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The original item was published from 6/23/2020 6:45:00 PM to 6/23/2020 6:45:52 PM.

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Hazlet Township Updates

Posted on: June 3, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Mayor Glackin: How the Decision Was Made to Cancel Swim Club, Summer Camp Season

Hazlet Township Seal

Details about how the factors weighed by the Township Committee.

Dear Resident,

As a follow up to the Township’s announcement, I would to like to share some background about the difficult decision to close the Hazlet Swim Club and Hazlet Recreation Summer Camp for the 2020 season – a decision that none of us on the Township Committee took lightly.

Currently, under the Governor’s Executive Orders, municipal swim clubs are not allowed to operate.

Our Hazlet Swim Club was originally scheduled to open up on May 23rd, Memorial Day weekend. The process to open and operate our swim club starts well before that. Budgets are prepared, data is analyzed, fee and salary ordinances are reviewed, job applications are processed and many other administrative requirements are performed over the winter and the spring. In March, when COVID-19 hit the East Coast, our Recreation Department continued to prepare for the 2020 season. Spring arrived, and New Jersey was in the middle of the pandemic and statewide lockdown, but the swim club was still being prepped in anticipation conditions would allow us to return to our normal routine.

During this time, I was in nearly daily contact with the Governor’s office for many things, including discussions about municipal swim clubs. For several weeks, I have been told that new Executive Orders to authorize municipal swim clubs to operate at a future date would be given, as well as operational guidance. These are tough decisions that impact the entire state. To date, no new order has been made. We need several weeks to assemble a staff to service the swim club. This does not include any specific preparation that would have to be made to meet state guidelines for safety. The opening had already been postponed from Memorial Day weekend to June 27th as we continued to wait for new orders and sign up club members. On Friday May 30th, the Governor said that no decision on municipal swim clubs will be coming in the immediate future. See article.

The Hazlet Swim Club is a municipal utility, which means that the swim club is funded by the fees generated by its operations. However, any revenue shortages are the responsibility of municipality. So, if there are not enough membership fees, the taxpayers are then responsible to subsidize the swim club. This expense is not part of the municipal budget. As such, this burden would be treated as an unforeseen expense and would be taxed against the residents next year. The 2020 swim club memberships were drastically down from prior years, making it nearly impossible to operate the Hazlet Swim Club even if the governor allowed it. However, there was hope. Several federal bills were being discussed that would help municipalities with revenue replacement. One such bill known as the HEROES Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and presented to the U.S. Senate for review. I have personally been in contact with the Congressman Frank Pallone’s office on almost a daily basis for many things including discussions about municipal revenue replacement. Unfortunately, this bill has stalled in the Senate. Another bill that included municipal revenue replacement, which was introduced in the Senate, was the SMART Act. I have also personally been in contact with the offices of Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker on almost a daily basis for many things, including discussions about municipal revenue replacement.  In my most recent conversation, just this past Tuesday with the Senators’ office, I was told that it was not likely that either the HEROES Act and SMART Act would be voted on by the Senate in the near future. Any federally funded municipal revenue replacement would not be available, if at all, until after the summer.

Our summer recreation camp is a fantastic program. It also includes before and after care to cover the full working day. Earlier this year I was able to help work out an arrangement with Hazlet Board of Education to use the schools to expand our summer camp into a "rain or shine" camp. Parents would now have access to consistent activities and care for their children without worrying about the weather. Several days ago, the Governor did allow for municipal summer day camps. CDC guidelines significantly restructure the way camp would have been run and indoor activity would be severely restricted due to the number of people allowed. Field trips would be cancelled. Meal plans would need to be altered. These camps are also self-funded by the recreation fees but with low enrollment, this would have been another burden on Hazlet taxpayers. One of the main features of the summer recreation camp is the use of the Hazlet Swim Club as part of the program. Without the swim club and limited indoor access, heat issues would be a health risk on top of COVID-19 exposure.

Residents could no longer be held in limbo. Alternative plans need to be made as summer quickly approached. The few who paid could not have their money tied up in uncertainty.

After much fact-finding and deliberation, limited by state orders, without federal relief, and to ensure the safety of the swim club members, recreation campers and all the workers and employees, the Township Committee agreed unanimously June 2nd to close the Swim Club and Summer Recreation Camp for the 2020 season.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Mayor Mike Glackin

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