Past Local News '99

7/13/99 PD TOWER OF POWER, Part IV

5/11/99 Revised PDRadio Transmitter Plan

4/29/99 PBA Says Fix That Radio Problem

Highland Lks Man Paralyzed, Family In Need

The following news item was contributed by VWebster E.G. on 8/19/99

On June 13, 1999, tragedy struck the Rizzo family of Highland Lakes.

Michael Rizzo, 38, while swimming in his sister's pool, sustained a massive injury to his neck as well as his spinal cord leaving him completely paralyzed.

After two major surgeries, Mike has limited movement from the waist up. He is currently in Kessler Institute in West Orange undergoing physical therapy. He is still on a respirator for Breathing and the prognosis for a full recovery is not good.

Michael and his wife, Sherry, just recently bought a home in Highland Lakes and have two children, Justin, 11 and Kimberly, 7. Not only is it a struggle to keep afloat, but there are many items that need to be purchased before Michael comes home as well as renovating their house for wheelchair access.

Just some of the changes that need to be made to the home are: ramps need to be added, counters need to be lowered, doors and doorways need to be widened, an elevator to put into the house and many more changes. Also a new vehicle needs to be purchased, a van with an electric lift.

One specific item which is needed is an electric wheelchair which alone costs approximately $48,000.00

This family truly needs the prayers and support of the entire Vernon community. Those able to contribute are asked to send a donation (no donation is too small) to the address listed below:

The Michael Rizzo Fund
308 Mountainside Drive
Highland Lakes, NJ 07422

Judge Says Vreeland Confession Allowed

Pre-trial hearings have begun in the capital case vs. 17 yr. old Jayson Vreeland, who is charged with shooting Giorgio Gallara to death on the night of April 19, 1997.

The murders of Gallara,25, and Jeremy Giordano, 25, were carried out by Vreeland and his criminal confederate Thomas Koskovich as part of the infamous "Pizza Murders," a thrill-killing which shocked the nation and which led to the sentence of death for Koskovich earlier this year.

Superior Court Judge Reginald Stanton ruled that Vreeland's confession of guilt, recorded a day and a half after the murders, will be allowed as evidence in Vreeland's trial this November.

Vreeland's confession gave details of the murderous ambush and contained statements to the effect that he was "devastated" at the killing of Jeremy Giordano, once a "pretty close" friend.

Among the more callow statements made in his confession, Vreeland expressed regret that, because of the murders, he could no longer pursue his romantic interest in a girl who had also been friends with Jeremy Giordano.

Vreeland's recorded statement that he was clear-headed during the murders tends to contradict the defense theory that he was stoned out of his mind at the time.

If convicted, Vreeland cannot be sentenced to death because he was a juvenile at the time of the murders.

Vernon Resident Killed In Rt.23 Crash

Kevin Greener, 43, a Highland Lakes resident and an officer of the Fort Lee Police Dept., was killed Monday in a motorcycle accident on Rt. 23 near Canistear Road.

The protective helmet Greener was wearing could not prevent the major head trauma he suffered when, at about 7:00 a.m., his motorcycle hit the median strip. Greener was thrown from the motorcycle and his head hit the concrete.

Greener is survived by his wife and two young sons.

NRC to U.S. Senate: Many Nuke Plants Not Ready For Y2K

According to an article in the 8/5/99 Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Senate special panel on Y2K issues was told on Wednesday that one third of the nation's nuclear plants are unprepared for the transition from 1999 to 2000.

The Senate committee was told that , of the plants that have not yet completed (much less tested) their Y2K repairs, four each are in New Jersey and six each are in Pennsylvania.

Greta Joy Dicus, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said that if the plants were not on schedule to meet their Y2K repair deadlines - which have now been pushed up to Nov. and Dec. - the NRC "has the option of shutting them down."

Dicus told the panel that plant safety systems and shutdown systems were the NRC's highest priority, and that Y2K repairs of these safety /shutdown systems in all U.S. nuclear plants have been completed.


Experience Is The Best Teacher…

8/2/99 Paul Eckstein,48, a resident of Waldwick NJ and a professor of ethics at NYU (until now), pled guilty to embezzling $800,000. from the owners of Family Process, Inc., a non-profit medical publication which was based in Vernon NJ during the 8 years Eckstein was robbing the till.

Eckstein faced 10 years in prison if found guilty after trial in Superior Court, but this week Sussex County prosecutors accepted a plea bargain (down to one count of 2nd-degree theft) which would reduce the embezzler/ethics professor's sentence to 1 year in the county jail and restitution to the victims.

At one point in the pre-trial process, Eckstein - PhD. pending - argued that his criminal experience would make him a better teacher. The NYU ethics course he taught was entitled, "The Individual in Society."

Those NYU students shoulda just xeroxed The 10 Commandments and put that $600. per credit (or whatever) towards Basket Weaving 101 instead.

U.S. EPA Finally Admits MTBE Should Be "Curtailed"...

7/29/99   Ten years ago a leaking underground storage tank at the Vernon Mobil station released a plume of Methyl tert butyl ether (MTBE) into the underground water supply in downtown Vernon. The spill cannot actually be "remediated," but attempts to control the plume at its source are ongoing, pursuant to a NJ EPA field enforcement action compelling Mobil Corp. to carry out this complex project. Wells in the contaminated area downgradient of the spill have been fitted with carbon filtration systems and are (somewhat irregularly) monitored by the NJ EPA.

MTBE is a methanol-based fuel additive which is meant to reduce air pollution, but it has poisoned much of the nation's groundwater. Federal research shows that MTBE causes tumors in rats and may do so in humans.

Nevertheless, until this week the U.S. EPA has defended the use of MTBE despite complaints from many states. The federal agency is not calling for an outright ban of MTBE, but now says that use of the "suspected carcinogen" should be significantly curtailed.
Each year 9 million gallons of gasoline are spilled in the United States. MTBE molecules travel unusually fast through soil and into ground water once gasoline gets into the environment. Recently California announced it would ban MTBE use, and Maine has pulled out of the reformulated gasoline program because of MTBE.

Underground fuel tank spills have affected the groundwater of so many NJ towns that the NJ EPA will need a huge army to monitor the hundreds of remediation "projects" from now on.MTBE doesn't degrade. It sticks around for 5 million years. Plume movements are erratic, MTBE concentrations are upredictable. How long will New Jersey wait to ban this poison, which has already contaminated the groundwater of many towns statewide?

Howard Burrell To Run For Freeholder

7/22/99  Vernon Town Council member Howard Burrell has announced that he will run for Sussex County Freeholder this year, replacing Byram resident Richard Meltz as the Democratic Party candidate challenging GOP incumbent Richard Durina. Only one Freeholder seat is up for election this November. There has not been a Democrat on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders in ten years.



Highland Lakes Offers Crime-Fighters REWARD
7/19/99 In response to their members' concern re: creeps and vandals
, the Board of Highland Lakes Country Club and Community Assoc. has decided to offer rewards of up to $2,500. for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminal mischiefmakers responsible for property damage in that lake community.
Meanwhile, HL residents applauded the club's security officers and Vernon PD for nailing the 4 vandals (one is an adult, btw) who trashed property at one of the beaches last week.

Drums Along Lake Mohawk

7/18/99  A group of residents in Sparta have started drumming up support to overthrow that municipality's form of government. Sparta has the same form of municipal government as Vernon has.

The Sparta group has taken the position that their 5 Town Council members, hired Town Manager, and council-picked mayor are unresponsive to the townspeople and are spending money on projects the townspeople don't even want. The as-yet-untitled Sparta group wants
1) a Strong Mayor elected by the people
2) a ward system of representation, i.e. one council rep from the town's four sections and three at-large reps
3) no more town manager
4)less power for town bureaucrats.

A petition signed by 20 per cent of Sparta's registered voters will be needed to put the "change-of-gov't" proposition to the Sparta electorate.

Vernon residents may recall a similar grassroots movement in Vernon three years ago.

It led to the 1996 election of a Vernon Charter Study Commission, whose members were Helen Carew, Mike Bonomo, Stephen Imbarrato, now-Mayor James Kilby , and John Durham. They were empowered to determine what form of gov't would be best for Vernon.

They determined that the Town Council/Town Manager form of gov't like the one in Sparta was Your Race Winner. The lone dissenter was Steve Imbarrato , arguably the Vernon reform movement's most active organizer and a proponent of the Strong Mayor/Ward Rep system.

In the commission's Final Report and Recommendations, Imbarrato wrote, "What has not been addressed in this proposed change has been the people's wish that they have a greater voice in the government."

In the end, Strong Mayor and Ward Reps forms - which originally kindled the gov't reform movement in Vernon - were not among the choices presented to Vernon voters on the 1996 ballot.

Drought Continues - Pray for Rain
[click for story] TC sympathetic, plans confab of experts to advise desperate homeowners whose wells are toast

8/11/99 Sussex County Health Administrator Philip Morlock said that wells are failing in towns throughout the county.
Meteorologists predict that there will be no substantial rainfall anytime soon, and that another heat wave is on the way.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior reported that the drought is expected to worsen in the Mid-Atlantic states, and that drinking water supplies are being threatened in some areas as salty ocean water moves upstream into normally freshwater areas. On the Hudson River, the salt front is only four miles downstream from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and is moving upstream a half-mile each day.

8/5/99 Gov. W Finally Orders Statewide Water Use Restrictions
Non-essential Uses Prohibited As Drought Worsens in NJ
$1000 to $5000 fines for emergency water rule violators

8/7/99  The number of wells going dry in some parts of Vernon Township continues to rise.
See eVoice - should the gov't make financial aid/emergency loans available to cash-strapped
who must have expensive hydrofracting, or new wells drilled, in order to SURVIVE?

7/15/99  Local well drillers report that there is a three-month waiting list of customers in desperate need of new water wells, or hydrofracting to remediate failing wells.

The current drought has created severe difficulties for area farmers and has begun to affect the supply/quality of water in many household wells throughout Vernon and the rest of NJ.

NJ officials are beginning to murmur about an imminent water emergency statewide...

7/26/99 The Vernon Town Council has declared a water emergency.

8/1/99 For the duration of the emergency order, non-essential uses of water are prohibited. Just put aside those garden hoses, sprinklers, pressure washers etc. on pain of $100 to $500. fines. Water use by non-agricultural commercial enterprises is limited to essential operations.

The American Water Works Association says:
The average household uses 350 gallons of water a day.
Americans drink one billion glasses of water a day.
About 65 percent of residential water is used outside the home.
The average 1/4 acre lawn can use over 3,000 gallons of water a week.

Local officials have said that the town's older, shallower wells - less than 200 ft. deep - are the most severely affected by the present drought. New wells slated for homes in some areas of Vernon will be 800 ft. deep or more this year, according to local welldrillers.

VHD: MtnCreek Water System Upgrades Pay Off During Drought

8/6/99  An improved water filtration system at Mountain Creek has meant far less water use than in past years at the popular water park, said Vernon Health Dept. director Eugene Osias.

Most of the water used for the rides (except the one that moves on a natural stream) is systematically recycled and, during the present drought emergency, ornamental fountains and other non-essential water uses at the park have been discontinued, Osias said.

The park is expected to submit their restricted water use plan to the town by Monday 8/9, Osias said, noting that MtnCreek officials had discussed specific details of the proposed plan with his office today.

PD Tower of Radio Power, Part IV

7/13/99  The Vernon TC has selected a new site for the long-awaited police radio tower , which might actually heave into view before another year goes by.

The new site for the tower is a privately owned parcel near Glenwood Mountain Road. The town will pay an as yet undetermined amount to the owner for use of the land.

SpectraSite, a company which will construct the tower for free and rent out space on it to commercial (cellular) interests, plans to present its application for the 195 ft. tower to the Zoning Board on Aug. 4.

New Location, New Static

7/26 The new location for the PD communications tower is a worrisome issue to nearby Glenwood Mountain Road homeowners, who went to the 7/26 Town Council meeting in order to express misgivings re: future health risks posed by the expanded use of the commercial (cellular) tower.
SpectraSite Corp. has proposed to construct the police radio tower for free, provided they can lease out space to commercial cellular companies like NexTel and Sprint. Residents said they feared such a deal would preclude town control over the tower's uses, but Mayor James Kilby said Not So. He added that the TC might crank out an ordinance to regulate such construction.

Performing Arts Center Fundraising Consultant Hired
7/8/99 The Vernon Township Council For the Arts has hired a consultant to show them how to get funds for construction of a Performing Arts Center in Vernon. The consultant will be paid appx. $12K . Construction cost is expected to be appx. $3 million.
An aside: we have received number of emails about this matter from folks who evidently mistook the Vernon Township Council for the Arts, a private non-profit org., to be the same entity as the elected Vernon Town Council. The arts center consultant's fee is not being paid by the town.

Legends is a Hotel
7/8/99 Legends Resort and Conference Center has reclassified some of its rooms as timeshare units instead of condos. To preserve its status as a hotel, and therefore keep its hotel-type liquor license, Legends requested and will soon receive a supportive legal interpretation ("it's a hotel") from the Vernon Township Zoning Board.


Highland Lakes resident and 1999 VTHS graduate Gregory Sheridan, 17, has been promoted to Eagle Scout, the highest scouting rank conferred by the Boy Scouts of America.

Invited guests and community leaders gathered in the parish hall of Our Lady of Fatima R.C Church for the June 27 ceremony in his honor. Mayor Jim Kilby presented Sheridan with the Mayor's Eagle Scout Award in recognition of outstanding service rendered to the community, namely the design and establishment of the Vernon Town Garden.

Also taking part in the official proceedings were Sheridan's proud parents, Jerome and Marion Sheridan; Monsignor Al Busch, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima ; Dennis Howard, Commander of Wallkill Valley VFW Post 8441; Scoutmaster Bob Hojer, BSA Troop 389; Jason Sheridan, Gregory's brother, also a member of BSA Troop 389; and Michael Briganti, Gregory's cousin, who became an Eagle Scout in 1975.

All who spoke at the ceremony had high praise for Sheridan's character, and Scoutmaster Bob Hojer recalled Sheridan's steadfastness, particularly in the face of Troop 389's historically calamitous experiences (including a blizzard and a tornado) in the wilderness.

Eagle Scout Gregory Sheridan will be a freshman at Dickinson College (PA) this fall. He said he hoped that the local gardeners and businesses who came forward to tend the Vernon Town Garden would continue to care for it in times to come.

State Cleanup $$ To Boost Vernon Town Center Plan

6/29/99  About $1 million appropriated for Wallkill River cleanup projects will be given to Vernon Township, which will use the money to help pay for sewer design. It is by now a universal article of faith that construction of a wastewater treatment system will boost the development of a Town Center planned for Vernon's Rt.515/94 section .

The balance of the clean-up funding headed for Sussex County will be given to the townships of Hardyston and Ogdensburg for site remediation and sewer-related projects.

Prosecutor re: complaint vs. VPD: That "Kite" Don't Fly

On the afternoon of on June 3 ,after attending a VFW golf outing , Vernon PD Lieut. Stephen O'Connor was in a car accident.

The car crashed into a utility pole on Rt. 94 near SandHill Road. O'Connor reportedly explained to responding officers at the scene that the accident resulted when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.

Some time later, Vernon Mayor Jim Kilby reported getting an anonymous telephone complaint to the effect that police had not taken proper action in O'Connor's accident case, specifically that they had not made an arrest and/or administered a sobriety test.

The complaint has since been forwarded to the Sussex County Prosecutor's office for review.

Meanwhile, VPD Capt. Roy Wherry has said that there was no reasonable cause for arrest or blood alcohol testing because, whether or not he may have had any alcoholic beverages served at the golf outing lunch, O'Connor showed no sign of alcoholic impairment or intoxication at the accident scene.
7/8/99  Sussex County Prosecutor found no criminal conduct and sent the matter back to VPD Chief Johnson's administrative attention.

Creeps On The Loose in HL

6/28/99 Vwebsters in Highland Lakes report that a mega-wave of vandalism and trespassing incidents has driven some homeowners in the community to shut and lock not only their doors but their windows after dark, despite stifling heat, for fear of forced entry by wrongdoers.

While generally commending Vernon PD and HLCC Security officers for their quick response to complaints and for their ongoing efforts to track down the perpetrators, residents said that the nighttime vandals/prowlers have slashed screens of bedroom windows, damaged and broken into cars (the upholstery of the front seat in one family's car was left "dripping wet" with beer) , blown up (!) mailboxes, and destroyed personal property.

Residents said that a serious outbreak of these incidents last weekend has left nerves on edge, particularly in view of daytime break-in/assaults which occurred in one HL neighborhood earlier this summer. Most of the nighttime creepo incidents have occurred in that same section of the community, residents said.

One HL resident told Vweb that, after having found their bedroom screens slashed one morning, her frightened children now preferred "sleeping in an oven" to leaving their bedroom windows open overnight.

RedTapeJam For Rickey Farm

This past Memorial Day a festive public event was held at the Rickey Farm without prior Vernon Township Planning Board approval.

Evidently complaints about noise etc. were received re: all those folks camping out and partying on the farm.

The town submitted a grievance to the county agricultural bureaucrats, who have forwarded it to the state agricultural bosses to ascertain (1) whether or not Planning Board approval is required for such events and (2) if such events are permissable uses of farmland in the first place.

Meanwhile, confabs between farmer-entrepreneur Jamie Rickey and the Planning Board, Health Dept. and Town Manager were reportedly in the offing.

SCMUA Eyes Short-Term Sewer Plan for Vernon/IntraWest

In order to expedite IntraWest development plans in Vernon, it has been proposed that (1) the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCMUA) should expand its Walkill River wastewater treatment plant and that (2) unused portions of the gallonage allocated to various towns/institutions in Sussex County should be loaned to Vernon.

The short-term plan was presented to the SCMUA Board of Commissioners this week , pursuant to earlier confabs between SCMUA administrator John Hatzelis, VernonTwp. officials and IntraWest reps.

If adopted, the plan would allow IntraWest construction (townhouses,condos,golfcourses) to proceed while a long-term wastewater treatment system is studied/engineered for Vernon.

MJ Seller, Buyer Nabbed in Spa Parking Lot

After a 2-month investigation, the Sussex County Prosecutor's Narcotics Task Force collared two Vernon men for marijuana offenses. Jeremy Simpson, 18, was arrested in the parking lot of The Spa for posessing appx. ¼ lb. of mj, and for selling some to an undercover officer. Simpson's bail was set at $25K. He is in the county jail.

Michael DeLiso, 20, was arrested and given a summons for possession of mj (less than 50 grams)after he was observed buying it in the fateful Spa parking lot - he was then turned over to the custody of Ringwood PD on three outstanding warrants ordered by that town's municipal court.

State Says 180 Days Or Bust For VTHS

6/13/99 Vernon High School's request for a waiver of the 180-day school year requirement was turned down by the State Dept. of Education last week.

The school year has gone into overtime at VTHS because of days off while clean-up crews repaired damages caused by a recent fire in the building.

There is no truth to the rumor that Franz Kafka has been appointed to run the State Bd. Of Ed.

Vernon TC Primary Winners: LOGAN, WEINER & MORRISON

Here are the vote tallies for the June 8 Democratic and Republican Party Primary Election in Vernon:

(D)Francine Jo Vince (unopposed) 148
(R) Daniel Kadish 430
(R)Karen Kensek 465
(R) Carlo Ruggiero 521
(R)John Logan 910
(R) Ira Weiner 865
(R)Janet Morrison 854


6/4/99  Vernon Township High School was closed for several days this week while clean-up crews remediated the damages caused by a serious fire.
The fire started in the photography lab on the second floor of the school. Investigators said the blaze, which occurred at about 4:00 AM Wednesday, was accidental. It left the photo lab in ruins and half the school building was affected by secondary damages (water, smoke, soot).

Warwick Sewer Crisis - Residents Outraged

6/4/99  A sewer leak in Warwick NY has caused the worst outbreak of water-borne illness in Orange County to date, health officials said. Residents in two Warwick Township communities (Wickham Knolls and Wickham Village) have been sickened by drinking water which was contaminated when a sewer pipe leaked e coli infected raw sewage into their wells. A breakdown of the sewer system's chlorination pumps further abetted the contamination.

Almost 1,000 Warwick residents get their drinking water from the affected district .

Irate homeowners, claiming that the sewer leak was neglected for weeks, have called for the dismissal of the town supervisor, the town health dept. of public works commissioner, and JCO, Inc., the company which is contracted by Warwick to operate the water and sewer systems.

Hundreds of residents have come down with e coli symptoms - nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, etc. - and have been instructed to boil the water until further notice.

The sewer pipe leak, which also gave off a sickening stench, covered about an acre of land in proximity to four of the district's five wells (one of which is only 35 feet from the leak). A water tanker has been made available for resident's use while the leak and spill are being remediated.

"Big Water" systems have not always been kind to Warwick. Several years ago, appx. 1,000 residents in the Greenwood Lake section of Warwick were sickened during an outbreak of giardiasis, caused by bacterial contamination of GL's public water system .

In any given year, thousands of Americans are sickened (some are killed) by water-borne illnesses directly caused by sewerpipe leaks into their drinking water supply.

6/6/99  About 250 infuriated Warwick residents confronted the Powers That Be at a town meeting yesterday re: the above sewer leak situation. At that meeting , which was was demanded by the residents, it was charged that the leak has been in existence (and getting progressively worse) since last October.Adding to e coli victims' outrage, the Orange Cty. Health Dept. has declined to test the affected water for hepatitis and other pathogens because, officials said, there have not been enough hospital cases to warrant such testing. Meanwhile residents said local doctors had advised them not to bother seeking treatment but to "let the toxins pass through their systems," although several residents said they had taken their severely ill children for medical attention. Other residents reported suffering fevers and mouth sores along with the vomiting and other symptoms of e coli infection. Officials who tried to minimize the crisis were repeatedly shouted down by members of the angry audience, who called for the dismissal of everyone responsible for the alleged neglect of the sewer leak.

More Sentences In Pizza Murder Case

On May 26, Thomas Koskovich, already sentenced to be put to death for the murder of Jeremy Giordano, was sentenced to an additional 80+ years in prison for his acts as a criminal confederate in the murder of Giorgio Gallara and for lesser crimes included in the 1997 double homicide. The sentences, to run consecutively, were imposed by Superior Court Judge Reginald Stanton.

In a separate proceeding, Michael Conklin was sentenced by Judge Stanton to 5 years in prison for his part in stealing the guns which were subsequently used by Koskovich and his criminal companion, Jayson Vreeland, to kill Gallara and Giordano.

Authorities have determined that the gun which killed Giorgio Gallara was fired by Jayson Vreeland, who is in jail awaiting trial.

Town Council Primary Election June 8

Who's running: Republicans John Logan, Janet Morrison, Ira Weiner, Daniel Kadish, Carlo Ruggiero, Karen Kensek;
Democrat Francine Jo Vince

  • Vernon Chamber of Commerce and Mountain Creek will host a candidates forum on May 27, 7:30PM, Mountain Creek South Lodge on Rt. 94

  • Police Benevolent Association Local 285 has endorsed Logan and Weiner, marking the Vernon police union's debut as a player in the town's electoral politics

Downtown Vernon : Plans 'R' Us

5/18/99 Herewith an attempt to recap highlights of the 1999 Vernon Plan-O-Rama thus far:

Revised PDRadio Transmitter Plan: Higher (and Costlier) Tower

5/11/99  Since the Lake Panorama tower location is toast and the PBA has revived its communications grievance, the township has bent to the task of preparing new studies and finding new locations for a radio tower to complete the new communications system. Six potential sites are in the hopper for final selection of a tower site. Because none are as "ideal" as the LkPan location, the tower will have to be much higher and more expensive than originally planned.

Public Watchdog Irks NJ Chemical Industry's Y2K (Happyface) Ostriches

5/11/99  A lone NJ voice disturbed the chorus of happyhappyhappyface NJ chemical industry spokesmen addressing the U.S. Senate's Y2000 Technology Problem Committee on Monday.

New Jersey is the second largest center (Texas is no. 1) of the nation's chemical industry. Since 30 per cent of the U.S. population is within range of one of appx. 66,000 hazardous chemical manufacturers, this particular industry is of some concern to the government's Y2K committee.

Joan Nogaki, co-chairwoman of the New Jersey Work Environmental Council, reported that the NJDEP and Gov. Whitman were ignoring the Y2K dangers posed by the state's chemical plants. Nogaki pointed out that NJDEP has surveyed only 20 of the state's 160 "high-risk toxics" manufacturing plants, and has simply taken their word for verification of their Y2K readiness. Nogaki called for an independent audit of chemical plants to see whether or not they are actually prepared to avert potential disaster.

Chemical industry spokesmen and representatives of the Whitman administration pooh-poohed the notion that anything re: NJ's Y2K prep might be amiss, and then resumed their testimonies, which consisted of take-our-word-for-it generalities about how they are "dealing with the problem" and spending lots of money on it.

Critics of the chemical industry's self-supervised and otherwise unverified Y2K preparations worry about the possibility of "industrial negligence" disasters like the one that injured/killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bhopal, India (Union Carbide, toxic pesticide gas leak) in 1984, the effects of which are still being felt by survivors of that catastrophe.

Thos. Koskovich Sentenced to Be Put to Death, BUT...

5/8/99 As to the punishment of Thos. Koskovich , found guilty of murdering Jeremy Giordano, the jurors deliberated for 9 hours yesterday and decided that he should be put to death.

Superior Court Judge Reginald Stanton ordered the death warrant but further ordered that if the death sentence is not carried out by May 7, 2004 then it is to be converted to the sentence of life imprisonment. Judge Stanton explained that, in his view, the delays (typically spanning 10 years) between judgment and execution of the death sentence are "unacceptably cruel" to death row convicts.

The extraordinarily subjective ruling drew criticism from county prosecutors and from supporters of the 1982 law which restored capital punishment in NJ.

The May 7, 2004 limitation , said critics, usurps the penalty-deciding role of jurors. They also feared that making an issue of the lengthy appeals process in death penalty cases might (a) discourage jurors from considering capital punishment of murderers, and (b) undermine public confidence in the death penalty law itself.

Jayson Vreeland, 19, who was arrested and charged along with Koskovich, is in jail awaiting trial for his involvement the April 1997 murders of Jeremy Giordano and Giorgio Gallara.

Disquieting Events At VTHS
The following is a digest of reports received Wednesday night, 5/5/99, from Vweb correspondents who are students at VTHS

5/5/99 Students arriving at VTHS early this rainy morning were met by Vernon PD officers who kept anyone from entering the school. Students who drove to school were told to stay in their cars in the parking lot. Those who came off the school buses were detained on the athletic fields. By 8AM the Glenwood Pochuck ambulance and the McAfee Fire Dept. Hook&Ladder were on the scene. Some students were told they could "go get breakfast" but that going home would be an unexcused absence.
At around 9AM they were sent home, and the buses came back to take home the students who had been sitting on the bleachers in the rain for two hours. Some parents came to collect their children. No reasons were given for these events. Students and parents were left to draw their own conclusions from among the many rumors circulating. An announcement on a local radio station simply said that students were being dismisssed at the time.
In the aftermath of the Colorado tragedy, all high schools have become breeding grounds for paranoia, rumor, mischief and panic. Anxiety is over the top at Vernon Township High School , said one student, who said that the schools are not doing much to allay that anxiety. Students have been advised to speak to guidance counselors if they are tense about these matters, but as one student correspondent told Vweb, "how many kids are going to do that?"
Last Friday Vernon Police were called to the school because "it was going around that something bad was going to happen" said a student Vweb correspondent. The unsubstantiated rumor and the police attention may have heightened student paranoia, which has been persistent since the Columbine horror. "You can't say anything without being persecuted," said a student correspondent. "Other than that, nobody's addressing the problem. It's like, don't talk about it. Some teachers have tried to deal with it, some haven't. The rumors are out of control. "

Stress Continues To Plague VTHS
5/6/99 Yesterday's early dismissal incident at the high school, now reported to have been a bomb scare, is under police investigation. While not characterizing yesterday's incident as a bomb threat, school officials today cautioned VTHS students not to foment mischievous rumors or joke about these matters on pain of serious consequences. The warnings re: unacceptable student conduct were announced against a backdrop of continuing rumors à la last Friday's scenario .

5/15/99  Four VTHS students now face charges in connection with making bomb threats, police said . Another juvenile, similarly arrested and charged last week, was released.

TC Mulls Sewer Plan

5/3/99  The Vernon Town Council is considering a plan whereby the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority would construct and operate a 900,000 gallons-per-day capacity wastewater treatment plant for the township. The SCMUA-run sewer plan was recommended by Killam Associates, an engineering firm in Randolph NJ. Construction costs of the plant are estimated at $14 million.

Northern Water Snake
4/30/99  Click on the link to check out the Northern Water snake, often mistaken for its much nastier cousins. These water snakes have multiplied like crazy in our area. Not poisonous, but stay away anyhow - its bite is razor sharp and very painful. In the event of any snake bite, go to the nearest ER and treat yourself to a tetanus shot (plus whatever they give you to reduce the huge red swelling from that painful bite).
We know whereof we speak.

Mountain Creek Oil Spill, Clean-up Eyed

4/30/99  About three weeks ago, hydraulic fluid leaked from a hose connected to a snow-making apparatus at Mountain Creek, spilling a large pool of fluid on the ground atop Hamburg Mountain.
Members of the township Environmental Committee spotted the oil on the ground and returned to take pictures of the spill area, which they estimated to be 20 x 30 ft. altogether. Mountain Creek officials confirmed the leak incident and said that the spilled fluid had been cleaned up. Vernon Health Dept. director Gene Osias inspected the site thereafter, finding no visible evidence of oil or excavation on the site. The EC has launched an investigation into the facts.

Downtown Water Update (The Elephant in the Living Room)
4/30/99   Ten years ago an underground fuel tank - Mobil Station ,Rt.94/515 intersection - leaked its contents into the downtown water supply, mainly emitting a plume of MethylTert butyl Ether (MTBE), a carcinogenic chemical with a shelf life of 5 million years, into the aquifer. As part of a long and troublous clean-up effort, double carbon filtration systems have been installed on wells downgradient of the plume.

MTBE plumes cannot be remediated, but it is believed that they can be contained. The plume seems to be moving downgradient on the west side of Rt. 94 towards Cardinal Art Gallery, according to Vernon Health Dept. sources.

It appears that a fault line has prevented the plume from contaminating the other side of Rt. 94, where Burger King's double-cased well draws water (which meets all drinking water standards, Health Dept. said) from depths of 100 ft. or more.

Recently an air-stripping system has been installed downtown in an effort to contain the MTBE plume. This kind of system pulls the water out of the ground, whereupon the MTBE is hopefully vaporized/released into the air before the water is discharged back into the ground. The first report from NJDEP re: how well this system is working will not be available until early June, according to Health Dept. sources.

Meanwhile, testing of the affected wells in the contaminated zone is ongoing, said Health Dept. director Gene Osias, who added that access to certain wells has been difficult but is expected to improve shortly .
Mobil Corp. has to pay for all of this under an enforcement order from the NJDEP Bureau of Underground Storage Tanks.

PBA To Vernon TC: Never Mind Politics -Fix That Radio Problem
4/29/99  The professional association which represents Vernon Police Officers has reinstituted a 1996 grievance concerning VernonTownship's failure to provide its Police Department with an adequate radio communications system.

P.B.A. Local 285 officials, alarmed at the Town council's failure to remedy the Vernon PD's dangerously dysfunctional radio conditions, expressed their determination to pursue the matter and noted that the improved communications system (purchased in 1997) has been gathering dust on the shelf for want of a final transmitter location.

Most recently, a tower site in Lake Panorama was removed from consideration when that community raised the spectre of litigation to prevent non-residential land use in their midst.

Meanwhile, PBA spokesmen added, poor radio conditions continue to put the safety of police officers and the public at great risk.

LYME - Good News/Bad News
The first of the Lyme vaccines has entered the marketplace. Never before has the FDA given such a hesitant, caveat-ridden approval to any pharmaceutical product (see
VWeb Past News, Lyme).

Time to check out LymeNet.

Amendment to Zoning Law Eyed
(4/26/99) The Vernon Town Council has introduced an ordinance amendment which will enable the township to build (municipal purposes) in all zones without having to get approval from the Zoning Board. Public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for June 14.
Very Interesting.

6/15/99  The TC has nixed this idea for now.

Vernon Voters OK School Budget, Re-elect Bd. Of Ed. Incumbents

Town voters approved the Vernon Bd. Of Ed school budget funding proposition, $21.6 mil, and the additional $3.1 mil supplement. The total school budget is $46.7 mil for the 1999/2000 school year.

Incumbents Ed DeYoung, Cynthia DiMatteo and Dee Silva were re-elected to serve on the Board.

New 07462 P.O. Construction Hanging Fire
4/19/99 No sooner was the first spade in the ground than Historical Artifacts (fire-cracked rocks, charred flint flakes) were unearthed at the construction site of the new post office on Church St. in Vernon. Further building will be postponed to clear the decks for an archaeological dig on the site, which will determine the significance of the artifacts.

Burger King Opens

4/13/99 The Burger King opened on Rt. 94/515 in Vernon today.

TC Reverses Decision RE: Tower
4/13/99 There will not be a
VernonPD radio tower on summit Circle in Lake Panorama. Plans to build it there have been scuttled.

The Vernon PD needs a new radio communication system. The one they have at present is dangerously inadequate. A new system involving the construction of new towers was expected to remedy this situation once a site for the final tower was found.

One year ago the TC began its search for a suitable property in the Lake Panorama area. The first LkPan site proposed by the TC last year was shot down. Last month (March), a site on Summit Circle in lake Panorama was selected and the TC passed an ordinance enabling the purchase. Last week the site plan was approved by the Vernon Planning Board.

This was disquieting news to Lake Panorama property owners, who objected to construction of the tower amid residential properties and who turned to the courts, citing deed restrictions and violation of local laws.

Last night the TC , mindful of these court proceedings and confronted by over 100 residents in the meeting audience, rescinded the ordinance re: purchase of the Summit Circle parcel for the purpose of constructing a radio tower. Now the search for a tower site will resume.

Lake Panorama Tower of PD Power OK'd by Planning Board
4/8/99  After a six hour meeting with arguments on both sides, the Vernon Planning Board approved the site plan of the Summit Circle location for the new PD radio tower. The TC passed an ordinance on March 8,1999 enabling the town's purchase ($17,000.) of the Summit circle property for this purpose.

Over 100 residents turned out for last night's PBoard meeting. Vernon PD spokesmen and union leaders explained the dysfunctional nature of the present radio communications system, the benefits of the proposed new system, and the necessity of locating a tower in Lake Panorama.

Lake Panorama homeowners have expressed the view that, instead of finding another suitable location, the town is building the tower In Their Face and seriously ruining property values in their neighborhood.

At the end of the marathon meeting, the tower site plan was approved by the PBoard members .

Lake Panorama homeowners will look to the courts (papers filed already) to block construction of the 104-ft. radio tower at Summit Circle because, they said, deed restrictions prohibit anything but residential construction on property surrounding the lake. They are further concerned that the town might rent out part of the property for commercial use in future.

Town Center Consultants Hired

4/6/99   Last night the Vernon Town Council voted unanimously to retain Town Center planning consultants.

The newly hired experts, headed by Jim Constantine of Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK) Inc., Princeton, will review all previous town center plans and will visit the town on two occasions, May 4 and June 21. They will be shown around by township officials and will also discuss Rt. 515 improvement plans with the county's engineering staff. After the info-gathering there will be an interval of clarifying the issues, conceptual planning, strategizing, etc. which will include a public meeting or two.
This latest round of Vernon Town Center planning/consulting will cost appx. $30,000.00.

There are two rules for ultimate success in life:

1. Never tell everything you know.

- 30 -

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