VFW members vote to sell building

Cite exorbitant sewer hookup fees as reason


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Photos



  • Photo by Chris Wyman VFW Post front view.




  • Photo by Chris Wyman Bob Constantine raises the flags in front of the VFW Post.



Members of the local VFW have voted to sell their building, citing the exorbitant cost of hooking up to the sewer system in the area.

The Walkill Valley Memorial Post 8441, the formal name of the Vernon VFW, would have to pay $20,000 in hookup fees to the township and the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority, $4,000 in annual sewer fees, and an unspecified amount to hire a contractor to physically connect to the town’s sewer system.

“We had no choice. We can’t come up with the money,” said Bob Constantine, chairman of the VFW.

Constantine sent out letters a couple of weeks ago to the VFW’s 225 members, asking whether they wanted sell under the circumstances. A majority of members voted “yes.”

The township began to bill the VFW in July of last year for use of the sewer system even though the building has its own septic system and is not hooked up to the sewer. As of now the VFW owes the township $4,000.

“Dismayed would be the right word,” said Dennis Howard, who took part in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and is now both the bartender and the manager of the VFW. “We would hate to lose the building. There’s a lot of history involved.”

The VFW has been deeply involved in the community, sponsoring the annual Memorial Day parade, youth activities and several Cub Scouts groups. Members also go to schools where they are invited to speak.

Mayor Victor Marotta said the VFW had to pay a high hookup and user fee because it ran a restaurant and a banquet hall. The fees are all based on guidelines supplied by the state, according to Vincent Zinno, the chairman of the Vernon Township MUA. Hookup to the sewer is mandatory for all businesses and residences in the Town Center district of which the VFW is a part.

The sewer hookup fee is the latest among a host of money troubles for the VFW. Five ago, a treasurer for the veteran’s group was indicted for embezzling about $40,000, which had come to the VFW as a bequest. The man eventually returned $10,000 as part of a deal to keep out of prison, and is paying the VFW $300 a month over an extended period, Constantine said.

The VFW also was financially hit when it suffered water damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy.

The VFW barely makes money to cover its expenses; its power was shut off during the winter because it couldn’t pay its bill. Its restaurant serves inexpensive food only on Saturdays, though the bar is open all week. It occasionally rents out the banquet hall for christenings, baby showers and graduation parties.

"We would be making it if we didn't have to hook up to the sewer," said Constantine.

The township says that while sewer charges may seem high, it will help businesses and residents in the long run because hookup fees are lower than having to replace a failing septic system.

“While I recognize that it’s hard for the VFW and other businesses who are upset, I say the situation will accrue to their benefit over time,” said Marotta.

The VFW’s plans for the future are a little fuzzy. If they keep their charter, they could relocate. But Constantine estimates the building will fetch about $300,000.

“We couldn’t find a place with a banquet hall” for that amount, he said.

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