Berrien County declares state of emergency

BERRIEN COUNTY — Berrien County has declared a state of emergency.

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners recognized Thursday during its regular meeting that the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services orders limit the number of attendees in a meeting to 25, while maintaining social distancing of 6 feet. The current amendment to the Open Meetings Act that allows for virtual meetings will expire March 31.  Given the number of people allowed in a meeting, the 12 members of the Board of Commissioners recognize that they cannot limit the public and yet the order restricts the number of attendees to 25. They also recognize that many boards, councils and organizations are facing the same challenge.

Accordingly, the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution enacting a state of emergency for the purpose of allowing continued virtual meetings to be compliant with the OMA after March 25 due to COVID-19.  In declaring a state of emergency to maintain continuity of government by the county, it will include the ability for all public bodies within Berrien County to meet virtually, consistent with the OMA provisions, without further action on their part. The resolution authorizes the state of emergency through June 30. At any time that legislators take action at the state level to create allowances for public bodies to meet and/or if the number of allowed people in a room expands to an adequate level, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners may modify or rescind the State of Emergency.

The public is encouraged to participate in Berrien County public meetings by visiting the Berrien County channel on YouTube, officials said.  Meeting details are posted on the Board of Commissioners webpage at berriencounty.org.

In addition, it was announced Thursday that the Berrien County Administration Center will re-open to the public on Monday, April 5, at 8:30 a.m. Masking and social distancing guidelines will be followed and members of the public who visit the Administration Center will undergo a screening for COVID-19 prior to conducting any business.  The Administration Center includes the following offices: County Clerk (vital records), Veterans Affairs, Treasurer, Drain Commissioner, Register of Deeds, GIS/Land Mapping, Parks and Recreation, Administration, Human Resources, and Financial Services/Purchasing.   The drop box will remain outside of the building for those that would like to drop off documents vs. coming into the building.  The Administration Center is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. , with the exception of holidays.

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