ROXBURY, NJ – In what the mayor described as an “extraordinary” and unprecedented event, the Roxbury Township Council on Tuesday met without being together in the same room.

Adhering to “social distancing” dictates designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 respiratory illness, the council used technology to hold a remote meeting.

As of Wednesday there were seven confirmed cases in Roxbury with the afflicted ranging in age from 22 to 68, said Roxbury Health Officer Mark Caputo.

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During Tuesday's remote session, Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo and Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd were at town hall; DeFillippo's six colleagues on the council tuned-in from home.

The meeting was brief, lasting about 40 minutes. But it was historic, noted DeFillippo.

“Welcome to this extraordinary meeting of the Roxbury Township Council,” said the mayor at 7:30 p.m. as the press and members of the public listened through their phones. “In fact, as near as I can tell, this is the first time in the history of the council that we have conducted a meeting remotely.”

Stand, Wherever You Are, for the Pledge of Allegiance

There were only a few glitches: Members of the council occasionally spoke over each other and DeFillippo, at one point, accidentally muted himself for a few seconds.

Nevertheless, the council managed to get in all the usual elements of a meeting including the Pledge of Allegiance and two public sessions. During those public sessions, members of the public – whose microphones had been muted by the township – were able to pose questions and comments.

“We certainly do live in extraordinary times with extraordinary challenges,” DeFillippo said at the meeting’s outset. He praised the township’s police, fire and emergency medical personnel as well as township employees “who are continuing to work to keep the town going and to keep it safe.”

The mayor also praised his constituents, many of whom are out of work due to government-imposed business shutdowns.

No New Township Taxes

“I’d like thank the residents of Roxbury, all people of Roxbury, for their perseverance and patience,” DeFillippo said. “I’ve heard numerous stories of people helping other people throughout town for days and days. In Roxbury, this emergency has brought out the best of us and I didn’t expect any less. I couldn’t be any prouder.”

During the meeting, DeFillippo announced that the 2020 township budget – to be introduced at the council’s April 14 meeting – calls for no increase in municipal taxes.

“I want to let the community know that one of the reasons we did that was at the suggestion of Councilman Jim Rilee who raised the issue of the burden being placed on people financially because of the virus,” DeFillippo said. “It’s just one of the things we’re doing here in Roxbury to respond to the coronavirus and the impact it has had on our residents.”

Rilee pointed out that the township “did not cut any services or things like that by reducing the budget (increase) to zero.”

The biggest part of residents’ tax bills comes from the school budget. That spending plan is under review by the Morris County Superintendent of Schools and is expected to be made public soon.

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