The Township Council approved a resolution to accept a $75,000 county grant at its meeting March 13. The grant will help pay for the Baldwin property, which Vernon bought to complete the walking and biking trail.
The Sussex County Commissioners, on May 12, 2021, approved Vernon’s request for a $75,000 grant from the county Open Space Trust Fund to help with the $289,000 cost of the property, at 8-20 Black Creek Drive.
The township approved the purchase the previous February, allowing the trail to connect the Police Athletic League with the pump track, recently built on Black Creek Drive.
However, the council never approved a resolution to accept the money.
“I picked up on it because we never received the $75,000 from the county,” chief financial officer Donelle Bright said. “In researching, I found out that this was the portion that was not taken care of or brought before the council.”
The council tabled a resolution expressing support for paving the Town Center Trail to make it accessible for senior citizens and people with disabilities because it was unclear how much it would cost to complete the work.
Bright said she learned the week before the March 13 council meeting that the money was available. The application needed a resolution of community support so it was added to the agenda.
“I just have a very tough time voting on something I have no idea what’s going on,” Councilman Brad Sparta said. “Why did we never set a price on paving it before this was on the agenda?”
The township wasn’t able to get an estimate of the cost to pave the trail because the application was due by March 17.
The grant would require 25 percent in matching funds from the township.
“The township has a number of ways to match,” Bright said. “They can appropriate from a specific line item in the budget. If you wanted to take it from maintenance or parks, and you could put a line in there: 25 percent to match whatever the feds would give us.”
She said the township also could use its 6 percent hotel occupancy tax from when the short-term rental ordinance was passed.
A portion of the trail is unpaved and has been damaged by heavy rain.
Mayor Howard Burrell said there is no maintenance cost on the pump track portion, which has been paved. If the Baldwin portion of the trail was paved, it would eliminate the need for the trail to be raked after bad weather, he noted.
The lack of an estimate for paving the trail caused some friction between the council and mayor
“All I’m asking is what is your estimate when you planned to (pave) it,” Councilman Joe Tadrick said. “If you’re telling me you don’t have one and now you’re telling me, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ I can’t vote for that.”
Contractors and police
Police Chief Dan Young explained a 2017 ordinance requiring that contractors contact the Police Department about projects that affect local roads.
Pre-construction meetings between police and contractors ensure that officers have contact information for contractors and that contractors know they cannot close roads without the permission of police and informing residents.
If a job closes a major local road for more than two hours, the contractor is required to hire off-duty officers, Young said, adding that the department is flexible depending on the location of the work.
“This particular ordinance just provides us with the necessary tools that we need to enforce the standards that we’ve set for Vernon Township.”
A presentation on the current property reassessment will be made during a special meeting of the council at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29.
Residents may attend in person at the municipal building, 21 Church St., or online.
To access the meeting online, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88159404561 or call 312-626-6799 or 646-931-3860. Webinar ID: 881 5940 4561
Several residents have told the council at recent meetings that reassessments don’t make sense when comparing the sizes of various properties and their reassessment values.