Lake County suspends remote meeting access

State COVID-19 restrictions lifted

LAKE COUNTY — The Lake County Board of Commissioners will no longer offer remote access for the public during their meetings.

County administrator Tobi Lake told the board with the state loosening the COVID-19 restrictions, the board needed to decide whether they wanted to continue to extend the right for the public to listen in remotely.

“I recommend that if you want to continue it, that you set an end date, at which time we will address it again,” Lake said.

Commissioner Robert Sanders said he thought it should continue because it is a benefit to the elderly population.

“Aside from the issue of transparency, this is another way for us to reach out to the public,” Sanders said. “I don’t know how many people call in. Everything is nice and quiet right now, but if anything happens, then you will have everybody wanting to participate.”

“I think we should keep it a little while longer,” Commissioner Don Arguette added. “We could have another outbreak in the fall.”

Following a brief discussion, it was determined that they would no longer offer remote access, with a majority of the commissioners stating they would prefer to return to in-person meetings.

The decision came after the state recently announced the cancellation of all COVID-19 mandates.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced June 22 the state would open to full capacity and no longer require residents to wear a face mask.

Case rates, positivity percentages and hospitalizations have all plummeted over the last several weeks, a news release stated.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration stated that workplaces would now have the discretion to determine their own requirements regarding health screenings, mask wearing and social distancing.

Lake said they would be updating the county’s COVID-19 policy with regards to employee safety in accordance with the new guidelines from the state.

In other business, the board approved an agreement with Assessing Solutions, Inc. for equalization mentoring services for $10,000.

Lake told the board they had receive notice from the state of deficiencies in the equalization department and the contract with Assessing Solutions, Inc. would address those deficiencies.

“There have been a lot of changes at the state level with assessing and equalization,” Lake said. “We received notice of some questions the state as regarding our equalization department and we want to address them sooner, rather than later, before they become more serious.”

“They recommended we get a mentor,” he continued. “They will be giving Casey (Gutherie, equalization director) guidance in leadership and direction for operations of the department.”

A corrective action plan has been put into place, and the ultimate goal of the mentorship is that the plan is successful, so that the state does not dictate the values that are being placed on property in Lake County.

In addition, the board approved creation of a part time equalization position.

“Casey and I sat down and asked the staff what they needed to address the deficiencies,” Lake said. “They all said the need additional staff in the office. We previously scaled back the department to one (fulltime) and a half (parttime). We knew when we did that there could be the potential that we would need more employees in that office.”

Recognitions

During the meeting the board recognized dispatchers Kimberly Hodges and Tera Phillips with “Dispatcher of the Year” awards.

Commissioner Christine Balulis introduced the recipients saying the 911 Central Dispatch department has come a long way in its leadership and it programs and the commission appreciates the hard work and dedication of the staff.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not honor last year’s recipient of the dispatcher of the year award, so we will be honoring two of them today,” Balulis said.

Dispatcher of the Year for 2020 went to Kimberly Hodges. She is a graduate of Baldwin High School and is currently studying criminal justice at West Shore Community College.

Hodges worked with the Lake County 911 center from 2004 to 2008 and returned in 2019. She is a certified training officer and was promoted to shift supervisor in January 2021.

The 2021 recipient of the dispatcher of the year award, Tera Phillips, graduated from Buckley High School and went on to earn her certification in 911 truck, train and airplane dispatching from Michigan Institute of Aviation Technology. She is also a certified training officer.

Phillips started with Lake County 911 Central Dispatch in 2010 and was promoted to shift supervisor in January 2021.

The board also recognized Mac McClellan for his years of service to the county. McClellan was Lake County’s first director of emergency management and homeland security.

During his time as EOC director, he also served as the 911 Central Dispatch director.

His career with Lake County began as the civil defense director in 1975. Prior to that, he was a teacher in Baldwin Community Schools for many years.

“He retired in 2012, but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, he volunteered his services to Lake County,” Balulis said. “On November 25, 2020, the board of commissioners made a motion to dedicate the name of the EOC after Mac McClellan.”

Current EOC director Patrick Maddox said that when the COVID-19 pandemic started, McClellan hit the ground running and got things done.

“I have looked up to him as a leader and a mentor,” Maddox said. “He got us going in the right direction on this, and I continue to look to him for advice. He is great to work with and I really appreciate him.”

Following the meeting a celebration was held in honor of McClellan and the dispatcher of the year recipients.

During the meeting the board also approved the following:

• A motion to authorize the Homeland Security Grant Program agreement.

• A motion to authorize a law enforcement vehicle purchase at a cost of $75,032 and outfitting of the vehicle in the amount of $37,983.

• A motion to approve hiring a dispatcher at the two-year step pay.

• A motion to approve the Life EMS base rates for FY2021.