LOWER MAKEFIELD >> The 2020 township pool season is yet another casualty of the Coronavirus.
In a letter posted on the township's website on Monday, April 6, parks and recreation board director Monica Tierney announced the decision to close the pool this summer.
"It is with great sadness that I am announcing the closure of the LMT Pool for the 2020 season," she wrote. "I understand these words have echoed for you throughout 2020 in a variety of instances, including the closure of the Disney Parks, disruption of the NBA and NHL seasons, and the delay of the Olympic Games. We all just hoped that it would not affect us locally, the truth is there just isn’t any avoiding the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I have spent hours and many sleepless nights calculating different scenarios, but we cannot accommodate for the financial shortfalls created by this disease. In every scenario we come up short financially, the only choice was to choose the best of the worst. In order to save the future financial stability of The Pool, we must close this year," said Tierney.
The pool is revenue-driven and no tax dollars are used to operate the pool. The pool also has a six to eight-week lead time.
"If we started getting ready May 1, then we would not be able to open until at July 1," said Tierney. "The longer we are on a stay-at-home order the later this gets pushed back. This would cost the Pool hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"We also must consider the unknown variables," added Tierney. "For example, many residents may be without income this year and will be unable to afford a pool membership. In addition, many residents may not be comfortable in a large gathering space even when this is all done.
"While the Pool is not tax based, the closure is deep-rooted. Parks and Recreation will be working at a financial loss also since much of our budget is in user fees," said Tierney. "We will not be hiring our summer field maintenance hires; we will not be hiring an intern for the remainder of the year and we will not be hiring our full-time laborer scheduled for this year. There are more sacrifices we will be making in Parks and Recreation that are more project related, but we will announce those later. With that being said, our full-time pool staff have been shifted over to the Park and Recreation budget and will be operating in different capacities for the remainder of the year."
Tierney concludes her letter by saying, "We remain hopeful that we will continue to operate CampLMT. We believe if we get up and running as a nation, our residents will need care for their children while they return to the workforce. We will be making a more definite decision about camp closer to its start date in June."
All members who are currently registered for the pool will be refunded in full automatically, refunds will be processed in the next few weeks. The staff will be in touch with members individually if there is any delay in processing.
Sewer Bill Extension
In other Cornoavirus news, the township announced that it is extending the due date for the most recent sewer bill from April 24 to May 24. The due date reflects the last day to pay before late fees/charges would be added to the bill.
The township also is waiving all late fees for the first, second and third quarter sewer bills for 2020. This includes the current bill and the bills received in late June and late September. The amount to be paid is still due, said township manager Kurt Ferguson, but ratepayers will not incur any additional charges, fees, or penalties.
Watching its bottomline
“In the interest of watching our bottom line,” Ferguson also announced at the board's April 1 meeting, which took place via video conferencing, that a number of steps are being taken by the administration to meet the financial challenges presented by the Coronavirus.
The township, he said, will not be hiring summer workers for its parks and recreation and its public works departments this year. “The full-time staff will be handling those responsibilities over the course of this year,” he said.
Ferguson said the township has also instituted new protocols for staff on how they get to a worksite, limiting one person per vehicle “for their own protection and the public’s protection.”
The manager said the township has also put on a hold the hiring of a full-time Parks and recreation employee that was budgeted for this year.
“We did budget for three pieces of equipment in our road machinery fund. It will be the intent of staff to present to the board a scaled back recommendation to only purchase one piece of equipment this year and that would be one that has to do with the salting and plowing season for a piece that has to be replaced.”
Ferguson said he has also repurposed two staff members who are now calling about 335 senior citizen households in the township as part of the Police Senior Partnership program.
“We have two full time staff people who are calling every single household every week and we will repeat that for as long as this goes on,” said Ferguson. “We have encountered seniors who are running low on food or need their medicine refilled and are concerned about leaving the house. For those that we are particularly concerned about we will do a wellness check with the police department.”
Ferguson encouraged anyone with a senior loved one or friend, a special needs person or someone with special circumstances living in the township, to contact the township to make sure they are on the list. To add a name, address and phone number to the Wellness contact list, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267-274-1110.
Ratification of declaration of emergency
In other Coronavirus news, the supervisors unanimously ratified a declaration of emergency prepared by Police Chief Ken Coluzzi on March 15 and continued the declaration until the emergency is over.
The declaration allows the township to recoup expenses related to the Coronavirus from state and federal sources. It also gives the township extra powers to enforce the law, including social distancing and non-compliant business operations, and to streamline some administrative tasks.
Sandy Run Road Project
One township project not expected to be impacted by the emergency is the $500,000 Sandy Run Road Project, which isn’t slated for construction until later this year.
Barring an order from the Governor halting construction through the end of the year, Ferguson said the project will be moving forward as planned through the design phase and toward construction in the fall.
“We will be able to take this all the way up to and including finalizing the design and making a public presentation on that design and even creating the bid documents that can go out for the construction,” he said. “It’s just going to be whether or not we can pull the trigger on construction. There’s nothing right now that takes us off that timeline.”
During online public comment, Stephen Severino from Revere Road suggested that the board of supervisors consider delaying the Sandy Run Road to free up this year’s budget.
“Have we looked at holding off on this since we are in a rough situation here with everything that’s going on,” he asked. “We waited this long. There’s really no urgency.”
There didn’t appear to be any takers from the board of supervisors who have been working for a number of years to come up with a solution to the Sandy Run Road detour.
The project includes the construction of two mini-roundabouts - one at Schuyler Road and one at Mill Road - and limiting traffic entering Edgewood Road from Sandy Run to right turns out and right turns in only.