LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The March 23 Township Council meeting was conducted in adherence to the recent COVID-19 virus state mandate measures with Mayor James Damiano and the Council conducting the business of the meeting electronically.
Damiano was physically present during the meeting, along with Council President Anthony Sgobba and Business Administrator Charles Cuccia, inside the municipal building's council chambers, where they maintained a safe distance from one another. Council members Maria Martini Cordonnier, Chris Vancheri, Tanya Seber and Al Kahwaty participated remotely, in adherence to the recent mandate on social distancing.
Township clerk Cynthia Kraus, township attorney Joseph Wenzel and Police Chief Steven Post, also participated remotely. The public was not allowed inside the building. Kraus stated during the meeting that the session was being conducted under "the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 health situation, and that no member of the public would be allowed to attend the meeting in person." She added that a YouTube video link to view the meeting was available to be accessed on the Township's website and electronic provisions would be allowed for the public to participate during the open comment portion of the meeting.
Members of the public were allowed to send in questions via email. Damiano and the Council entered into a 10-minute recess prior to answering any of the emails so that the public could ask their questions about general items, agenda items, including any comments or questions they may have for the hearings on ordinances.
Damiano also invited the public to follow along with his 2020 budget presentation, which is available on the website.
Damiano said that Assembly bill NJ A3850 allows public bodies to conduct meetings and provide notice by electronic means during periods of emergency. He also provided a brief update on the virus county-wide, stating that the number of infected individuals continues to rise but that it was expected by officials as testing becomes more readily available, especially during the course of the week. He added the Township had two confirmed cases as of Monday.
Damiano also said the Township is working very closely with the Clifton Health Department, as the contractual health department for Little Falls.
"They have done an amazing job in providing a lot of information considering most health departments nationwide are not necessarily staffed to handle a pandemic like this," he said, and encouraged everyone to continue to self-quarantine if able to. He also praised the Department of Public Works for their efforts in disinfecting many areas in town.
He also stressed the importance of continued hand-washing, keeping devices and surfaces clean, maintaining social distancing and staying at home.
"Let's do our part to eliminate and eradicate this," he emphasized.
Damiano added that meetings would continue to be hosted electronically as long as deemed appropriate.
Councilman Kahwaty commented on Township's ability to be able to conduct the meeting while following the mandate.
"We're very lucky that we have the technical capability that allows us to conduct the town's business while still practicing social distancing," he said.
Council President Sgobba said that Damiano and members of the council were prepared to run a meeting under the present circumstances.
"In the event of the inability for the council members and the public to be physically present, we were prepared to conduct the meeting electronically and have residents participate via email in order to keep the council members, the staff, and the residents safe," he explained.