BERNARDSVILLE, NJ -- Municipal mayors from communities in four different counties have outlined a list of actions they have deemed necessary for the reopening of businesses and activities that have been restricted by Gov. Phil Murphy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of the spring.
The "Mayors for Main Street" letter has been signed by mayors from Somerset, Morris, Middlesex and Warren counties, and includes the endorsement of Bernardsville Mayor Mary Jane Canose.
"It's just already been such a long time, I think people are becoming impatient," Canose said on Friday, one day after the letter was released. "Businesses are becoming impatient. Meeting with local businesses, their stories are heartbreaking. Some are trying to get loans and being rejected, some are falling behind on rent payments, they have had to let go of employees and can't bring them back. The mayors on the front lines, we are talking to these people and trying to help them, so this is very personal for us."
Some bullet points of the mayors' letter are:
- Allow for more localized policies
- Safely open all "non-essential" businesses
- Safely open child care facilities
- Ease restrictions on the food service industry
- Focus on those residents most at risk
The letter states, "Local elected officials are more connected to the community they represent than any other public official, and it is incumbent upon us as mayors to advocate for the needs of our communities. We have heard those needs loud and clear and now we need you to act."
Locally, mayors James Baldassare of Bernards, Larry Jacobs of Bedminster and Paul Vallone signed the letter.
"Some of these businesses are working hard on getting plans in place to the thought of how to protect employees and customers," Canose said. "We want to make the government aware of the things stores are doing on their own."
Canose said that while guidance on the opening of swimming pools is still unknown, once that is disclosed, the borough would still need a significant amount of time to get its pool ready.
"There is still no guidance on opening swimming pools, and it will take three to four weeks to open them once we do know, so everything is just a little too late," Canose said. "We need time to put things into place. We still have not firmed up whether we can open our pool. Our zoning officer says he has been getting a tremendous amount of applications for in-ground pools."
Canose stressed that mayors have a much better understanding of what their local businesses are contending with the longer the restrictions remain in place.
"It is all about our downtowns and the people we see every day," she said. "One of the points we made was allowing the mayors to make decisions for their own towns. We don’t have as many cases (of the coronavirus) as some larger towns, so maybe we can open more things than some of these other larger towns. They asked how can we stop people from coming from other towns, but I don't know how often that would actually happen.
"I always say the natives are getting restless; you can hear the distant drums," Canose said. "I think people have learned how to be careful and cautious."