By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

After hours of debate at the county board level about declaring a State of Emergency to allow for online meetings to continue, various other local municipalities quickly and efficiently passed resolutions to do so.

At a long virtual meeting held Monday night, the Livingston County Board of Commissioners were split but ultimately voted 5-4 in favor of declaring a local state of emergency. The action was endorsed by County Emergency Manager Therese Cremonte, who stated its sole purpose was to allow remote meetings to continue through May 31st. There was very little debate on the issue in various meetings leading up to Monday’s vote, at which point members of the public spoke out strongly against it, seemingly confusing it with state health department restrictions. That then spurred several commissioners to openly question the necessity of the resolution.

Meanwhile, many local municipalities which had been waiting for action at the county level moved forward, quickly and efficiently adopted their own declarations or resolutions contingent on county approval. Among those include Brighton, Green Oak, and Howell townships and the Village of Pinckney.

At Monday night’s virtual Howell City Council meeting, a framework was discussed if the county had failed to act. At Mayor Nick Proctor’s suggestion, a motion was approved stating that in the absence of a declaration by the county, the City would declare a health emergency to last until May 31st and put together a resolution to that effect.

Proctor commented that extending the ability to meet online through May 31st seemed like a prudent move and suggested the City just declare its own emergency and “heck with the waiting game”. He commented that he didn’t see a problem by the City declaring its own state of emergency to instill confidence in the public and extend things a couple more months for the vaccine to roll out – as they have very tight Council chambers and there have been conflicting guidelines.

Councilman Bob Ellis commented that once more people are immunized, the state will likely relax requirements limiting capacity to 25 people in a room but they can’t right now and noted conflicting requirements. Ellis said if they didn’t declare the SOE, they would be required to meet in person. However, should a 26th person show up at a meeting, then they would have to adjourn the entire meeting because it’s not allowed.

Councilman Randy Greene was the lone member opposed, saying it seemed a little inconsistent with kids being encouraged to go back to school and the City going forward with a parade in May.

Last Wednesday, the Green Oak Township board unanimously approved a resolution declaring a local SOE out until August, at which time it was stated the board could determine if the order was no longer needed and terminate it. Supervisor Mark St. Charles reported he’s been in contact with representatives from the Fonda Island and Briggs Lake Water Authority Board, which has been waiting for the township to declare a SOE to continue its Zoom meetings.

St. Charles went on to say the SOE is just another policy to keep in place until they get sufficient numbers and people get vaccinated or cases start to decline and they get to some point where they feel comfortable to go back to live board meetings. St. Charles added that he personally misses in-person meetings, a sentiment echoed by other members. He added that he doesn’t want anyone from the public to think they’re making the declaration to avoid the public and assured that as soon as they can end it, they will, but he doesn’t think right now is the time.