CREST HAVEN - Anxious to have Cape May County businesses operating normally, without state constraints due to COVID-19, freeholders passed a resolution Sept. 22 urging the governor to lift all restrictions hindering business operations.
The regular meeting was conducted via the internet.
The document details Gov. Phil Murphy's actions. Executive Orders 107 and 108 imposed stay-at-home orders, restricted business operations and public gatherings, and prohibited municipalities or counties from imposing or enforcing restrictions that conflicted with the orders.
Many small businesses in the county suffered drastically in the wake of those closings. Some business owners were concerned that their firms were not deemed "essential" under Murphy's orders while other "big-box" stores continued to operate but with limitations.
The resolution cited freeholders' actions, such as the "Safely Together" reopening campaign that sought to educate and remind the public of safety protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
Further, it noted the county's formation of a business recovery task force that worked with merchants in "implementing thoughtful and meaningful policies and programs" to aid the business community.
While the board passed that resolution, Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton expressed concern that COVID-19 cases will increase.
"As the weather gets colder, I'm concerned about having an uptick in our positive cases," Thornton said.
"We need to keep the messaging going. I think it's probably time for us to look again and really keep our communication and our proactive positions relative to protocols. It's really important; it's not over," added Freeholder Will Morey.
Thornton added that the board would continue to meet via the internet through October to minimize the possibility of spreading the novel coronavirus.
Thornton said "some of our staff" tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. That underscored his concern regarding resuming public meetings at the Administration Building.
Freeholder E. Marie Hayes announced a Fare Free Transportation pilot program that began Sept. 16 for Ocean City residents.
The department started its "On-Demand" rider program, using a smartphone application, which expands existing transportation services. The service is being tested in Ocean City only and is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for residents over 18 years of age. It will continue until Dec. 31.
The "On Demand" program is an Uber-style service that will take riders to and from doctor appointments, shopping trips, and other transportation needs provided to Fare Free Transportation clients. This service is in addition to the transportation programs already in existence.
To schedule a ride, users can download the free app, "CMCOnDemand" and schedule a ride. Users can track the driver and know the arrival time. This service is safe and eliminates wait time, according to the county website.
Prospective Tech Village Tenant
Morey informed the board of a prospective tenant at the county airport's Tech Village. He said a Rochester, New York-based medical technology company signed a letter of intent to rent about 2,500 square feet.
The firm's owner, he said, has a vacation home in Cape May. It might employ 10 people, Morey said.
He added the planned location proves there are "real opportunities" in the county in terms of development in a sector other than tourism.
College President Reports
Dr. Barbara Gaba, president, Atlantic Cape Community College, made a presentation to the board at its 3 p.m. caucus.
The Cape May County campus experienced an 8% increase in enrollment while the college, overall, experienced a 10% enrollment decline.
Despite being closed in March by COVID-19 restrictions, over 750 "virtually" - via the internet - graduated in the spring, witnessed by over 6,500 via YouTube.
The goal is to keep in-person density low on all campuses to minimize COVID-19 spread.
A loaner laptop program started, which is available to students. The college initiated home internet service through Verizon to ensure that students who do not have a computer or internet access at home will have the technology that they need to be successful this semester.
The CARES Act allowed the college to award approximately $1.9 million to students with some expenses relating to going online. It awarded $1.4 million to over 1,400 students, and another round of awards went out last week.
There are plans to move the college's drone maintenance and drone repair program to the Cape May County campus in fall 2021.
Community College Opportunity Grant (CCLG) or free tuition program is available to students whose families have incomes under $65,000. The program allows those who might have thought college was cost-prohibitive to attend Atlantic Cape.
Gaba said about 250 Cape May County students received an average award of $1,300 toward tuition.
A $49,000 allocation from the college foundation and a "generous donor" made dual enrollment classes possible for some 900 students in Cape May County high schools.
"We are continuing to bridge the gap, and we have made it easier for enrollment for students coming to college," said Gaba. She said Ocean City and Middle Township high schools are participating in the program.