BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The Bernards Township website and online operations have been restored to an extent that the Township Committee has scheduled its next meeting for 8 p.m. this Tuesday, and the May 26 meeting agenda is now posted online.
A May 21 letter to residents from Mayor James Baldassare Jr. said that the township would begin reinstating the Bernards Township website over the Memorial Day weekend. The website and other online township operations had been disabled by a ransomeware cyber-attack about a day before the last scheduled Township Committee meeting on May 12.
In the meantime, the township is working to enhance system security as an investigation into the attack continues, Baldassare said. Backup data was found to be intact, he said.
The items from the May 12 agenda, including a proposal to join a shared municipal court system based in Bedminster, have been moved to the May 26 agenda for another "virtual" Bernards Township Committee meeting, due to return to an 8 p.m. start tme.
The Bernards Township Committee first showed interest in a shared municipal court system in March 2019, after Bernards hired Judge Katherine Howes as the township's new municipal court judge. Howes also is the municipal court judge in nearby Bedminster, which already shares its court system with the other Somerset Hills communities of Bernardsville and Peapack/Gladstone.
Officials had been seeking to help save municipal court costs by signing a shared agreement with Bedminister and the other towns. The shared court is hosted in Bedminster, but each court operates separately, according to information in the proposed shared services agreement.
Nevertheless, the participants failed to reach an agreement after several months of talks, Bernards Township officials announced last November. At that time, officials said that the township's negotiators would widen its search to other neighboring municipalities _ but at the same time, the door would be left open to join the court system in Bedminster.
The Township Committee is also set for a final vote on an ordinance that would set aside $4.9 million in capital projects, including engineering projects that would include road improvements and reconstruction, sidewalk and drainage improvements and work on pedestrian bridges and paths.
The Township Chief Financial Officer Sean McCarthy previously has said that earmarking the funds in a proposed $4.9 million plan for long-term projects around the township does not obligate the township to spend the money if funds are needed for other purposes this year. The same applies for the operating budget this year, McCarthy affirmed before the $41.9-million municipal budget was approved on April 28.
During the system restoration, Baldassare said online information would initially be up to the first of the year and will gradually update while the system restores behind the scenes, until the website becomes current and up to date.
"All new business will be reflected as well. There may be some broken links initially, but rest assured that as the system restores, these issues will be resolved in a short amount of time," the letter said.
"We also continue to have no evidence of any actual or attempted misuse of any information as a result of this incident," Baldassare said.
The Municipal Building will not be open for this meeting and will be conducted using Zoom Video Conferencing. The meeting will be streamed live via YouTube and a link will be posted on Bernards.org close to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.. Public comment from Bernards Township residents will be accepted only during the public comment period in the meeting, via e-mail. Please include your name and address in the e-mail and send to: email@example.com