01-12-2017 Watervliet City Commission considers School Resource Officer proposal; Coloma street proj

NIGHTMARE…is the word a Coloma City Commissioner is using to describe the MDOT E. St. Joseph Street project. The project, which began in early fall, is not expected to be completed until late May.

Watervliet City Commission considers School Resource Officer proposal, Mayor wants more funding details

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission discussed the topic of a School Resource Officer at their first regular meeting of the year, Tuesday, January 10, 2017.  Mayor Dave Brinker said he sat down last week in a meeting with Watervliet Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Schooley and Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins to touch base on where everyone was with the subject.  The school district and the township have already passed a resolution stating that they are in support of the concept and both parties have pledged funding to help support it.

Brinker said that three things came out of the meeting and he was prepared to have the City Commission take action on one of the three tonight.  Brinker said he would like the commissioners to approve the resolution declaring that they also are in favor of the concept. After that though Brinker said, work still needed to be done.  The job description and the agreement were the other two items that Brinker had and while he did not say much about the job description, he said plenty about the agreement.

Brinker said it is clear to him that while the school and the township have both pledged funding to support the position, it is not with the intent that they would give the funding to the City to hire the individual and keep them employed following the time the resource officer would not be working in the school. Brinker said that Hutchins wants to have a committee of stakeholders to oversee the individual that serves in the role, although the person would be employed by the City.  While he was not speaking of the concept negatively, Brinker said they just have some things to work out.    Brinker just wants to make sure with the City of Watervliet being the ones to carry the license for the police department and the ones that house the liability that it will work for them.  “We have more on our shoulders,” Brinker said.

With an estimated cost of $70,000, the township has pledged $20,000 and the school district has pledged $30,000, leaving a balance of $20,000 for the city.  Brinker said that they will have to make sure that the cash flow is going to work out given that the payments will be through a reimbursement method vs. the two just giving the funds to the City for that purpose.   The City Commission approved the resolution authorizing an agreement with the other two parties and agrees to employ a School Resource Officer for a period of three years.  Further work will be done on the specifics of the job description and the agreement.

Police Chief Tim Sutherland told the City Commission that the school and the township would like to put the funding for the position in a separate account aside from other City funds. He said that each party wants to have a person at the table to make sure that the money is being used appropriately. While Sutherland agreed that the agreement does have some problems he said this is only a starting point.  He said it was his impression that the three people selected to represent their party at the table would be the ones to bang out the agreement. Brinker added, “It’s the right start and we need to make it happen but we have the liabilities and we need to make sure that it includes what we need to cover what is needed.”

The City Commission also held an in- depth discussion on the union contract that was before them for a vote.  The union contract is for four employees in the Public Works Department. Brinker said the newly unionized group was looking for City Commission approval to make it go into effect by February 1.  Brinker said that with them having another meeting before that date, it could be held off but enough time needed to be allotted for payroll changes to be made in time for the February 1 start date.

Brinker said that most of what was contained in the contract was pretty much in the manner they have now except that they (the City) would have to do a lot of notifications now, take seniority into consideration for work assignments, pay out for things like maternity, military, and jury leave, etc.  Brinker said they (the employees) can accrue things differently than what the employee handbook says like with personal time off and that the amount they can accumulate is higher.  With the contract as written, the City would have to change the pay schedule for the unionized employees to weekly and pay each employee a $50 cell phone stipend.  Brinker said that wage increases would have to go in place when the contract is signed. Brinker said the agreement was for three years.

Commissioner Muth said that the payroll needs to stay how it has been, bi-weekly.  She also commented that she thought that $50 stipend for cell phone was too much and should be more like $30.   Brinker and Cobb voiced that they agreed with that suggestion.

Cobb questioned how the stand by pay worked and expressed discontentment with the scheduling of snow standby as described earlier by Brinker.  The City Commission agreed that they wanted more explanation on how the standby pay would work.  They took action that will send Brinker back into negotiations with them on those items.

During public comments Bob Becker questioned the snow plowing on the sidewalks and suggested that maybe there is a better way to clear sidewalks so they do not have to push snow up against the lamp posts that a lot of money was just spent on updating and making them all work.  Brinker said he would talk to Public Works about the process for snow removal.  While on the topic of snow removal, Dan Hummel added that he would like to make sure that the downtown area is made more walk able during the winter months.  He noted that a couple of weeks ago he walked up town and there was 6-8” of snow on the sidewalks.

Brinker also looked for consensus from the City Commission with regard to a Berrien County request to deed property over from the City of Watervliet to Berrien County for the purpose of the Watervliet County Park.  Recently, Berrien County received word that they have been awarded nearly $300,000 in grant funds that would be matched for a phase one project on the east side of M-140.  The property was part of a large papermill clean-up project which was overseen and partially funded by Berrien County through the Brownfield Authority.  The portion currently being considered for a deed transfer is approximately three acres or so according to Brinker.  Brinker said he would be sitting down with Berrien County representatives on Wednesday to discuss the future plans for the property on both sides of M-140.

Brinker named Commissioner Cobb as Mayor Pro Tem.

Coloma street project has turned into a nightmare

By Christina Gelder

Commissioner Marsha Hammond used the word nightmare to describe the E. St. Joseph Street project at the Monday, January 9 meeting of the Coloma City Commission. She reported that the commission had held a meeting with the site manager for the project and he was taking concerns back to the contractor to see if anything can be done to make things better for the residents of that street.

Commissioner Hammond also said that there were a lot of unknowns with the infrastructure going in and that could simply not be avoided. It is no one’s fault that there were extra hurdles within that. The money was not released from MDOT until fall which gave them a late start.

She said that the contractor is hoping, weather permitting, to be back on the job February 28. They still have a completion date set for May 31.

Commissioner Hammond is also requesting that with a slight break in weather they will come back and make the west end of the project more accessible to residents. At this point, she said, they are just trying to make the best of it.

Mayor Jim Polashak thanked the residents of the street. “We appreciate the patience the residents of that street have had,” he said, “We are trying to make it better for them.”

Along with all of that, owner of the building at 153 E. St. Joseph Street was also in attendance. Rick Martin was there to ask that the City not put a curb in front of his building.  He said that he understood the idea behind all the curbing and gutters, and they are happy to be getting improved gutters, but the curbing does not really fit with the flow of traffic in and out of that property.

Commissioner Hammond said the issue has been turned over to Midwest Civil Engineers and they will take it to MDOT. She was not sure if the state required a curb along that roadway or not but said they will fight to get that sorted out.

Residents selected for the Fire Chief Selection Committee

As the North Berrien Fire Rescue Board gets closer to finding a full-time fire chief each municipality is selecting two citizens at large to take part in the interview process. An exact interview date has not been set up yet but with it in the not so distant future Mayor Polashak asked the commission to approve their selections. Postmaster Greg Massey and Susie Moser were approved to fill the roll on behalf of Coloma.

You cannot pay volunteers

Tony Bertuca attended the meeting to question a move made by the commission a couple meetings back. He said he had heard that Stuart Thurlow had not been paid for his work and wanted to know why.

It was clarified that Thurlow had originally been a volunteer. It was approved to pay him temporarily as his help was very much needed by the Department of Public Works. It was not however approved to retro pay him for all of his volunteer time.

Thurlow was paid for two weeks and then the motion was questioned and rescinded at the next city commission meeting.

Bertuca maintained that Thurlow should have been paid for more than that. Commissioner Julia Smith said that you cannot pay volunteers. He was not originally hired to do the work and her premise was that if you pay him you would have to pay others who volunteer and it would never end. “You cannot hire volunteers and pay volunteers in a town this small,” said Smith.

The mayor also addressed Bertuca’s questions about the average age of the department. “No one else will be hired at this time,” said Mayor Polashak, “we are getting by with the good employees that we have.”

He also said he was aware that they have an older force that is all planning to retire in the next five years or so. They are working on a plan to move forward in a financially responsible way.

Mayor Polashak ended the discussion by reminding everyone that the issue was tabled and will remain so for now.

In other news, the commission will be holding a closed meeting at 6:45 p.m. on January 23. No explanation was given, just that it will be employees only. The Heritage/Public Relations Committee was abandoned. Chair of that committee, Commissioner Julia Smith said that it had been originally formed several years ago, when they were planning the City’s 175th birthday celebration but was no longer needed. The vote was unanimous to disband it going forward.

Cassidy Fickett win dual titles. Miss Coloma and Miss Congeniality; Jacob Sharpe crowned as Mr. Coloma

By Annette Christie

Cassidy Fickett was not only named Miss Coloma 2017 on Saturday night, her fellow contestants selected her as Miss Congeniality as well.  Before a packed audience in the Coloma High School auditorium, she said following the crowning that she looks forward to everything that will come with being the new Miss Coloma.

2017 MISS COLOMA AND HER COURT… (from the left): First runner-up Jenna Walter, Miss Coloma and Miss Congeniality Cassidy Fickett, and Second runner-up Harleigh Unger. (TCR photo by Annette Chris-tie)

Fickett, 18, is the daughter of William Fickett and Corine Fickett.  She is a senior attending Coloma High School.  Her future plans include attending the University of Michigan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a double minor in business and Asian language studies.  She hopes to volunteer with the Peace Corps and eventually become a Foreign Service Officer.

In school, she is involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, Academic Challenge Team, marching band, concert band, jazz band, and tennis.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing the ukulele, meditating, writing, geo-caching, baking, and traveling.

Jenna Walter, 17, was selected as first runner-up.  The senior attending Coloma High School is the daughter of John and Melissa Walter. She is involved in softball, volleyball, basketball, National Honor Society, Student Council, concert band and marching band.

She plans to attend Lake Michigan College to study business and then to transfer to Michigan State University to obtain a degree in Sports Management.  She hopes to become an Athletic Director or to work for a professional sports team.

Harleigh Unger, 17, was named second runner-up.  She is the daughter of Keith and Brandy Hiler.  She is a senior attending Watervliet High School.  Her future plans include attending Ohio Technical College to study welding and then to transfer to Lamar Community College to study horses.

She is involved in choir, Coloma Metalworks, and Country Kids.  She enjoys horseback riding, hunting, and fishing.

The other contestants include Bailey Evans, Allison Beck, Camalin Normandin, Nikki Bryant, and Hannah Strunk.

The individual winners for sales were announced during the contest:  Souvenir buttons – Hannah Strunk and Jenna Walter; Happy Ads in the program – Allison Beck; advertisements in the program – Camalin Normandin; tickets – Jenna Walter.

The theme for the Mr. and Miss Coloma Pageant was “Bedazzled” following the “B is for Blossomtime” theme set by the Blossomtime organization.  Matt Malone and Lyndsay Zvonar served as the emcees for the evening.  Both are radio personalities on WYTZ Y97.5.  Zvonar was a former Miss Coloma.

Judges for the Miss Coloma Pageant were Stephanie Schultz Ballard a former Miss Niles/Brandywine and Miss Southwest Michigan; Cynthia Layman Sanders, a former Miss Berrien Springs; and Randy Reimers a longtime volunteer with the Blossomtime organization.

Outgoing Miss Coloma Ashley Sipla remains as Miss Blossomtime until that contest is held on Monday, March 13, 2017 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center.

Jacob Sharpe chosen as

Mr. Coloma

Jacob Sharpe, 17, was named Mr. Coloma 2017.  He is the son of John Sharpe and Candi Gabrielse.

2017 MR. COLOMA AND HIS COURT… (from left): First runner-up Grant Kroshel, Mr. Coloma Jacob Sharpe, and Mr. Nice Guy and Second runner-up Zack Heater. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

Sharpe is a senior attending Coloma High School.  He is involved in marching band and concert band.  Following high school, he plans to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio to study diesel mechanics.

In his free time, he enjoys golfing, hunting, fishing, tubing, and wake boarding.

Grant Kroschel was selected as first runner-up.  The 18-year-old is the son of Walt Kroschel and Kathy Becht.

A senior attending Coloma High School, he is a member of the National Honor Society and the tennis, soccer, baseball, golf, and basketball teams.  Following high school, he plans to attend Michigan State University to major in accounting.

Zack Heater was a double winner on Saturday night as he was named Mr. Nice Guy by his fellow contestants and second runner-up.  He is the son of Mike and Audrey Heater.  The 18-year-old is a senior attending Coloma High School.

In school, he is on the varsity soccer and bowling teams.  He is also involved in the AYSO Soccer League and the Kickers Club Indoor Soccer League.  In addition, he is in the Coloma Lanes Youth Bowling League.

Following high school Heater plans to attend Lake Michigan College before transferring to a four-year university for major in a health profession or marketing.

The other contestants vying for the title of Mr. Coloma were Brett Tutton, Dustin Irerd, and Harrison Spaulding.

Individual sales winners were Harrison Spaulding for souvenir buttons, Happy Ads in the program, and tickets sold.  Grant Kroschel sold the most advertisements in the program.

PREVIOUSLY CROWNED…1st Runner-Up to Miss Teen Maurissa LaGrow (left) and Miss Teen Coloma Samantha Scott (right).

The judges for the Mr. Coloma portion of the contest were Ronnie Patrick, a longtime volunteer for the Blossomtime organization; Lynn Stover; and Dale Stover.

The National Anthem was performed by Max Daniel.  The Coloma Community Pageant Organization is the sponsor for the Miss and Mr. Coloma program.

The Bend Bar received the Community Service Award by the Coloma Community Pageant Organization for their contributions to the program.  Lonna Adams and Laurie Davis received the honor.


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