Livingston County representatives ask if rural county should be grouped with metro Detroit

Michigan Capitol Building
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 18:25:42-04

(WXYZ) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and health leaders have divided the state into regions as they work on what is being called the economic restart plan.

Livingston County leaders now are calling on the governor to re-work that map. They believe Livingston County belongs with the Lansing area, not Detroit.

“It does not make sense for Livingston County to be incorporated in the metropolitan Detroit region for a number of reasons. One is just based on population,” said State Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Township).

“We should be grouped with the Lansing area and start opening up a little earlier than the very dense populated areas would,” said State Rep. Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville).

They both wrote a letter to the governor asking her to rework the map of regions created as the state works on what is called the Michigan Safe Start Plan. They say numerous business owners have called on them to make this request.

“Anecdotally, I have a DSL line, I live on a dirt road, I have a septic field. Houses are very spread apart. I am only 12 minutes from downtown,” said David Yancho, Armor Protective Packaging Vice President and Co-Owner.

Yancho says he believes Livingston County businesses could be hurt by the regional grouping of relatively rural and urban counties. He says he looks at the number of COVID-19 cases from more dense areas. The City of Detroit has reported 10,417 cases, Wayne County outside of the city 8,875, Oakland County 8,078. He is concerned that Livingston County which only has had 385 will not be able to reopen its economy because it is grouped with harder hit counties.

Rep. Bollin and Rep. Vaupel say they do not want anyone to lose their business because of how the regions are grouped, not because of logical risk analysis.

“People are on the verge of losing their businesses,” Bollin said.

Seven Action News asked the governor why such a rural county would be grouped with more dense communities.

“So the regions were determined based on work sheds. That means where they live and where they work, where they are traveling. It is also based on the overlay of our regional health care systems. That is really important because if we start to see an increase we need to know that the capacity for the local public health is there,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan).

The governor also said that the number of overall cases is not going to determine opening. It also is looking at a change in rate of the disease consistently over a period of time. She said the Lansing area region will not necessarily open before the metro-Detroit region.

“We know we are still watching cases in the Lansing area. We have seen Detroit continue to fall off for a longer period of time. So I think that to try to pick and choose what region you are in and not paying attention to the fact there are heath systems and work sheds that define these regions is governing on gut and feeling. That is not how we have been operating. We are going to stay focused on the science and facts,” Whitmer said.