Councilman Rizzuto recently spoke out in a letter to the editor regarding his opinion of Vernon Township’s “business friendly attitude”, and defending the Fire Prevention’s decision to create  a new $50-$150 ANNUAL Fee to each of the 525 non life hazard use businesses in Vernon.

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Once again a member of our government has skewed the facts or simply has not done his homework, or as we have seen before simply does not want the public to know the facts.

The fees to the 187 Life Hazard businesses that Mr. Rizzuto makes reference to are NOT NEW FEES, in fact they are MANDATORY and have been in existence, in accordance with State Law for well over 20 years.

What Mr. Rizzuto conveniently fails to mention is the NEW FEES his Administration created are NOT MANDATORY, NOT REQUIRED and are entirely at the Municipalities discretion!

He also fails to reveal that the “Annual FEE” is charged each year, however the inspection of that business will only be conducted once every two years, thus requiring our local businesses to pay $100-$300 per inspection!  Exorbitant and simply unfair to target our local businesses in any economic climate let alone the present declining business economy. Just drive thru town and count the many vacant businesses that did not exist under previous administrations.

Mr. Rizzuto also states that our “seasonal businesses” were levied re-occupancy fees, simply not true.  Re-occupancy fees were only levied upon recently sold or rented premises in accordance with Township Ordinances.

Mr. Rizzuto justifies this fee thru “surveying 5 nearby communities”, yet what he fails to reveal is if he asked those same 5 communities if they also employed a Fire Marshal who resides 40 miles away from town and if they provide a full size SUV for that person to commute to and from work every day? Fuel costs, registration, insurance, liability, and maintenance costs on a vehicle logging 80 commuter miles a day plus the additional miles in town do not come without sizable costs.

I do not know of one local business that affords this same perk to any of their own employees, or a local business that would appreciate bearing the costs so that the Township can provide this unprecedented luxury to anyone traveling that great a distance.

Rather than attack the former Mayor or previous administrations, perhaps Mr. Rizzuto would better fulfill his responsibilities as councilman by asking some questions of his own Administration. For Example:

Why does the Fire Prevention Bureau suddenly need some $30,000.00+ in additional income?

Where and on what will this additional $30,000.00+ be spent?

Why has this administration allowed an employee living 40 miles from Vernon the unprecedented luxury of a full size commuter vehicle?

Why has this administration allowed a “full time” employee to work only four days per week when all other Township employees work five?

Why if the Fire Marshals hours are 8AM to 6PM, is his Twp. vehicle seen at 4 PM south of Newton?  

Why are None of our residents or volunteer firefighters employed by the Fire Prevention Bureau?

If the so called “restructuring” of the Fire Prevention Bureau was to save money, why are $30,000.00+ additional fees needed?

Why is the questionable spending of the Fire Prevention trust account not challenged or mentioned by this administration?

$2800.00 for a storage cabinet in the trunk? Frivolous Waste. $970.00 for lighting in vehicle (The DPW could have easily installed)?? Coffee machine for $230.00 for One or two Employees benefit??  Buy a cup at a local business. Now that would be business friendly, and would also require the employee to pay for it themselves!

Why purchase 4 severely undersized vehicles all at one time for the fire chiefs to use when a plan was in place to replace 2 full size vehicles that fit their needs every 2-3 years? Poor planning on many levels.

Why have none of the Fire Prevention Message boards or signs been installed?

The checks and balances of this form of government begin with questions, not head bobbing.

Focus more of your attention on the wasteful spending, and the unnecessary and costly take- home vehicle, rather than justifying a new tax on our struggling local businesses.

The focus of the elected officials of this Township should not be raising their own salaries and creating new fees to fund them.

Simply this Former Fire Marshal’s Honest Opinion.

Tom Van Gorder

Former Vernon Twp. Fire Marshal (Employed 2002 through 2011)