FAIRFIELD, NJ — Fairfield Mayor James Gasparini reported that “things are getting better” during Tuesday’s virtual council meeting as he presented an update on the local COVID-19 response.

According to data provided by Essex County, which has expanded its testing sites to include mobile testing units in Roseland, Cedar Grove and West Orange, there were 131 cases of COVID-19 reported within the Township of Fairfield and 16 resident deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

The mayor also announced that the tennis courts at the Fairfield recreation complex have been reopened, and the recreation department is working on virtual programs that will be available for Fairfield children since the township summer camp has been canceled for 2020.

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Also in response to the hardships many residents are facing due to the pandemic, Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna announced that a food drive is being held on Saturday at Fairfield’s St. Thomas More Church. From 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., the church will be collecting non-perishable food items that will be distributed to local food pantries and soup kitchens.

As part of the regular agenda on Tuesday, the governing body acknowledged the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on local and industrial properties by adopting an ordinance that will base sewer rates on actual meter readings rather than fourth-quarter charges. According to the township, this will not affect residential billing.

The council also passed an ordinance to waive inspection requirements for liquor license renewals due to the pandemic.

Business Administrator Joseph Catenaro subsequently suggested that the governing body consider waiving permit fees for all local businesses that are trying to get their businesses up and running. The mayor and council unanimously agreed to this and passed a resolution to waive such fees.

Another ordinance passed on Tuesday appropriates funds for various police department acquisitions, such as patrol car graphics, sport utility vehicles, equipment for three new police vehicles, defibrillators, traffic reconstruction investigation equipment, thermos imaging camera, stop-the-bleed training kit, data collection equipment for traffic studies, CPR device, Glock handguns, fitness equipment and electronic equipment such as computer hardware and software, desktops, laptops, televisions and kitchen appliances.

The mayor announced that the new police headquarters should be ready to open in the next two weeks.

During public comment, resident Pitkor Kurdusiewicz addressed the council about a letter he received from his mortgage company stating that he needs to purchase flood insurance. According to Kurdusiewicz, recent maps do not show his Craig Place property as being in the flood plain.

Citing irregularities in calculations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Gasparini explained that the governing body recently hired a professional to appeal the agency’s mandate for more than 770 homeowners in the Township of Fairfield to purchase flood insurance.

However, the mayor stated that the township’s appeal was denied and suggested that the homeowner look into the possibility of acquiring an elevation certificate. He also suggested that the resident reach out to Township Engineer Steve Bury.

As a result of the recent revaluation, Catenaro explained that any homeowners who require flood insurance will see a 10-to 15-percent decreases in property taxes. According to Catenaro, this deduction in property taxes should pay for the flood insurance.

Gasparini said he hopes to be back in council chambers for the next meeting on June 22, but noted that the meeting will be conducted via conference call once again if an in-person meeting is not permitted.

In order to participate telephonically in the meeting, the public will be able to locate the dial-in number on the meeting agenda. Meetings can also be views on the public access channels 34 and 43.