01-11-2018 Hagar Township moves positively into the New Year; Coloma City Commission informed of era

Hagar Township moves positively into the New Year

By Jon Bisnett

Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio came into the first township board meeting of 2018 held on Monday, January 8 with a light agenda, but noted a wave of positive events on the near horizon.

In 2018 Hagar will add a new venue to its parks system by virtue of a $300,000 DNR Trust Fund grant to build a kayak launch on the Paw Paw River.

The new Dollar General store on M-63 is slated to open on the 1st of February, while just further north on M-63 will come a new local eatery at the site of the former fruit market.

Monte Packaging will be adding on, once again; expanding their local manufacturing facility.

Further improvements to the Township Hall include the replacement of carpeting throughout all offices and budget consideration for a possible keyless entry system for the hall.

Supervisor’s Report

Supervisor DiMaggio began by announcing the dates for the Michigan Association of Townships annual conference is April 23-26, 2018 in Traverse City. The board gave unanimous approval for registration fees for those attending.

DiMaggio proposed the Annual Township Meeting be combined with the Annual Budget Hearing on Saturday, March 10 at 9:00 a.m. He further requested residents and department heads to forward their requests and suggestions for any needs or projects that should be considered for the 2018 budget.

Clerk’s Report

Clerk Sarah Rodriguez reported on activity with Pride Care Ambulance with 17 calls for the month of December. Ten Priority I calls had the average response time of 09:13 minutes, 12 Priority II calls clocked a time of 13:30 minutes and one Priority III class came in at 12:40 minutes accounting for the monthly activity of 23 total calls with an average response time of 11:36 minutes

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Marlene Davis reported typical December expenses for the township were in the amount of $30,447.24 with nothing out of the ordinary.

North Berrien Joint Fire Report

Supervisor DiMaggio reported NBJFD had 16 calls in the month of December with 10 in Hagar, two in Coloma Township, three in City of Coloma and one mutual aid.

The new 2018 budget is still in the works.

ISO has upgraded the NBJFD to a 5/5Y ranking which may or may not affect homeowner’s insurance rates in a positive way. Residents are encouraged to check with their agents.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting body founded in 1947. It provides worldwide industrial and commercial standards. The upgrade to 5/5Y came as a result of both new equipment acquisition and adherence to standards of practice by NBJFD.

A summary of the past year showed a total of 242 calls for service in 2017 as follows: Coloma City, 40 calls; Coloma Township, 73 calls; Hagar Township, 94 calls; I-196 & I-94, 24 calls; Mutual Aid, 11 calls. The breakdown by type is:

General Alarm, 37; Carbon Monoxide, 6; Brush/Grass Fire, 17; Car Fires, 7; Structure Fires, 17; Non-Highway Personal Injury, 20; Medical Assist, 36; Power Lines, 38; Burn Complaint, 12 (No ticket); Trash Fire, 2; Water Rescue, 2; Weather Related, 2; Haz-Mat, 11.

Parks Department

Parks Director Beth Raiser reports parks are now closed-down. A warning sign is in place at Hagar Park effectively closing the non-existent beach due to high lake levels, while Roadside Park is still accessible.

Raiser is currently working with Dale Davis to build a budget for 2018 improvements and maintenance needs.

Supervisor DiMaggio encouraged Raiser to explore installation of permanent vault toilets for Hagar Park as opposed to the ongoing seasonal rental of portable toilets.

Building Inspector

Butch Kelly reported eight permits for $51,105. Summing up recent years activity Kelly said, “The past two years are the slowest I’ve ever seen in all my time as inspector.”

Noting significant permits by Dollar General, Coloma Frozen Foods and Monte Packaging, Kelly revealed only 72 total permits in 2017, with no new home construction on the list.

Public Comment

Resident Steve Linebaugh spoke as property owner on the northern Eamon Road border of Lakeshore Cemetery. Linebaugh expressed his concern following the recent removal of aged and overgrown pines along that border asking if the township would be replacing them with a fence to define the property line. Litter, ranging from beer bottles to crack pipes has been an issue for Linebaugh’s property over the years and the homeowner is concerned it will only increase if nothing is done to define the parcels. Supervisor DiMaggio agreed, asking Infrastructure Specialist Davis to pursue quotes for a 5’ chain link fence.

Having no other business DiMaggio then adjourned the board at 7:33 p.m. with the next regular monthly meeting of the Township Board to be held 7:00 p.m. Monday, February 12, 2018.

Coloma City Commission informed of eradication protocol for invasive plant; moves forward on independent contractor for ordinance enforcement

By Lynn Mainwaring-Attila

Jared Harmon, Invasive Species Outreach Educator for Berrien County, presented a brief power point overview to the Coloma City Commission at their Monday, Jan. 8 meeting. He outlined eradication criteria to inhibit and ultimately destroy the spread of Japanese Knotwood, a non-native invasive plant threatening the eco-system in Southwest Michigan.

The robust Asian vegetation was introduced to Michigan as an ornamental plant but quickly morphed into a major problem. Harmon stressed how difficult total eradication of this species can be. New growth not only can occur from hybrid seeds, but also from bits of root and stem material dispersed by water, equipment or fill.

Berrien Conservation District recommends a multi-faceted approach to eliminate the troublesome plant. Affected areas need to be aggressively treated for three to five years.

Detailed information describing Knotwood species and eradication protocol may be obtained by emailing Jared Harmon at jaredharmon@macd.org.

In other business, the Commission agreed to extend the Winter Tax deadline until February 28, 2018 with no penalty or interest charges.

The Commission agreed to move forward seeking an independent contractor to fulfill the duties of an Ordinance Officer, and pay bills for January 2018.

Peters, Collins provision boosting fire departments signed into law

 President Trump signed into law the AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act that included a provision authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to help fire departments save money by hiring and promoting trained first responders. The provision gives local fire departments around the country the flexibility to use Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grants to transition part-time or paid-on-call personnel who are already trained and equipped to respond to emergencies to full-time status. Previously, SAFER grants could only be used to hire and train new personnel.

“Part-time firefighters in Michigan – and across the country – use their valuable experience and training to save lives and protect our homes and businesses,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I’m pleased this commonsense, bipartisan legislation has been signed into law so fire departments can devote their limited resources to promoting trained, experienced firefighters who are already working to keep our communities safe.”

“Volunteer and part-time firefighters across the country work hard every day to protect the communities they serve, and they need adequate resources and training to do their important jobs,” said Senator Collins, Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  “We are delighted that this bipartisan legislation has been signed into law with our important provision, ensuring that the SAFER grant program will continue to provide critical support and resources to fire departments that keep our communities safe.”

Volunteer or part-time firefighters make up 70 percent of the total firefighting force in the United States, and these first responders receive important training and certifications to prepare for emergency situations. The Peters-Collins provision enables fire departments to devote resources to promoting firefighters that are already trained and serving in local communities, rather than hiring and training new personnel for full-time employment.

The provision is supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among other groups.

“Reauthorizing the Assistance to Fire Fighters and SAFER Grant programs was one of the IAFF’s most important legislative goals of the 115th Congress.  This legislation will improve the delivery of critical emergency services to communities all across this nation. The 310,000 members of the IAFF applaud Senator Peters for amending this essential legislation to better advance fire fighter safety while increasing fire fighter retention,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“The leadership of the nation’s fire and emergency service thanks Congress for passing H.R. 4661, the United States Fire Administration, AFG and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017. These programs help local fire departments attain the necessary education, staffing, training and equipment that they need to protect their communities,” said Chief Thomas Jenkins, IAFC president and chairman of the board.

“The IAFC especially thanks Senator Peters for his leadership in securing a provision in the legislation clarifying that the SAFER funds can be used to transition part-time firefighters to full-time status. This will provide fire departments the flexibility to promote from within, save money and better protect communities,” said Chief Michael O’Brian, IAFC International Director, Fire and Life Safety Section and chief of the Brighton Area (Michigan) Fire Authority.

“While SAFER grants have helped countless fire departments hire new fire fighters, funds were previously unavailable for departments wishing to convert part-time fire fighters to full-time employees. We are glad Senator Peters’ legislation was signed into law to remedy this loophole. This solution will provide Michigan communities a new means to increase the number of fire fighters on the job and improve public safety all while using taxpayer money efficiently,” said Mark Docherty, President of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union.

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