After decades of discussion between Mountain Creek Resort and Vernon Township, the sewer station serving Mountain Creek, Vernon Town Center and a number of homes in the Black Creek condo development is in the process of being replaced.
The move will allow for further economic development in the township, officials say.
“Our concern has been that when development in our town center starts taking off - we have a new 55-unit apartment complex going in - if we are pumping sewage to a pump station that is some 40 years old, we will have an environmental issue on our hands,” said the township’s chief financial officer, Donelle Bright.
“We have already done repairs to that station because of its state of disrepair. It is not stable enough to take on additional flow.”
Located at Mountain Creek near Sandhill Road, Municipal Sewer Pump Station No. 2 (PS2) is undergoing $1.6 million in construction upgrades to replace the current pump, which has been operating over its capacity.
A decades-old agreement between Mountain Creek and Vernon called for the resort to financially support this and other sewer upgrades years ago. But Mountain Creek, which filed for bankruptcy in 2017, was unable to comply.
“As part of their filing, the former owners of Mountain Creek asked that all debts be forgiven,” Bright said. “The township and the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority had to take them to court because they had upwards of $15 (million) to $20 million in sewer-related debt obligations to Vernon Township and the Vernon Municipal Utilities Authority.”
In 2018, Vernon natives Joe Hession and Scott Baldassano took control of Mountain Creek and worked with former Mayor Harry Shortway to repay its debts.
Hession’s idea to implement a municipal fee on all ticket sales at Mountain Creek to deal with the debt issue was met with approval.
With funds now flowing from Mountain Creek to Vernon via the municipal fee (about 7 percent of the cost of a Mountain Creek ticket) and approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection for the pump replacement, Vernon awarded the bid for the PS2 project last fall to Coppola Services, led by project manager Patrick Mercogliano.
Vernon officials say Mountain Creek is now meeting its obligations, ensuring full payment in January of each year to cover debt service expenses and operating costs for the MUA.
“The implementation of this decades-long agreement literally floundered until 2018, when Joe Hession, a native son and CEO of Snow Partners, took a controlling interest in the Mountain Creek Resort,” Mayor Howard Burrell told a group of officials gathered at the PS2 site Tuesday, Sept. 12.
“It is my hope that this pump station will be completed and online by the end of this year before I leave office,” Burrell added.
CORRECTIONS: In the photo caption, the man at the right is Mike Coppola and Howard Lazier was incorrectly referred to as a former township employee in an earlier version of the caption. He is a current employee.
The implementation of this decades-long agreement literally floundered until 2018, when Joe Hession, a native son and CEO of Snow Partners, took a controlling interest in the Mountain Creek Resort.” - Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell