LAKE COUNTY — The Lake County Board of Commissioners, during a recent meeting, passed a motion to resume in-person meetings through the rest of the year.

The motion will apply to all subcommittee meetings that had been previously cancelled indefinitely by the board due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as meetings.

“The subcommittees have not met since March,” Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake said. “We don’t have the time and resources to coordinate all these virtual subcommittee meetings, and they need to start meeting at some point.”

Commissioner Robert Sanders questioned the wisdom of meeting in person when the COIVD-19 cases are spiking throughout the state.

“With the recent spikes, is that a wise thing to do?” Sanders asked. “Why wouldn’t we continue to let people choose if somebody is uncomfortable coming in?”

Lake said the law allows for them to meet virtually for the rest of the year, if they choose to do so, but there are downsides to doing that.

“With having to do the budget and do workshops, and having to meet with department heads, it would be heavily cumbersome to do so virtually,” Lake said. “We are going to need bodies here to do the budget. The next meetings in November could be full days when we do our budget workshops. Those are the concerns.”

Sanders suggested they allow it to be done both in person and virtually for the remainder of the year.

“Let the full board come in, and let the public come in,” Sanders said. “The only thing I am suggesting is that we allow the public to call in virtually, so that if someone is uncomfortable coming in, they still have that option.”

Lake said the motion could be amended to let the public call in to participate if they choose.

“The Department of Health and Human Services mandate limits indoor gatherings to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet of space so Plan B would be, if we have an overflow, we send them across the street to access the meeting by phone anyway,” Lake said. “I would recommend you hold the meetings in person, and regardless of the meeting, you make it available to the public via telephone so that they can participate.”

Public Act 228 amends the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to conduct electronic "virtual" meetings with remote participation for any reason through the end of 2020, and in 2021 under specific circumstances, which include military service or illness.

The amendments incorporate many of the requirements for electronic meetings and remote participation that were in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's nullified executive orders, but also impose new requirements, which apply to electronic meetings held after the effective date of the amendments.

The approved board policy will include a call-in option available to the public due to the capacity limitations implemented by DHHS and to accommodate those not comfortable participating in person.

With the passage of Act 228, many local entities are working to determine the best way to conduct meetings going forward considering the recent increases in positive COIVD-19 cases throughout the area.

In Lake County, cases have gone from 32 to 57, an increase of 25 cases, since Oct. 1. The first COIVD-related death in the county was reported by district Health Department No. 10 on Oct. 27.

With the return to in-person meetings, the county has also implemented a contact tracing protocol for anyone attending the meetings, which includes recording the name, address and phone number for each visitor in order to contact them in the case of a possible exposure.

“In discussions with the Health Department, we agreed that since we would be returning to in-person meetings, that in addition to appropriate procedures (health screening, social distancing, etc.), that we would proactively gather the contract tracing information for meeting visitors,” Lake said.

For information on how to access the meetings remotely visit lakecounty-michigan.com or call 231-745-2725.