FLEMINGTON, NJ - Once again Flemington leaders went viral on Thursday, offering a public COVID-19 update on Facebook, followed three hours later with a council briefing.
Mayor Betsy Driver and Cpl. Brian McNally announced the latest local statistics and answered questions for the 28 viewers online for the update.
Flemington, with a population of just under 5,000 people, has 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no deaths to date.
McNally warned that some GoFundMe pages have been set up to seemingly aid local businesses, but they were done without the business owners’ knowledge. He said the phony pages were discovered by the Flemington Community Partnership.
Currently, the police are investigating the origins of these accounts. Later, during the briefing councilman Michael Harris said he had contributed to a couple of these pages and subsequently he was notified that the accounts were closed and his contributions have been refunded.
The most frequently asked question by residents, according to McNally, is why Tuccamirgan Park is closed and whether walking on the trails is permitted. He explained that the park is closed because there are no gates and it is not set up in a way that the different areas can be compartmentalized.
“We had people gathering in groups to play soccer, football and basketball,” McNally said, “and we can’t access the different sections by vehicle so we can’t regularly patrol the area.”
His concern with people walking on the trails, he said, is that, again, groups could gather and create risk for anyone nearby.
Asked whether masks need to be worn to walk or bike ride, McNally said there is no mandate to do so, but since anything could be encountered while outdoors it is advisable that anyone over the age of 2 wear a mask whenever possible.
The “essential” nature of the ongoing Lone Eagle Brewery construction has been raised by some residents McNally said. The OEM coordinator explained that the borough is using state executive orders #107 and #122 to guide its decisions about what businesses are considered essential.
He asked that anyone with a question or concern about whether a business qualifies as essential to contact the OEM office.
Questioned about Uber and Lyft services, McNally said they are operating, but added the driver should be wearing a mask and sanitizing the vehicle regularly. The driver also has the right to require all passengers to wear a mask or deny them service.
The mayor said she is working with residents dealing with issues related to the SNAP program, small business aid and processing unemployment applications. The good news, she announced, is that the state has opened a web portal to resolve unemployment issues, and the link to that site is available on the Historic Flemington homepage.
Driver also encouraged everyone – residents and council members – to contact their federal representatives – Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Tom Malinowski – to urge them to secure financial aid for small municipalities.
The mayor asked that as the weather warms up and people are out and about to keep social distancing in mind when using borough benches and Adirondack chairs. She said the town of Clinton had to remove its benches because people were gathering around them.
“I don’t want to have to do that,” she said.
In addition to the discussions on the pandemic, council president Caitlin Giles-McCormick followed up from last week’s session with additional information about the 2020 Census. She said the online site will be open indefinitely.
When filing out the form, it must be based on where you lived and who lived with you on April 1. For those that do not file their Census questionnaire by early August, they can expect a knock on their door beginning on Aug. 11.
Speaking again on construction work, Driver explained that emergency roof repairs had to be made to the police station during the recent heavy rains. The cost was $10,387, plus tax.
However some of the rain damage was caused by window leaks from the adjacent building, which Jack Cust is under contract to buy and who will contribute $2,400 towards the repair. There will also be an assessment as to the amount of mold present in the building.
Council vice president Kim Tilly advised that the interior library construction will be going forward while the building is closed. McNally confirmed that renovations to a municipal-owned building are allowed under the state executive orders.
Some decisions about local events have also been made, with cancellations of a community health fair planned for April 18; a Mental Health 5K planned for April 26; a Cinco de Mayo celebration planned for May 2; the town-wide yard sale planned for May 15 to May 16; and the Girls on the Run 5K planned for May 31.