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Gov. Murphy: New COVID-19 call center receives 58,000 calls by noon

In the first hour of going live, the state’s toll-free vaccination hotline received 17,000 calls, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday during his COVID-19 briefing.

By noon Monday, 58,000 calls had been received.

The call center assists residents with general questions about vaccines, identifies whether or not they’re currently eligible for a vaccination and helps them identify vaccination locations. According to covid19.NJ.gov, call center agents will be able to assist callers in looking up registrations and scheduling and changing appointments in the near future. Murphy said the call center will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and has 250 operators.

Due to the limited supply of vaccines, appointments continue to be limited and will not be immediately available for callers. As appointments become available, call-center agents will able to assist with scheduling a vaccination appointment.

Here's where you can get vaccinated in South Jersey

The number of COVID-19 vaccination sites across the state has grown to 109 as of Friday. Below is a list of sites for which residents of Atlantic, Cape, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties can make appointments.

The hotline’s number is 855-568-0545.

The state is averaging about 25,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per day, Murphy said. Since the state’s first vaccination, 565,401 have been administered. There had been 65,179 vaccinations administered since Friday, the governor said.

“There is far more demand for vaccines at this moment than we have actual doses available to us,” he said. “We continue to ensure an equitable distribution across our state and that our frontline health care workers, first responders and those at highest risk are vaccinated first. We continue to ask for patience as we await more vaccine doses coming into our state. We’ve built the infrastructure from the ground up. All we need are these doses and we’ll be able to fire on all cylinders.

“We will get there, there’s no question about that,” Murphy said. “It won’t be tomorrow or probably not next week, but we will get there. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated.”

Murphy also reported 3,694 new positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 598,660. As of Sunday night, there were 3,254 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 598 patients in ICU and 392 on ventilators.

There were 242 patients discharged from hospitals, 314 patients admitted and 52 in-hospital deaths. Murphy also reported an additional 21 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the statewide total to 18,851. There are 2,121 probable COVID-19 deaths.

Atlantic County reported 107 new cases on Monday, bringing the countywide total to 18,546. There was one additional death, bringing the countywide total to 439. The death was an 80-year-old Galloway Township woman with pre-existing health conditions. Of the new cases, 57 were males aged 6 to 85 and 50 were females aged 6 to 86. There were 20 cases in Egg Harbor Township, 19 in Atlantic City, 17 in Galloway, 10 in Pleasantville, nine in Hamilton Township, six each in Absecon and Northfield, four in Margate, three each in Hammonton, Mullica Township and Ventnor, two in Somers Point and one each in Brigantine, Buena, Folsom, Linwood and Weymouth Township.

The governor also gave an update for school districts as many have returned to in-person or hybrid learning.

Eighty-six schools throughout the state are open for full in-person learning, 414 schools are offering hybrid instruction, 270 schools are using all-remote learning and 41 districts are implementing a mix of remote, in-person and hybrid learning.


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Township of Hamilton Planning Board ponders creating more areas of redevelopment

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — When it comes to openness to listen about proposed redevelopment projects, the members of the Township Committee and the Planning Board want business people to know they will give them as fair a shake as any other municipality.

At least five times during the last four months, resolutions have come before the Township Committee to authorize the Planning Board to conduct a preliminary investigation to establish a noncondemnation redevelopment area, or the Planning Board was either reviewing, discussing, or conducting preliminary investigations to establish redevelopment areas.

The foundation for all these investigations was set in August 2018 when the entire township was designated as an “area in need of rehabilitation” during the tenure of former Mayor Art Schenker, who is still a committeeman.

The designation allows the township to offer tax exemptions and abatements for residential, commercial and industrial property improvements under the state’s five-year exemption and abatement law.

For a specific project, the redevelopment area designation offers even more flexibility for tax benefits for developers than the area in need of rehabilitation classification.

Arch Liston started working as the township administrator last March.

“One of the best parts about working here is that the Planning Board really does understand redevelopment and how it can benefit the community in the long term,” Liston said.

The former Atlantic City Race Course and the former Wheaton properties, also known as the Mill Complex, were already designated areas in need of rehabilitation before Liston came aboard.

“There have been some discussions with both parties in the past,” Liston said. “A lot of times with redevelopment, you are giving the developer a tool, but you can’t get the numbers or the financing you need to get it done.”

In November, the Planning Board gave a recommendation to the Township Committee to name a developer and move forward with the Woods Edge Redevelopment Area, said Mayor Charles Cain, who is also a member of the Planning Board.

This is a mixture of vacant parcels as well as lots, which are developed with commercial and residential uses. The entire study area includes an estimated 181 acres of land bounded by the Black Horse Pike to the north, Cologne Avenue to the west and Harding Highway to the south.

“There were approvals for a previous planned development that has stalled for at least a decade now,” Cain said. “Redevelopment has garnered interest from new parties to do something on it on a larger scale.”

The Planning Board, also in November, recommended to the Township Committee that a noncondemnation redevelopment area be established where Zaberers restaurant used to be on the north side of the Black Horse Pike as well as a parcel on the south side, said Planning Board member Allan Womelsdorf.

The parcels located on the south side of the Black Horse Pike are bounded by McKee Avenue and the Egg Harbor Township municipal boundary. The parcels located on the north side of the Black Horse Pike are bounded by Lowell Avenue, Delilah Road and the Atlantic City Expressway.

“We were approached for a sizable development, a mixed-use development in there. In the process of reviewing that, we decided at the Planning Board level it would be smart to look at the other side that sat vacant for so long,” said Cain, who added that in the process, they have discovered why it sat vacant for so long.

Last month, the Planning Board also agreed to recommend to the Township Commitee that the Mill Complex Area Redevelopment Plan be amended to give the Committee the authority to start the eminent domain process over the Wheaton property at some point.

The Planning Board also decided last month to conduct a preliminary investigation into establishing a non-condemnation redevelopment area at the township’s Industrial Park, off Harding Highway.

“The Industrial Park has been stagnant for decades and my thought is we should look at the Industrial Park as a whole, globally, totally different. Maybe, we have to change the uses, but the way to do that is through redevelopment,” Cain said.


Business
Two separate funeral home businesses share one building in Mays Landing

MAYS LANDING — Keith Boakes, the son of Elbert Boakes, may have never been introduced to the mortuary business if Inglesby & Sons Funeral Home in Camden County did not help his father, a former employee, branch out on his own in 1962 and establish the Boakes Funeral Home.

Keith Boakes, current manager of the Boakes Funeral Home, paid forward the kindness shown to his father recently by helping Jason S. Goldstein start his own business, J.S. Goldstein Funeral Home & Monuments.

The men entered into a joint venture in August. Their two separate funeral businesses share the same building on Main Street, which is rare in South Jersey.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity rather than him taking on this giant overwhelming debt. Come and work here. Get yourself established. Get started. Build a base of people, a reputation, which he already does have. Once you are established and once you feel comfortable, then you can start your own,” Boakes said.

Funeral businesses sharing a building is something seen in the parts of New Jersey closest to New York City, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

“You may occasionally hear of a funeral director that offers specialty services (e.g. green funerals) operating out of an office in an established funeral outside of this area, but it’s not something that’s common throughout the U.S.,” said a National Funeral Directors Association spokesperson.

Two or three funeral homes sharing one building is common in Central and North Jersey because of the cost of real estate, said George Kelder, CEO of the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association.

“This has to be one of the first. This is unusual in South Jersey,” Kelder said. “They will each have their own pricing, but they will be working off the common expenses.”

Goldstein is a fourth-generation funeral director who ran his family’s business, Roth-Goldsteins’ Memorial Chapel LLC in Atlantic City, for many years.

After at least three years as manager with 10 partners, Goldstein felt it was time to branch out on his own and take the Jewish funeral, the culture he serves, to the next level.

Goldstein attended mortuary school with Heather M. Maderia, Boakes’ funeral director. Boakes said the two businesses sharing the same building has been a great thing, and the businesses complement each other.

“We are both here for the same reason, to serve our people and serve the community,” Boakes said.

For Goldstein, the mainland location in the center of the county is ideal because he is close to the Rodef Sholom and Beth Kehillah cemeteries, both in Egg Harbor Township, and the Vineland Hebrew Cemetery.

The building was already large enough to accommodate both businesses, so it did not have to be renovated, but Boakes had already planned technology upgrades for his business.

For Jewish funerals, most of the activity is either at the synagogue or at the gravesite. Goldstein said he does meet with families at the funeral home to make arrangements, and sometimes, there are private services.

Goldstein is in business by himself, but Boakes shares his six employees with Goldstein. They also share vehicles, the parlor, the arrangement room and the chapel where a cross, crucifix or a six-pointed Star of David can be put on a wall depending on what is needed.

“During these times, don’t look at other businesses as competitors,” Boakes said. “You’ve got to help the mom-and-pop shops right now. They are disappearing so fast.”


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