WEST OLIVE — The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners has asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer not to extend her stay-at-home order beyond June 12.
Michigan has been under some form of stay-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 24.
The board unanimously decided Tuesday to send Whitmer a letter asking her to not extend the stay-home order, asserting that there are adequate health safety measures in the county, and a further extension would damage the tourism and hospitality industries in the region.
″(Our) governments, retail and restaurant industries need consistency and a fixed date by which to perform effective planning,” the letter states. ”... We live in an area where boating, camping and tourism is very important. Restaurants cannot staff and buy food to prepare unless they have a realistic end date and then the state sticks to it. Candidly, most people here in West Michigan figured that end date was May 28, and the extension was a deflating and, frankly, demoralizing impairment of careful planning.”
The letter also says the county commissioners aren’t aiming to complain or criticize the governor, but rather believe in the partnership in the two governments.
“(Our) community is ready to be trusted with the reality that we will have to live with a new ‘normal’ until a vaccination or treatment is in place,” the letter states.
During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners debated whether to continue meeting in a virtual setting or to return to their traditional setup at the Ottawa County headquarters.
Currently, meetings are held over Zoom. Some commissioners and county staff will join the meeting virtually, but others will gather in the county’s main conference room. Commissioners and staff sit 6 feet apart, which isn’t possible in the county’s traditional board chamber.
Commissioner Alan Dannenberg, who represents the city of Zeeland and parts of Holland Township and Zeeland Township, was the first to recommend returning to in-person meetings. He said commissioners could meet in the main conference room for the June 9 meeting, then return to the traditional chamber for their June 23 meeting.
While some commissioners agreed, others said they should continue to follow guidelines from the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, which is urging residents to stay home if they can.
“As a former teacher, I think it’s important to set a good example,” said Commissioner Frank Garcia, who represents Park Township and parts of the city of Holland.
Commissioner Doug Zylstra of Holland said he has concerns about spreading COVID-19 among commissioners. Commissioner James Holtluwer noted that many commissioners and county staff are older than 60 and are considered particularly vulnerable.
“Those of us that are over 60, we have to really guard against this stuff,” Holtluwer said. “I have not left my house in two months. If we’re going to meet together, I think we all need to wear face masks.”
Ultimately, the board did not take any action on the issue, and is still set to meet partially online in the near future.
“We represent the health department of Ottawa County, to an extent,” County Board Chairman Roger Bergman said. “... I agree with Frank and Doug that I think there’s value in showing an example of leadership in the county.”