01-17-19 Hartford Township orders demolition of buildings on four blighted properties; Tall grass

Hartford Township orders demolition of buildings on four blighted properties

By Jon Bisnett Aligning with a common theme among several Tri-City area municipalities to eliminate blight, Hartford Township Board lowered the boom on four blight properties cited for dangerous buildings, approving orders of demolition for all four parcels at its regular January Business Meeting held Thursday, Jan. 10. Zoning Administrator While tightening the screws on blighted properties, the Township will do so without the support of Zoning Administrator Jim Lechenet who tended his resignation on relatively short notice following 14 years of service. Supervisor Ron Sefcik will assume the administrative duties in the interim, while enforcement will be a temporary assignment to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department Deputy contracted to the Township. The board recognized Lechenet’s service in the form of a resolution commending his 14 years at the post. Sheriff’s Department Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy Phil Scuiletti announced that he would be leaving his post as the Township Deputy citing his five years of service is untypical for such assignments. Deputy Rowley is in the process of familiarizing himself with the area via ride-a-longs with Scuiletti who will transition out this month. Road Commission The Van Buren County Road Commission representative Rick Boze told residents that county plows are idle with the mild weather as the VBCRC is taking advantage of the weather by actively pursuing tree and brush trimming. Other business Responding to an offer from Miss Hartford Brynn Duffy, the board supported contracting with the award-winning Hartford Community Float to place advertising, increasing the amount of financial participation to $1,500. Financial approval was given to the Hartford Joint Fire Department authorizing the purchase of replacement air packs in an amount in excess of the Joint Fire Agreement expenditure cap. A special meeting of the Township is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17.

Watervliet pastor named Chaplain of the Year by Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Pastor Brian Hall of Watervliet Free Methodist Church has been selected as the 2018 Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain of the Year. Pastor Hall started his chaplaincy in 2003 and has been a tremendous asset for the department. Chaplain Hall was nominated by his peers for his leadership and compassion for those he is called to serve. Sheriff’s office chaplains are ordained ministers who volunteer their time and services. Chaplains are commonly used for ceremonies, funerals and giving death notifications. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Corp was started after the tragic events of 9/11.

Tall grass growers in Coloma Township to be fined plus mowing costs

By Annette Christie The Coloma Township Board approved measures at their Wednesday, Jan. 9 meeting that will attach a surcharge for chronic tall grass residents. Township employee Rory Bell explained to the board that for years they have been charging the mowing expense back to the taxpayer, however, the township wasn’t collecting anything for its administrative costs before and after it gets to that point. Bell said that at the beginning of each mowing season, the township sends out a letter to previous violators. Violators begin getting a notice when their lawn goes over the allowed six inches but by the time all the notices have gone through and the response time is factored in the lawn usually reaches about 12 inches or so. “There is a lot of time involved from township officials so a surcharge would help to offset that,” Bell said adding, “The cost of the mowing and the surcharge can be put on the taxes.” Bell said the township continues to mow a violation lawn every 30 days unless the owner contacts the township to tell them to stop. “If they would just take care of the property themselves we wouldn’t have to deal with this,” Bell said. The board approved a surcharge of $150. Police Department business Interim Police Chief Wes Smigielski presented an amendment to the Police Department budget to cover new cameras and recorders for the police vehicles. Smigielski said that the system they are currently using is aged and is failing. Parts are no longer available. He recommended Digital Alley, a company that can upgrade the system as well as adding more camera views with motion detection, a new server, and backup of the videos. Smigielski was able to find the $14,200 out of pocket cost from his budget but required an amendment to the budget to do that. The board unanimously approved the budget amendment. During public comments, a resident asked the board the status of the Police Chief position as Smigielski is in the position on an interim basis. Supervisor Ken Parrigin said that he will be in the position for 60 days. Parrigin said that the Police Committee will make a recommendation to the township board in the filling of the position. “He (Smigielski) is doing a fine job,” Parrigin said.

ROYALTY VISITS HARTFORD TOWNSHIP… Miss Hartford for 2019 and her court made a stop at the January regular meeting of the Hartford Township Board. Queen Brynn Duffy (center) was accompanied by (from the left) Miss Teen 1st Runner-up Gersey Baker, Miss Jr. Teen Cessie Finley, Miss Jr. Teen 1st Runner-up Zoe Prillwitz, Miss Hartford 2nd Runner-up Piper Reinhardt, Miss Teen Raven Ledesma, and Little Miss Lilly Johnsen. Seated are Hartford Township Clerk Julie Sweet and Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)

Thanks is the theme at Coloma School Board

By Annette Christie In recognition of School Board Appreciation month, the Coloma School Board members were the guests of dinner and accolades at their first meeting of the New Year on January 14. The Senior Class made a video thanking the School Board for approving their Senior Class trip. At last month’s meeting, Senior Savannah Perez approached the board about the subject requesting approval to attend “Grad Night” being held at Six Flags Great America. The event is an overnight lock in at the amusement park. So far, 40 seniors have committed to the event. Some eighth graders came to thank the board for allowing “genius hour” which allows them to spend classroom time on interests outside of their core subjects. The students that presented were able to spend time studying baking, interior design, mini bike repair, and the U.S. Marine Corps. Students in the Intermediate School created individual name plates for the board and the elementary students created a singing video with the theme of “Thank you”. Funding received to finance classroom teaching tools In other good news, High School Principal Mike Churchill announced that the district has received three different grants. A grant in the amount of $20,000 will allow the district to purchase a water jet table that can be used to, among other things, cut steel. It will be used for machine shop, welding, and drafting. A grant in the amount of $5,000 will allow those in automotive studies to purchase a scanning device for diagnosing problems with vehicles. The Robotics Team also received donations in the amount of $13,000 to help with their robot design and upcoming competitions. In addition, the school received a mobile speaker system that can be used in multiple places and with many events. The AV team of students, which is a zero-hour class, will be operating the system at events like dances, pep assemblies, and sporting events. The junior high also received a couple of grants, one in the amount of $1,300 for technology upgrades and $400 for storybooks. Reading with Santa The Reading with Santa event held at the Elementary School in December was well attended according to Principal John Klein. The event was open for kids and parents to listen to a story read by Santa. It allowed an opportunity for parents to learn about the new 3rd grade reading law which will prevent students from moving to the next grade without being successful at reading. Each student went home with a book and parents were given tips on how to support their readers at home. Other news Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held in February district wide. The conference will be invitation only for students that teachers feel may need a little extra help and attention. This will allow teachers to speak to those parents one-on-one. Superintendent Dave Ehlers mentioned that the Comet Connection Newsletter will be coming out soon. Each edition will have a Comet Spotlight for a CHS graduate that has gone on to do great things. In other business, the board approved the purchase of transportation software that will help with the school’s transportation system. The three-year agreement with Tyler Technologies will cost the district $6,350 the first year, followed by $2,500 and $2,625 respectively.

WENDZEL TAKES CEREMONIAL OATH OF OFFICE… State Rep. Pauline Wendzel, of Watervliet, was joined by her family as she was sworn in January 9, 2019 at the state Capitol for her first term as state Representative for the 79th House District. Administering the oath of office on the House Floor was Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman. Pictured (from the left) are: Joyce and Brad Wendzel (parents), Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Markman, Alton and Mildred Wendzel (grandparents), Rep. Pauline Wendzel and Nicholas Scalise.

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