Howell council creates panel to foster economic recovery after pandemic


HOWELL – Members of the Howell Township Council have created a business recovery task force whose members will help local business owners recover from the economic effects of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Council members took the action during a meeting on May 5. The action followed a recent suggestion by Councilman Thomas Russo to create a public-private partnership that would work to increase economic activity in a safe and responsible way when restrictions that were enacted at the onset of the health crisis are removed.

“What I am proposing today is the creation of a business recovery task force made up of government officials, local business owners, the Chamber of Commerce president and residents with business experience,” Russo said during the meeting.

“The task force is essentially an idea machine. It is an environment where we can get together, collaborate and come up with ideas about how we can improve the local economy and (determine) the impact COVID-19 is having and is going to have on our local economy,” he said, adding that the task force will be an advisory body.

Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell, Councilman John Bonevich, Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Russo voted “yes” on a motion to create the task force.

The resolution cites Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders issued during the pandemic. The orders set forth restrictions which encouraged the practice of social distancing to help minimize and slow the spread of COVID-19; ordered the closure of what the governor deemed to be non-essential businesses; and encouraged businesses that remained open to establish rules permitting employees to work from home.

“This pandemic has presented unprecedented conditions that have caused countries throughout the world to shut down their economies, resulting in the worst economic contraction in nearly a century; the economy in Howell has been similarly impacted, and it has caused great hardship and uncertainty to the businesses of Howell,” officials said in the resolution.

The purpose of the task force, as outlined in the resolution, are to recommend policies and procedures to create an atmosphere in Howell that is conducive to the influx of additional business, creating new employment opportunities, fostering capital investment and growing Howell’s economy.

The task force will seek funding sources for new initiatives and set goals for funding priorities. The panel will study and make recommendations regarding the future of Howell, including reviewing the economic impact, examining and recommending various options, financing, and potential redevelopment, and adjust strategy and tactics as necessary.

The task force will consist of two members of the Township Council, the township manager, the township attorney, two residents, three businesses, two members of Howell’s government and one member of the Howell Chamber of Commerce

The task force members who are residents, businesses and a representative of the Chamber of Commerce will be appointed by the council after submitting an application through the township clerk’s office. The members of the panel will serve without compensation.