The Branchburg Township Committee is comprised of five members, elected by the public for three-year terms of office on a staggered schedule, with one or two seats coming up for election each year. All members have equal power and may vote on all issues. Township Committee hold all legislative and executive powers of the Township. At the annual Reorganization meeting held in January, the Mayor is elected by the committee from among its members.
Branchburg was fortunate that our municipal operations were not severely impacted as a result of COVID-19. As a precaution, we temporarily closed our offices and we were able to rely on our robust digital network to successfully conduct administrative business safely via digital communication. However, the biggest challenge municipalities face is maintaining the health and safety of its first responders (Police, Fire and EMS) especially in regard to volunteer services. Although our emergency service resources were affected, we never lost the ability to provide these services largely due to the commitment of the men and women who serve our community and the virus' limited impact. Branchburg maintains municipal aid agreements for emergency services with adjacent municipalities but in preparation for a potentially far more devastating health crisis, I believe we should be exploring a larger county or regional strategy and approach to dealing with pandemics.
Branchburg was, and is, financially well positioned to weather the economic impact of COVID-19 and we do not anticipate any long-term budget issues. In the short term, like most municipalities, we are experiencing a decrease in commercial revenue that may require the use of surplus emergency funds but that is exactly their intended purpose. However, there will be no COVID-19 related tax assessments or tax increases as a result of the virus. Branchburg remains fiscally healthy and sound. A greater concern is the continued economic viability of our business community– especially small businesses. We are particularly concerned about the potential loss of restaurants and other resident serving businesses. In spite of the Governor's Byzantine restrictions, we have continually encouraged local businesses to open and expand operations with the full support of the Township. Our immediate and proactive suspension of outdoor dining ordinances has had a positive impact on this effort.
I believe the issues experienced along our waterways this summer were atypical and were the direct result of COVID-19. It was the perfect combination of pent-up housebound families, economic hardship and extremely hot weather. Our open space provided much needed relief to many COVID-19 weary people. Unfortunately, our parks and river corridors are intended for passive recreation. They were never intended to act as picnic grounds for large gatherings and lack the proper waste, sanitary and parking facilities needed to support large crowds. The decision to close our parks was a matter of public exigency and safety and with the passing of Labor Day, the parks have fully reopened. We continue to explore different options such as active monitoring of our open spaces but there may not be a “one-size-fits-all” solution. In the interim, our response to future similar situations will continue to emphasize protecting our natural resources while maintaining safe public access and use
Branchburg Democrats 2020
P.O. Box 5056
Branchburg, NJ 08876
During this continuing crisis, our municipality of Branchburg would operate more effectively if we formed a "Branchburg Emergency Fund," for unforeseen circumstances. This would be funded through reappropriating funds for discretionary capital improvement projects. It would not be necessary to cut back on funds for essential town services to put money into this fund. The "BEF" would enable the community to quickly create aid for emergencies. Such a fund would be at the ready to create local jobs for workers to make PPE and cleaning supplies that fight zoonotic diseases or whatever it is that the next crisis would require.
COVID-19 has also caused a serious increase of PTSD. However, another school of thought is that "Post Traumatic Growth" is equally possible. This resilience can transcend after the crisis is over, but as this process leads to a deeper appreciation of life, the quality of life in Branchburg must sustain it. This is the only way we can operate in the aftermath.
Here are my short/long term solutions that can be addressed in three categories - Economic, Education and Health:
SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS - Economic: We freeze discretionary spending until we have clarity on how we are financially coping with the pandemic and partner with corporations and charities to provide essential services for residents in need. We must support small businesses by encouraging residents to shop local. Education: Create an immediate outreach to collaborate with professionals/RVCC to create virtual meetings and seminars on family health and wealth.
LONG TERM SOLUTIONS - Economic: We must use technology solutions to streamline operating costs and provide incentives to new businesses that create local jobs. Next, partner with chamber of commerce to provide business counseling and create a budget to assist community members who experience hardship. Education: Provide ongoing wellness programs for our residents.
Health: Free vaccinations and meals for all in need.
During COVID, our parks became overcrowded. Littering, unsanitary conditions, illegal drinking and parking issues caused our town to close down the parks. Branchburg could easily use the projected surplus of $1.5m to fund park rangers on an average for $200k a year which would cover their operations. This would negate the need for scheduled police surveillance and cut down on the type of park violations that cause havoc.
When our residents or visitors break the rules, the police patrolling must issue violations and summons to those who break the law. This can only happen if police create a schedule to patrol frequently. Furthermore, since there are trails and rivers, we should have at the minimal, a local EMT service available in case lives have to be saved or for accidents.