Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Email to Mayor and Council on the status of the Township's response to the Coronavirus

This is the body of an email I have provided to our elected officials to inform them of our actions to date in response to the coronavirus.  Since most of you who read my blog are residents with a vested interest in our community, and deserve to be provided with the latest information, I thought I would share the exact communication I have provided to our Mayor and Council.  Please know this is not an exhaustive report and I continue to update and converse with our elected officials on actions taken or to take.  

Mayor and Council:

(Pardon any grammatical errors….I have had quite a day and I do want to get this information out to you as soon as possible….so I am just getting it out without much editing).

I wanted to give you all a status report on the Township’s efforts in response to the coronavirus health crisis.  First, be informed that we are proceeding to error on the side of caution at this time.  Based upon the information that we have, the crisis is real and its spreading in the U.S. and in N.J.  As a result, we are formulating plans on a 2 week cycle (and this may shorten if necessary) as more information becomes available.  Our Health Officer and our Emergency Management Coordinator are in constant contact with County, State and Federal health officials obtaining the latest information and reacting accordingly.

I met with our Department heads this morning to establish a response plan to implement immediately with regard to Township operations.  My concern, as the Municipal Manager, is to ensure the safety of each and every employee and establish protocol to protect them as they serve our community.  I am concerned equally with the residents who participate in the programs we provide both to our elderly residents and our youth.

The most vulnerable group of residents with regard to this virus are those 60 years and older.  As a result, we have planned the following for our Senior Center (which we will keep open for the time being):

1.       For the next two weeks, we will be cancelling events and programs at the Senior Center that involve gatherings of 10-15 persons or more (but keeping the Nutritional program in place).  We will provide notice to the public regarding cancelled events/programs. 

2.       We are requiring each person entering the Senior Center to sign in and confirm that they are not experiencing any health issues that may be consistent with the Coronavirus (i.e., flu like symptoms and respiratory ailments).  I am told that some residents are annoyed at having to sign in, but we are taking the time to explain why to each resident.  This information is necessary since we are keeping the center open in order to have a record of those in the building and the times that they are there.

3.       There are pre-planned and pre-paid events for some Seniors that will use the Township vans for transport that will not be cancelled.  Each van driver has been educated on the need to disinfect the vehicle completely after each transport.  New “outings” will not be scheduled.

4.       As for all Township employees, the Senior Center staff will be educated on preventative measures to take (i.e., maintain a safe distance from individuals, keep the work area clean, do not share pens, etc.).

5.       The Senior Center will have information posted in all areas about preventive action to take to minimize risk of infection. 

6.       The cleaning staff has been educated on the need to be vigilant in disinfecting work spaces throughout the building.  We may have to hire additional and temporary cleaning staff during this time frame.

The Municipal Building:

1.       We will be limiting the public Access to the building to the North Entrance keeping the Main entrance and South Entrance for employee entrance only (starting Thursday).  We will have a reception desk set up at the North entrance for visitors to check in and to be provided with information for preventative action (and encouraged to not conduct business in the building if they are experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms).  Signs will be prominently displayed at all entrances.

2.       Each employee has been educated on preventative action to take to best protect themselves from exposure to the virus.  Keeping a clean work area.  Wearing gloves when handling mail.  Keeping a safe distance from visitors they conduct business with.  Do not shake hands, but offer a polite explanation when they decline.

3.       The area at the Construction Office will have tables at the counter to provide more distance between employee and the visitor and to allow the visitor a clean area to do the paper work needed to complete their task.

4.       We met with the group of inspectors that enter residential and commercial properties.  They have been instructed to make telephone contact with the resident/business owner prior to the inspection to confirm that those present in the structure are free from flu-like and respiratory ailments.   If the response is affirmative, the inspection will be rescheduled.

5.       The Health Officer will follow up with the entire work force periodically to continue to educate on being vigilant with preventative action.

The Municipal Court:

1.       We met with our Judge and Court Administrator.  They are receiving information and instruction from the AOC and will keep our Health Official and myself apprised of any directives coming from the Presiding Judge.

2.       The municipal court will remain open.  At check in, the staff has been educated to be conscious of visible signs of symptoms (i.e., coughing, etc.) from visitor and, if necessary and justified, to offer or require a rescheduling of the court matter.

3.       Each staff member has been educated on the importance of keeping a clean work area, and to wear gloves when handling mail.   They have also been informed to error on the side of caution if they are not feeling well…to not come into work. 

Public Works:

Our Public Works staff have been advised of the importance of keeping vehicles clean (disinfected) and the work areas clean.  They have also been informed that if they are not feeling well to error on the side of caution and not come into work.

2.       The public areas that are maintained by PW will receive extra attention in terms of disinfection procedures.

Police Department:

1.       The Police Chief has established new protocols for police officers when dealing with the public.  Safety precautions (i.e., masks and gloves will be used when indicated and upon their discretion).

2.       Persons exhibiting health issues consistent with the virus will receive special attention and alternative processing may be done.

Fire Department:

1.       Our career staff, under the direction of our Fire Marshall and our Emergency Management Coordinator, will go to each multi-dwelling residential buildings to post educational and prevention information prominently throughout each building. 

Health Department:

1.       Carol Chamberlain and staff are on the front lines of this issue.  I will look to Carol on issues and necessary responses to new information as it is received.

2.       Each resident in Lawrence Township that is diagnosed with the Coronavirus  or potential infection (by a medical professional) is identified to our Health Department for monitoring.  We will know each and every resident that has been diagnosed and what, if any, level of quarantine is required.  Our office will work with the residents to educate them and keep them compliant with proper protocol.

3.       The Health Department will continue to acquire the latest information on the virus and ensure that it is posted on our website and social media sites.  

Recreational Programs:

1.       At this time, we are fortunate that there are not many programs occurring at this point.  The pool will remain open and adult volley ball will continue.

2.       We will make further decisions on future programs as we progress through this crisis. 

Social Media:

1.       This is exactly the type of event that caused us to invest in and expand our social media presence.  Our FB and Twitter pages will provide continuous health information and important information relating to Township issues. 

Employees will not be required to attend or participate in any public/community events for next couple of weeks.  I have today informed our Health Department, Recreation Department and our Public Works Department that they are not authorized to attend the Green Fest scheduled for Rider University this weekend.  It is my understanding from Rider that this event may be rescheduled but I have not received any confirmation regarding this.

The above is not all inclusive of the steps we are taking, but it should give you a good sense of what we have been planning.  As we receive additional information from the CDC and other health officials, other action may be taken.

We do have the community meeting tomorrow tonight regarding the Brunswick Pike Streetscape.  Will take the opportunity to provide educational materials on the virus to the residents who attend.

Planning Board, Zoning Board and Council Meetings will not be cancelled at this time.

It is important that our actions reflect an acknowledgment that there is a serious public health crisis occurring, but we also do not want to go overboard with our response.  That simply is not justified at this time. This may change, however, in a matter of a day or week.  We will keep on top of this.

Any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Carol and Jack:  Please jump in and provide any information that you think I may have missed.


Kevin P. Nerwinski, Esq.

Municipal Manager/QPA – Township of Lawrence

2207 Lawrence Road

PO Box 6006

Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

Direct – 609.844.7005

Fax – 609.895.1668


NOTE:  I am not authorized to practice law on behalf of the Township of Lawrence.  Communications with me are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

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