Mayor, Township Officials Answer Residents’ Coronavirus Questions In ‘Town Hall’

Mayor Phil Kramer hosted a virtual town hall on the coronavirus on Facebook on March 26. (File photo).

No summonses for violating the state’s “social distancing” regulations have been issued so far in Franklin, but township police will do so if necessary.

That was one of the kernels of information given March 26 during a nearly 90-minute virtual “town hall” hosted by Mayor Phil Kramer.

Participating in the event, held on Facebook, were Township Manager Robert Vornlocker, Lt. Phil Rizzo from the Franklin Township Police Department, Somerset County Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson, Township Councilman Will Galtieri and schools Superintendent John Ravally.

Kramer held the town hall to update residents on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Franklin Township, and to take questions from residents.

Rizzo said the police department is trying to take a “community policing” attitude toward people not abiding by the state’s 6-foot “social distancing” rule.

“At this point we do have the ability to issue a summons, luckily we have not had to do that,” Rizzo said. “Anyone we’ve encountered has been very understanding. If it did get to that level where we did have to issue a summons, we are prepared and could do that.”

After the session, Rizzo said officers would “try to resolve it without issuing a summons. If we can diffuse a situation and have the group break up in a peaceful way, that’s fine. If the person’s complying with us and is reasonable and compliant with us, obviously they’re going to get a warning and that will be the extent of it.”

“If we go there and they just out and out refuse to disperse, we have to take more action,” he said. “Taking legal action is something we don’t take lightly. We’re going to use it sparingly and try and get people to try and comply with the executive order because it’s the right thing to do.”

Rizzo said the usual charge would be a disorderly person’s offense, which is a municipal court matter. But, he said, there could be some situations where the charge could be indictable.

“We’re fortunate in the fact that we haven’t had anything like that,” he said.

Overall, Kramer said, the township “is in an as a squared-away position as we can be. Government is operating as best we can under these conditions.”

Kramer reiterated what he has often said, which is to assume that everyone you meet has the virus, and that you, too have the virus, and act accordingly.

The mayor said that officials are patrolling the township parks to ensure that social distancing regulations are being followed, adding that basketball hoops in the parks have been removed because too many people weren’t.

Robinson advised residents to “stay calm, follow the guidelines and best practices from CDC. The best defense that we have since there is no medicine for this at this time is social distancing.”

“Please be patient with government,” she said. “While our buildings are closed to the public, we are running the governments.”

“When it comes to the concerns of the people, human services, recycling, transportation, communications, we all are in this together,” she said. “It is uncertain times, but if you follow the guidelines that have been set before us, that is the most effective way that we can flatten the curve and come out on the other side much better off.”

Galtieri spoke about the Residents Helping Residents citizens’ group that has recently sprung up, and also noted that the Franklin Food Bank is in need of donations.

Franklin Food Bank Needs Donations:


Galtieri said that as of March 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, donations of food and non-perishable items to the food bank may be left off at the township Senior/Community Center, 505 DeMott Lane.

“A township employee will take them into the building and we’ll get them over to the food bank,” he said. “The big request is for peanut butter right now.”

Rizzo said that people are starting to heed the call to stay home, noting that auto accidents are down, as is the department’s overall call volume.

“That’s 100 percent because a good portion of the people are following the stay at home order and taking this seriously,” he said.

In response to a question from a resident, Vornlocker said that the township construction department will inspect work done on unoccupied houses.

“At this time we are not inspecting work being down in occupied homes,” he said. “The DCA has granted extensions for all work that is done that would require an inspection in a certain amount of time in occupied homes.”

Gov. Phil Murphy announced that state schools will remain closed until at least April 17, and Ravally said the district is preparing for the second phase of “distance learning” after the Spring break.

He said there may be some “more exciting technological things” that will “push learning even further.”

Ravally said the district is “constantly surveying” to see which families don’t have access to technology and dealing with it.

Anyone who is having a problem can call their school, leave a message and staff will contact them, he said.

Here is the mayor’s town hall:


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