St. Joseph County Commission declares local state of emergency; will continue meeting in-person

The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, who met in-person for the first time this year Tuesday, declared a local state of emergency to give the commission as well as county advisory boards and committees the option to continue meeting virtually. Chair Dennis Allen said commissioners will now meet in-person for its regular meetings and virtually for its executive meetings, despite the declaration.

During its executive meeting on Wednesday, March 31, commissioners discussed the prospect of an emergency declaration to continue meeting virtually after the extension of the exception to the Open Meetings Act expired last week. The state law gave local governments the ability to conduct meetings virtually on video conferencing platforms like Zoom, which St. Joseph County has used all of 2021 and much of 2020 to conduct its business. But in order for commissioners to continue meeting virtually and other county advisory boards and committees for that matter, a local declaration of emergency needed to be passed.

The declaration Tuesday will extend the aforementioned exception until July 6, 2021.

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.