Howell council members discuss return to in-person meetings

HOWELL – Members of the Howell Township Council have opened a conversation about resuming in-person meetings of the governing body that members of the public would be permitted to attend.

Council meetings have been conducted in a remote manner for almost a year during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council’s Feb. 23 meeting was conducted in a remote manner beginning at 5 p.m.

Mayor Theresa Berger said that in recent weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy has eased up on some coronavirus restrictions. She asked when the council would return to meeting at the municipal building.

Township Manager Brian Geoghegan said in-person meetings can resume at any time.

“Whenever the council wants, we can switch to in-person meetings. We just have to come up with a way to keep track of whatever the percentage (of attendees) allowed for indoor gatherings is at that given time,” he said.

Geoghegan said officials would have to determine what course of action to follow if the meeting room reaches the allowable capacity and more people still want to enter the meeting room.

Berger suggested that when the allowable capacity for the meeting room is reached, other people who show up could watch the council meeting from a separate location.

Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell said additional information is needed before in-person meetings can resume.

Several residents contacted the council by email to request that meetings begin later than 5 p.m.

Berger suggested that when in-person meetings resume, the council should return to its previous schedule of a 6:30 p.m. executive (closed) session and a 7:30 p.m. public session to act on agenda items.

O’Donnell suggested changing the times to a 6 p.m. executive session and a 7 p.m. public session.

No decisions were reached that evening regarding when in-person meetings will resume or at what time the meetings will take place.