By Don Rush
It’s been a while, but for the most part local governments are opening their meetings up to the public. Both the villages of Oxford and Leonard and the townships of Addison and Oxford have had their meeting virtually since March 2020.
In-person meetings were closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic and orders from the governor of Michigan. Last month the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) let local governments know they could resume indoor, in-person meetings following state protocols of social distancing and mask wearing.
Addison Township, Oxford Village and Oxford Community Schools actually had their first in-person meetings this last month.
“I’m so ready for the normal to return,” Addison Township Clerk Pauline Bennett said. “It is enjoyable being with the board in person. Yet, we are still concerned about COVID-19 and try to take appropriate precautions.”
According to Oxford Township Supervisor Jack Curtis, “Barring any new rules, we will begin in person for all meetings starting April 14 with our Township Board meeting. We have a limit of 25 people in the room, you must practice social distancing, and wear a mask. Currently we will follow the State mandate which only allows members of a board or commission present can vote on a topic.
“Oxford Township continues to follow all mandates issued to us by the MDHHS in order to remain safe. While virtual meetings have filled in the gap during these trying times, in person meetings brings a personal impact to issues often times over looked through a computer screen.”
Oxford Village President Kelsey Cooke said the village had a live, in-person special meeting last month, and all council meetings going forward will be in person.
“There is no local, county, or state of emergency declaration citing mass loss of life if we don’t meet electronically so we must continue to just subject ourselves to face masks and space from getting sneezed on and I think we will be just fine,” Cooke said. “I recognize we received a significant amount more public attendance at our meetings using Zoom and people would like to see a hybrid option going forward. I like the idea but currently we don’t have the technology to make this happen and ensure everyone can be heard going both ways. I invite anyone who wants to attend our meetings in their pajamas to continue to do so and to feel free to come in late and leave when it gets boring, to continue in the spirit of Zoom.”
Leonard Village will meet in-person next Monday (April 12). According to Village President Mike McDonald, “It will not be broadcast as a Zoom or alternate electronic meeting . . We will observe the current guidelines which require no more than 25 people sitting within six feet of each other. In Rowland Hall, that means about 15 people besides the Council members. We don’t have the square footage for more people. If we were to get more attendees than that, we would have to adjourn the meeting and reschedule it for an electronic meeting at a later date.”
In February, the Oxford School Board passed a resolution urging the governor to let public school boards meet in-person. “We were pleased that she heard and honored our reques,” Superindentent Tim Throne said. “Our plan going forward will be to always hold our meetings in-person when legally able to do so. For the time being, we will hold all our meetings at Oxford High School due to seating capacity and accommodations. “
He added that all past meeting minutes as well as future meeting dates can be found on the district website, OxfordSchools.org
Leonard council meets on the second Monday of each month. Addison meets on the 3rd Monday of each month. Oxford Village and the Oxford School Board both meet on the second Tuesday of the month; Oxford Township on the second Wednesday of each month.