Mayor Burrell’s Comments at the Town Council Meeting

Posted: April 27, 2020

Mayor Burrell made the following comments at the April 27, 2020 town council meeting:

Mr. Council President and other council members, as you are no doubt aware, many of the comments from our national and state political leaders over the past several days have centered around when and how we should “reopen” of our economy and, thereby limit, and hopefully bring an end to, this disastrous coronavirus led national economic decline.

On today, Governor Phil Murphy announced that his “Stay-At-Home Executive Order,” which has been in effect since March 21, will remain in effect in its entirety until further notice. He also listed the following six key principles and metrics that will guide his process for lifting restrictions and restoring New Jersey’s economic health by restoring its public health:

  1. A demonstration of sustained reductions in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalization.
  2. An expansion of New Jersey’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
  3. The implementation of a robust contract tracing system.
  4. The availability of secure, safe places and resources for isolation and quarantine of individuals who test positive for the COVID-19 virus in the future.
  5. The ability to execute a responsible economic restart. And…
  6. The ability to ensure New Jersey’s resiliency against a possible resurgence of the virus.

As you are aware, as part of the host of measures that we in Vernon Township have implemented to keep our employees and the public safe, and to limit the opportunity for this virus to spread, we:

  1. Closed our senior. This is an action that we took on March 13, a full week before the governor’s stay-at-home executive order;
  2. Declared a municipal state of emergency, resulting in:
    1. The closing of public access to our municipal center and our police department;
    2. The complete closing of one of our two municipal parks, and at the other park, closing off any use or access to playground equipment, any sports and recreation equipment; and, the posting of signs forbidding any group or other activities that could not be done without social distancing.
  3. Put off/postponed any municipal sponsored civic events and activities that could not be conducted under the social distancing guidelines. And…
  4. Figured out a way to maintain our ability to continue to provide basic services to the residents of Vernon, while at the same time allowing half of our municipal employees to work from home for a two week period (according to the CDC, the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus) while self-quarantining.

And just as our governor has been planning for the reopening of our state’s economy, Business Administrator Volker and I have been planning to address those issues, some of which the mayor and the council will have to face and figure out together, that are related to us being able to safely, effectively and efficiently reopen and put back into full, normal operation, important town resources such as our municipal center, our senior center, our police department, our department of public works and all other town resources and services.

As to the question of when we will reopen and put town resources and services back into full, normal operation—we will be guided by the governor’s directives. As it relates to the specifics of how we will do this—we will ensure that that we clearly and timely inform the public and the council of our intended actions.

With second quarter property tax payments coming due May 1, over the past several weeks that I and other New Jersey mayors have had weekly COVID-19 related phone conferences with the governor’s office, we have all asked about possible administrative or legislative authority that would allow us to extend the May 1 property tax payment date. However, it is with regret that I must advise that as of this date, no such authority has been granted.

On another tax payment related matter, for years the town’s policy has been that those few individuals who still pay their property taxes in cash, must make such payments in person at the tax collector’s window in the municipal center. Since measures to protect both the public and our municipal employees have resulted in the municipal center being closed to the public, we will accommodate those who want to pay their taxes in cash by giving them the opportunity to make an appointment with the tax collector’s office for a specific day and time for them to bring their cash tax payments to the municipal center, where they will be greeted at a temporary tax payment station that will be set up at the front door of the municipal center. At this station, their cash payments will be accepted and counted in their presence, and they will be given a receipt for their payment.

This is part of our ongoing effort to do our best to serve the residents of Vernon Township.

I end my comments with the latest update quantifying the degree of pain and suffering that this COVID-19 virus is inflecting on our county and our town. As of today, Vernon Township has 98 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 11% of Sussex County’s total of 876; and 6 COVID-19 related deaths, 6% of Sussex County’s total of 93.

Thank you Mr. Council President and other council members.

Howard L. Burrell, Mayor