On Monday night, the Township Board voted 3-1 in favor of establishing the site. Trustee Howard Behm voted against the plan.
The new exchange zone will be located in several spaces within the parking lot between the township’s Fire/Rescue building and the Township Hall. Township officials say the area was chosen because it’s frequented by law enforcement, and it’s an area that can be readily monitored with security cameras.
The Township Hall lobby will also be used as an exchange zone during normal business hours.
The idea was first proposed during a Township Board work session in late 2017 as a spot where area residents could meet to sell or purchase goods and materials from classified advertisements and websites, and it was later noted that the zone can also serve as a child exchange site for blended families.
“I haven’t heard a single complaint about it,” said Trustee Cal Meeusen, who first proposed the idea last year. “I have had a number of people from the township support me.”
The Township Board postponed a vote on the plan during its Jan. 8 meeting in order to clarify what kind of liability — if any — the municipality would be opened up to if the exchange zone was established.
After talking with the township’s attorney and insurance provider, officials said that the zone would not be a significant factor for the township from a liability standpoint, and it was noted that the township doesn’t need additional insurance riders for the exchange zone.
The cost of setting up the new exchange zone is expected to be $2,200 or less.
Two new high-definition video cameras would be installed to cover the portion of the parking lot between the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office entrance into the Township Hall and the public entrance into the fire station. The cameras would cost about $1,920.
The township would also spend several hundred dollars for two signs that would be posted on the light pole between the Township Hall and Fire/Rescue building.
The plan didn’t come without some concern from the board.
Behm, who voted against the measure Monday night, further discussed his concerns about it and clarified his original comments from Jan. 8 regarding the impact the exchange zone might have on local businesses.
“Last time, I didn’t feel at the time or now that this would be a situation that would devastate brick-and-mortar businesses,” he said. “My thought on it was that it was going to put another crack in the foundation of brick-and-mortar.”
Meeusen, however, thought that Behm’s take on the exchange zone “was a little preposterous.”
“I highly doubt there’s going to be a number of merchants that are going to come in here and sell stuff here,” Meeusen said.