Sussex County Commissioners transition to in-person meetings

Newton. Sussex County Commissioners will return to in-person meetings, holding them at the Sussex County Performing Arts Center for the rest of 2021. They hope to return to their facility in the county building as soon as guidelines allow.

| 24 May 2021 | 11:59

The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners held their first regular in-person meeting on Wednesday night, since their Jan. 2021 reorganization and then prior to that, their meetings in March 2020.

Wednesday’s meeting at the Sussex County Community College Performing Arts Center was the first scheduled for that location through the remainder of 2021, outside of several meetings that will be remote in November and December, due to a scheduling conflict with the facility. There will be no phone-in options for the meetings, but the meeting audios are planned to be available on the County of Sussex website, the following morning after every meeting.

Commissioner Director Dawn Fantasia said should there be a meeting venue change for upcoming meetings, the public will be given adequate notice. Fantasia was hopeful due to the significant drop in Sussex County COVID cases, the commissioners could return to their pre-pandemic meeting facility, at the Sussex County Administration Building. During the pandemic due to social distancing requirements, this facility could not accommodate the public, with a capacity for nine people – including the board and their staff – for the entire meeting room. Fantasia said the current COVID case count as of Wednesday marked a record low during the last several months, with only 14 new cases countywide, placing the county in a “yellow” or “moderate” COVID case status.

She also compared the county COVID hospitalization statistics from January versus May, with 122 countywide in January and only six hospitalizations to date for the month of May.

“We needed a reliable space that would be available to us on a consistent basis and that we were able to space adequately; and would not conflict with what the space was being used for,” Fantasia said. “We really appreciate it and I think it’s pretty timely, because if you’re watching the state reports, you know that infection rates are down.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, seating for the audience was socially distanced throughout the auditorium, with the commissioners seated at tables onstage, six feet between each of them. Mask-wearing was mandated for every meeting participant, with members of the public wishing to speak, doing so at a microphone stationed at one end of the stage.

During the first public session, Sussex County Community College President Jon Connolly, welcomed the commissioners and public to the meeting location.

“This face-to-face venue is one of those times during COVID where we have all suffered, in terms of communication, in terms of good will, in terms of effectiveness, because we have been doing so much of our work by distance,” Connolly said. “This is a really great thing, having you here.”