Vernon Becomes 23d Municipality To Join County Department Of Environmental and Public Health Services

At their August 14 meeting the Vernon Township Council voted to contract for health services with the Sussex County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services effective October 2008. The vote by the Vernon Township Council concluded a year long discussion with the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Vernon officials have estimated that joining the County health system will save local taxpayers in excess of $300,000 annually without any reduction in the quality of service provided to residents and businesses. Vernon Mayor Austin Carew characterized the County agency as "one which has matured into one of the finest in the area". With the addition of Vernon Township the County Department of Environmental and Public Health Services now provides services including well/septic permitting, food handling licensing/inspection and public health nursing to 23 of the County's 24 municipalities representing 90% of the County's population. Just four years ago the County health system served only 17 municipalities or less than ½ of the County's population. Last year Sparta Township, Hardyston Township, Ogdensburg Borough and Stanhope Borough were added to the system. This expanded shared service resulted in a decrease in the County Health Tax in 2007 in every municipality served. County projections indicate that the inclusion of Vernon Township in this model shared services agreement will have a similar impact on the County Health Tax. Last year the State of New Jersey recognized the leadership of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders by providing a $95,000 grant through the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to help with transition costs associated with the inclusion of Sparta, Hardyston, Ogdensburg and Stanhope. The County will be seeking similar assistance from the State to help with the Vernon transition.