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