ROXBURY, NJ – The March 24 meeting of the Roxbury Mayor and Council will take place via conference call and the public is invited to listen and comment.

The 7:30 p.m. meeting is open to the public "via alternate means to provide the ability to listen and the opportunity to be heard during the public portions of the meeting,” said the township in a Sunshine Law notice distributed at about 3 p.m. today.

It said people can call (929) 205-6099, enter meeting ID 892 375 268 and password 003769 to attend the meeting virtually. Their phones will be muted until the meeting is opened for public comment, said Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo.

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Practicing What They Are Preaching

Town hall is closed to the public. In a note to fellow members of the council, DeFillippo said it “would be inconsistent to invite the public to our building, given the guidance that people should avoid congregating or traveling.”

He also said it was important that the council meeting take place instead of being canceled, contending “we need to show the community that the council is meeting to conduct township business.”

He wished his colleagues well, adding, “These are challenging times. I know you will agree that Roxbury in general and our township staff specifically have conducted themselves well under difficult circumstances.”

The mayor pointed out that he, and Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd, will be at town hall for the meeting.

“All of the township representatives (Mayor, Council, Manager, Clerk and Attorney) will be able to speak freely during the meeting,” DeFillippo said in his note. “Your microphones will not be muted. However, any members of the public will have their phones muted until the time for citizen input.”

He said he expects the system being used for the teleconference, from Zoom Video Communications, Inc., will work well.

“Township staff have tested the Zoom meeting system that we plan to use,” wrote DeFillippo. “The system worked well without any glitches.”

Members of the township staff have been reporting to work but trying to maintain “social distancing” to avoid inadvertently spreading the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

As of Thursday, there was only one Roxbury resident with a confirmed case of COVID-19. However, a non-resident who works at the Lincoln-Roosevelt School in Succasunna was also found to have the virus, potentially exposing hundreds of students, officials said.

Restrictions on the Rise

The township, on that day, closed to the public all township-owned basketball courts, playgrounds and playing fields. The measure did not include “passive recreation” and walking trails.

“Passive recreation is non-organized recreation,” Shepherd said. “Our goal is to keep people in small groups that are able to maintain their social distancing. The township’s police will be patrolling the parks to ensure that people are aware of the new restrictions.”

Later that day, Morris County issued an emergency declaration in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak that placed restrictions on recreational business and recreational activities. It said “all playgrounds and all playing fields” within the county were immediately closed.

The emergency declaration, signed by Morris County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott DiGiralomo, included the mandatory closure of all indoor public or private recreational bathing facilities regulated by local health departments.

Five People = One Too Many

Additionally, the county order directed the closure to the public of all indoor recreational facilities, “including but not limited to those providing amusement activities, trampoline parks, miniature golf, batting cages, racquetball/tennis centers and ice rinks.”

Although the county said parks may remain open for only passive recreation, it said there will be no “organized or directed activities,” including activities that bring together groups of more than four people other than family members.

“This is a very serious and difficult situation that requires county government to act strongly and decisively to help control the spread of the coronavirus,’’ said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “We ask all county residents to join with us and pull together in a united fashion to deal with this life-and-death issue, to help limit the community spread of this virus, which has disrupted our entire society.’’  

The county emergency declaration supplemented items addressed in Gov. Phil Murphy’s state executive order which limits social gatherings to 50 people or fewer, closed all gaming facilities, race tracks and other entertainment centers and directed all non-essential retail, recreation and entertainment business to close.

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