V E R N O N W E B
2 0 0 3
To Know The Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back -Confucius
Vernon's Water/Sewer Issues
12/10/03 The exceedingly controversial NJ bear hunt began on Monday, Dec. 8, protesters' appeals and vigils notwithstanding.
On Tuesday the federal court permitted hunting of black bears in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
The statewide bear hunt is scheduled to last for six days. As of this morning, a total of 251 bears have been killed by hunters in NJ.
State wildlife officials estimate that there are 3200 bears in NJ and are hopeful that this season's appx. 5,300 special blackbear-hunting permits will result in the killing of about 500 bears.
12/06/03 This winter's first Major Snowstorm blew into town yesterday morning, dumped about a foot of the white stuff overnight and, by afternoon today, showed no signs of stopping.
Not the fiercest of blizzards by local standards, but quite enough to cancel all activity beyond one's driveway. All travel is strongly discouraged.
Snow is expected to continue throughout the day, driven by 20-25 mph northeast winds.
Meanwhile -The way a crow shook down on me
The dust of snow from a hemlock tree
Has given my heart a change of mood
And saved some part of a day I had rued.
"Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, 1923
TC Loses Greg Haines
Councilman Moving To Richmond, Va.
11/20/03 A job transfer compels Councilman Greg Haines to relocate to the Richmond, Va. area, and his resignation from the Vernon TC leaves a vacancy to be filled by a nominee of the Vernon Township Republican Committee.
It is expected that the TC will vote on the submitted replacement on Monday, Nov.24 at the TC's regular meeting. Councilman Ira Weiner, who is also chairman of the Vernon Township Republican Committee, reportedly left little doubt that Jeff Patterson would get the nod.
Patterson gave up his seat on the Vernon Planning Board in 1999 after he joined the Mountain Creek/Intrawest Corp. management team.(see VWeb '99 Past News)
11/25/03 At Monday's meeting, Jeff Patterson was officially named as Haines' replacement on the TC.
Nov. 4, 2003 General Election Results
Three four-year Township Council terms
Janet Morrison (R) 2150
Philip Weiler (R) 2023
Ira Weiner (R) 2005
George Callow (D) 1688
Carol Gunn-Kadish (D) 1374
All best wishes and congratulations to the elected TC members
10/19/03 The ground-breaking for Main Street, the "loop road" in what is to become the town center, took place on Oct.24, 2003 at 4 p.m. in front of Tapestry Haircutters on Rt. 94 in Vernon.
The town center will extend from the Rt. 94/515 intersection along Rt. 94 to the Mountain Creek area, where large-scale residential resort developer IntraWest Corp. intends to build appx. 1000 resort homes, a shopping village, a hotel/conference center, etc. etc.
Main Street, initiating two phases of road construction in Vernon, is expected to cost $3 million in public money. The twp's tab will be $750,000. per phase.
The state will initially supply $1.5 million.
Sussex County will supply $300,000. in '04 and an estimated $1.2 million in '05.
At the same time Main Street is being built, water/sewer lines for the town center's wastewater system will be constructed.
The town center project's total estimated cost to the public is as yet unknown.
Grassroots Petition Shot Down
Petitioners asked for ordinance requiring public approval of town's $250K+ property dealings
9/12/03 The TC's plan to swap Maple Grange acreage for Van Dokkenburg Farm acreage would have been hindered if it were delayed until the public voted on a related ordinance in November.
The gist of the ordinance was to subject such a property transaction, and all town property transactions valued at $250,000. or more, to public approval.
As matters stand, however, the petition for a public referendum on the question of the ordinance has been rejected on technical grounds by the twp. clerk, and it will not be placed on the ballot in November.
Arguing that the twp.'s interpretation of petition-making technicalities was in excess of Faulkner Act requirements, organizers who spearheaded the petition drive said that the public initiative would not be deterred and that they would challenge the twp. ruling in court.
The TC is determined to proceed with the land swap.
8/14/03 At around 4:00 p.m. Vernon was temporarily affected by loss of electrical power as a massive energy failure crashed the northeast U.S. power grid, paralyzing cities from NYC to Toronto and as far away as Chicago.
Power was slowly being restored to the NY/NJ area as suburban NJ motorists lined up at the pumps of whatever local gas stations were operating, while relatives of daily commuters - many commuters were trapped in the city - worried about horrendous rail and road conditions.
Although Vernon was barely affected by the sudden, eerie 4:00 p.m. brownout-to-blackout, towns in nearby Orange County were still without power many hours later. In the city, thousands of people were evacuated from stifling high-rise buildings and darkened subways, to say nothing of hospitals.
As of this writing, efforts to restore power throughout the grid and to discover the cause of the huge power blackout were continuing.
8/14/03 At the behest of Vernon Mayor John Logan, Twp. Manager Don Teolis is to meet with Service Electric Cable Television this week to see about televising TC meetings.
"That way people can sit in their homes and see some of the nonsense that goes on here," Logan was quoted as saying in the Advertiser-News (8/14/03 article by J.G. Wallace).
Logan and Councilman Neil Desmond are apparently at the end of their tether because of the Vernon Civic Association's (VCA) opposition to the Maple Grange/Vandokkenburg Land Swap, which is frustrating the TC's ballfield development plans.
A recent flashpoint in the ongoing Land Swap debate is whether or not development on the Van Dokkenburg property will have a negative impact on the affected bog turtle habitat. The VCA predicts federal intransigence re: bog turtle protection, and has raised the spectre of further opposition and legal challenges should the TC pursue its LandSwap plans to develop the Van Dokkenburg property.
Councilman Desmond reportedly squared off against VCA President Dennis Miranda at the last TC meeting, a contretemps which led Desmond to dare Miranda and the VCA to "go out and get 4,000 signatures and recall me."
Maybe SCTV should offer the Vernon TC Smackdowns on their Pay TV channel (like WWF), as they may not be suitable for general audiences.
Wawayanda Bear Attacks Hiker
8/12/03 Yesterday at 12:30 p.m. an unidentified 18-yr.-old Highland Lakes woman escaped with minor injuries after she was attacked by a black bear while hiking in Wawayanda State Park.
According to newspaper accounts published today, the bear pursued the woman and knocked her down from behind, at which time she "threw a hard elbow at his snout, and caught him flush, stunning the bear and giving her time to escape," according to Star-Ledger reporter Jim Lockwood's report (p.13, S-L, 8/12/03).
Reportedly the woman got up, ran about 40 yards and hid behind a tree, and the 400-lb.bear wandered off when he could not find her. The 5'3", 105-lb woman "escaped with only a set of 4-inch welts on her midsection," according to the S-L article, which reported that officials said the woman was hiking alone and no one saw the incident.
NJDEP spokesman Jack Kaskey, quoted in the S-L article, said that the bear was in "predatory mode" and was "out to eat her."
The article also quoted renowned bear behavior expert Lynn Rogers, of the North American Bear Center of Wildlife Research Institute in Minnesota: "It's baffling that, if it was a predatory attack, anyone could escape a bear so easily and without injury."
Read "How To Survive A Bear Attack"
- Town Center On July 16, the NJ Planning Commission designated parts of Vernon and Sparta as "growth centers." The idea is to confine dense development to certain designated areas as opposed to continued unplanned growth (a.k.a. sprawl)
- Maple Grange/VanD Land Swap Static The TC wants to swap 143 acres of Maple Grange for 132 acres of Van Dokkenburg's farmland, arguing that the VanD property is more suitable for future construction of multiple ballfields.
Opponents of the swap want ballfield construction to proceed at Maple Grange, the property originally purchased in 2000 for over $984,000. by the twp. as public parkland using $1.2 mil bonded for that purpose.
A petition is underway, the intent of which is to make sure that any further parkland deals will be subject to public referendum.
Swap opponents, notably spokesmen for the Vernon Civic Assoc., have raised issues re: wetlands/streams/endangered species at the VanD property, and have questioned the recent devaluation of Maple Grange acreage at a time when property values are "skyrocketing" in our area, suggesting that the town-ordered appraisal (by Izenberg Appraisal associates of Parsipanny)had the effect of making the land swap a "sweetheart deal" for developers.
- The Battle of Black Creek - ain't it over? Not quite.
An injunction was issued in May 2001 by NJ Superior Court Judge Kenneth McKenzie against Vernon Twp., which was at that time engaged in bulldozing the Black Creek Historical Site to make way for ballfield construction on that exact section of the 180-acre Maple Grange property.
Vernon resident and archaeologist Rick Patterson (subsequently joined by the Lenni Lenape) went to the courthouse at once and the judge ordered the bulldozing to stop.
Now, over 2 years and many court hours later, and the Black Creek site having since been added to the NJ and National Register of Historic Places, the court has given both sides - the TC's lawyer and the plaintiffs' - one month to file any applications, so that the disposition of the case may be decided.
Meanwhile, in a related money hose of lawyerly activity, the TC is still appealing the state's designation of the Black Creek artifacts fields as an historical site. No date has been set for argument in this case, which has gone to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
Bear Hunt Approved
Animal Protection Groups Vow To Fight
7/9/03 Citing recent bear/human confrontations, and noting that comments from the public ran 3 to 1 in favor of a bear hunt, DEP commissioner Bradley Campbell endorsed the December bear hunt approved by NJDEP's Fish and Game Council yesterday.
The announced hunt is expected to be limited to 500 bears, although that figure is not set in stone.
The lone dissenter on the Fish & Game Council, Jack Schrier, said he did not see how the hunt would stop bears from wandering into homes and backyards and confronting people.
Animal rights activists, who are contemplating a lawsuit, said the hunt would not solve "bear nuisance problems" and said that they would continue to fight all bear hunts.
Bear Invades HL Home
Ordeal For Terrified Mom & Her 2 Children
6/12/03 Yesterday morning a black bear bashed through the screen door of a Highland Lakes residence and feasted in the kitchen while a mother and her two children, ages 2 and 7, barricaded themselves in a bedroom.
Lisa Spirko and her children finally got out the bedroom window to safety when police and a biologist from Fish&Wildlife , responding to the frantic call made at 8:30 a.m., arrived at the home on Agawa Road.
Police speculated that the bear, who was shot dead after fleeing the premises via another window, had been in the house for about half an hour. Two of the bear's yearlings were in the vicinity but did not enter the house and eventually went away.
NJ's bear population is estimated at between 1350 and 3300, and reported incidents of aggressive behavior continue to mount statewide. A six-day hunt, to be conducted in December, has been proposed by the state.
June 8 At Skylands Park
Sussex County's 250th Anniversary Celebration and Concert
6/6/03 On June 8, 2003 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Sklylands Park in Frankford, there will be a celebration of Sussex County's 250th Anniversary.
The county's showcase event will feature displays by area historical societies and organizations , historical re-enactment groups, and a performance of patriotic, classical and popular music by the 40-member U.S. Military Academy Concert Band.
Not To Be Missed!
June 3 Local Primary Election Results
7/4/03 The vote tallies in the June 3 Primary Election of candidates for three 4-yr. TC terms are as follows:
George Callow 196
Carol Kadish 217
Janet Morrison 971
Philip Weiler 963
Ira Weiner 913
Stephen Zsenai 652
Anthony Malzone 627
Kim Ortell 578
In the uncontested party primary elections for Sussex County Freeholder:
Democrats Howard Burrell and Ed Selby
Republicans Glen Vetrano and Susan Zellman
In the GOP primary race for 24th Legislative District, state Sen. Robert Littell beat challenger Paul Viall, and Littell's daughter Alison McHose teamed with Assemblyman Guy Gregg to beat David Mortimer and George Matreyek for their party's Assembly ticket.
Vernon resident Thomas Boyle is the Democratic party candidate for Assembly.
Loyalty Day Awards Presented By VFW
(L/R) Maryanne Sampar, Julie Muehe, and Brenda DeLaTorre with their awards. Each is wearing their VFW Citizens Medal and holding their Americanism Certificate and Pledge of Allegiance Flag.
5/10/03 Last Thursday, May 1st, the 4th Annual Loyalty Day Awards Program was conducted at the Wallkill Valley Memorial Post 8441 on RT 94. After a brief Welcome Address by Americanism Chairman Bill Heaney, the program opened with a prayer deemed appropriate for the occasion composed by George Washington. This was followed by the National Anthem and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and The Americanís Creed by all attending.
Deputy Mayor Janet Morrison read a Loyalty Day Proclamation issued by Mayor John Logan and Auxiliary President Mary Ellen Gutowski read the Proclamation issued by President George W. Bush.
Awards were then presented to the following individuals, all Vernon schoolteachers:
Maryanne Sampar, Walnut Ridge Primary School
Brenda DeLaTorre, Glen Meadow Middle School
Julie Muehe, Glen Meadow Middle School
Assisting in making the presentations were:
Mrs. Dawn Lawson, Glen Meadow MS (a 1st year award recipient)
Mr. Arnold Aromando, Principal, Walnut Ridge Primary School
report submitted by Bill Heaney
To Swap Or Not To Swap, Cont'd
4/30/03 The ongoing debate re: the township's land swap scheme, which would exchange part of Maple Grange parkland for part of Van Dokkenburg farmland, was kicked up a notch at Monday's TC meeting.
Vernon residents Jessica Paladini and Chris Fuehrer gave a Power Point presentation showing why the town-owned Maple Grange property is a fine location for an all-around town park and sports playing fields. Both residents are members of the Vernon Civic Association, but did not appear as spokesmen for that organization, which has long held that ballfields could be constructed on Maple Grange land without any negative impact on the Black Creek historical site.
But for the TC's pre-emptive targeting of the Black Creek site, which was then bound for (and is now listed on) the National Register of Historic Places, construction of recreational fields on the 180 acre Maple Grange property could have begun about two years ago.
According to the town's engineering consultant, Masur Consulting of Hackettstown, the buildable portion of the 180 acre Maple Grange property can support five recreational fields without incurring major grading expenses.
Although much time and money was spent by the TC in futile attempts to obstruct the historic designation of the Black Creek site, it would appear that the town could even now use existing funds to have five ballfields built at Maple Grange by next year.
The TC, meanwhile, has shifted to the prospect of building 13 or 14 fields in order to, as Mayor John Logan said, "satisfy the needs of our growing town" without having to buy more property sometime in the future.
Now the TC is poised to swap 135 acres of town-owned Maple Grange for 130 acres of theVan Dokkenburg farm in order to build ballfields on the latter property, which is comparatively flatter.
The Van Dokkenburg interest's development plans are unknown re: the recreational/commercial-zoned Maple Grange property they would thus acquire in the land swap with the town.
Meanwhile it has been suggested that, if the town projections are for 13 or 14 sports fields, then the town might do well to own both the Van Dokkenburg and the Maple Grange property instead of swapping part of one for part of another.
According to Masur Consulting, the average construction cost per field is the same on either property.
Vernon Twp. Bd of Ed Elections & School Budget Vote Results
Elected to 3-yr. terms:
Budget: YES 2849
Local Candidates, June 2003 Primary Election
4/8/03 In June, Vernon's registered Democrats and Republicans will vote in a primary election to determine which of their candidates will run for office in the November 2003 general election.
Yesterday was the filing deadline for primary candidates. Here's who filed :
Vernon TC June 2003 Primary
(Nov. 2003 election will be for 3 4-yr. terms)
Janet Morrison (incumbent)
Ira Weiner (incumbent)
Sussex County Freeholder June 2003 Primary
(Nov.2003 election will be for 2 3-yr. terms :
John Logan Won't Run For Re-election
3/26/03 Vernon Mayor John Logan has announced that he will not seek re-election to the TC this year.
Swap Talk Continues
3/26/03 At this Monday's TC meeting, the council continued to present arguments re: the swap of 135 acres of Maple Grange land for appx. 130 acres of Van Dokkenburg farm for purposes of recreational park construction.
The sentiment of the TC generally appears to be in favor of the swap, but studies relevant to the cost and long-term benefit of the swap are ongoing.
Those who oppose the swap and prefer that the ballfields be constructed on Maple Grange property will present their arguments on April 28 at 7:30 at the Municipal Building.
Newton Fire Aftermath
3/26/03 The cleanup of the Able Energy property in Newton, and an investigation into the circumstances of the explosion, are underway. Damages as a result of the March 14 blast have been estimated at $7 million.
It is believed that the massive explosion was sparked when an Able employee moved a small tanker truck while the supply hose connecting it to a larger propane tanker truck, from which it was being filled, was still connected.
When the valves on the larger truck were ruptured, liquid propane spewed out onto the ground and the vapors were touched off by a spark or open flame.
The catastrophic explosion led to the displacement of appx. 1000 residents and left extensive property damage in its wake.
Major Fire Disaster in Newton
3/17/03 Miraculously, no one was seriously injured when a propane-filled tanker truck at the Able Energy facility in Newton blew up at 5:04 p.m. on Friday.
Able Energy employees, alerted to danger, fled the premises with just seconds to spare. The blast shook the earth for miles around.
The catastrophic blaze brought firefighting companies from all over Sussex County and beyond. The force of the explosion severely damaged nearby homes, levelled an office building on the Able site and set at least six vehicles on fire as debris showered the vicinity. Inspectors have declared at least 6 homes uninhabitable.
Crews of firefighters are still working to prevent yet another explosion at the site. About 1000 gallons of propane are still burning in the tanker, which contained 2000 to 3000 gallons when it exploded. A local state of emergency has been declared.
About 30 homes and 30 businesses as well as 105 apartments in the Merriam Gateway building remain closed off. Meanwhile, the 750 people evacuated immediately after Friday's fiery blast will not be permitted to return to their homes, and all schools will remain closed until the danger of further explosions is past.
The exact cause of the explosion will not be known until the tanker fire is finished burning and an investigation can take place but, some officials said, all indications are that the occurrence was accidental.
3/07/03 VWeb Tyrants Editorial
2003 NJ In Dangerous Waters
Scientists at the NJ Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and at UMDNJ College of Public Health, and at the Division of Science, Technology of the NJDEP continue to study the problem of drinking water statewide - water which is, in a word, contaminated.
That includes treated water. In fact, some of the contaminants were found to come from the treatment process itself - byproducts of disinfection and carbon filtration, or contaminants introduced through the air during processing.
Chemicals are added to clarify the water, remove solid particulates, and disinfect. When fluoride compounds are added to water supplies, polymers are added to inhibit corrosion of the water pipes.
The Star-Ledger (3/7/03, p.33, article by S-L staffer Alexander Lane) reports that a four year study (1997-2000) headed by NJDEP found over 600 previously undetected chemical compounds in the 199 water samples drawn from drinking water sources throughout the state.
Standard water tests do not detect the many chemicals that slip through treatment/filtration systems - chemicals for which no government regulations exist. And for which there is very little toxicological data, at least until UMDNJ completes its study on the danger of these compounds detected in NJ's drinking water.
Meanwhile aeration to evaporate chemicals - the most common method of water purification - was found to be largely ineffective on the compounds studied, and dual carbon filtration systems did not filter some of the contaminants (for example a common herbicide, atrazine, which may cause developmental defects).
Groundwater contamination is essentially permanent. It recycles slowly, remaining in aquifers for an average of 1,400 years (MTBE contamination, for instance, remains for about 5 million years).
Of the 606 public water systems in NJ, 54 are known to draw from underground or surface water tainted with high levels of volatile chemicals.
By now most U.S. scientists are concerned about the levels of nitrogen, pesticides, fuel oils and additives, solvents and arsenic in the water supply. Recently they have also begun to pay more attention to the levels of antibiotics, fragrances, fluorosilicic acid (a toxic by-product of phosphate fertilizer) and even, believe it or not, hormones.
The US EPA has concluded that the average person can absorb more contaminants from bathing and showering than from drinking polluted water. As the EPA acknowledged in a June 30, 1998 report, "Children have a greater surface-area-to-body-weight ratio than adults, which may lead to increased dermal absorption."
Although drinking only bottled water (the purity of bottled water is a discussion for another time) has become a way of life in NJ, few Jerseyans use Perrier or Poland Springs to wash clothes and take showers. A study by Julian Andelman, Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health (published in the May 1984 American Journal of Public Health), found less chemical exposure from drinking contaminated water than from using it to wash clothes or take a shower.
Studies done in the early 1980s showed that an average of 64 percent of the total dose of waterborne contaminants is absorbed through the skin.
The water that our children bathe and play in is a complex chemical mixture of dissolved minerals, contaminants and chemical additives. Circulatory flow rates are generally higher in children, which may increase a child's susceptibility to toxic effects.
Despite these elevated risks, most toxicological data is based on occupational exposures for adults.
Water fluoridated with phosphate scrubber liquor becomes a vehicle to carry hazardous air pollutants directly into the home. The EPA admits that "there are no federal safety standards which are applicable to additives, including those for use in fluoridating drinking water." Although the reality of children's vulnerability to environmental toxicants has been acknowledged, little is being done to address that vulnerability.
The Children's Environmental Health Network (CEHN) reports that the U.S. has seen "a worrisome increase" in childhood diseases that may be linked to chemicals in the environment. Learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders also appear to be increasing.
The NJ studies may yet convince NJ officials of their urgent responsibility to safeguard our state's natural water infrastructure, and to see to it that the methods of testing and treating public water are brought into the 21st century.
Perhaps knowing what's in our water will, someday, lead to safety standards that actually protect public health.
We'll drink to that.
Bd of Ed Grappling With Austerity Budget Conditions
3/6/03 The Vernon Bd. Of Ed is trying to figure out how to pare $1.48 mil more from the proposed 2003-04 school budget in order to keep this year's budget increase within the state-imposed 3 per cent cap. Last year's revised budget was $57,452,613. , representing a reduction of $250,000 from the original budget rejected by the voters (1,444 to 1,099).
Because the district's proposed 2003-04 budget has already been trimmed (elimination of certain positions and teaching supplies) by $1.3 mil, acceptance or rejection of the further $1.48 in austerities may be put to the voters as a second question on the April 15 ballot.
The second question may ask voters to decide whether or not to fund freshman athletics, middle school activities, elementary school orchestra, after school bus transportation, and/or similar programs. Bd of Ed meetings are scheduled for March 6 and March 13. It is expected that final budget figures will be presented to the public on March 27 at a meeting in the Vernon Twp. High School cafeteria.
March Comes In Like A Polar Bear
3/06/03 Another snowstorm blew in last night and dumped almost 2 ft. of the white stuff on Vernon before tapering off late this afternoon.
[Please take a moment to call the weather bureau and tell them Enough Already.]
AF Recruiters Careless Of Records They Left Behind
3/06/03 Last week a Newton NJ business owner came upon the following items in a trash bin along spring Street ; the names, addresses and phone numbers of Vernon High School students; the SocSec card and birth certificate of Angelo Cuevas, an Elizabeth NJ resident; copies of applicant data reports and other documents containing driver license numbers, birth dates, addresses and telephone numbers.
It appears that the unshredded documents found by the Newton shopkeeper were left in the trash by the relocating Air Force recruitment office.
High schools, pursuant to the Leave No Child Behind Act of 2001, are required to forward the names, addresses and phone numbers of students to military recruiters. Every recruiting station gets lists of high school students in its area, and every senior on the list is contacted. Parents may sign "opt out" forms if they do not want personal information re: their sons and daughters to be distributed to military recruiters by the schools.
They Don't Like That Land Swap
3/06/03 The TC is still mulling a possible land swap which would put ballfields on part of the VanDokkenburg farm property, instead of the Maple Grange property, but the idea has not found favor with a group of twp. residents who think the Maple Grange site will do for ballfields and who are reportedly getting up a petition to oppose the swap.
Record-Breaking Nor'easter Snowzilla
2/17/03 The blizzard which began last night has already exceeded the ferocity of the Blizzard of 1996, and is expected to equal or surpass the Blizzard of 1947 before day's end.
The snow is expected to taper off by later this afternoon. More snow is expected before midnight tonight.
Snow-weary Vernon residents awoke today, Presidents Day, to find appx. 2 ft. of the white stuff accumulated on top of the already mountainous heaps of snow deposited by past storms.
Getting anywhere was out of the question as relentless, driving snowfall easily defeated even the mightiest plows in a matter of seconds. Motorists were advised to stay off the roadways. Northeast winds at 15 to 25 mph produced blowing and drifting snow, reducing visibility to less than one-quarter mile at times.
Total snow accumulation of more than 24 inches is generally expected throughout the region.
Hamburg Mtn. Pact
NJ, IntraWest Deal Restores 1,800 Conservation Acres Sold To Private Interests in '86
1/29/03 The state has sealed the ($7 mil) Hamburg Mountain deal to buy back land that the state should never have sold to developers in the first place.
The state purchased (Green Acres program)appx. 450 acres from Intrawest for $7.1 mil, and IntraWest donated 1,300 acres in the bargain. The mountaintop land, which has been at the mercy of deed-restriction controversies over the past 15 years, is to be restored to protected status in the care of the Dept. of Parks&Forests and will be off-limits to all private use and development. IntraWest is also to swap 80 acres of other land in exchange for the acreage on which the Appalachian Lodge/commercial complex at Mountain Creek will be constructed.
Vernon Mayor John Logan said that the deal "removes a major barrier to the Mountain Creek Village project moving forward."
Enviro groups said they were glad that the mountaintop would again be state property for public use.
See item on VWNews 2002
Downtown Vernon To Be "Sewered"
1/29/03 The twp. will submit its latest wastewater plan to the county in February, and construction of a town center sewer is projected to start in the spring of 2005. The initial sewer project is to be funded by a $1 mil federal grant and $500,000. from the state.
According to the plan endorsed by the TC, wastewater from the Vernon Center system is to be treated at the Upper Walkill plant and then sent back for discharge into the Herald Square location in McAfee.
According to the TC, businesses in the Rt.94/Rt.515 commercial center will be required to hook up to the sewer system; residents in the affected area will not have to hook up their homes to the sewer pipeline until their household septic systems are determined to be in failure.
Vernon Gas Station Customers Victimized By Card Skimmers
1/27/03 The Secret Service and the Vernon PD are investigating the ripoff of more than $75,000 total from customers of a gas station in Vernon NJ. The unapprehended thieves are believed to be part of a criminal ring whose operatives stole by using data culled from debit-card-using gas station customers. Police speculated that an organized Middle Eastern crime ring might be working gas stations in the area.
The investigation was launched last summer when PNC Bank alerted law enforcement authorities that certain of the bank's customers were victimized by debit card overcharges after patronizing the Vernon gas station. The station's address has not been disclosed.
It appears that customers using debit cards were asked for, and gave, their pin numbers to gas station attendants who stored the card information and pin numbers via hand-held scanning devices - and who then copied the downloaded information and duplicated the cards for criminal purposes. The thieves used the duplicated cards at various ATMs in NY, NJ and Canada.
In a similar case, Bito Singh, an employee of a gas station in Montague NJ, faces criminal charges of misrepresentation on a credit card. The situation came to light when customers of the Montague gas station discovered overcharges on their credit cards.
ZB Gives Thumbs Up To Bon Chef
1/20/03 The Zoning Board has approved the use of the Ames Rubber building by Bon Chef, a company which manufactures and distributes its own product line of serving items (coffee urns, chafing dishes etc.) for the hotel trade.
A year and a half ago Ames Rubber vacated the Vernon building, located on Rt. 94 at The Flats. Bon Chef, which has a facility on Rt. 94 in Lafayette, is expected to set up its light manufacturing operations in Vernon within 30 to 60 days, starting with >50 employees on an 8-hour shift and potentially expanding to a second shift .
Vernon Youth Soccer will still be allowed to use the building's front lawn as a soccer field.
We appaud the news that light manufacturing will resume at that location in Vernon.
Sussex County In The Red
1/17/03 A new map from NJDEP shows Sussex County largely as a splash of red, the color denoting any area in which the state will limit development projects that contribute to sprawl.
Developers and planners took a dim view of the color-coded Stop Sprawl map, which is expected to undergo many changes before it is adopted.
Environmental orgs expressed cautious optimism.
The County Trash Tab: State Will Help Pay Bond Obligations
1/17/03 State taxpayer dollars will continue to be at work assisting 14 NJ counties, Sussex among them, to pay the debt service on landfill/incinerator bonds taken out in the Whitman era, when it was mandated that county trash had to be taken to county dumps.
A requirement which was, as the trash haulers had argued from day one, unconstitutional.
In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to force garbage collectors to only use the county-run landfill monopolies.
As a result of the court's decision, most haulers instantly opted for cheaper landfills, leaving Sussex and 13 other sucker-punched counties without the revenue to pay for the bonds.
County taxpayers were left holding the bag of bonding debts once the expected revenue from trash haulers was vaporized.
The Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) was in hock to the tune of $47 million and Sussex County taxpayers faced monster debt service bills on Dec.1, 1998, when SCMUA's surplus funds would have run out. Like several other NJ counties, Sussex had expected to pay off SCMUA bonds with fees charged to the trash haulers, who were forced to use the county-run landfill.
The New Jersey Association of Counties wanted the state to pay the "stranded debts" (totalling $1.6 BILLION) of the NJ's county-run dumps. They suggested taking the money from the state's General Fund/Surplus. [This way, state taxpayers would not only pay off their own county's tab, but everyone else's, too. So much for Home Rule.]
On the November 1998 ballot, NJ voters were asked to decide whether or not to bail out ($1.3 Billion debt) county-run garbage dumps/incinerators statewide. [More accurately, taxpayers were asked to bail out Wall St. investors who gambled on NJ's county-run landfill monopolies and lost.]
The bailout passed.
Since the '97 Supreme Court ruling, the state has been doling out a total of $70 million a year on an emergency basis to the counties to keep them from defaulting on their landfill bonds. In the past seven months the state has put $34 million towards the counties' debts. A total of 14 counties owe a combined $130 million in debt payments this year.
A long-term funding plan was passed by the legislature in Dec.2001. Under the bill, the state and the counties were to split the cost of refinanced bonds 50-50.
On Jan. 17, 2002, McGreevey administration officials decided to shelve the expired law requiring the state to pay off appx. $1 Billion in county debt through further bonding. Administration spokesmen said they were not inclined to run up further debt by bonding for up to 30 years, saying that most of the debt could be paid off in less time with the state and counties working together.
Spokesmen for the New Jersey Association of Counties said they would have preferred the issuance of the large long-term debt, but noted the state treasury's assurance that counties would not be allowed to default on their obligations.
NJ treasury spokesmen said that each county will be assisted on a case by case basis, and agreements will be reached as to the appropriate level of state assistance in meeting each county's debt service obligations.
Sussex County is $40 million in debt and owes $4.5 million this year in payment of SCMUA debt service obligations .
TC Wary Of "New" Tribes
1/9/02 The state of NJ may officially recognize the Powhatan Renape Nation, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape of NJ, and The Ramapough Mountain Indians as American Indian tribes.
A bill ( S 1941) scheduled for a legislative vote this month would formalize the state's recognition of the tribes, making tribe members eligible for federal benefits re: education, job training, etc. and would also mean that the tribes can legally market their crafts as authentic Native American creations.
On Jan. 6, 2002, the Vernon TC passed a resolution opposing the bill, apparently concerned that, if the bill is passed, it might encourage the tribes to try to acquire land on which to establish gambling casinos.
Lenni-Lenape representatives commented to the effect that those who urge defeat of the bill are uninformed and are motivated by racial stereotypes.
Under the 1988 U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes were awarded the right to establish gambling enterprises on their reservations, provided that - as in NJ, NY, FLA, CT, etc. - games of chance are permitted at other locations in the state.
Indian rights have superceded state and municipal rights when tribes sought enforcement of the 1988 act, as was done in the courts of FLA, CT and NY.
Tribal traditionalists feel that gambling casino operations erode Native American traditions and values, but traditionalists have been unsuccessful in mounting political opposition to pro-gambling leadership in democratically elected tribal councils.
The immensely profitable tribal casinos have excited the interest of NY state's flagging Catskill Resort region, but they have also prompted fierce opposition from NJ's Atlantic City casinos and hotels. AC kingpin Donald Trump "partnered" with legislators in fighting the perceived threat to Atlantic City's gambling resorts and, in a Sept. 16, 1993 letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior, 1993 Marge Roukema and several of her Congressional colleagues opposed recognition of the Ramapos, arguing that they only wanted tribal status "for the purpose of establishing casino gambling in Bergen County."
At that time the potential for NJ Indian casinos was identified as follows: Cumberland County, home to the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe: Burlington County, home to the Powhaton Renape tribe, whose members live on land leased as a reservation in Rancocas State Park; Sussex County, the Delaware Lenni Lenape tribe living in Oklahoma but seeking to establish a reservation in NJ.
In 1993, Vernon megadeveloper Eugene Mulvihill announced that he had offered Hamburg Mountain land to the Delaware Lenni Lenape Nation for a reservation and tribal-run casino.
Nothing came of the negotiations.
New Jersey is probably the only state that legally bought its land from the Indians; the Lenape disposed of their last land claims in NJ in the 1758 Treaty of Easton, thus abrogating any future claims.
They may buy land here, but it would be up to the Dept. of the Interior to decide whether or not such land would be treated as a reservation.
Scott Garrett's First Vote In The U.S. Congress
1/9/02 Newly inaugurated Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5), in his first act as a representative of the people of New Jersey, voted against a bill to provide 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits for 2.5 million jobless Americans.
A self-proclaimed defender of Family Values, Garrett was one of only 4 reps to vote nay to the measure, saying that it would not have benefitted NJ residents because the state's unemployment rate is below average.
The bill passed and was signed into law.
Final 2002 News Bytes 12/29/02
Not a blizzard for the record books, but the snowstorm that began on Christmas Eve left about a foot of snow before it ended Christmas night.
Where to construct the town park/ ballfields?
Still the burning question.
The TC is mulling a land swap - certain acreage of the town's problematic Maple Grange property for certain acreage of the problematic Van Dokkenburg farm property.
Details are sketchy, and various surveys are underway to determine whether or not the swap is advisable. But it appears that, if the deal takes place, the town park/ballfields are to go on the Van Dokkenburg land, which is zoned for agricultural and eco-tourism uses.
As to the Maple Grange property, the twp. is to reserve an unswapped portion for purposes of a cell tower, and may at last take up longstanding offers by the Archeological Conservancy to buy the historic Black Creek acreage.
The swapped (non-historic, non-tower) Maple Grange land might then be developed by the Van Dokkenburg family, should they so desire, as the land was zoned for commercial and recreational uses.
The Black Creek Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of Nov. 2002.
Godspeed's Notebook, The Van Dokkenburg Farm Revisited
There are two rules for ultimate success in life:
1. Never tell everything you know.
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