by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
The Owosso City Council virtual meeting on Monday, June 1, was highlighted early on by Mayor Chris Eveleth, expressing his thoughts regarding the George Floyd death* and investigation in Minneapolis. “This was a tragic murder of this man and wrong in every way,” shared Eveleth. “I just don’t have the words.” He explained that Americans need to be more open to each other without attacking each other and that it is important for local leaders to demonstrate that conversations on racism are happening.
Eveleth called on Chief Kevin Lenkart to offer an update on racism and the public safety department from his perspective. “The groundwork was done before I got here,” Lenkart said. He stated that the department continuously brings a level of professionalism in service to the community. In 2014, police vehicle cameras were installed to help with transparency. “I believe everything we do and say should be open to the public,” Lenkart said.
Council member Fear then inquired about the city considering body cams. Lenkart said that body cams had been considered in 2018, but that a new server was needed to handle the extensive video storage needed. The equipment is very expensive, he explained, though it is definitely a purchase he would like to see happen eventually.
The council went on to adopt the 2020-21 budget. The budget was previously discussed in a workshop on Tuesday, May 12 and also in a council meeting on Monday, May 18 – both virtual meetings. The 2020-21 budget was considerably pared-down due to issues related to the pandemic.
Henne had shared further budget details in the May 12 meeting, explaining he believed the budget would be “a moving target until the lock-down ends.”
The council also moved to reopen the city hall and public safety buildings on Monday, June 8, after Governor Gretchen Whitmer had lifted the stay-at-home order.
The vote to reopen was unanimous. The reopening plan will continue with social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines in place, both for city employees and residents.
Mayor Chris Eveleth stated employees wanting to return to his place of employment, still have to wear masks. He admitted he knows there is controversy over the use of masks. He shared that it is his opinion that with the number of high-risk members in the Owosso community, that masks are necessary.
Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne assured council that members of the public would be encouraged to wear masks into city buildings, too.
The next council meeting is planned for Monday, June 15.
*George Floyd died in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25 when four officers held him on the ground, with one officer applying a knee to his neck. A video of his death was made public via the Internet.