Oscoda Township Council Votes to Eliminate Zoom Option | News


OSCODA – Local residents who wish to contribute to the Oscoda Township Board of Directors will now be required to attend meetings in person.

The township council voted five to two on Feb. 14 to stop offering Zoom as an option. The motion to eliminate the Zoom option was put forward by administrator Steve Wusterbarth and received support from administrator Jeremy Spencer.

Township Supervisor Ann Richards and Township Treasurer Jaimie McGuire voted against ending Zoom meetings. According to Township Clerk Josh Sutton, the change will go into effect at the Feb. 28 meeting.

City Council meetings will still be broadcast via MiCTV, but will no longer be interactive. Zoom appointments had been offered since March 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The planned change was addressed during the public comment section by Debra Rauch who told administrators that people with disabilities, the elderly, those serving in the military and those who own property but do not live in Oscoda, would all be disadvantaged if they were no longer able to provide information.

“You should welcome participation. Shame on anyone who votes to shut down Zoom. She added.

The administrators engaged in many discussions before making the decision to remove the Zoom option.

“I firmly believe in the possibility of diversifying our meetings to make them public. I really liked it. I think that’s a high proportion. I’m on a video call all day. It’s my life. I wish we could stay with Zoom,” administrator Tim Cummings said.

“I wasn’t a super fan of Zoom. People have another avenue. I hate that we’re going to put it out on the street. I’d hate to see it go away,” McGuire said.

Administrator Bill Palmer disagreed.

“People want to get back to normal, before the pandemic. Zoom was a good technical tool that we could use during COVID. You can watch live. The general public can participate. It’s time to move on, to get things back to normal,” he said.

Sutton said he was a big proponent of “trying it out”.

“We have elderly people, lots of snow. They will still have the opportunity to see the meetings. He added that the township council was “crucified” for going above and beyond.

Wusterbarth then started a conversation about people who didn’t want to participate in township boards and committees because of social media.

“It is the council’s responsibility to protect its employees, contractors and commissioners.” He said. Wusterbarth made a motion for the township attorney to review statements made on social media and in the newspaper.

Richards asked for clarification.

“Do you have an amount not to exceed? ” she asked. Wusterbarth amended his motion to include a maximum of 10 hours at a rate of $175 per hour. The motion received Sutton’s support and the board voted unanimously to approve.

McGuire asked if anyone had spoken to the attorney about it. Township Superintendent Tammy Kline replied that the attorney was looking at Facebook, but it wasn’t something deep.

“I don’t think in 20 years I’ve had to have this discussion,” McGuire added. “Obviously there have been concerns from the public,” Richards added.

“When I look at some posts on Facebook, it’s really disgusting. I think it’s from just a few. The comments have been hateful. I think it’s just so bad. Cummings said.

“I think it’s disappointing on both sides. I hate to say sides. I look at all the community sites and see a lot of people coming and going,” Richards added.

The council has also taken the following actions:

{ul}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Approved a request from Fire Chief Allan MacGregor to purchase new cargo bay equipment. According to a memo from MacGregor, the current gear, which is the outer protective layer worn by firefighters and includes the coat and pants, has outlasted its 10-year lifespan. According to MacGregor, replacing the equipment will cost around $60,000 to $65,000 and will require the equipment to be custom-made for current members of the fire department. McGregor was on hand to answer any questions from the directors. He reported that the fire department waited to make the purchase until PFAS was no longer used in the manufacturing process and PFAS was no longer used in new equipment. McGregor reported that the bunker gear is wearing out a lot, washing up a lot, and starting to break down, no longer providing firefighters with protection. The device was originally planned for the 2026 budget, however, the department was unable to procure the two vehicles it had planned for the 2022 budget, so the purchase of the cargo device will take place on the vehicles of the budget. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Unanimously approved a request from Police Chief Mark David to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to replace two patrol vehicles at a cost of approximately $36,000 each. The vehicles are included in the 2022 Capital Improvement Plan. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Voted to cancel Verizon wireless service to switch to FirstNet as the provider. “During the summer months when our population increases, our current provider becomes unusable for our operations,” a memo from Greg Alexander told Kline. Alexander went on to say that there were many times last summer where the functionality of police vehicles was lost due to congestion at Verizon towers. FirstNet is designed to give priority network service to first responders. Alexander said testing was complete with FirstNet outperforming Verizon. AT&T is a partner in FirstNet, a national network designed for first responders. Alexander was at the meeting and presented information on the test carried out over the summer which showed no problems with the use of FirstNet. Alexander said there would be an upfront fee for the equipment, but that fee would be offset by discounts received. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Approved a request from Director of Parks and Recreation, Al Apsitis, to issue a tender for the purchase of a parks snow plow truck as noted in the 2022 Capital Improvement Plan. Bids are due by noon Friday, March 11. Apsitis has designated vehicle specs including age (2021 or newer), color (red), engine size (V8) and automatic transmission. Required features include a standard two-door cab, gray vinyl seats, air conditioning, and AM/FM radio, among others. {li} and begin the planning process for a new multi-purpose facility that will include a community center, police department, fire department, community meeting space and township offices”. Wusterbarth made the move, Sutton lent his support. Cummings, McGuire and Richards voted no. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Voted to postpone three agenda items until the next meeting. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Unanimously approved to place a full page ad in the AuSable River Canoe Marathon program at a cost of $500. Unanimously adopted resolution no. 2022-03 relating to the appointment of depositaries. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}Unanimously approved payment to ROWE Professional Services in the amount of $67,620.50. {/li}{li class=”ydpb5c453MsoListParagraphCxSpFirst”}The board also received an update from EIC Director Todd Dickerson. Dickerson said the annual board meeting will be held at the Shoreline Theater on March 16 at 6 p.m. He also reported that there was a title issue with Aune Medical Center that needed to be resolved before the property went up for auction in February. 24. According to the title search, the United States government still owns the building. {/li}{/ul}

“Developer interest is at an all-time high.” Dickerson reported. He said he recently discussed five development opportunities, two of which include connecting developers with two private entities.

Dickerson also reported that a Phase 1 baseline environmental assessment had been completed on the Skeel Avenue project. He flagged that the developer might request an extension because “not necessarily PFAS” contamination was found.

Administrators also received an update from Mark Bratschi on the boil water order that was in effect after it was determined that “something happened underground” that blew up a hydrant and caused a lack of water pressure at Kalitta Air on Sunday. McGuire thanked Bratschi for the update, but said she thinks the township “could do better to educate people about boiling water.” She said there was no information on the township’s website about the order.

“BS&A can send emails to people in a specific area. The water department is supposed to inform people,” she added.


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