provided by the town.
However, several members of the public were not in favor of the township buying back the properties.
“Making us buy this back is the easy way out,” township resident Sean Clarkin said. “We’re letting the mayor off the hook. In 60 or 90 days, no one’s even going to be talking about this and the mayor skated through. It’s not right. The taxpayers have the right to say, ‘no’ and somebody’s got to be held accountable.”
But what form does that accountability take?
Township resident Peg Distasi said the money to buy back the property should come from those that made the mistake.
However, resident Bill DiResta said accountability can be found at the ballot box.
“It’s very simple,” he said “We’ve got an election coming up. If you don’t like what was done, you vote the guy out.”
Just one councilmember’s term is up for a vote on the November 8 general election: Mike Furrey’s, who filled the seat vacated by Kelly Weller last October. He is expected to run to maintain his seat on the council.