Council to investigate ways to get its messages to its constituents

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    Vernon-An old rule of warfare is to get there first with the most. The Vernon Township Council thinks it's time to apply that rule to publicity. The council discussed ways at its Sept. 27 meeting to get its message to its constituency. The talk was prompted by a recent campaign by the Vernon Civic Association to stop the implementation of a new wastewater management plan and the extension of sewers to the new town center. The association sent flyers outlining its reasons for opposing the sewer project to township homeowners in advance of a public hearing on the project before the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Among other contentions, the association says that the project could deplete and contaminate the aquifer as well as damage the Black Creek wetlands and the wildlife that live there. At the hearing, a resident told township officials in attendance that it had not done a good job of making information on the project available on its Web site. Deputy Mayor Janet Morrison agreed. Four days later at the council meeting, Morrison returned to the subject. "We need to have a more proactive way of communicating to the people what's going on," she said. "On larger issues, it's difficult to come from behind," she said, referring to the civic association's campaign. "We need to have information available in an ongoing way rather than to always be running a fire drill." Mayor Ira Weiner had talked about devoting a portion of every council meeting to what he called a "reality check, to try to dispel rumors." Weiner's concern was prompted by hearing constituents saying that the town had abandoned the construction of the new Main Street that will anchor the town center. The rumors, he said, apparently began because construction on the street stopped several months ago and hasn't resumed. The project is very much alive, he said. "We completed Phase I," he said. "That's done. We're discussing Phase II, which will bring the road to completion." Morrison wanted the township's Web site to be updated more regularly, but Councilman Neil Desmond wasn't sure that would be sufficient. "I don't know of the 26,000 residents how many know there is a Web site," he said, suggesting that the town publish a newsletter to send to all citizens. "I understand it costs money," he said, suggesting that the council investigate ways of getting its message out without spending a great deal. Town Manager Don Teolis said that his office "has a plan to be a little more diligent with the Web site." He also said he had been meeting with the town's chamber of commerce to discuss ways that organization might help the town publicize its projects. The council took no formal action on the proposal, agreeing for the time being to have Weiner and Morrison work up a communications plan.