September 8 – A message from Mayor Manzo regarding COVID-19

From the Desk of the Mayor
Harrison Township, New Jersey

To Our Harrison Family:

Coming out of the Holiday Weekend, you are receiving this Update on Tuesday with the data as reported through yesterday, so we can stay on our Monday to Monday reporting format. I hope you had an enjoyable Labor Day Weekend, the weather certainly cooperated. Now for the data.
 
THE NUMBERS  
An additional 2,430 NJ residents tested positive since last Monday, bringing the statewide total to 194,390 since the outbreak began. The total number of tests administered in NJ now stands at 3,054,528, which translates to a 6.4% cumulative positive test rate. We’ve lost 43 more New Jersey residents this past week, bringing that total to 14,208.

In Gloucester County, 117 people tested positive since last Monday, for a total of 3,877. There have also been 48,837 total negative tests since testing began back in March, making the county’s cumulative positive test rate 7.9%. We lost 3 more county residents in the last week, that total is now 216.

The positive test count in Harrison grew by 9 since last Monday. We have now had a total of 132 positive tests and 1 death.
 
CHART CLARIFICATION
You may recall that several weeks ago I created a new chart that only focused on Gloucester County and Harrison’s weekly tests and positive result reporting. The objective was to focus in on our local “positive test rate”. I stopped including that chart a couple updates ago because we saw a significant decrease in the number of tests being administered, which obviously will affect the positive test rate. I actually received a few inquiries about that, so you’re paying attention, lol. I posed that question to the Director of the Gloucester County Department of Health and was given some clarification.

Basically, she explained that they have seen fluctuations in the number of tests being sought week-to-week. There was a spike in the last two weeks of August since many college students were required to submit a negative test result before being admitted back to school. Prior to that, there had been (and that trend continues now) a decrease in the demand for testing for the COVID-19 virus. Why? It seems that the public has adjusted to certain realities. Whether you have symptoms or not, the protocol upon receiving positive test results is the same. Self-quarantine and monitor your symptoms for worsening and consult your doctor for potential treatment at that point. The urgency to get tested without experiencing any symptoms has waned based on that common knowledge. Hence, less tests are being administered, with those seeking tests doing so because they have symptoms, or they’ve had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Therefore, we will continue use the chart that illustrates the Total Cases and weekly Increases at the State, County and Local level, for now:     

 
I also received a question about hospitalization rates, which I will address upon confirming information with the Department of Health.
 
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
One positive byproduct of the COVID pandemic has been the establishment of this unique line of communication between the residents of Harrison Township and its elected leadership. In hindsight, we made a wise decision in utilizing the existing Mullica Hill Connect platform to convey important information to our community. Most of the 4,000+ subscribers to Mullica Hill Connect live in Harrison Township and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative since my first COVID-19 update on March 14th – there have been 78 including this one! More importantly, the consistent interaction after each update has actually shaped the ongoing communication based on your questions and input, as evidenced with the chart information above. I thank you for all the email responses, keep them coming! On occasion, I have even used this platform to address non-COVID questions you have posed, especially when it comes to clarifying the public’s understanding of important issues in town.
 
Based on a few recent questions, I find it necessary to correct some vague misrepresentations floating around concerning affordable housing, our commercial tax ratable base, infrastructure improvements and Shared Services. We take great pride in our efforts on behalf of the community and want to ensure that record is represented properly. So, here is some brief insight.
 
AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Any negative comment about Harrison Township concerning its philosophy or history on Affordable Housing is simply not rooted in fact. Conversely, our detailed plan and its execution can serve as an example for other NJ towns on this topic. As just part of that plan, you may recall the well-publicized news of our Mullica West Apartments just a few years ago. All 168 units were totally renovated (inside & out) and fit with all new appliances and 48 additional units were built. This was part of our initiative to ensure our community met the NJ Council On Affordable Housings (COAH) requirements, which many NJ towns fall short of.
 
We have always believed in a community with diverse housing stock and we have worked with the NJ Fair Share Housing Center in creating such a plan, with their stamp of approval validating that effort and result.
 
COMMERCIAL TAX RATABLE BASE
Over the last decade, we have intentionally avoided the commercial tax ratable chase for a reason. Our community desires certain retail or commercial amenities but we are not willing to surrender to just anything/anywhere, simply for the tax revenue. This mentality has been the basis for our philosophy when it comes to development in Harrison Township.
 
In fact, though it’s a frustrating topic, the Richwood project actually stands as the quintessential example of this philosophy. Why? Because even as the developer experienced issues and delayed or shelved the project multiple times over the years, we maintained our high standard for the path forward. We have refused to allow a lower-echelon, diminished quality project to advance. If our primary quest was to simply increase our commercial tax base, you would have seen a mega-Big-Box discount store in Richwood as an anchor to an ugly retail center, like you’ve seen elsewhere. Instead we continue to work through issues (as we speak) and we hope to be able to share some exciting news with you soon, pertaining to Richwood.
 
INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
The hard truth is there will never be a time when we (or any town) are not seeking infrastructure/road/traffic improvements from the State or County. That’s a constant and always will be.
 
With that said, no town in Gloucester County has received more State or County funding for these improvements over the last 10-12 years. Multiple new traffic signals, the Route 322 Bypass & Richwood widening, the Bridge/Dam replacement at the Mullica Hill Pond, the Clearview Tunnel, the Main Street Bridge replacement and many other local road improvements top the list of accomplishments in this area.
 
SHARED SERVICES
In general, an increase in a Municipal Budget’s Shared Service line item is a good thing. Why? Because that means another, traditional budget line item has disappeared or declined as a result. Examples in Harrison would be our contract with Logan Township for Trash & Recycling Removal, our inclusion in the Countywide Tax Assessment Program, our contract with Kingsway Regional High School for IT Services, our sharing of compensation for School Resource Officers with the Clearview and Harrison School Districts and doing the same with other towns for our CFO and Tax Collector, just to name a few.
 
All are examples of budget line items that were 100% paid for by our taxpayers. These items are now in our Shared Services budget because we are sharing the expense with another entity. Hence, a “ballooning” increase in our Shared Services budget is a good thing as it only occurs when we move an item to that line because it saves taxpayer money.
 
We welcome the opportunity to address any questions that arise, COVID or non-COVID related. This is one of the main strengths of our community. A place where you can ask a township official any question and you will get a direct answer…..because there always is one. Sometimes we don’t like the answer, but you can rest assured that your question will be addressed. That is a foundational aspect of being Harrison Strong!  

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor

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A message from Mayor Manzo regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19. Learn more