Township Considers Sunnybrook for Future Meetings

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Although Lower Pottsgrove commissioners have moved their Jan. 20 (2022; Thursday) meeting online, and may remain there for awhile, its members last month informally repeated their desire to hold in-person meetings whenever feasible. Depending on health experts’ varying opinions about when the Omicron virus variant may peak, live sessions could be delayed until March.

Only days ago the township announced meetings of its Sewer Authority, Planning Commission, and the commission, its chief governing body, would temporarily move to broadcasts on the Zoom conferencing platform. “The recent surge in COVID-related cases that are being reported in our area” was cited as the reason.

The virus’ “extremely contagious Omicron variant” continues to tear through the United States, The New York Times reported Monday (Jan. 10), “as (the) number of Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 has surpassed last winter’s peak.” The Omicron wave, its story noted, “has overwhelmed hospitals and depleted staffs,” and is being “driven in large part by people younger than 60.”

The township in the past has promptly moved to virtual sessions under similar circumstances, so its announcement was unsurprising.

Board members have made it clear however, over time and as recently as last month, they prefer in-person meetings. To enable those they voluntarily left the tight confines of the conference room at the township municipal building on Buchert Road about 18 months ago, township Manager Ed Wagner said. They moved instead to more spacious quarters inside The Sunnybrook Ballroom on North Sunnybrook Road.

The issue of where to hold the board’s future twice-monthly meetings arose Dec. 6 (2021) as the township prepared for the arrival of 2022. “Do we stay, or go back to the municipal building?,” commission President Bruce Foltz asked his colleagues.

“Stay,” the majority suggested.

Masking is required of audience members at Sunnybrook, although commissioners themselves do not wear masks. Hand sanitizer is available for public use. Chairs are socially distanced. The table at which commissioners sit is more than 10 feet from the audience. Sunnybrook ensures rooms used are sanitized after each meeting.

Board members have periodically praised the Sunnybrook staff for doing everything possible to care for the public’s safety and well-being. “I can speak to the level of professionalism” exercised by Sunnybrook “if we agree to stay here,” commissioner and township Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Lopez said.

It’s Lopez who regularly reports to the board on COVID directives the township receives from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, and its Division of Emergency Management. He opted to keep meeting at Sunnybrook.

So, too, did Vice President Earl Swavely. He said he’d prefer Sunnybrook until it appears COVID is under control. Commissioner Michael McGroarty indicated Sunnybrook’s extra square footage to accommodate the board audience was worth the minor inconvenience of dislocation, and commissioner Robert Mohollen proposed the board “stay here until we see where the next level is.”

At the time, Foltz suggested continuing at Sunnybrook “from month to month.” All agreed, although there was no vote on the matter. For now, though, Omicron’s aggressiveness has seemingly put the consensus on hold.

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