Unlike home rule cities and charter townships, general law townships (hereafter, “townships”) do not have charters, and the authority of a general law township supervisor is largely limited to what is expressly authorized by state statute or the township board. Because of this, much of a township’s emergency response will require action by the township board which “may adopt ordinances regulating the public health, safety, and general welfare of persons and property [….]” MCL 41.181. This can be somewhat counter intuitive because a township supervisor is often viewed as the executive head of the township and may be presumed to have the authority similar to that of a home rule city mayor or a charter township supervisor.
Under certain circumstances, the Michigan Emergency Management Act, MCL 30.401 et seq., empowers a township supervisor to declare a local state of emergency. MCL 30.410(b). However, the effect of such a declaration is simply the activation of the “response and recovery aspects of any and all applicable or interjurisdictional emergency operation plans and authorizes the furnishing of aid, assistance, and directives under those plans.” MCL 30.401(j).
Because much of the authority to deal with an emergency resides with the township board, it is important that townships work with their attorneys to ensure that emergency responses are being properly legislated by the township board, or where necessary, authority delegated.