FLEMINGTON, NJ - Residents and council members received separate updates from Mayor Betsy Driver and members of the Flemington Office of Emergency Management Friday.
The Facebook COVID-19 briefing, attended by about 27 residents, was conducted in the afternoon by Driver and Dave Guiliani, OEM first deputy, followed by a council update with Brian McNally, OEM coordinator.
The impacts of the pandemic on federal, state, county and municipal operations was the main topic in the council meeting.
According to borough clerk Sallie Graziano, the procedure for the upcoming primary election process is still in question. The date has been moved from June 2 to July 7.
One option being considered is a vote by mail-in ballot only. If instead it is decided to open Flemington’s three polling places, one challenge will be finding a replacement for the Presbyterian Church site since the vacation bible school will be in session at that time.
Another impacted program is the 2020 Census. Driver said that the response rate has been low.
“The census numbers will determine our share of federal dollars for the next decade,” she said. “Please, please I implore you to fill out the census form.”
The original deadline was April 1, but it has been extended into June. Typically, before the deadline, Census workers would knock on doors to remind people who haven’t responded to provide the information necessary to be counted.
However, due to social-distancing, there has been no door-to-door campaign this year. Council president Caitlin Giles-McCormick said she is looking into doing some outreach to promote participation.
Data tracking is another avenue for federal funding, specifically for disaster recovery. McNally said that has been a primary task for his department, documenting what has happened in the borough and what the response has been.
He noted that it is week six of the declared state of emergency and “things change on a daily basis.” The department has also been in charge of sourcing PPE equipment.
Additionally, the OEM has been busy working with businesses to make sure they are compliant with the latest state regulations.
“We’re advising about which businesses can be open, which ones can do curbside transactions, checking that partitions are installed and employees are wearing masks,” he said.
The reporting tool, “risky behavior,” on the Historic Flemington website is working well, McNally said.
Driver noted that a decision will be made by April 24 regarding the borough’s Memorial Day parade. While it would be regrettable to have to cancel, the mayor said, “the handwriting is on the wall.”
On a positive note, Driver said that no borough employees have tested positive for the virus. She also said that all the redevelopment projects that were on the table prior to the pandemic are still in place.
“Hot off the presses,” Guiliani announced, “is the news that the state has opened 70 additional COVID-19 testing sites.”
He said that all the sites have requirements before a test will be scheduled. He encouraged people to go to COVID19.NJ.Gov/testing for more information.
He also said that volunteers are desperately needed across the state, and encouraged anyone that could assist, especially at the food pantries or delivering meals to shut-ins, to go to COVID19.NJ.Gov/help to sign up.
Asked by residents why the borough park was closed, Giuliani said it was in compliance with the state mandate. The mayor added that there were large groups of people using the soccer fields for organized sports, and there is no way to control access when the park is open.
Guiliani was also questioned about the necessity of wearing a mask while out walking or bike riding.
“It’s not required, but I would err on the side of caution,” he said, adding that you never know what you’ll come upon while out in public.
Finally, the mayor said there has been an uptick in alcohol-fueled domestic violence calls. She explained that social-distancing doesn’t mean anyone has to stay in a place where they are afraid.
“Don’t suffer in silence,” said Driver, encouraging anyone in that situation to contact the police.
Driver also offered two phone numbers for anyone who needs to speak with someone, the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-7233 or NJ Mental Health Cares at 1-866-202-4357.