Lake County commission returns to in-person meetings

County reopens after latest executive order

BALDWIN -- The Lake County Board of Commissioners held its first in-person meeting since March 11. Due to social distancing requirements and occupancy limits on indoor gatherings, the meeting was open to the public via telephone, as well.

In March, because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued executive orders requiring residents in the state to stay at home, and businesses to close to the public except for essential services.

Since that order, local governmental units have closed their buildings to the public and have begun conducting public meetings via video conferencing or telephone conferencing.

On June 1, Whitmer issued executive order 2020-110, lifting the stay at home requirement and allowing many businesses to reopen to the public.

With that order, local governments began to implement specific safety protocols for reopening to the public, which include wearing face coverings in public areas, routine cleaning and sanitizing of all common areas and frequently touched surfaces and maintaining a 6-foot distance.

Lake County reopened its buildings to the public June 8, in accordance with Executive Order 2020-97 and Executive Order 2020-110. All visitors are being screened at security regarding COVID-19. They must wear a face covering and adhere to social distancing measures.

"The employees returned on May 26, and we did two weeks of appointment only before Monday's opening," County Administrator Tobi Lake said. "As per the governor's executive order, we have a preparedness plan and several safety protocols and practices in place regarding operations, social distancing, and use of PPE."

According to Lake, the latest executive order from Whitmer that went into effect June 5 allows indoor gatherings of non-related persons up to 50, so meetings will likely be in person, and will not be accessible via telephone going forward.

In other business, the BOC voted to approve the appointment of Joan Runnels to fill the vacant seat on the Lake County Road Commission Board.

Runnels, the wife of former Road Commission board member Richard Runnels who passed away in March, was among three finalists for the position who interviewed with the board during the meeting.

"I want to continue what my husband was doing," Runnels told the board during her interview. "The road commissioners came to me and ask me if I would be willing to do it. I know my husband's views, and I want to continue what he started."

Runnels said she felt the road commission was doing a pretty good job, and that they are on the right path.

"As a board member, I will go to meetings, listen to the public and bring their concerns back to the commission," she said. "I think it is very important that we listen to the community."

Runnels said her immediate goals would be to keep the roads safe, while her long range goal would be to save money.

"Its all about the bottom dollar," Runnels said. "That's the biggest challenge facing the road commission. COVID will impact funding. The state will be cutting everything, an it's not going to get any better anytime soon."

When asked why the board should choose her, she responded that the qualities she brings to the position are her ability to listen, knowing when to ask questions and not being afraid to speak up when there is a problem.

Runnels was appointed by a vote of 6-1. The appointment will be for the remainder of the current term. Runnels will be on the ballot for the position in November.

During the meeting, the BOC approved the following motions:

• A motion to authorize the county administrator to contract with Calhoun-Ayers Plumbing to have the sewer lines replaced at the community mental health building at a cost of $8,968.00, not to exceed $11,000 for the project.

• A motion to approve the Homeland Security Grant Intergovernmental Agreement between West Michigan Regional Medical Consortium and Lake County.

• A motion to approve the Mecosta and Osceola-Lake Conservation District's service agreement for the Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Program and to appropriate $1,000 for 2020 for the program.

• A motion to approve the reappointment of Deb Russell, Local Unit Rep and Kellie Allen to the Land Bank Authority for the term ending June 30, 2023.