The recent COVID-19 outbreak in our Sparta schools is extremely worrisome.  Sparta has 60 new confirmed COVID-19 cases during September 1-28, according to the Sussex County Division of Health.  This is a 40% increase in our total in just four weeks, and represents almost half of new cases in the county during this period.  The potential for COVID-19 to spread through our community is no longer a question of “if”, but of “when” and “to what degree”.  

For over six months we have had serious limitations on how we see our families, visit our favorite restaurants and small businesses, and educate our children.  This is far from ideal - we understand.  However, as a community we must stay strong!  

Early last week, our Town Council and Board of Education worked together on a broad “resolution” that outlines their plan to handle this situation.  We implore all of you to read this “plan.”  We expect more.  

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It essentially promises the people of Sparta that the Town Council and the Board of Education agree to communicate and collaborate.  With regard to minimizing the spread of COVID-19, why wasn’t this done in April?  Now that we already have a problem, we can expect them to work together?  Communication and collaboration should be the norm at all times, not just pressed into place during a crisis.  This resolution contains no concrete plan to protect our community, to minimize the outbreak, and to solve this problem.  What are the detailed next steps, and who is accountable for making them happen quickly?  It has been over a week since this meeting occurred – why haven’t we been informed and updated?  Where is the transparency and communication?  Lives are literally at stake.  We deserve more.  

Our councilwoman and county freeholder who attended the meeting are celebrating this major “accomplishment” and are proud that the resolution was unanimously approved.  Are expectations really that low for Sparta and County leadership?  Instead of a celebration, we all deserve an apology.  We deserve leadership that is willing to proactively lead, not hide.  

Sparta is clearly lacking in leadership and it is now affecting the entire community.  Why has there been insufficient contact tracing since the start of this outbreak?  Why weren’t town residents notified immediately upon realization of this emerging threat?  The public was forced to learn of this outbreak from the press and by word-of-mouth.  Why have we been left in the dark about the scope and magnitude of the situation, and the details of how we’ll be protected?  

We are experiencing challenging times.  We are Spartans – we support our community and we don’t give up.  Leadership is nowhere to be found, transparency has all but been abandoned, and elected officials seem more focused on their re-elections than their oaths to serve and protect us.  It is up to us, the community, to fight back against this outbreak and against failed leadership.  We will get through this situation together, and we will hold our elected officials accountable at the ballot box together, come November 3rd.  

We require leaders with stronger skills, broader perspectives, and higher expectations.  We want leaders with greater respect for the needs of Spartans.  We deserve it!  Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay #spartastrong. 

Bill Greenlaw and Dean Blumetti, Candidates for Sparta Township Council