01-09-2020 Watervliet City delays church approval again; Coloma Royalty crowned; Drs. Ed and Sue Lie

2020 MISS COLOMA AND HER COURT… (From the left): Miss Congeniality Bailey Siglow; 2nd Runner-Up Rachael Arnold; Miss Coloma Lilly Trapp; and 1st Runner-Up Isabelle Stevens. (TCR photos by Annette Christie)

2020 MR. COLOMA AND HIS COURT… (From the left): Mr. Nice Guy Caleb Winfield; 2nd Runner-Up Nicholas Santarlas; Mr. Coloma Ian Ishmael; and 1st Runner-Up Ethan Price.

Watervliet City delays church approval again

By Annette Christie

Driving down Main Street in the City of Watervliet, visitors can stop by a restaurant or two, visit a hardware store, library, insurance agent, liquor store, brewery, pharmacy, newspaper, an attorney, or a K-9 learning center. Main Street also allows a primo window frontage location for winter storage of boats, motorcycles, etc. Vacant buildings also populate Main Street.

One organization that would like to prevent another vacant building, would invest and make improvements to an aged structure, and provide a place for people to go for resources when they need it most, could obtain a special land use permit and have a presence on Main Street; however, they have hit another delay after the Watervliet City Commission Meeting held January 7, 2020.

Freshwater Church first applied to the City of Watervliet for a special land use permit in April of 2019. Their first opportunity to be heard was in August. Several Planning Commission meetings and a Zoning Board of Appeals (City Commission) meeting later, the City Commission decided at their Tuesday night meeting that they now want to seek a legal opinion from their attorney.

While the Planning Commission had recommended to the City Commission that they deny the special land use permit, the City Commission ultimately could have approved it and could have determined any of the conditions for the permit.

Prior to the decision, Pastor Justin VanFerrari of Freshwater Church told the City Commission that he was excited about the downtown development vision in which the city and the church share some of the same goals. He told them he looked forward to the Community Center providing activities and events for the people of the community. VanFerrari said that they would like to partner with the community in creating additional amenities that will add another realm for people to come to Watervliet.

VanFerrari addressed two of the issues that have been brought up in their conversations with the Planning Commission – one being parking and the other being the special land use permit being tied to the property forever. He noted that on average they have about 30 cars on a Sunday morning. Located right behind the proposed church/ community center at 115 N. Main St. is a public parking lot that can hold 36-37 cars. In his research, he found that this lot is not being utilized by other businesses for their parking needs.

With regard to the longevity of the special land use permit, VanFerrari noted that the church has been in existence for 10 years. Research he shared shows that the percentage of churches that make it after that many years of existence is very high. Zoning/ Ordinance Enforcement Officer Bob Lohr noted that special land use permits are approved to the property and the specific use that was approved by the permit. He stated that if they change the purpose, it does not apply.

City Manager Tyler Dotson said that the permit issue has been a relatively emotional and complex issue, and not something that they see very often. He expressed appreciation to the Planning Commission for their research and Bob Lohr for steering the Planning Commission. He said that based on the conflicts that the City would have with the ordinance, the Planning Commission determined it in the best interest of the City to recommend denying the permit request.

Mayor Dave Brinker said this was a very unique situation. He said if people look in the city’s history, they will not find any instances where a city commission ever did anything different than what a planning commission has recommended. He said he wanted the City Commission to look at some different possibilities to make it happen. Lohr reminded the City Commission that if they approve the special land use permit, they would have the opportunity to issue the conditions attached to the permit.

There was some discussion about the lack of tax that the city would have if purchased by the church being that they are non-profit. Following the discussion, Brinker said he would like to seek legal counsel on what options they could consider in order to try and make this work somehow with the church. Brinker asked the supporters of the church to give them one more week.

VanFerrari said that he appreciated the conversation. When he was told the process would be a marathon, he likened that to taking a few months. He informed the Commission that if this continues too long, the building and property will likely be foreclosed on by the County Treasurer. “I am shocked that you haven’t had time to do your due diligence,” VanFerrari said, adding, “We want to go where we are wanted and want to be a part of the community.”

Commissioner Duane Cobb noted that he would like to see what their long term vision is for a community center, given that each of them may have a different picture in their mind as to what that means. VanFerrari said that they have had contractors go through the building and estimate what could be done and for what price but until they are in the building, they wouldn’t be able to give a set plan. The sale of the building to the church is contingent on being able to obtain the special land use permit.

Construction Board of Appeals appointed

At the Tuesday meeting, the Commission established a Construction Board of Appeals and finalized the appointments. Dotson explained that they will hear from the owners of property and a structure described as the Old Catholic Church at 204 Crescent St. The building has multiple code violations and has been condemned. The City had scheduled the demolition of the building. The owners are now appealing that decision, which will come before the Construction Board of Appeals on Thursday, January 9 at 5:00 p.m. Appointed were: Thomas Baldwin, Charles Sample, Kenneth Benjamin, Kenneth Jewel, and James Andrews.

Dotson reached out to the owner, he asked for an action plan to bring the building up to code and then he did not hear from anyone for 14 months. Dotson said the Public Works Department has had to secure the building several times. He noted that there are a lot of issues with this structure dating back seven years.

Parks & Recreation Plan approved

A public hearing occurred prior to the regular City Commission for the final review of the updated Parks and Recreation Plan. Joelle Regovich reviewed the process leading up to the January 7 approval.

The City Commission hired Abonmarche to develop their new 5-Year Parks and Recreation Plan. They assessed the current facilities, parks, and natural areas. They solicited public input through a survey. Through the results of the survey, the Parks & Recreation Committee developed a plan for the future and identified potential funding sources.

As part of the review Abonmarche updated the City Parks inventory including ADA accessibility. They received 159 responses to the survey. The survey results showed that 57% of the respondents were full-time Watervliet City residents; over 81% of the respondents feel safe to very safe in City parks; Hays Park is the most used park; 71% of the respondents didn’t even know Sterner Park existed; and 94% favor improved/ expanded trail systems for walking and hiking.

The high priority action items at Hays Park are to add a dog park, add bike racks, open and maintain bathroom accessibility from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., add ADA routes to all elements, update pavilion and repair amenities, add/ improve parking, and add options to expand the Paw Paw River water trail use.

The high priority action items at Flaherty Park are to add ADA pathways to all elements, add lighting to make the park safer and more usable at twilight, open and maintain bathrooms, add bike racks, and make the park rules more prominent.

The high priority action items at Sterner Park were to add ADA pathways, and improve access to designated trout stream fishing.

The overall City plans include to add bike trails throughout, increase wayfinding signage to parks and trails, add paved trails throughout the community and connect to other trail networks, coordinate park improvements with Berrien County park plans, develop volunteer support of parks and park activities, and to maintain the Paw Paw River Water Trail.

The Parks and Recreation Committee includes Deah Muth, Mike Bumstead, Bill Whitney, and Tyler Dotson.

The plan will be submitted to the state by the February 1 deadline.

In other business, the Commission changed their meeting schedule for the meetings in March, August and November to accommodate upcoming elections. They delayed their meetings in those months to the second Tuesday of the month.

Coloma Royalty crowned

By Annette Christie

The Coloma Community Pageant Organization held their annual pageant last Saturday at the Coloma High School auditorium. The contest paid tribute to “The greatest lake to play in – Paw Paw Lake” as its theme. Crowned Queen and King were Lilly Price and Ian Ishmael, who will now proceed on in hopes of getting a Blossomtime title.

Miss Coloma and Court

Miss Coloma 2020 is Lilly Trapp. She is a 17-year-old senior attending Coloma High School. The daughter of Michael and Danielle Trapp, she has one sister.

In high school she is involved in varsity singers, Chambers Choir, Serenade Choir, and Academic Challenge. She was the first runner-up to Miss Teen Coloma in 2018. She has been on the honor roll for all four years of high school and is a two-year member of the Michigan All-State Jazz Ensemble.

She plans on taking pre-pharmaceutical classes at Southwestern Michigan College before transferring to Ferris State University to get her degree in pharmacy.

Isabelle Stevens was selected as first runner-up. Stevens, 17, is a senior attending Coloma High School. She is the daughter of Rick and Sarah Stevens and David Wayne and Cande Rutherford.

Stevens is involved in sideline and competitive cheerleading, National Honor Society, Student Council, and Chambers Choir.

She has been on the honor roll during her high school years and has received honorable mention and All Conference for Competitive Cheerleading.

Following high school, she plans on attending college to study nursing. Her hobbies include pointe ballet, cheerleading, singing, and spending time with family and friends when she is not working. She has four sisters and two brothers.

Rachael Arnold was chosen as second runner-up. She is a 17-year-old senior attending Coloma High School. The daughter of David and Elizabeth Arnold, she has two sisters and two brothers.

Arnold is involved in Student Council, Marching Band, Concert Band, Sideline Cheer, and Competitive Cheer. Her honors include being a 4-year honor roll member and earning a 2nd Division Rating at Solo & Ensemble in a duet. She enjoys playing the flute, watching the sunset and playing with her dogs.

Her future plans include attending college to study elementary education. She also hopes to return to Mexico to help with the orphanage that she has previously done.

Bailey Siglow was selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants. The 17-year-old is a senior attending Lake Michigan Catholic High School. Her parents are Peter and Kimberli Siglow. She has two brothers.

In high school, Siglow is the President of Interact, Student Council Vice President, and has received the Principal’s Award. She is involved in Environmental Club, Students against Destructive Decisions, High School Band, Varsity Tennis, Cross Country, and Track and Field.

She has received the Cross Country Iron Woman Award, Cross Country Beacon Award, Laker Spirit Award, and has been the Captain of the Cross Country, Tennis, and Track and Field teams.

Siglow will be attending Saint Mary’s College to obtain a master’s in Speech-Language Pathology.

The other contestants were Samantha Trousdale, Serena Reyna, and Hannah Guntz.

Mr. Coloma and Court

The four contestants seeking the Mr. Coloma title, all came away with a title and will become part of the court.

Ian Ishmael, 18, was selected as Mr. Coloma. He is a senior attending Coloma High School. His parents are Tim and Heidi Ishmael.

Ishmael is involved in Student Council, Baseball, Football, and Wrestling. He is the Treasurer of National Honor Society and is the Drumline Section Leader of the Marching Band.

He has been named the WSJM Student Athlete of the Week, is 1st Team All-Conference in Wrestling where he has achieved 100 wins.

Following high school, Ishmael hopes to attend the United States Naval Academy so he will be able to give back to this country.

Ethan Price was selected as first runner-up. He is the son of Ryan and Erika Price. The 17-year-old is a senior attending Coloma High School.

His hobbies include baseball, hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking, and golfing. He has received All-State honors for baseball, All-District twice, All-Region, and All-Conference three times for baseball. He has also received the Coaches Award and been on the honor roll.

He plans to play baseball at the next level and have a career as a carpenter.

Selected as second runner-up is Nicholas Santarlas, he is a 17-year-old senior attending Coloma High School.

The son of Bob Santarlas and Jill Page, he plans to attend Lake Michigan College after high school, prior to attending a university.

He is involved in Student Council, football, track and bowling. He has received honorable mention for bowling and was named 1st Team All-Conference in football.

Caleb Winfield was named Mr. Nice Guy. He is a 17-year-old senior attending Coloma High School.

Following high school, he plans to attend Central Michigan University for physical therapy and plans to have a career in that field.

He is involved in soccer, track, PHSA, and is a member of the Salem Lutheran Youth Group. He has received a varsity letter in soccer.

His parents are Brian and Kimberly Barchett and he has four brothers.

Rochelle Ulleg served as the emcee for the event.

Marshall Arndt performed the National Anthem to begin the contest.

The Blossomtime Contest will be held Sunday, March 15 and 16 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center.omitedeould bes, no applicanc3-hild sexual exploitation can be reported to this website as well athe nonline and have them

Drs. Ed and Sue Liebenthal look back on a blessed career

By Jon Bisnett

Over 35 years ago Ed and Sue Liebenthal opened their dental practice in Hartford. Now as they retire the Tri-City Record had the opportunity to sit down with them as they reflected on their storied and grateful experience serving their patients of the Tri-Cities. The time spent was nothing short of fascinating to hear the story of how a couple of young Chicagoland suburbanites made their way to Southwest Michigan and carved out a lifelong career of exemplary patient care and community service.

The story begins at University of Illinois where the pair first met during undergrad studies. Ed had already completed his degree in engineering and Sue was still in dental school when they married. Ed was plying his engineering skills in a full-time job with IBM.

VINTAGE DOCS ED AND SUE LIEBENTHAL… What began as a chance meeting of a couple of college kids from Chicagoland led to an outstanding career of over four decades of service in the Tri-City area. An Open House will celebrate their retirement Saturday, Jan. 11 from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the His Place Community Center located at 15 S. Maple Street in downtown Hartford.

He happened to attend a local seminar to hear a man named Tony Compallo speak. The subject turned to services for the poor, specifically health care. Ed recalls how he was moved by the message that the poor receive terrible health care as the speaker challenged his audience to pursue a career in healthcare and make a difference.

Feeling as Dr. Ed puts it “It was as if God literally spoke directly to him,” after a great deal of contemplative prayer he took a couple of biology classes to get a feel for what he was in store for. Recognizing that a medical degree was not where he wanted to go, Ed followed the same track as Sue to enter dental school.

Putting his engineering behind him, Ed’s future bridge-building would bind bicuspids and molars rather than trusses of steel.

Path to Michigan

The Liebenthals remained in the Chicagoland suburbs as dental associates for a few years, during which time they made frequent trips to Michigan to visit Ed’s sister who lived in Three Rivers. The pair liked Michigan and eventually made plans to open a practice in Lawton. They bid on a home and commercial space. The home sellers decided unexpectedly to remove their house from the market and the commercial property fell through.

Call it fate, faith or a happy accident the events moved the couple ever so closer to their Hartford practice, but a few more steps awaited them.

Seeking an associate position in the area resulted in a long series of negative responses until a chance meeting with the manager of Intercare in Bangor.

Intercare was readying a new health services clinic to serve downtown Benton Harbor and had no dentist. The job was the perfect fit for the young couple and for several years the duo worked for the clinic on Main Street in the old F & M Bank building.

While attending an open house at Intercare, again a chance meeting with Dr. John Laman led to a move in 1985 which found the Liebenthals working with Laman’s Hartford practice.

Drs. Ed and Sue formally took over the business in 1997 at the current location on South Street in Hartford beginning the first days of their own practice which continued until Dr. Sue’s retirement in early 2019 and now Dr. Ed at the end of the year.


The Liebenthals reflect on a wonderful staff of longstanding employees that support the practice. Many have been with the practice for over 20 years and are a caring and highly-valued part of the team. Since the start Ed says, “We made a commitment to continuing education…” and extends that to staff as well. Team building and seminar travel perks over the years has seen the whole office go sky diving and white-water rafting, not to mention a world class ugly sweater day and the occasional practical joke. Sue recalls Ed’s Mom’s first trip to the office.

THE TORCH IS PASSED… Dr. Seth Griffin (left) has formally taken the reins of the business as Drs. Ed & Sue hang up their lab coats. The Liebenthal practice has subtly transitioned to Hartford Family Dentistry. After serving as an associate for over five years, Dr. Seth purchased the business, retaining the same South Street location and long-term support staff of friendly faces patients have come to know. Seth and his wife Meagan recently moved to Hartford and are expecting their first child in March.

They set up Mom by telling her the hygienist was very hard of hearing and told the hygienist that Mom had the same difficulty. Sue says the entire office had a laugh listening to the two women literally yelling at each other, until one of them figured it out! Ed says, “They’re a fun bunch. You never know what they’ll come up with next, but we love each one and respect the excellent job they do for the patients.”

The numbers

Just for fun we ran the math on Dr. Ed and came up with the following. In 34 years of practice we estimated roughly 40,000 fillings by Dr. Ed alone, plus the work Dr. Sue performed in addition to her work in orthodontics. Only once has Dr. Ed been bitten by a nasty little boy who he swears did it on purpose!

Modern technology has replaced the old days of silver dental fillings with high-tech polymers, so we hesitated to estimate the value of silver in 40,000 fillings.

Dr. Ed says he and Sue also committed early on that even though they were operating in a small town, they would strive to provide the very latest in technology. Digital x-rays, computer modeling and other tech tools provide patients with the best quality of service the profession offers.

From board to borders

Raising three children locally, the Liebenthals embraced the Hartford Public Schools, both serving with the Band Boosters and Sue with the Academic Boosters. Dr. Ed spent 15 years as a School Board Trustee, several of which as President.

The pair extended their dental service well beyond their local office as they participated in multiple mission trips to Jamaica, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Mexico carrying God’s word and a portable dental rig to bring comfort to those who often might not see a dentist at all.

Passing the torch

Six years ago, Dr. Seth Griffin joined the practice as an associate and now assumes the role of management and ownership of the Hartford office.

An Honors Graduate of Coloma High School, with deep family ties to the area, Dr. Seth graduated magna cum laude from Taylor University and then received a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity University. Following graduation from the University of Detroit Dental School, Griffin completed an extensive residency at Miami Hospital of Dayton, Ohio.

Dr. Seth and his wife Meagan recently moved to Hartford. Seth also serves on the Board of Lakeland Hospital Watervliet and the Hartford Foundation.

His vision for the future of the practice is quite simple in providing the same quality care that patients have come to expect for years. Then again, he has a pretty great model to emulate.

The future

So what comes of Drs. Ed and Sue now? Dr. Sue has six grandkids at the top of her list. Both she and Dr. Ed have elderly parents to spend time with.

Dr. Ed says he might like to do a bit of teaching. He has put together a seminar of some basic dentistry principals aimed at doctors and emergency room staff.

He sums it all by saying, “We have enjoyed a great run. To have the privilege serving the generational customers – the moms, the dads, sons & daughters, even their grandkids. We deeply love this community. We both feel humble & truly blessed with all it has given us.”

An Open House will celebrate Dr. Ed and Dr. Sue’s retirement Saturday, Jan. 11 from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the His Place Community Center located at 15 S. Maple Street in downtown Hartford.


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