Monthly Archives for May 2020

Vernon Township Mayor’s Updated Statement on the Coronavirus

Posted: May 15, 2020

My Vernon Family, in my weekly COVID-19 updates I normally (1) focus on those mental, emotional and physical things that we can do/strategies that we can implement to aid us in dealing with this novel coronavirus that has, and that continues to, attack our bodies, minds and spirits; and (2) provide you updates on the grim statistics reflecting the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths that this diabolic virus has visited upon us.

Well, this update will be different; it will focus on how the power of VERNON CARES and VERNON STRONG have joined together to confront this coronavirus, and to let it know that Vernon Township will not allow it to total rob our graduating Vernon Township High School seniors of the opportunity to be recognized, honored, appreciated and congratulated for achieving an important accomplishment in their lives.

This awful virus has already robed Vernon’s senior class of important high school experiences such as their last high school athletic events, their last high school band performances, their last high school play performances, their last high school Honor Society recognitions, and many other last high school activities. It has also robbed them of their senior class trip, their senior prom, and of course, the joy, pride and honor of walking across the proverbial stage in front of their family and friends to receive their diploma.

However, because of the strong family orientated community that is a hallmark of Vernon Township, there is no doubt in my mind that there are many individual and group actions that are taking place in Vernon as part of our community’s collective attempts to ensure that this coronavirus does not rob our graduating seniors of all the celebratory joys of this important rite of passage. And, as your mayor, I am proud of, grateful for, and appreciative of every action that’s taking place.

That being the case, in this update, I want to focus on the very dynamic, visible, and municipal centered honor for our town’s graduating high school seniors that’s currently taking place in our town’s center. I speak of the 227 “We Rise!” signs containing the names and class photos all 227 members of the Vernon Township High School Senior Class of 2020!

These signs, which are posted on sections of Main Street, Guthrie Drive and Route 515 in our town center, are a beautiful, dignified, personal, emotional, and fitting tribute to our high school seniors. And from my perspective, they represent an “in-your-face” act of defiance to this coronavirus; it shows this coronavirus the real meaning of VERNON CARES and VERNON STRONG!

This specific sign project is the work of three dedicated Vernon citizens—Ms. Kelly Mitchell, Ms. Dawn DiMartino, and Ms. Justine Van Blarcom.

As I understand, Ms. DiMartino designed and did the art work for the signs; Ms. Van Blarcom proofed all the signs for accuracy; Ms. Mitchell paid for all 227 of the signs out of her personal funds; and the three of them spent a significant portion of Wednesday putting up the signs.

On several occasions, I have observed large numbers of Vernon residents, including graduating seniors and their parents, making the tour of Main Street, Guthrie Drive and Route 515 to see the signs and to take photos in honor of the seniors.

And, I was very pleased to see that during the several occasions when I drove by the area where the signs are posted, the only non-social distancing group gatherings that I observed were of what appeared to be families taking photos with their graduating senior.

How could we not be proud of our town!!!

In addition, to support this salute to our graduating seniors from an official town perspective, I have directed that Main Street and Guthrie Drive, the sections of our town where the great majority of the 227 “We Rise!” signs containing the names and class photos of members of the Vernon Township High School Senior Class of 2020 are posted, be temporarily renamed “2020 Senior Drive”; and, that new signs containing this temporary name be posted in the blue and gold Vernon Township School District colors.

It’s true that every day, every person is both living and dying at the same time. Every person can either move their life in a positive direction where they are “busy living,” or in a negative direction where they are “busy dying.” Because VERNON CARES, and because we are VERNON STRONG, we have made the collective decision to face this coronavirus with an attitude fueled by our positive decision to get “busy living!”


Howard L. Burrell, Mayor

Business Reopening Plan

Posted: May 13, 2020

The Sussex County Chamber, Sussex County Economic Development Partnership, Inc. and the County of Sussex are working together and through a tri-county partnership to formulate a business reopening plan for the many businesses throughout the county that have been forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their collective hope is that some of these shut downs and restrictions will start to ease in the next few weeks and businesses will be allowed to reopen. The most likely scenario is a gradual opening, with some businesses and organizations allowed to reopen before others. New health and safety requirements to help guide businesses in operating in this new world are also expected.

In order to properly formulate a plan for a business to reopen, they need help and are asking businesses to send them their “best practices” for opening and any suggestions/recommendations they may have.

Together, the partnership and the businesses can hopefully formulate a strategy that will provide a plan for businesses to reopen—and stay open. For assistance, refer to the partnership’s Things to Consider in Planning for the Reopening of Your Business document.

Time is of the essence and responses are sought, if possible, by Friday, May 15, 2020 at noon. The preliminary recommendations/best practices submitted will be presented to the tri-county partnership to compile a plan to submit to the governor ASAP.

Send your details/suggestions/plans to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this e-mail address) and please note in the subject line of your e-mail what industry your business represents.

Vernon Township Mayor’s Updated Statement on the Coronavirus

Posted: May 8, 2020

My Vernon Family, while only 35% of the year 2020 has expired, this has already developed into what we and history will label as an extremely challenging year. Already we find ourselves being forced to deal with issues and circumstances that we could not even have imaged when this year began.

The primary issues and circumstances that have influenced these first 129 days of this year is, of course, those related to the mysterious and dangerous COVID-19 virus. And I, therefore, believe that it’s appropriate and needed for me to take this opportunity to update you on several Sussex County and Vernon Township related COVID-19 matters:

  1. To date, a total of 3,654 or about 3% of Sussex County residents have been tested for this virus; of those tested, 2,631 or about 72% were found not to have the virus.
  2. Of the 1,023 Sussex County residents that did test positive for the virus, 520 or 51% were female, and 503 or 49% were male.
  3. Of those who tested positive for the virus, 39% of them were in the age group 50-69; 28% were in the age group 30-49; 23% were in the age group 70-90 and up; and the remaining 10% were in the age group of 3 months-29.
  4. A total of 738 or 72% of the 1,023 who tested positive for the virus, have recovered from the virus!
  5. Unfortunately, a total of 125 Sussex County residents have died from this virus. Most of those deaths—94 or 75%—have been of individuals who were residents of long term care facilities.
  6. To date, we in Vernon Township have had 115 confirmed COVID-19 cases (11% of Sussex County’s total cases); and 6 COVID-19 related deaths (5% of Sussex County’s total deaths).
  7. The Sussex County drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, located in the upper level parking area of Sussex County Community College in Newton, is expected to be open next week. Even though Sussex County will have its own COVID-19 testing site, residents of our county can still continue to get tested at the Morris County testing site, located at the County College of Morris in Randolph, if they so desire.

In the short-term, this coronavirus has not only infected and taken the lives of so many of our earthly brothers and sisters in our town, our county, our state, our nation and in the world, but it has also changed so many things about how all individuals on this planet live their daily lives. I believe that some of the current changes, as well as some of future changes that this virus will make necessary, will be a part of how we do things and how we live our daily lives for the long-term.

For many of us in Vernon Township and other parts of America, the scale of the coronavirus crisis calls to mind the impacts of 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis. Both of these were events that reshaped American society in lasting ways—from how we travel and buy homes, to the level of security and surveillance we’re accustomed to, and from how we view each other as individuals and groups.

I believe that this coronavirus crisis will impact us in similar, long-term ways.

Considering the fact that COVID-19 is a novel virus, that is, a virus that the world has never seen before, and, considering the fact that at this point in time we have neither immunity to or a vaccine for this novel virus, I seriously doubt that within the next several weeks or months (or if ever) we will be able to fully go back to “business as usual,” or to doing all things as we did them before this virus invaded our lives.

That being the case, we need to start the process of adjusting our minds, our attitudes, and our wills to the fact that there is a very real possibility that we will live the rest of our lives in a world where there is to some degree a new “normal.”

What I mean is that life for us in Vernon, in New Jersey, in America and in the rest of the world will be significantly different due to the fact that we will be forced to adjust and/or change how we socialize and work, how we worship and shop, as well as adjust and/or change a host of other behaviors, all in our ongoing attempts to keep the COVID-19 virus on the decline, and if possible, to prevent it from making a dramatic and devastating resurgent.

These adjustments and changes in the way we live our lives won’t all be easy, but we as Americans have a history of living through difficult times and making the adjustments and changes needed in order to survive and progress.

Unless you are of Native American heritage, most of us are the descendants of individuals who came to this country with little-of-nothing, or who were brought to this country in chains. They were also afraid, couldn’t speak the language, and had no clear answer or assurance as to what the future held for them. In spite of these uncertainties and challenges, they made the adjustments and changes needed to survive, to progress, and to make our nation the envy of the world.

We should never forget that we are the descendants of a strong group of people; we are Americans!

I don’t believe that problems and crises make us who we are; I believe that they revel who we are. This COVID-19 crisis will tell us all if we are really the individuals that we said/believed we were before this virus invaded our bodies and troubled our minds.

I believe we are a town that cares - - # VERNON CARES! And a group of people that’s strong—# VERNON STRONG!

We can do this!


Howard L. Burrell, Mayor

Farmers Market Returns to Vernon

Posted: May 7, 2020

CDC guidelines for social distancing will be in place. All vendors and visitors must wear masks.

View more information on their Facebook page

The market will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the municipal lot on Church Street across from town hall on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, May through October:

  • May 9 cancelled due to predicted snow
  • May 23
  • June 13
  • June 27
  • July 11
  • July 25
  • August 8
  • August 22
  • September 12
  • September 26
  • October 10
  • October 24

Are you a vendor interested in participating? Vendor products must be handmade and/or locally sourced.

Download vendor application 

For more information, contact the Vernon Township Department of Recreation and Community Development at 973.764.4055, ext 2261.

Vernon Township Mayor’s Updated Statement on the Coronavirus

Posted: May 1, 2020

My Vernon Family, as part of his response to the devastating negative impact that the COVID-19 virus has had, and continues to have, on our state’s economy, on April 28, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 130 granting New Jersey mayors the authority to seek approval from their councils to extend the grace period for paying second quarter property taxes from May 10 to June 1, 2020.

In his executive order, the governor stated that he took this action because “Property taxpayers throughout the state may be suffering from one or more financial hardships caused by or related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to a substantial loss of or drop in income and additional expenses such as those relating to necessary healthcare.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

The needed approval must come to the mayor from the council in the form of a resolution.

While in some municipalities the issue of granting this grace period extension for the payment of second quarter property taxes is being held hostage by political disagreements between the mayors and councils, I am very pleased to report that this is not the case in Vernon Township. While the Vernon Township Council and I have not always agreed on everything—and from my perspective, that’s not a significant negative because when everyone agrees on everything, it normally means that there is a lack of independent thinking—so while the council and I have not agreed on everything, as a governing body, a working majority of us have been able to put aside our political disagreements and take those responsible actions necessary to take care of our residents and to move out town forward.

Granting Vernon’s taxpayers the extension to pay their second quarter property taxes will be just the latest example of this governing body taking a responsible action to take care of its residents. Council President Shortway, Council Vice President Auberger and council members Weller, Van Tassel and Murphy have agreed to my request that they convene a special council meeting to be held at 7:00 p.m. on May 5, 2020, for the purpose of passing the needed resolution.

During these turbulent times, I am very much aware of how fortunate I am to have such a good team of governing body members to work with.

This week, Sussex County mayors received some good news from the Sussex County Health Department—i.e., they announced that Sussex County is in the final stages of setting up a COVID-19 testing center for Sussex County residents at Sussex County Community College in Newton. This will be a drive-through testing center located in the Sussex County Community parking lot. This center is projected to be able to administer 100 COVID-19 tests per day.

As I have said before, the availability of our county’s own testing center is very likely to result in an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in our county and in Vernon Township. However, that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing because having an awareness of the extent to which this virus has invaded the bodies of our residents is an important and valuable piece of information that we need to know in planning how we should move forward in a safe and effective manner.

While we don’t enjoy hearing the grim statistics that quantify the extent to which this virus is impacting our lives, I believe that it’s important that in my updates I share these statistics with you. And, as we enter May, through the testing sources that are available to us, we have been able to confirm that this perplexing COVID-19 virus has infected 104 of our town’s residents (11% of Sussex County’s total of 935), and taken the life of 6 of those residents (6% of Sussex County’s total of 109).

Part of our national, state, county and local COVID-19 related focus is now moving towards achieving the objectives of “reopening” of our economy and returning to our normal daily activities. The adjustments and changes that we will have to make in order to achieve these objectives won’t be easy. However, we can successfully make the adjustments and changes required if we use our best to face the worst of what this virus presents; if we use the light force of our humanity to face the darkness of the sickness and death on which this virus thrives; and if we use our hope to face the fears that are this virus’ calling card.

I believe that we in Vernon Township can do this because we live in a community where people care about each other—#VERNON CARES! And because we are a part of a community where people pull together, understanding that we are much stronger than we are along—#VERNON STRONG!


Howard L. Burrell, Mayor

2020 Spring Hiking Program

Posted: May 1, 2020

While we are currently not able to start our normal hiking program, don’t let that keep you from exploring Vernon’s beautiful scenic trails!

Spring is a perfect time to get outside and while we are all social distancing, it is a great way to get some of nature’s therapy.

Each trail has a story rich in history so be sure to look for clues of yesterday gone by while you are out!

Stay connected with us virtually by sharing your journey on our Facebook page!

Please adhere to all social distancing guidelines and continue to help #stopthespread.

We look forward to resuming group hikes as soon as social distancing restrictions have been lifted.

Saturday, June 6th is National Trails Day so go take a hike!