BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ A resolution on Tuesday's Bernards Townhip Committee meeting agenda delays the township's municipal court operations to shared court system in Bedminster until about August 1. The meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14, will be open to the public, as well as being televised and viewable online.

Following a Township Committee vote on June 1, Bernards Township officially joined a Bedminster-based shared municipal court system that will be shared with three other Somerset Hills towns, already including Bedminster, Bernardsville and Peapack-Gladstone. At that time, the expectation was that the township's court cases could possibly move to the new location sometime around July 1. 

The Bernards Township Committee vote was unanimous, with the goal of saving taxpayer funds. The shared services agreement should save Bernards Township an estimated $80,000 to $120,000 annually, Township Administrator Pat Monaco said in June.

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The wheels were set in motion for the agreement more than a year ago, in March 2019, after Bernards Township appointed Judge Katherine Howes as the township's municipal court judge. Howes also is municipal judge in the shared court system that was already served by the three other towns. Negotiations temporarily faltered, but were recently resumed. 

The shared municipal court, as outlined, will still operate as four separate courts, with Bedminster as the host municipality, according to the agreement.

COVID restrictions still in place at public meeting

The July 14 meeting is the second Township Committee meeting open to the public since the municipal building was closed to the public in mid-March, during measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

However, some precautions are still in place. The meeting with adhere to state executive order no. 156, limiting indoor gatherings to 25 percent of the meeting room capacity, or no more than 51 individuals. All attendees must wear face coverings and remain six feet apart.

The meeting also will be live streamed and can be viewed by clicking on the “Watch a Meeting Live” icon on the home page, www.bernards.org. The meeting also will be televised on Optimum/Cablevision TV, channel 15, and Verizon FiOS TV, channel 35. 

Also on the agenda, the township will be accepting an award of $28,267 from the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials (NJACCHO) for the purpose of reimbursing costs directly related to the township's COVID–19 response. The amount will be added retroactively to the 2020 budget as revenue.

 NACCHO has agreed to reimburse the Bernards Township Health Department retroactively from January 20, 2020 and through February 21, 2021 and will continue such reimbursement until the specified funding limit is reached, according to the resolution on the agenda.