RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New $3.4 Million in Federal Tax Dollars Clawed Back to Vernon — Moving Township Off Septic and Onto Sewer System

Helping Lower Taxes and Improve Water Systems for Families and Small Businesses, Boost Economic Development, Create Jobs, Protect the Environment. Increasing Home Values & Attracting Small Businesses, Homebuyers.

Feb 06, 2023
Press

VERNON, NJ 

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Above: Gottheimer in Vernon thanking Department of Public Works employees.

Today, February 6, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined with local leaders to announce a more than $3.4 million federal investment clawed back from Washington for the Township’s critical expansion of the existing sewer mains into business and residential areas. This new investment will help connect commercial properties in the town center and residential properties — helping grow the town center, protect our environment, and improve utilities for small businesses and families.

There are currently vacant commercial properties across Vernon — many in the town center — that have not been bought or developed because the properties would have to run on individual septic systems, which comes with a long list of costs and liabilities.

Expanding sewer services in Vernon will:

  • Help connect 75 properties — including vacant properties in the town center — and expand sewer system service to more than 500 homes currently with septic systems. 
  • Increase the value of homes and help grow the local economy and small business jobs in Vernon.
  • Help Vernon be an even more attractive location for businesses of all sizes to call home, which will make life better for residents and increase the town’s revenue — helping ease the property tax burden off of families.
  • Increase access to new small businesses in Vernon.
  • Eliminate existing septic systems that can leak into the ground and our drinking water — posing a pollution and public health risk.

Engineers have already started working to expand the main line to the town center.

The more federal tax dollars clawed back to Northern New Jersey, the less pressure on town budgets and taxpayers. 

“Septic to sewer is a win-win-win. More economic growth, better quality of water and daily life, safer for the environment.  Vernon will now be an even more attractive location for businesses of all sizes to call home, which will make life better for our residents and increase the town’s revenue — helping ease the property tax burden off of families. Yes, that will mean lower taxes,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Soon enough, those vacant properties downtown will be a thing of the past, and our families can have access to new small businesses. Plus, if you look at what’s happened in other communities, home values will likely increase after being connected to sewer. This new expanded system will also be much cleaner and safer for our environment.”

“Just as he has always done from the very first day that he became our congressional representative, the Honorable Congressman Josh Gottheimer again looked out for the best interest of Vernon Township by making sure that we received some of these federal Community Project Funds. The Community Project Funding that Congressman Gottheimer worked so hard, and so diligently, to get for Vernon is for a significant amount — it totals $3.5 million,” said Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell. 

The investment builds on Gottheimer’s broader Clean Water Action Plan, which includes action taken to help towns, schools, and water treatment facilities remove dangerous lead and forever chemicals from children’s drinking water, stop waste dumping in the area, and provide greater transparency to families about drinking water in our schools.

Gottheimer was joined today in Vernon by Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell, Vernon Councilman Patrick Rizzuto, Acting Vernon Council President Natalie Buccieri, Township employees, and local residents.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer in Vernon to announce new federal investment for expansion of sewer mains into business and residential areas.

 

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
 
I’m here today with local leaders to announce new, pathbreaking federal investment we’ve clawed back from Washington right here to Vernon for a critical sewer system expansion project to help grow the town center, protect our environment, and improve utilities for our small businesses and families. Going from septic to sewer will boost businesses, economic development, and jobs — and make life better for Vernon, Sussex County, and North Jersey.

This new federal investment builds on my broader Clean Water Action Plan. That includes steps we’re taking to help our towns, schools, and water treatment facilities remove dangerous lead and forever chemicals from our children’s drinking water and provide greater transparency to our families about their drinking water in our schools and at home.

Right now, because the main line hasn’t been expanded to all of Vernon, about half of the town isn’t on a sewer system. That’s exactly what this new investment will help fix. It will help get the other half off of septic and onto sewer.

Running on an outdated, inadequate septic system has created a long list of issues.

First, there’s the economic impact.

All across town there are vacant properties for sale, and about nine or ten of them are in the heart of the town center. These commercial spaces haven’t been bought or developed because the properties would have to run on individual septic systems which comes with a long list of costs and liabilities. In today’s market, having access to a sewer system is far more attractive for businesses looking to set up shop.

This means that Vernon Township is losing out on potential tax revenue, and the residents are missing out on job opportunities and retail options that would come from these new small businesses. More job growth and more tax revenue would mean lower taxes for families.

In residential areas, the lack of access to sewer utilities is also driving down the value of our families’ homes. Given all that Vernon has going for it, from skiing, to the Appalachian Trail, to horseback riding and golf, it just makes sense that people would want to flock here. We need to make sure that Vernon is as attractive as possible for homebuyers. The sewer issue and homes running on septic systems regularly gets in the way, according to realtors I’ve spoken to.  

The second issue that comes with Vernon’s aging water utilities is the environmental impact. Many homes and businesses are operating on septic systems and, as we all know, that poses a serious risk to the environment.

Septic systems — especially ones in older homes or buildings like we have here in Vernon — can leak into the ground and our drinking water. This can be a huge pollution and public health risk — a risk that can be drastically reduced by switching over to a sewer system.

To boot, on the local level, many of our towns like Vernon run on very tight budgets, making it difficult to raise the revenue necessary for sewer and water utility upgrade projects. Vernon has had to look for other means to finance their water projects.

The good news? Our announcement today, which will help move Vernon from septic to sewer, is critical to helping address these economic and environmental issues. 

Before I took office, it seemed like Sussex County and North Jersey rarely received federal grants to repair and update their water and utility systems. I’ve made it a priority to change that.

After working closely with my good friend, Vernon Mayor Burrell, and the local council and former Councilman Shortway, I formally requested that Vernon’s Sewer Expansion Project receive a direct federal investment to help fix some of the pressing issues here.

Today, I’m proud to announce that we’ve successfully clawed back more than $3.4 million dollars from Washington to Vernon for the town’s expansion of the existing sewer mains into business and residential areas. This new investment will connect 75 properties — including those vacant properties in the town center I mentioned earlier. In the coming years, the project will also expand sewer system service to more than 500 homes with septic systems — significantly increasing the value of these homes and helping grow the economy and small business jobs here in Vernon.

And this isn’t one of those things that will take thirty years. Engineers have already started working to expand the main line to the town center.

Vernon will now be an even more attractive location for businesses of all sizes to call home, which will make life better for our residents and increase the town’s revenue — helping ease the property tax burden off of families. Yes, that will mean lower taxes!

Soon enough, those vacant properties downtown will be a thing of the past, and our families can have access to new small businesses. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, if you look at what’s happened in other communities, home values will likely increase after being connected to sewer. This new expanded system will also be much cleaner and safer for our environment. Septic to sewer is a win-win-win. More economic growth, better quality of water and daily life, safer for the environment.

 This federal investment will help ensure that families and small businesses in Vernon have access to high quality water utility systems for decades to come.

Today’s announcement builds on my laser focus on clawing money back to Jersey to invest in clean water projects — all part of my Clean Water Action Plan. Parents are always talking to me about the drinking water in their kid’s school or in their homes.

I believe that every child — every family — deserves to have access to clean water, and every parent deserves to know that their town’s water is safe to drink, whether that’s in their homes or in their schools.

For years now, after hearing from so many parents, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the threat of contaminated drinking water to the health and safety of our families, in our schools and in our homes — whether that’s elevated lead levels, forever chemicals like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, or contaminants and bacteria entering water systems from pipe breaks.

We know that lead exposure can stunt a child’s development, can cause learning disabilities and appetite loss, and can even lead to permanent damage to their vital organs and nervous systems. Children who are exposed to lead water often experience hearing loss, seizures, and irreversible harm to brain development. We also know that forever chemicals like PFAS in our water have been linked to numerous other adverse health effects, including cancers and impaired child development.

I’ve also been working to do everything we can to claw our federal tax dollars back from Washington to Sussex County and my entire District across North Jersey. The good news is that working closely with our mayors, councils, first responders, and other community organizations, we’re up 357 percent since I came to office in the federal tax dollars that we’ve clawed back here — $750 for every family in 2021 alone. That puts less pressure on our towns and helps lower our property taxes for our families. Why should the Moocher States like Mississippi and Alabama get these federal tax dollars – they should be coming back here?

For example, just last month, I was proud to announce a new $1.3 million-dollar federal investment clawed back to four towns across Sussex County to purchase next-generation and interoperable 9-1-1 dispatch systems. This is more than a million dollars that won’t have to come from local property taxes.

Last Congress, I helped craft and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill which invests $1 billion for New Jersey water infrastructure and provides investment to water utilities and municipal water systems. Just weeks ago, I announced a new critical federal investment clawed back from Washington to Fair Lawn for new and improved water treatment. We also clawed back a new federal investment for Ridgewood Water to improve their water treatment facility and address elevated levels of lead and forever chemicals in the water supply. Ridgewood Water serves more than 62,000 residents across Ridgewood, Wyckoff, Midland Park, and Glen Rock.

And we landed a $100,000 federal investment clawed back from Washington to Sussex County to help fix critical water infrastructure in Sussex Borough and Wantage for our children and families — including repairing older leaking pipes that can cause water contamination.

And, last week, I announced that we successfully clawed back a new $800,000-dollar federal investment for Mahwah to design, purchase, and implement a new filtration system for their largest well.

Finally, I just want to reiterate: I’ll never stop fighting to claw back the federal dollars that our local projects — run by our town governments — truly need. You know that’s been one of my top priorities. There isn’t anything partisan about it. The more of our federal tax dollars that we get back to North Jersey, the less our towns have to charge in local taxes — and I’m all about lowering taxes while always standing up for our Jersey Values and protecting our families.

This new investment for Vernon’s sewer system steps — as part of the Clean Water Action Plan — will help ensure that, here in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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