The Pierson Township Board has decided to discontinue offering Zoom meetings, with the lone dissenting vote coming from a board member who participates via Zoom.
The township board voted 4-1 on April 20 to discontinue the remote option, with Supervisor Dan Buyze, Clerk Sara Burkholder and trustees Jason Bergstrom and Bill Grice voting “yes” and Treasurer Kathy Hyrns voting “no.”
“A number of townships have elected to discontinue Zoom and I think we’ve seen the reasons why,” Buyze said. “People are having difficulty. There are areas of the township that can’t even do it because of no internet. We’ve seen the problem when people come in via Zoom late and see things and interpret what they want or can’t hear everything. We as a board have had difficulties even communicating ourselves when we’ve had Zooms. I think we’re at a point that with following the direction of a number of townships that I would like to go back to having all meetings in person. That includes board meetings and committee meetings.”
The majority of the township board met in person for the April 20 meeting with Hyrns being the only township board member on Zoom, which is how she has participated in most meetings recently.
“Zoom meetings are something you want to hang onto if there’s a medical issue, a military person or if there’s a state of emergency,” Hyrns said. “I think with the COVID conditions right now, that offering people that opportunity to Zoom and feel safe if they want to, I think we should continue it.”
However the township board voted to discontinue Zoom.
“I think we are very blessed to have a large meeting room here and we’re headed into the warmer months, so if we need to end up going outside because we have more people, we’ve done it before and we can do it again,” Burkholder said. “We need to have conversations that we can all hear.”
WIND ORDINANCE UPDATE
Also during the April 20 meeting, Zoning Administrator Orvin Moore provided an update about the Planning Commission’s recommendation on April 15 to make some changes to the township’s wind ordinance. Those changes include changing commercial turbine setback requirements from four times a turbine’s height to three times the height from non-participating properties, as well as two times the height from a roadway.
Moore said the Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed changes at 7 p.m. June 3.
Norm and Barb Hawkins of Pierson Township participated in the April 20 meeting via Zoom and they both voiced concern about wind turbines coming to the area.
“I didn’t know about that, nor did my wife, until I guess yesterday,” Norm said. “I sometimes drive across the state through the Breckenridge area where there’s a lot of the towers and it really changed the dynamics of what was once a very quiet, peaceful country area that I would drive through to one that’s kind of different, to be honest. I’m all for economic progress and I want that here in this township, but my wife grew up in California where there’s all kinds of wind towers around there and it does change the dynamics of the community quite a bit.”
The Hawkinses told the township board that township issues such as wind turbines should be “publicized more broadly,” such as emailing updates to residents.
“I think a lot of people who may have interest might not know about this,” Norm said.
The Daily News has been writing since August 2020 about Apex Clean Energy’s proposal to install 75 turbines throughout Montcalm County. Pierson Township officials also told the Hawkins that all township news is posted on the township’s website (piersontwp.org).
“But who checks that?” Barb responded.
Township officials added that all their meeting notices and minutes are posted in The River Valley Shopper (a weekly ad publication owned by Pioneer Group). Barb rolled her eyes in response to this.
“I feel like your means of communication is definitely not in the 21st century or the 22nd century, whatever we are in now,” Barb said. “We’re into email. We’re barely into the mail anymore. People don’t check your website on a daily or a weekly or a monthly basis. People are used to receiving information and then responding to it.”
Burkholder noted that maintaining an email database is difficult for a small township such as Pierson. She said she updates the township’s website several times per week and she noted the township also has an active Facebook page.
“I would recommend you try it, maybe,” Burkholder said.
Barb wasn’t impressed with this response and she said in the community where she previously lived, local government officials would send them updates in the mail.
“We didn’t have to look for it, they actually sent it to us,” Barb said. “The River Valley whatever, that’s like an ad machine.”
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