RARITAN TWP, NJ - Looking down what is hopefully a short road back to normalcy, the Raritan Township committee outlined the steps being taken to reopen government operations while keeping residents and employees safe.
At the May 4 committee meeting, it was announced that the DPW is back to full staffing as of April 27. The men are set up in four teams, each working out of a separate location for safety.
The municipal building staff all returned to their offices on May 4, except for those who can do their jobs remotely. Administrator Don Hutchins said that the office staff had been working in a 50/50 pattern of alternating weeks in the office, and at home for the past five weeks so the building was never empty.
He also noted that municipal hall is perfectly set up for social distancing since, instead of large open spaces, it’s laid out with many small offices. Hutchins explained that there was never an interruption of service throughout the pandemic.
“We were just doing it a different way,” he said.
The next step will be to open the township hall for essential services, which Hutchins described as a soft opening.
“We are developing a plan to allow some limited access starting May 11 to the public for issues that can’t be accomplished by mail, email, drop box, etc.,” he explained.
There will be one point of access and it will be monitored.
Township clerk Lisa Fania advised that the planned rabies clinic will remain on the calendar for May 20. She said the state considers the clinic critical, especially now when some people are out of work and might not have the means to take their pets to a veterinarian for the shot.
The well-designed process will allow pet owners to remain in their vehicles the entire time.
“Public works will regulate the flow of traffic,” she said. “Five of us employees will do the paperwork car-side. Everyone will be wearing a mask. The vet will be in the wash bay alone. A vet tech will take the pet from the car to the vet and back to the car and the attendee will drive off.”
Mayor Jeff Kuhl thanked the administration for its work.
“Thank you, you guys know what you’re doing,” he said, “and it’s appreciated. I’ve actually had people comment that they were very appreciative that we kept the township building in operation and did as much as we could virtually because many towns didn’t do that. We were here to serve our community.”
Another reopening measure discussed was to permit restaurants to offer outdoor dining once they are allowed to reopen. The mayor said there is an assumption that outside seating will be allowed before patrons are allowed inside.
Also, at least initially when the governor lifts the ban on indoor restaurant dining, it might be at 50 percent capacity of tables.
“They could barely survive at 100 percent with their margins,” said Committeeman Lou Reiner, who added that he is wholeheartedly behind taking this action.
Ordinance #20-19, which passed unanimously on first reading, lays out how the outdoor seating would work and allows each restaurant to submit a plan to the township zoning officer for approval. All agreed that the goal is to make the process simple and easy for restaurateurs.
Finally after many, many comments by the staff and governing body praising her work, a resolution passed reconfirming Fania as the municipal clerk and she was sworn into office. Fania was called phenomenal, a saint, an asset and the face of the community.
She received many thank yous for accuracy, commitment and the ability to “move mountains.” She was described as the best municipal clerk in county and the state.
“We hope you never leave,” said Reiner.