Vernon loses lawsuit against county MUA

VERNON. The Township Council’s appointment of two members brings the MUA board to full strength.

Vernon /
| 21 Feb 2023 | 10:07

Vernon lost its appeal of a lawsuit against the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), saying the county MUA’s method of charging Vernon was not uniform, the township’s attorney, Josh Zielinski, told the Township Council at its meeting Feb. 16.

A Superior Court judge earlier found that the lawsuit was time-barred because it sought to challenge bond ordinances in 2005 and 2008, and the Appellate Division recently upheld that ruling, Zielinski said.

The Appellate Division refused to consider other issues raised by Vernon, he said.

”Unfortunately, this .leaves Vernon Township with a contract with SCUMA that requires it to pay significantly more for waste than other municipalities.”

Chief financial officer Donelle Bright said Vernon has a much higher minimum flow guarantee in its contract than other towns. That results in Vernon subsidizing other towns. “We pay anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent more on average to treat our sewer flows.”

During the meeting, the council appointed Kristin Wheaton and Edward DeYoung to the MUA board. The positions are not paid.

Wheaton, a licensed professional engineer and professional planner, was reappointed to the board through Jan. 31, 2028.

She has been a member since 2018. She also served from 1995 to 2002 on the township Planning Board and for three years before that on the Board of Health.

On her application, she said she contributed to several measures that will improve the board’s function and finances, such as the Mountain Creek fees contract, the MUA’s assessment management program, service area expansion and challenging billing from the Sussex County MUA.

Sean Clarkin also applied for the post.

Wheaton was approved by a 3-2 vote with Council Vice President Patrick Rizzuto and Councilman Joe Tadrick voting no.

DeYoung was appointed to a seat through Jan. 31, 2026. He was the only one applying for that seat.

The council had a moment of silence in memory of John McGowan, who died Feb. 14. He had been a member of the Board of Education for 31 years through 2016.

Meeting on tax assessment

The council president, Natalie Buccieri, said Mayor Howard Burrell and the township’s tax assessor plan to schedule a town-hall meeting in March where residents can ask questions about the recent tax assessments.

During the public comments, resident Jessi Paladini said the company doing the assessments has made many mistakes.

At the council’s meeting Feb. 6, several residents asked why smaller properties were assessed at lower values than larger properties.

On another matter, Burrell on Feb. 16 said Vernon only qualifies for a low-interest loan, not a grant, under the state Green Acres program and he did not think it was worth municipal employees’ time to complete the 68-page application. The deadline for applications is March 1.

The council approved proposed ordinances:

• Updating Police Department fees.

• Vacating part of the paper street known as Road B.

The council introduced proposed ordinances:

• To permit CSC TKR, a subsidiary of Altice USA, to operate a cable-television system in Vernon. Altice offers phone, internet and TV services under the Optimum brand.

• To create the position of assistant director of public works and director of automotive services. xxxxxxxxxx said the ordinance does not create two new positions but applies the correct civil service titles to the jobs.

Burrell appointed Michael Furrey to the county’s Water Quality Policy Advisory Committee.

Furrey is a supervising chemist for the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission and is the owner/operator of Agra Environmental & Laboratory Services. He is a former chairman of Vernon’s Environmental Commission and its MUA.

The mayor also pointed out that the township’s Recreation & Community Affairs Department has issued the first issue of a monthly newsletter detailing upcoming events.