County commissioner table vote on Pandemic Resolution

Set to address issue during next meeting

Lake County Commissioner Bob Sanders opposed the passage of the Pandemic Resolution presented to the board during its meeting last week because it was too much of a political statement. (Star file photo)

Lake County Commissioner Bob Sanders opposed the passage of the Pandemic Resolution presented to the board during its meeting last week because it was too much of a political statement. (Star file photo)

BALDWIN – The Lake County Board of Commissioners reviewed a Pandemic Resolution, which opposes the state's handling of COVID-19 restrictions, during a recent meeting.

The resolution states, in part, commissioners “oppose the distress and destruction continuing to impact our community due to the COVID-19 restrictions and encourage the lifting of restrictions as surrounding states have done.”

Patti Pacola, Lake County's clerk/register of deeds, told the board the reasoning behind the resolution is there are 16 states now fully-opened with no restrictions.

In those states, she said, they are finding that more people are wearing masks and following the COVID-19 safety protocols, since they are no longer being ordered to do so.

In addition, she said, the case numbers in Lake County have remained low throughout the pandemic, and many of the small businesses being impacted by the restrictions are not able to open even with limited capacity allowed.

“We have restaurants that are small and can only accommodate five to six tables, so even at 50% capacity it is not enough for them to stay open,” Pacola said. “The resolution is stating that the board supports lifting restrictions and that the governor and legislature should work together and not let the health department make the decisions about the COVID-19 restrictions. There a lot of counties that have passed the resolution.”

Commissioner Robert Sanders said he understood the last year has been difficult for the local businesses, but wasn't comfortable passing the resolution.

“I know this pandemic is affecting a lot of businesses,” Sanders said. “We have commissioners that have been affected that own local restaurants. My business has been affected since the courts have closed. I can see where this is becoming a political hot potato, but I feel like we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccinations and the governor loosening restrictions.

“I’m not comfortable doing a resolution at this time,” he added. “I would like to let this go because I think we are at the tail end (of the pandemic). I believe if it wasn’t going to come to an end soon, then yes we would need to do something to get some relief to our local businesses.”

Sanders added that he would like to look at the data and see if the closures and the masking and all of the restrictions were worth it.

“If they can provide scientific data that says wearing masks saved lives, that closing restaurants and bars helped curtail (the spread), then I think we need to look at the facts,” Sanders said. “I think this is more of a political statement, and that said, I am uncomfortable with the resolution at this point.”

Commissioner Len Todd said he could support the resolution, but felt it needed to have more “teeth.”

“In one place it says ‘unconstitutional burden’ and I think it should be broader than that,” Todd said. “Some of the things she is doing that we object to are actually constitutional, so I think the wording should be changed to ‘unnecessary burden.’”

In addition, Todd said, he believed that instead of saying “due to COVID-19 restrictions,” it should say “due to overly burdensome COVID-19 restrictions.”

“I think it should point out that, at times, the restrictions have been overly burdensome,” he said.

Todd added that he believed the resolution should also address the issues with government transparency in reference to the pandemic.

“I think we need some wording that addresses the governor showing full transparency regarding the $155,000 payment made to the health department employee and the non-disclosure agreement,” he said. “I also think the attorney general and the secretary of state need to be more transparent regarding nursing home deaths. I think we need to address those issues.”

Todd said if the resolution is brought back to the next board meeting with those changes, he would support it.

Sanders agreed if the resolution addressed the issue of transparency and the political parties working together to find solutions to ongoing issues with COVID-19, he would support it.

The board will take up the item again at the next commissioners’ meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m., March 24. For information on how to participate in the meeting visit lakecounty-michigan.com or call 231-745-2545.

In other business, the board approved a resolution to support the DNR Trust Fund grant application submittal and the commitment of county funds for the ORV Park project.

The grant application will be submitted April 1, and the parks commission expects to know by the end of the year if they are approved for the grant.

If approved, work will begin in the spring of 2022.

The ORV park plan includes an ORV training course, additional ORV skill level trails and other amenities.