Municipalities across county adjusting to “new normal” of coronavirus shutdowns

6 min read142 views and 45 shares Posted April 28, 2020

Swatara Township Manager Jennifer Harding is working from home during the “new normal,” she said, as the township’s municipal building is closed to the public, per the governor’s orders during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We’re trying to keep the public and our employees safe,” Harding told LebTown this week. “I’d like to get back to the ‘old normal’ or at least make a better ‘new normal.'”

The office will be closed at least until May 8, Gov. Tom Wolf’s upcoming date for re-evaluating the COVID-19 situation.

“Our road crew is doing essential work, like righting stop signs that have been knocked over, so I guess you’d say we’re on call,” Harding said.

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“The Board [of Supervisors] is trying to adapt because this is ever-changing,” Harding said. “This week’s decisions might be different from next week’s decisions … but they’re trying to do the best they can with the knowledge they have.”

All practice for sports teams has been cancelled, of course, Harding said.

Swatara Township’s park, the North Mill Street Park, consists of mostly ball fields and a walking trail, Harding said, so the park is still open for walkers. An important point, Harding said, is there is no playground equipment in the park or other surfaces that might be used by the public and would need to be disinfected.

“We’re hoping everyone who takes a walk in the park practices social distancing,” Harding said.

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Harding said she’s hoping the township’s annual Fall Fest will be able to be held on Sept. 26.

Swatara Township Supervisor Bill Bering said protecting the public is their top priority.

“The safety of our residents is number one and we’re trying to adhere to all guidelines that have been set out, so things are moving along pretty smoothly,” Bering said.

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Township meetings are being held through Zoom video conferencing.

“Any resident who wants to be a part of that can call the office beforehand and say they want to join the meeting and we send them an invite link so they can interact with the board,” Bering said.

Bering also has a social media page so residents can be informed of local happenings.

The community’s annual block party with Jonestown Borough had to be cancelled and Bering said residents are already looking forward to the Fall Fest, mentioned by Harding.

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“We’re following the guidelines, our crews have masks on, and we’re doing social distancing,” Bering said. “Our residents do want to get back to work, as long as it can be done safely.”

Heidelberg

In Heidelberg Township, the usual precautions are being followed, generally without complaint, said the township’s office manager Jen Snyder.

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“Most people understand that the township has no say in that,” Snyder said, referring to precautions such as wearing masks and gloves when entering an essential business and practicing social distancing.

Monthly recycling at the township building was cancelled for April.

“The board didn’t feel it was responsible to have people come out for that,” Snyder said, adding that no decision has been made yet on May recycling.

The supervisors’ meetings are being conducted by teleconferencing, Snyder said.

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Specific information for the public to call in to the meeting is posted on the township website.

“I don’t think we’re operating much differently than other townships,” Snyder said. “The office is not open to the public and we have a lock box outside the building for utility payments.”

North Cornwall

Thomas J. Long Sr., township manager of North Cornwall Township, said the supervisors May 5 meeting has been cancelled, although a board meeting was held on April 21 through phone conferencing.

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The North Cornwall supervisors hold two monthly meetings, and the May 19 meeting is still on, presumably to be another teleconference.

“Until things change, we’ll schedule only the mid-month meetings,” Long said.

The North Cornwall Township office is closed to the public for walk-in service, Long said, but all the administrative and highway staff are working.

The office staff is still processing permits and plans, and paying bills, Long said.

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Outside the front office door is a box for items to be picked up or dropped off.

“The North Cornwall Township staff are following CDC guidelines, wearing gloves and sanitizing regularly,” Long said. “Mail and dropped-off items are quarantined for 24 hours in a separate room before handling.”

With a number of restaurants and a large-scale retirement community in the township, North Cornwall is experiencing the effects of the closing of non-essential businesses and stay-at-home policies currently in place.

“However, it’s my understanding that most of the township’s essential businesses are open,” Long said.

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The Lebanon County DES (Department of Emergency Services) notified North Cornwall requesting contact information about facilities such as nursing homes in the township, and were supplied with that information in March, Long said.

“These elderly home care facilities are required to follow CDC guidelines,” Long said.

Dedication ceremonies and a corresponding community event scheduled for May 16 for the NCT Gloninger Woods Park at 22nd Street has been cancelled, Long said.

The township’s paper and cardboard recycling center normally open for the pubic has also been closed for now.

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Likewise, any organized youth sports or activities are not permitted on NCT fields or parks for the time being.

The township’s highway department recently finished collecting curbside yard waste and is currently out street sweeping.

“The employees are maintaining safe CDC and state guidelines,” Long said.

The closure of businesses and people not working will affect North Cornwall Township’s earned income tax revenues, Long said.

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“We are prepared to see end of 2020 year revenue budget numbers lower than projected,” Long said.

North Lebanon

In North Lebanon Township, officials are doing the best they can, said Township Manager Cheri Grumbine.

The township office is closed to the public, but the lobby entrance is open.

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“We’re doing a lot of emails, so the public can reach us that way,” Grumbine said.

The North Lebanon Township supervisors are holding their meetings by way of Zoom with a link for video conferencing, Grumbine said.

The township office is large enough to comfortable practice social distancing, Grumbine said, and everyone is also wearing masks.

To keep everybody working, the highway crew of eight was split into two groups, with one group of four working one week, and the second group, the next week.

“For the spring clean-up, we brought everybody back,” Grumbine said.

For North Lebanon’s spring sprucing up, the highway crew takes a loader and dump truck through the township, picking up brush and fallen branches.

One of the perks of living in North Lebanon Township is the yard waste access card.

For $45, a resident can get the card, then drop off as much yard waste all year around. In return, residents get as much free mulch as they need. It’s a very popular perk, Grumbine said.

The form for the yard waste access card can be filled out on the township’s website, or forms are in the lobby.

“Everybody likes that service and we didn’t want to cancel it, so we made it happen,” Grumbine said. “This is a very busy time of year for us.”

The form and fee can be placed in the drop-box, she said.

“People want to get out in their yards to try and have a little bit of normalcy, so we’re trying to work with them in that regard,” Grumbine said. “We’re trying to keep things going for them. They know it’s out of our hands, but we try to do what we can.”

Bethel

Bethel Township Manager Melissa Johnson and Supervisor Chairman Shawn Hernley weighed in on the changes of the northern Lebanon County township due to the COVID-19 precautions.

Located along routes 78 and 22 corridors, Bethel Township officials have seen a significant decrease in the traffic going through the township since the temporary business closures.

“There’s definitely less traffic,” Hernley said.

The township manager and zoning officer are still working out of their offices, but the township building is closed to the public, Hernley said.

The township’s tax collector is accepting payments through the mail.

“All our meetings are being held through Zoom,” Hernley said. “It seems to be working pretty well.”

Bethel Township’s maintenance department had been furloughed due to the government’s orders to temporarily halt road construction.

“I believe difficulty in obtaining materials played a part in that,” Hernley said.

The township is hoping to bring back their maintenance crew this week.

“Grass needs to be mowed and there are some other essential duties, so we can keep them busy without doing road maintenance,” Hernley said. “We really haven’t been affected greatly by it (CDC regulations), of course we are still being cognizant of and still maintaining social distance.”

Many of the larger companies in the township are still working, Johnson said.

“We have three large chicken processing plants, the Sherwin-Williams plant is busy and we have ACE Hardware, and their stores may remain open,” Johnson said. “As far as we know, most employees of the township are still employed.”

The annual Easter egg hunt for children at Bethel Township-Fredericksburg Lions Park and Pool had to be cancelled, Johnson said, and the playground is closed.

“Leading up to summer, we do have our park,” Johnson said.

The Fredericksburg Firemens’ Park is also host to a number of warm-weather events, including, in many summers, a car show. But that schedule is probably up in the air, too, the township officials said.

“The pool at the park, we’re still undecided whether that will open or not this year,” Hernley said. “We’re not sure, but we’ll keep giving it a good thought.”

The pool normally opens the last day of school, Johnson said, explaining that since the final school day of the year is usually half a day, it gives the kids something to do that afternoon.

“We would really like to open and we’re even looking for lifeguard applications, in case we do open,” Johnson said. “It gives the kids in the community and surrounding area something to do.”

Meanwhile, township employees are following COVID-19 guidelines for everybody’s safety, Hernley said, including being mindful of social distancing and wearing masks or face coverings.

“We want everybody, the community at large, to be safe and healthy,” Johnson said.

“We certainly appreciate all the work and effort of our employees,” Hernley said. “Their health and welfare is very important to us, and we’ll get through this, together.”


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