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Sussex County Commissioners transition to in-person meetings

NEWTON, NJ (Sussex County) – The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners held their first regular in-person meeting on Wednesday night, since their Jan. 2021 reorganization and then prior to that, their meetings in March 2020.

This weeks meeting at the Sussex County Community College Performing Arts Center was the first scheduled for that location through the remainder of 2021, outside of several meetings that will be remote in November and December, due to a scheduling conflict with the facility. There will be no phone-in options for the meetings, but the meeting audios are planned to be available on the County of Sussex website, the following morning after every meeting.

Commissioner Director Dawn Fantasia said should there be a meeting venue change for upcoming meetings, the public will be given adequate notice. Fantasia was hopeful due to the significant drop in Sussex County COVID cases, the commissioners could return to their pre-pandemic meeting facility, at the Sussex County Administration Building. During the pandemic due to social distancing requirements, this facility could not accommodate the public, with a capacity for nine people – including the board and their staff – for the entire meeting room.

Fantasia said the current COVID case count as of Wednesday marked a record low during the last several months, with only 14 new cases countywide, placing the county in a “yellow” or “moderate” COVID case status. She also compared the county COVID hospitalization statistics from January versus May, with 122 countywide in January and only six hospitalizations to date for the month of May.

“We needed a reliable space that would be available to us on a consistent basis and that we were able to space adequately; and would not conflict with what the space was being used for,” Fantasia  said. “We really appreciate it and I think it’s pretty timely, because if you’re watching the state reports, you know that infection rates are down.”

Seating for the audience at Wednesday’s meeting was socially distanced throughout the auditorium, with the commissioners seated at tables onstage, six feet between each of them. Mask-wearing was mandated for every meeting participant, with members of the public wishing to speak, doing so at a microphone stationed at one end of the stage.

During the first public session, Sussex County Community College President Jon Connolly, welcomed the commissioners and public to the meeting location.

“This face-to-face venue is one of those times during COVID where we have all suffered, in terms of communication, in terms of good will, in terms of effectiveness, because we have been doing so much of our work by distance,” Connolly said. “This is a really great thing, having you here.”

“We welcome you and hope that every meeting you have here will be productive and exactly as you would like,” Connolly said.

“That really is quite a milestone for us,” Fantasia replied. “New Jersey is opening up, and we really appreciate your graciousness and willingness to work with us.”

“We’re thrilled to be here in person, we’re very, very grateful, your staff has been phenomenal Jon, we thank the Board of Trustees for hosting us here,” Fantasia also told Connolly.

Commissioner Chris Carney thanked Connolly and the college for permitting the commissioners to hold their meeting there.

“This is my first in-person meeting as a commissioner, my seventh meeting – first time live – so this is different for me,” Carney said. “I’m happy about it. It’s a lot better than being on the phone, talking over each other, like we do sometimes.”

“Thank you to all who are joining us in person this evening, finally,” said Deputy Director Anthony Fasano. “I also want to thank Sussex County Community College for their hospitality and their effort in making tonight a possibility, along with the many more meetings in the future that are planned to take place at this facility.”

“Finally, we’re getting back to in-person meetings, which is a wonderful sign we’re moving in the right direction and putting this pandemic behind us,” Fasano said.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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