VERNON, NJ - Camp Sussex originally opened up in the 1970’s and served its purpose as a non-profit camp for city children in poverty.  The location which closed in 2005 now sits as an abandoned summer camp.

Citizens of Vernon came forward at a town meeting on Monday, July 9 to express their concern of reopening the camp to the town council.

Several citizens were worried about the asbestos, lead paint, and other hazardous materials which need to be removed to reopen the camp, and ensure it is safe for children again.

The debate over Camp Sussex has been a hot topic with the town council since an open discussion in June, where the costly amount of repairs was mentioned.  

Heloise Ruskin, a member of the Environmental Commission stated to the town council that, “The Environmental Commission is not ready to give any money until the town makes a commitment to do whatever it takes to meet these standards.  The town does not want to take any outside funding for this but you should consider it.”

Citizen, Robert Oliver stood up at the podium to express his feelings by saying, “Tax payers money?  Without that how are you going to run it? How are you going to maintain Camp Sussex?  There are 49 confirmed structures and you’re running into some serious money here.”

Vernon Mayor Victor Marotta addressed the town people in a ten minute public statement pertaining to the development of Camp Sussex.

“The idea would be to repurchase the tax certificates,” said Marotta, “The number that is quoted is a matter of public record, it is $495,000 and that includes all of the interest, all of the penalties that it would take for Vernon Township to re-own those tax certificates.  The cost of foreclosure would be a million.  At the present time we are foreclosing on 25 pieces of property and every opportunity before the state superior court and the cost of that normally runs somewhere between the $4-5,000 bracket so that terms of the overall cost is virtually nothing.”

Marotta answered the citizens questions of hazardous materials and underground fuel tanks by stating, “This is not a situation where we are looking for a willing seller.  We are looking at reacquiring the tax certificates and foreclosing the property, therefore sending anyone on this property at the present time would be a violation of trespassing on private property which we do not have the authority to do.  For anyone who has lived in this town for quite some time knows that Camp Sussex was a summer facility.  There is no heat in any of those buildings and the likelihood of  underground tanks is slim.  If there was propane available for the cooking purposes, it is long gone now.”

During this time Marotta mentioned that he believes the summer facility has water pools and septic systems.

There are currently three estimates to demolish the buildings that are there, but it is not quoted at the present time to state which buildings are determined to undergo that process.

Marotta said to the public, “I want to emphasize and it is extremely important that everyone understands this is a process, and it is an open process.”

“In the end, the decision needs to be one that we are all going to be satisfied with,” Councilman Eddie Dunn told the public. “I want to be able to look back 10 or 20 years from now and say, ‘We made a great decision.’”

In other business:

Marotta addressed the council and public and stated that $498,657 is being funded back to Vernon Township at 75 percent from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from Hurricane Irene which occurred in 2011.

"I am pleased to say that we received the first check on Friday for $14,528," Marotta said.

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Another concern among the citizens of Vernon was Ordinance #12-11 which authorized execution of an amendment to the lease and sublease between The Vernon Township Board of Education, The Township of Vernon, and the Dog Owner's Gathering Society of Vernon Township Inc. 

This location is a community garden where citizens can plant flowers and others have permission to walk their dogs at the garden.

Several citizens are concerned with the size of the parking lot and the hot topic consisted of the urine and fecal matter the dogs leave behind.

Dog urine and fecal matter leaves behind a lot of bacteria and the citizens believe they may get harmed while partaking in the community garden.

What the council wants Vernon residents to be aware of:

"Texting while driving is not a humorous subject," stated Council President Brian Lynch, "It is a serious issue.  Commercial drivers get fined $500 for first offense.  Over 5,000 people are killed a year in this country.  It is the same problem as drinking while driving."

Lynch plans on getting fines started for citizens who are texting while driving in Vernon.

Mayor Marotta would also like people to know that, "We are open to the public for citizens who looking for afforadable senior living and to call the Mayor's office immediately."