Township Council opposes storm sewer change

VERNON. Council members say the change will require Vernon to clean catch basins, purchase tablets, hire four new employees and buy a new truck at a cost of more than $440,000.

Vernon /
| 21 May 2024 | 05:44

The Vernon Township Council approved a resolution opposing a state mandate reassigning responsibilities under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit program at its April 22 meeting.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has reassigned 101 towns from Tier B to Tier A status, adding numerous costly burdens to those towns.

Tier A originally was meant for densely populated towns, while Tier B was for towns with smaller populations. The DEP eliminated Tier B in 2022.

The resolution urges the DEP to reinstate the two-tier system.

Patrick Rizzuto, the council president, said the change will require Vernon to clean all catch basins throughout the township, purchase tablets, hire four new employees, and buy a new street sweeper and a vac at a cost of more than $440,000.

Vernon received a state grant of $75,000 toward that cost.

Council members agreed to consider a shared services agreement with other towns to limit the cost.

Rizzuto said the council plans to limit public comments to issues that concern Vernon or its welfare or issues that can be resolved only by the administration or council.

”I believe, and the council supports this position, that we cannot allow our business meetings to become a place of interpersonal conflicts. To sit and allow comments regarding accusations of lack of integrity or individual efforts on matters not within our control or oversight is not productive.”

During his comments, Mayor Anthony Rossi thanked the Mahwah Fire Department for agreeing to lease a tanker to the Highland Lakes Fire Department at no cost until June 30, 2025.

”This couldn’t have come at a better time because we currently have a tanker on order and another tanker that has a leak in it.”

Rossi also said that after studying expenses of the Department of Public Works, he plans to propose cuts of more than $200,000.

Vernon lost “a true hero” on April 12 with the death of Sverre “Chris” Christensen, a Norwegian immigrant who served in the Vietnam War, the mayor said. Christensen had a long career as a tugboat captain and was a volunteer with the McAfee Fire Department for more than 50 years.

Rossi showed off a new trophy as Vernon received a Healthy Town designation in 2023 for the second year in a row from the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.

Vernon won “because access to outdoor space and trails is a hallmark of the mayor’s wellness campaign,” he said.

The council approved Tyler Mueller, a member of the Highland Lakes Fire Department, for membership in the New Jersey State Fireman’s Association.

During public comments, resident Scott Cassell thanked the council for proposing a budget with no local tax increase but said that was overshadowed by the Board of Education raising taxes 2.7 percent and proposing a referendum on a $2 million budget increase.

The Township Council was scheduled to vote on its budget in May.

Resident George Nikanorov thanked the council and mayor for limiting gossip during the public comments period.

Natalie Buccieri, the council vice president, was absent from the meeting.