By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.- It ain’t over yet.
On Tuesday afternoon, the township board of trustees voted 5-0 via Zoom to continue to host meetings remote until the number of COVID cases are down in the county.
“We had considered suspending the Zoom meetings on March 31, and go back to in person in April,” said Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor. “Now with the increase in (COVID-19) numbers all township meetings, board of trustees, planning commission will remain virtual. In addition to health concerns, there is a good chance too the boards are not going to have quorum if they attempt to meet in public. The Zoom will allow the public to attend, until we can go back in public.”
The decision mirrors Groveland Township vote on March 31 by the board of trustees during a special meeting supporting a resolution to continue the board of trustee meeting, along with other township meetings in a virtual format.
Township Supervisor Bob DePalma said that several area municipalities are continuing to use the declared State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow them to continue with the virtual meetings up to Dec. 31, 2021.
Gov. Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2020-129 providing temporary authorization of remote participation in public meeting and hearings and temporary relief from monthly meeting requirements for school boards. A meeting of a public body may be held electronically, including by telephonic conferences or video conferences, in a manner in which both the general public and the members of the public body may participate by electronic means. The order was issued June 2020.
According to the CDC, as of April 6, counties statewide with the highest daily case increases include Wayne with 1,000, Oakland with 705 and Macomb with 670. Other top reporting counties included Kent with 268, Ottawa with 185, St. Clair with 170, Washtenaw with 167, Kalamazoo with 126, Jackson with 121 and Genesee with 113. Also, nearly 80 percent of positive COVID-19 cases are in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
Brandon Township Board of Trustees returned to in-person meetings on Monday night.
“We followed the guidelines and after March 31 we could go back to in person,” said Jason Rumball, Brandon Township supervisor. “We did not see continuing virtual as necessary. Also, we have few residents that attend the meetings.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) amended its Gathering and Face Mask Order, removing the 25-person capacity limit for in-person indoor public meetings held in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
Under the amended order, which is in effect through April 19, 2021, townships can resume indoor in-person public meetings subject to certain limitations