BLOOMFIELD, NJ – At the start of Bloomfield’s Township Council Conference Meeting on Monday night, Mayor Michael Venezia announced that Bloomfield now has 305 known cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Like both March council meetings, Monday’s session was closed to the public due to concerns over virus spreading. The proceedings were conducted via video conference with all council members participating from their homes and offices, with a livestream on the township’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and WBMA-TV.
In a report from Township Administrator Matthew Watkins, he stressed that the township is strongly enforcing social distancing orders.
“We recognize that there are several places that people are still gathering, and we are trying to break it up as quickly as possible,” said Watkins. “Please practice social distancing. Hopefully the police will no longer have to go out and break up gatherings.”
Bloomfield, like many other townships, will incur a tremendous amount of costs associated with COVID-19.
“From a financial perspective, we are keeping all our costs in all categories across the board associated with COVID-19 separate and we are trying to calculate the best we can what the losses will be,” Watkins stated. “We need to pass a budget soon, but the state gave leeway to municipalities to introduce budgets in May and June.”
The township is seeking to retain the services of Mercury Public Affairs consulting group to help Bloomfield secure capital from the large federal funding legislation that has been passed by Congress.
“This is very important – this is like hiring someone at a federal government level to go through and review to make sure Bloomfield gets as much out of this as we can,” Watkins said. “We don’t want to miss anything we are entitled to and we strongly recommend that we retain them on a month to month basis, but we might need them for 12 months. We are going to need all the help we can get, and I strongly recommend to the council that we retain them.”
Mayor Venezia expressed support in retaining Mercury as a consultant for the township.
“This is needed right now,” Venezia stressed. “There is a lot of money down in Washington and we need someone there fighting for Bloomfield.”
A Mercury Public Affairs representative spoke on a conference call during the meeting and stated, “we will specifically track all legislative issues pertinent to Bloomfield.”
Keeping municipal employees safe is a top priority for Bloomfield during the pandemic.
“We are doing very well in protecting our employees,” said Watkins. “As you know, most are working from home. In our police department, we do have some that have been infected with the virus, but Director DeMaio has been very careful to alter the schedules to make sure there is distancing between police, fire and EMS so that a whole squad doesn’t get infected.”
Protocols and safeguards are being implemented for township employees upon their return to the job to ensure a safe working environment.
During the pandemic, Census 2020 is ongoing, and Bloomfield has enjoyed great early results from online feedback. In only a few weeks, Bloomfield has seen a 48.5 percent response, which is among the rates in the county and state.
“It’s anticipated as of now that counters will go out (in the community) from May 14 to August 8,” Watkins said. “Thanks to Councilwoman Mundell and the Bloomfield Public Library for pushing out the census information on social media. We encourage everyone to get on the website for the census and fill it out.”
During council reports, Councilwoman Davis stated, “the Bloomfield Center Alliance is very much engaged in trying to address the concerns of small businesses. The alliance has embarked on strategic planning and are drawing up plans related to recovery.”
Councilwoman Mundell stated, ”the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs is fully online, with offerings of fitness videos and online yoga classes to keep people moving. The library also has a virtual reading program with special guest readers to keep people engaged.”
The Township Council holds its next Regular Meeting on Monday, April 20, 7 pm, which will be conducted via video conference and livestreamed.