Township Meetings To Remain Virtual Through Year’s End

This is how the Township Council, and all other municipal boards and commissions, will meet, until at least the end of the year.

A spike in the number of township residents acquiring the coronavirus prompted the Township Council to decide to keep all municipal meetings virtual through the end of the year.

It took a legal opinion rendered by township attorney Louis Rainone to assure the Council that it could avoid in-person meetings past the end of this month.

That’s because rules adopted by the state Division of Local Governmental Services seemed to indicate that permission for towns to hold virtual-only meetings would expire on September 30, in light of Gov. Phil Murphy’s rescission of his public health emergency declaration.

Not so, Rainone told the Council.

“I talked to deputy director of the Division, who advised us that the Division’s position is those rules remain in effect through the end of this year,” Rainone said.

The reason, he explained, is that “the rules they put into effect have not gone through the formal rule adoption process because they were temporary. Even though they indicate on their face they would sunset at the end of this month, they haven’t been formally adopted, so that haven’t sunsetted.”

Rainone said the person with whom he spoke cleared that opinion with the state Attorney General’s office.

“The long and short answer is you can remain virtual through the end of the year,” he said.

Mayor Phil Kramer noted that in mid-July, when the Council had originally decided to return to in-person meetings, township Covid infections were waning.

But those numbers began to spike the day after the Council voted to end virtual meetings.

“It’s been a very steady climb,” Kramer said. “The Delta variant is out there, it is a risk.”

“I think there is a lot you can do to mitigate the risk,” he said. “What I would fear is a full Council chamber, maybe for a zoning or planning board meeting … I do not want to personally encourage a super spreader event. So, I personally feel that we should not be encouraging indoor public gatherings of large numbers.”

Kramer said the decision to stay virtual would have to be looked at regularly, “but for now, I don’t see anything has changed since our decision before” to stay virtual.

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) agreed.

“We’ve been running about 10 cases a day for a long time,” he said. “I’m no expert, but I think that would recommend that we continue to meet virtually until it gets a good deal lower.”

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