WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Adhering to social-distancing mandates, the West Caldwell mayor and council utilized an audio-only Zoom chat platform on Tuesday to hold their regular government meeting and to provide updates on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the township.

“We are obviously in an unprecedented time with the pandemic, and it is unusual for governing bodies to act in this manner—whether it is planning or zoning boards, councils, etc.—but this is our new ‘new’ for a couple of more months,” Mayor Joseph Tempesta, who also encouraged residents to sign up for his daily “robo calls," which provide local data, protocols and restrictions related to the pandemic. 

Reminding residents about the governor’s order to close all county and state parks, Tempesta noted that it is up to the local governments whether to close their municipal parks.

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He announced that the Township of West Caldwell’s has decided to keep the municipal parks open for the time being, but reiterated that any activities violating the social-distancing requirements, such as tennis matches and any contact sports, are not permitted.

“Enjoy our parks, but you must maintain social distancing or we will have to close them,” the mayor said.

Councilman Michael Crudele noted that Camp Wyanokie is among the parks that are closed until further notice per the governor’s directive.

In addition to wishing community members strength and good health as they continue to quarantine at home, Council President Kathy Canale asked residents to pray for the first responders and essential workers who are putting their lives on the line every day. She also requested prayers for her elderly father, who is currently battling the novel coronavirus.

“I cannot thank our first responders enough for their incredible job,” said Tempesta. “The West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS) is taking every call, and they are fully staffed by volunteers. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of our community, I thank you for your professionalism and bravery.”

WEFAS President Pete Nancoz called into the meeting to thank residents for their support and for providing the volunteers with meals over the last few weeks.

He reported that the call volume to WEFAS has tripled and that the squad has incorporated changes to its normal protocols.

There are currently 85 active members of the WEFAS, who are all wearing personal protection equipment while on duty and attempting to minimize contact. Additionally, no passengers are allowed in the ambulances and no visitors are allowed in the hospitals at this time.

Patients are being transported to hospitals dependent upon their availability, according to Nancoz, who added that the ambulance is being directed as to where each patient should be taken.

In the next few weeks, the WEFAS will conduct its annual fund drive and hopes the community will respond, as the squad’s supplies are being stretched and their expenses have increased due to the pandemic, according to Nancoz.

“We hear you loud and clear,” said Tempesta. “When you are ready, and the letters go out, we will stand by you and solicit funds for you. The entire community thanks you for your service.”

After thanking the members of the WEFAS as well as the police and fire departments for their “professionalism and duty during this unprecedented time,” Councilman Michael Docteroff addressed a public safety issue that recently came to his attention about residents not disposing of gloves properly.

“There is no reason to throw gloves on the floor at CVS, ShopRite or the bus stops,” said Docteroff. “It is unacceptable.”

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages community members to wear protective masks and gloves when leaving their homes in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, removing and disposing of them properly is critical.

Once removed properly, gloves and masks must be placed in with regular garbage for disposal, as these items are not recyclable. According to the CDC, leaving potentially contaminated items on the ground or putting them in with recycling puts the health and safety of public crew members at risk.

Councilman Joseph Cecere reminded residents that all recreational programs are currently on hold, but said the township is currently discussing options for the Memorial Day Parade and plans to reschedule the annual Gazebo concerts for later the summer.

Docteroff added that the municipality has extended sign ups for early discounted memberships to the pools.

During her committee report, Canale noted that the public works department is continuing to repair potholes and prepare the fields for usage. She stated that when the crisis “does turn around,” the township “will be ready.”

The township is also continuing its efforts to replace water mains, test indoor air quality and improvement projects for better drainage throughout the municipality. During Tuesday’s meeting, the council adopted multiple executions of professional services agreements with Maser Consulting, P.A. as part of this effort.

Additionally, Councilman Stanley Hladik reported that the technology subcommittee is currently reviewing computer, cyber and Email upgrades for the police department for the next fiscal budget year.