The Lawrence Township Municipal Building will remain closed to the public at least through October, despite neighboring Hamilton Township officials’ decision to open their municipal building to the public on an appointment basis.
That’s the word from Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinsk, who ordered the building to be shut down March 16 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Nerwinski said he had been contacted by residents who asked why Lawrence Township’s municipal building and offices are not open to the public. He said he decided to keep Lawrence’s municipal building closed to protect the employees and the public from COVID-19.
“We do not make decisions solely by following the actions taken by surrounding municipalities. We decide what is right for us, given our facts and circumstances. Sometimes, that is to follow others, but it will always be because it is right for our community,” Nerwinski said.
Township officials have worked out a system that allows residents to drop off property tax payments and to conduct business with Lawrence, Nerwinski said. They may drop off tax payments and other documents in a secure, locked box at the north entrance to the municipal building.
“The system we have in place handling visitors and doing business at our north entrance (to the municipal building) is working very well, with minimal inconvenience to visitors and employees,” Nerwinski said.
It is essential that the municipal government is able to continue its operations and deliver the expected and necessary services to the community, he said. Creating a safer environment within the municipal building and among the staff allows them to remain healthy and to be able to carry out their job responsibilities.
“It’s my opinion that keeping the municipal building closed to the public gives us our best chance to continue to operate without lapse and disruptions,” he said.
Nerwinski said he is convinced that the world health pandemic is real and that the virus is contagious. The community must continue to be vigilant in its efforts to stop the disease from spreading, he said.
“(The COVID-19) pandemic is far from over, and the thought that we are tired of doing what we are doing and we should change back is a thought process I reject. Once we have control over this virus, that is when we can relax our modes of protecting ourselves from it,” he said.
Nerwinski said that when the weather turns colder, the township will make arrangements for limited entry into the building so that visitors can conduct their business indoors – but until that time, residents must conduct business at the north entrance to the building.
That decision extends to continuing to conduct municipal meetings – from the Lawrence Township Council to the planning and zoning boards – “virtual” for the foreseeable future, he said.
“I think that right now, given our circumstances and ability to provide the services we are expected and obligated to provide, to keep the municipal building closed to the public is the right decision for us,” Nerwinski said.