By David Fleet
Groveland Twp.-On March 31 the board of trustees voted 5-0 during a special meeting supporting a resolution to continue the board of trustee meeting, along with other township meetings in a virtual format. Currently, the virtual Zoom meetings are available to the public live and later on Facebook and YouTube platforms.
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.
“It’s not mandatory, but it allows you to be able to do it,” said DePalma. “In five weeks we’ve had a ten-fold increase (in COVID cases in Oakland County). Holly, Rose, Milford, West Bloomfield (townships) are doing virtual. Around us the larger communities like Independence , Brandon and Springfield townships are trying to host in person meetings.”
DePalma said there is only enough seating for about 12 individuals in meeting room at the township hall. In the spring of 2020 the township tried to host an in-person meeting.
“Not one of them (individuals at the meeting) stayed at six feet spacing, people started to stream in after the meeting started,” he said. “Under the new rules we would be required to stop the meeting as soon as we exceeded the capacity about 12 people. Then close the meeting and set it up a few days later and find some place else to host it. Once people start getting the vaccine the numbers should start going back down.”
DePalma added that when the number of COVID cases decline, then a in-person meeting or a combination of virtual and in person meeting will be considered.
Township Trustee Jim Christopher supported the virtual meetings.
“When we are out of COVID we could run the meetings in tandem,” said Christopher. “It’s a huge convenience to the community.”
Township Treasurer Theresa Bills supported the resolution, however, she questioned closing the in-person right.
“I want Groveland numbers,” said Bills. “I don’t have local data that says the number of COVID cases here in Groveland Township merits us to close the door to anyone coming in to an open meeting. I was looking forward to April board meeting being open to the public. I don’t know how many people will show up, I’m hesitant to even guess, because it could be two or three or ten or 20.”
“This whole past year of COVID shutdown and lockdown has fundamentally changed what people go out for,” she said. “I feel like it’s jumping the gun by saying let’s close, if we are expected to open in April.”
By David Fleet