BARNEGAT/WARETOWN, NJ – Local governments and school boards in Barnegat and Ocean Township know they need to follow the rules when it comes to social distancing. So, what happens when it comes to the Open Public Meetings Act? Does business go on as usual?
When Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 107, he not only ordered business shutdowns, he also addressed open public meetings. Obviously, government can’t stop operations – and the general public has a right to information. If anything, the public wants to know what’s going on as they do their part to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the Barnegat School Board took the first step in compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act. The district sent out instructions and conducted their meeting using Zoom software. All things considered, attendance was greater than the average in-person school board monthly gathering. At its highest count, 49 people (including the board) watched the live presentation.
The Board of Education’s virtual meeting also permitted members of the general public to participate. Whether their cameras were turned on at home or not, everyone had a chance to ask questions and participate.
Meanwhile, the Barnegat Township Committee meetings are already live cast on Channel 22. Residents are also able to view meetings as they happen on their computers or smartphones.
“Our next meeting is April 7th at 10:00 am,” shared Township Administrator Martin Lisella. “We are working out how to handle the public forum part of the meeting and will advise residents as soon as we have it in place.”
In Ocean Township, today was a scheduled work meeting for the township committee. While the township audio records all sessions, they need to iron out some details to make live meetings accessible. Diane Ambrosio, Township Administrator/Township Clerk, advises that she’s working out the technological details for the regular meeting on April 9th.
The Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) has provided operational guidelines that community leaders are following with regards to the Open Public Meetings Act. One of the main takeaways includes a provision for public entities to provide at least forty-eight (48) hours of advance notice prior to all public meetings unless a meeting on shorter notice is compelled by emergent circumstances.
Information about meetings will be posted on the local townships’ websites. Additionally, look for more details in TAPintoBarnegat/Waretown about public access as the dates come closer.