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CREST HAVEN - An Upper Township mother, accompanied by her two young daughters, asked the Board of County Commissioners to pass a resolution "regarding a dismissal of the (governor's) mask mandates being enforced in our schools."

Lori Fox addressed the board Oct. 12. While her children are home-schooled, she noted other families "might not be as fortunate and have no other choice but to send their children to school in masks."

Fox believes Gov. Phil Murphy's mandate that affects all grade-school students is "an infringement of our First Amendment rights." 

In addition, Fox noted mask-wearing "suppresses our children from developing the essential social skills needed to assist in keeping them safe." 

"These are impressionable years for our little ones, and without this ability (to use senses to make decisions), one can only imagine how this will affect our society years from now. My intuition tells me we are in trouble if we don't turn this around now," Fox continued.

"No one has the right to tell us what we must put on or in our bodies, period," Fox added.

In response, Board Director Gerald Thornton said, "I think everyone has the right to choose how they want to address this issue. I believe that people should be vaccinated. I think it works, but I think they should have the option of how they want to do it."

Thornton stressed that he spoke only for himself and not the board, "but again, I think it's freedom of choice." 

"We live in a democracy. We have a Constitution. I'm not sure that all this is constitutionally right. I think that there are a lot of things that have to be addressed. I've said since almost the beginning, some of these restrictions violate our Constitution," Thornton said. 

Commissioner Will Morey asked County Counsel Jeffrey Lindsay for an opinion on the matter. 

Lindsay replied that the board was "fairly constrained" since it has no direct control over schools, even the county Technical School and Special Services Schools. A joint Board of Education oversees those schools, he noted.

"It is my desire to be of help in any way I can as a peaceful voice for change," Fox stated.

October is 4-H Month

The county 4-H program coordinator, Linda Horner, made a presentation regarding the board's designation of October as National 4-H Month in the county.

Rutgers University, which oversees the state’s 4-H activity, made all club activities virtual, by computer only, in March 2020. 

"We worked very hard over the next year or so to try to make (clubs) as engaging as possible," Horner said. "We did have quite a lot of success, considering what youths were going through and having to do school virtually..." she continued. 

Starting May 1, Rutgers allowed clubs to meet outdoors, with all members wearing masks and maintaining a 6-foot distance apart. As ofJune 7, members could remove masks for outdoor activities and hold indoor meetings if all members wore masks.

One of the first events, sponsored by New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, was a youth fishing challenge. It was part of the "Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs" program, designed to show healthy lifestyles not using drugs.

The event was at Cox Hall Creek, in Lower Township. About 10 non-members participated, "and we've got several new members to the (Tightlines 4-H) club from that," said Horner.

A new 4-H science club is forming at Woodbine Elementary School, Horner added. The club will use the Eco-Park immediately behind the school, an Open Space project funded by the board.

Change Order Saved $100,000

A $498,394 change order to South State Inc., later approved by commissioners, saved the county "well in excess of $100,000," County Engineer Robert Church told the board. 

Church said the work was on the Avalon Boulevard (CR601) Bridge, over Ingrams Thorofare. The extra work included painting the main span, minor repairs to adjacent bridges, and additional paving on approaches to the bridge. 

"We took advantage of the contractor's mobilization and traffic control," Church said. Funds came from a 2018 bond ordinance.

Other Actions

Due to its membership in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA),the County Park and Zoo will need a master plan, according to Commissioner E. Marie Hayes. The board approved the use of competitive contracting to seek proposals for a zoo master plan.

Hayes said the immediate need is for a plan for the main park, in Swainton. However, she asked that the County Planning Department be involved in using other parks in the system. Those include facilities in Marmora and Del Haven. Hayes said she and Parks Director Ed Runyon plan to visit Ocean County parks. They are similar to the local ones, she noted. Thepair hopes to gain insight for improvements.

Demolition ofthe Sheriff's Annex Building will be done by the Ambient Group LLC, of Williamstown, for $27,000, according to a resolution approved by the board. Ambient was the lowest of four bidders for the job.

The board reappointed Jacqueline J. Simonson as a member of the Women's Advisory Commission for a term of three years ending May 21, 2024.

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