By Jessica Mathews /

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the state, the Fowlerville Village Council has voted to declare a State of Emergency that will allow them to meet electronically.

Council met virtually Monday night and approved a resolution to declare a local emergency for the purpose of permitting Council and other bodies of the Village to meet remotely to December 31st - to be revisited during the last meeting of May. The vote was 5-2, with Trustees Jane Mills and Mary Helfmann opposed.

Helfmann raised concerns questions about the May 31st date and said it seems like they’re pulling dates out of a hat. She wants to work toward opening up, saying it’s been a year and they have a Village to run. Helfmann stated she wants to make a plan to get about handling Village business – stressing she doesn’t want anyone to be unsafe but is concerned that it’s getting too easy to be closed up.

A memo stated that it’s understood everyone is anxious and wants to get back to the normal but questioned at what cost - stressing the Village needs to be responsible for helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The memo noted further that the state’s COVID case rate has spiked over 77% over the last several weeks, prompting many municipalities in Livingston County to adopt resolutions allowing for remote meetings to continue.

The resolution would last until whatever comes first of the following; December 31st, the state gathering, and separation restrictions are lifted or when Council decides to do so by resolution. The Village attorney commented that the primary reason is there is not enough space to accommodate large groups of people coming to meetings in Council chambers. If a municipality chooses to meet in-person, then capacity limits still apply and gatherings are limited to 25 people with social distancing under state order. If more people showed up at a meeting, it would need to be canceled.

Trustee Jerry Bell commented that he thought 60 days provided a better window of opportunity to revisit than 30 days – noting the 77% increase in COVID-related illness over the last month is quite a spike. Bell said that leads him to believe everyone should be cautious and stay at least 6 feet apart, wear masks and be safe. He said another 60 days won’t hurt to see if numbers come down or revisit the extension, adding when the general public starts coming in, that’s what leads to COVID transmission. Bell said they can still get the job done with the extension, saying there have been some electronic challenges but they have worked through them.

Local municipalities have been adopting SOE resolutions as did the Livingston County Board of Commissioners last week in a 5-4 vote. However, the Commissioners called a special meeting Monday night and reversed course. The board voted to reconsider that motion and voted unanimously against declaring the SOE and plans to look into a hybrid model.

The county resolution would have served as an umbrella for all municipalities and local bodies in the county to meet electronically so they wouldn’t have to adopt individual resolutions. Many had held off to see how the county voted. Those wanting to meet remotely will now have to scramble to adopt resolutions as the state order allowing remote meetings expires Wednesday.

Photo: Village of Fowlerville.