Thursday, January 13, 2022

Meeting safety concerns Sumpter Township board

Members of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees will decide at the end of the month whether to return to in-person meetings.

The decision, according to the trustees, will depend on the advice and action of Wayne County Health Department and state health officials in regard to the epidemic COVID omicron variant.

While Trustee Peggy Morgan pushed for a return to in-person meetings last month, suggesting that residents attending could “wear masks,” others on the board were more cautious regarding the safety of residents and board members.

“The residents want regular meetings. If they come here and are not vaccinated, they can wear masks,” Morgan said. “We can leave it up to them.”

Trustee and Deputy Supervisor Tim Rush said the board should wait and see what the infection numbers were at the end of January to evaluate the health threat. 

“The last thing we need is board members getting sick. We are three positions down in the township,” he said. “I want to go back to live meetings, but we have to be safe. I think we should wait to get the numbers on the pandemic from Wayne County.” 

Township attorney Rob Young explained that the county health department state of emergency will expire at the end of January. He said the county officials could extend that date but currently the township does not have the information regarding “what is happening with the infection numbers.” 

“How abut we follow the county guidelines. If they haven't changed and extended, we go back to live meetings,” Morgan suggested.

Trustee Matt Oddy said that if the state of emergency is not extended, the township would be required to return to live meetings. “We would no longer be legally allowed to conduct virtual meetings unless the state extends the state of emergency,” he said.

Supervisor Tim Bowman, however, was adamant in his assessment.

“My wife has breast cancer and her immune system is compromised,” he said. “I will be absent from live meetings until my wife's doctor gives the go ahead. A live meeting is not worth my wife's life.” 

Young explained that he was not advocating for live meetings and that currently “half the township is out with high levels of absenteeism.” He suggested the board members consider extending the virtual meetings contingent on the county extending the state of emergency.

Morgan suggested that perhaps some type of “hybrid” of both live and virtual meetings could be in place. 

Young said that once the state of emergency has been lifted, a hybrid would no longer be legal or permitted.

Oddy said he would like to continue using Zoom for the meetings as long as possible due to the health threat and financial impact of COVID on township families.

“There are serious ramifications of exposure. Right now they are saying 6,000 a day plus. Zoom offers some safety. An outbreak could shut the township down, shut the police department down. This has serious consequences,” he said.

Board members agreed to address the issue again at the end of this month.