BALDWIN - The Lake County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an amendment to the rules for remote access to meetings at its recent meeting.

In a previous meeting, the board passed a resolution to return to in-person meetings with a call-in option available for the public.

The call in option was included due to indoor capacity limits implemented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"The amendment puts us in line with the law the governor signed, Public Act 228, that allows board members to attend meetings virtually for any reason through the end of the year," County Administrator Tobi Lake said. "Next year, it will be just under certain criteria."

The amendment states the board "recognizes the importance" of keeping people safe and helping mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and "seeks to accommodate" a board member that is absent for lawful reason, allowed under the Public Act 228 recently passed by the state legislature.

PA228 allows public boards to meet remotely for any reason through the end of 2020, and for specific reasons through 2021, including illness, military duty, or a statewide or local state of emergency.

In addition, in light of the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in Lake County, the board approved a motion to allow the board chair in coordination with the county administrator to "restrict courthouse access and make meetings virtual" if deemed necessary based on the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus.

"I think it is good we are doing this," Commissioner Robert Sanders said. "We shut down earlier on, and now things are worse than ever, and we are opened. With the numbers going up, I am glad we are doing something that might save lives."

Lake added the board decided recently to go back to in person meetings so that all the various subcommittees could start meeting again and take necessary action.

"We decided to go back to normal, because the numbers hadn't been that bad," Lake said. "Now we look at the numbers, and holy cow. We don't want to keep going back and forth, but if something happens, we want to have the tools to pull the trigger if we need to."

In other business, the board approved the date and time for the 2021 organizational meeting, which was set for 10 a.m., Jan. 6.

According to the rules of the board, the first business week of January in odd numbered years the "BOC will elect officers, adopt rules or procedures, name committees and make committee assignments."

One new commissioner will be seated when the commission meets in January. Leonard Todd will replace Commissioner Karl Walls, who represents District 7 and did not run for re-election.

During the meeting, the board also approved the following motions:

• Coronavirus Emergency Funding Agreements for the sheriff's department in the amount of $87,552; the Prosecuting Attorney's office in the amount of $14,278; and the courts for $22,745.

• Juvenile Public Defender Agreements with the Law Firm of Alvin E. Swanson, Jr; Smulders Law Office; and the Law Firm of Christine Frisbie.

• The Crime Victim's Rights FY2021 grant.

• A MERS Retiree Health Funding OPEB Trust payment of $750,000.

• A MERS Defined Benefit Trust Pension Liability payment of $500,00.

The board is scheduled to meet next at 10 a.m. on Dec. 9.

For information on how to access the meeting remotely visit lakecounty-michigan.com or call (231) 745-2725. Meeting information and agendas are also available on the county's Facebook page at facebook.com/lakecountymichigan.