Deptford Township Council holds first teleconference meeting due to COVID-19 pandemic

Council members praised efforts of municipal staff to keep residents informed over the past month

Paul Medany was first elected to Deptford Township Council 20 years ago and has been the township’s mayor since 2006. But last Monday’s council session was a first for him.

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting social gatherings, council conducted its first meeting since the start of the pandemic via teleconference, something Medany said he had never taken part in before.

All seven members of council were in attendance by phone for the meeting and all seven had complimentary things to say about the township’s operations in the weeks since Deptford Township closed all of its buildings to the public on March 17.

“So far, to all of the administration’s credit, we haven’t skipped a beat,” said Medany, who went on to credit Township Manager Thomas Newman and other members of the municipal staff for keeping the local government functioning.

Numerous council members praised the township’s efforts to communicate with residents during the pandemic. The township has information about municipal closures, COVID-19, food establishments open in the township, links to resources from the state, guidance for small businesses and other issues.

Medany is also filming a daily news update for the township’s social media accounts. He has discussed different topics in each video in addition to giving an update on the latest COVID-19 numbers. On April 4, Medany’s video was filmed outside the municipal building next to the drop box. Last Tuesday, Medany stood in front of a police car,  fire truck and ambulance as a way to thank first responders for their efforts during the pandemic.

“I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from our citizens about the website and the videos,” Councilman Ken Barnshaw noted at last Monday’s meeting. Councilmen Wayne Love and Phillip Schocklin also took time to thank first responders and essential workers during last Monday’s meeting.

“I just wanted to say thank you to all of the workers who are out there on the front lines of this pandemic,” Love said during his remarks. “We will get through this together.”

“Throughout Deptford Township, there are a lot of essential workers,” Schocklin said. “Thank you for being there.

“Time like this, you realize you are the most essential people in our community,” Schocklin later added.

Council unanimously adopted three ordinances during the business portion of the meeting. One of the approvals was for a $1,790,000 bond ordinance to pay for various items in a number of township departments, including the reconstruction or repaving of township roads, recreational improvements, purchase of technology equipment, upgrades to the first floor of the municipal building and the purchase of public works equipment. The ordinance states the township will make a down payment of $89,500 and borrow $1,700,500 to cover the remainder of the cost.

Another adopted ordinance allows the township to allocate $750,000 from its capital improvement fund for upgrades at its recreational areas. The money will be used for improvements to the township’s recreational parking lots.

Council also introduced an ordinance to establish a joint municipal court with Woodbury. The proposed shared services agreement will create the Deptford Township Joint Municipal Court, to be held at the Gloucester County Justice Complex on Hunter Street in Woodbury. Council also passed a resolution approving a five-year, Tri-Partite Agreement with Woodbury and Gloucester County for the court’s use of the justice complex.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Medany thanked township officials for their hard work during the pandemic and encouraged residents to continue checking in at the township’s website and social media pages for more updates.

“Information is on the website,” Medany said. “There are videos. We’re trying to communicate with the residents the best we can.”

The next Deptford Township Council meeting is a work session scheduled for Monday, April 20, at 6 p.m. The next action meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 4, at 6 p.m.