01-25-2018 Bids opened for Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet; “Van” tastic; Coloma

TEAM ZOE…strong! Several community members including two churches came together along with Brookfield Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Benton Harbor to purchase this 2011 Chrysler Town and Country for Zoe and her family. Zoe Phillips is a 9 year old from Hartford, she was orginally diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2016, (rare childhood cancer) and was cancer free in September of 2017, only to find out in November that her cancer had came back. Tuesday night the vehicle was presented to Zoe and her parents, Augustina Contreras and Jason Phillips. Donations surpassed what was expected so not only did they pay for the vehicle they paid 6 months insurance up front. Dependable transportation has been a need and now with a newer vehicle they will be safe on the highway! Zoe and her family will be traveling to Devos Childrens hospital in Grand Rapids weekly for 3 months for a trial treatment. They will administer the antibodies treatment and then monitor her for two days. Her treatments started Wednesday January 24 with a full day of scans. (Amy Loshbough photo)


Bids opened for Paw Paw River County Park in Watervliet

By Annette Christie

The bids for the future Paw Paw River County Park were opened before the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee at their Thursday, January 18 meeting, coming in a bit higher than what was budgeted.

The committee received six bids with quite a variation in the highest to the lowest.  The highest bid was $886,994 vs. the lowest at $646,321, submitted by TJM Services of Allegan.

The Finance Committee approved the referral of the bids to staff for review and approved the lowest bid if it meets all the specifications and requirements of the project.

Parks and Recreation Director Brian Bailey said that the bids would be turned over to architect M.C. Smith for review and he would present the findings of that review back to the Board of Commissioners. They will check references and other projects that the lowest bidder has worked with in the past.

With the budget being $556,000, the Board of Commissioners will have to consider some options for handling the difference.  There are some parts of the project that could be cut to get to the budgeted amount or the County Commissioners could consider finding an alternate funding source for the balance of the project.  Bailey is on the schedule for the Committee of the Whole meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 25, 2018 to discuss the project to the full board.

The construction calendar is to begin in March and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2018.

The funding for the project came about by Berrien County receiving a $296,000 grant from the State of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, $300,000 from Berrien County, and a generous $25,000 donation from the “Friends of Paw Paw River County Park.”

Individuals with the North Berrien Community Development Organization ran a fundraising campaign led by Rick Rasmussen and presented a check in the amount of $25,000 in January 2017 to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners to be used for the creation of the new Paw Paw River County Park.

Berrien County was awarded a grant award in December 2016 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund as Berrien County started the process of establishing a county park in the northern part of the county, a first.

The park development includes approximately 20 acres on the east side of M-140 with one mile of Paw Paw River frontage, directly across the river from Hays Park.  The plans for the park include improvements to the river frontage, a pedestrian bridge connecting to the island, mature trees, birding, fishing, scenic walking trail in the island and other recreational opportunities.  The park will connect Watervliet directly to the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan on the designated Paw Paw River Water Trail.  This location will be a trailhead for the water trail with an ADA kayak launch, hard surface walkways, a parking area, security lighting, trash and recycle bins and bench seating which will enhance recreational opportunities for the region.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund receives its funding from royalties from the lease and sale of State owned mineral rights. No tax dollars are used for the grants that are provided.  All grant recipients are required to provide 25% in local matching funds.

The park project coming to Watervliet nicely compliments the local and state initiative to clean debris out of the Paw Paw River Water Trail.  In June of 2016, it was announced that a $100,000 grant would be made available to help clear debris in the Paw Paw River water trail and provide access sites for canoes and kayaks.

That grant was awarded through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and provided the funding to the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and local communities in an effort to fund the clearing of the river from Paw Paw to Benton Harbor.   It is a plan to help attract outdoor enthusiasts from near and far.

The 62-mile water trail begins in Waverly Township in Van Buren County and flows through Berrien County converging with the St. Joseph River just above its mouth at Benton Harbor.  The Paw Paw River offers a scenic view to kayakers or canoeists through heavily wooded areas. Currently there are 22 access points where paddlers can get on the river, including the Maple Lake Dam, the Paw Paw River campground, and Watervliet’s Hays Park.  Another access point will be included at the Paw Paw River County Park.

Coloma to have downtown farmer’s market on Saturdays beginning May 12; Rory Bell contracted for City Ordinance Officer post

May 12; Rory Bell contracted for City Ordinance Officer postanuary 15 eases the Hartford City government into 2018 with the former Mayor Pro-Tem now Mayor Rick Hall at the wheel. Newly elected Commissioner Helen Sullivan was appointed to replace Immediate Past Mayor Ted Johnson as the City’s Fire Board Representative. Final contract arrangements are under the review of the City Attorney as Pride Care Ambulance is slated to take over service to the city effective March 1, pending a formal vote of commission approval expected at the upcoming business session. Communications Joint Annual City/Township Fire Board Meeting, 7:00 p.m., February 21 at the Fire Station; March Board of Review will take place March 20, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on the 21. Police Report Chief Tressa Beltran presented a written report detailing activity of 740 duty hours with six foot patrol hours which included 19 complaints for the month of December, resulting in 13 arrests including five felonies. Beltran reported Hartford Officers assisted Tribal & Van Buren County Sheriff with multiple calls of a “UFO” in between of Tom Smith Tractor on 70th Street and Four Winds Casino. Upon investigation no alien visitors were located, but a brush fire causing reflections on the low cloud cover present at the time was discovered. Ordinance Officer Report A written report from Ordinance Officer Jim Coleman noted just four property inspections for the month of December. Blight postings for the month totaled 33 violations, a large portion for brush, resulting in 33 follow-ups. Fire Report The Hartford Joint Fire Department responded to 29 calls in the month of November, including 23 rescue / medical calls, three structure fires, with Assistant Chief Kevin McGrew reporting. Ambulance Report Medic 1 Board Representative Pete Sinclair submitted a written report of 30 calls for the month of December with 16 being ambulance calls and 14 were wheelchair transports. No response times were provided, however Sinclair did note that Medic 1 Executive Director Jack Fisher Jr. has been named President Elect of the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services. The Medic 1 Service Agreement with the City of Hartford ends February 28, 2018. Public Works Superintendent Dan Staunton was present to answer questions on his written report noting the mild November gave way to busy December with plenty of snow removal and salting of city streets. One water turn-offs took place for the month. The city pumped 5.145 thousand gallons for the month. Wastewater Treatment Plant Plant Operator Tom Strand indicated that all State of Michigan reports for the month have been filed. Strand reported routine tasks, while noting multiple out of range violations in the ongoing issue and he had yet to file the December report. Nine violations have occurred over a twelve month rolling average. City Manager Akinwale had last month assured the commissioners that both Wightman representatives and Strand would both be present at this month’s meeting to address the compliance issues. Only Strand was present. Akinwale indicated that he is convinced further modification of the plant is warranted as trade-off in chemical costs and will pursue that course. Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Pam Shultz presented a written report for the month December in the amount of $218,645.87. City Manager’s Report City Manager Yemi Akinwale reported only one respondent to the Request for Proposal for the replacement of Medic 1 Ambulance Service; that, from Pride Care Ambulance. To date they have met all requirements outlined in the RFP and he expects no issue in contracting for their services by the March 1 date. 1 East Main Five contractors acted upon bid opportunities for the demolition of the building, yet only two attended the January 8 walk-through. Bids will be accepted until Thursday, January 18 with the bid to be awarded at the Commission meeting January 22. Red Arrow School Update Akinwale has finally received a second opinion on the redevelopment plan to create a Community Center from the decommissioned schoolhouse. Wightman and Associates have come with some significantly lower costs that still fall short of the $1 million budget at hand from the Vanderlyn donation. Further research is warranted and may require compensation to the architects who have done gratis work at this point. Medical Marijuana Dispensary The recently adopted ordinance permitting medical marijuana related businesses has prompted several inquiries but yielded on one application to date. The application has been reviewed by police, fire and the Building Inspector. Pending their written determinations the application is expected to come to the Commission in February after review by the Planning Commission at their regular meeting in February. With those approvals the application for the 11 West Main site will then be forwarded to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for final approval. Mayor Hall suggested a log be maintained for the purpose of calculating the actual cost to the city in processing the application. Old business The Ambulance Committee made its formal recommendation to engage the services of Pride Care Ambulance, the former having met all the conditions and parameters of the Request For Proposal. New business Immediate Past Mayor Ted Johnson’s resignation of his seat on the Fire Board was filled with the appointment of Commissioner Helen Sullivan. Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned his second official meeting at 8:06 p.m. The council next meets for the monthly business session on Monday, January 22.

Coloma to have downtown farmer’s market on Saturdays beginning May 12; Rory Bell contracted for City Ordinance Officer post

By Lynn Mainwaring-Attila Summer Saturdays in downtown Coloma will have a new and exciting feature for the public to enjoy. At Monday, Jan. 22’s regular meeting, the Coloma City Commission unanimously agreed to allow a farmer’s market to operate in space located at the Coloma United Methodist Church, 144 S. Church Street.

Former farm market manager for the South Haven Farm Market, Chris Rigozzi, will head the project slated to open Saturday, May 12. Operation time will be from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and run for twenty consecutive Saturdays with expanded operation hours during the Glad-Peach Festival. Farm and fruit vendors will be sought as well as a limited amount of artisan vendors. All vendors will be from the southwestern Michigan area with local farms, markets and orchards receiving preferential consideration. At this time, no wineries will be invited to be part of the market. The market will be located on the grounds of the United Methodist Church, near the stop light downtown Coloma. The market will occupy both of the church’s parking lots, as well as, the lawn area facing the city. For further information or an application contact Chris Rigozzi at 269-365-5331 or CSM49038@gmail.com; Pastor Ron Van Lente, United Methodist Church at 269-468-9378 or ronvanlente@gmail.com.

St. Paddy’s Day Celebration Community Development Coordinator Channa Kniebes, on behalf of the Watervliet-Coloma Area Chamber of Commerce, was granted unanimous permission to post St. Patrick’s Day banners across Main Street one month prior to the celebration. She pointed out the 2018 event will fall on “the actual day” Saturday, March 17. Plans for this year will include the Lighted Parade and a 5K run-walk. Details and applications will be available at the beginning of February.

Ordinance Officer contracted The Commission agreed in a split vote to hire Coloma Township employee Rory Bell as a contracted employee to serve as the city’s Ordinance Officer. Bell has worked for Coloma Township as its Ordinance Officer since 2001.

City Mayor Jim Polashak said Sieg Freitag was also considered for the contract position and “always had a heart for the community.” However, the majority of the Commission agreed Bell possessed the needed expertise without the need of additional benefits. Mayor Polashak pointed out a “contract employee” was not an employee of the city but was “contracted” for a specific task and therefore, did not receive the same benefits city employees reap, such as health insurance.

Other issues City wide trash pickup is slated for April 16-19 and a City wide garage sale is planned for May 23-25. The Commission paid regular bills.

Olivia Ziemer of Hartford named Miss Spirit 2018

By Annette Christie Olivia Ziemer of the community of Hartford was crowned Miss Spirit 2018. She will be representing her community along with Miss Hartford Angela Saldana in the Miss Blossomtime Pageant and will join all of her sister queens in the various events throughout the year.

TAKING REIGN… Outgoing Miss Spirit 2017 Natalie Smiy (left) presents Miss Spirit 2018 Olivia Ziemer (right) of Hartford. Ziemer was crowned on Saturday night at the St. Joseph High School. The is the last contest leading up to the Miss Blossomtime Pageant which will be held Monday, March 12, 2018. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)


The 18-year-old senior attending Hartford High School is the daughter of Robert and Michelle Ziemer. Ziemer was accepted to the University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University but has not decided which school to attend. Either way, she plans to study the medical field to fulfill her hope of becoming a physician’s assistant. In school she is involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, Leadership Training, soccer, volleyball, Science Olympiad, Spanish Club, Pep Club, and is the Student Representative on the Hartford School Board. Ziemer is ranked number one in her class with a 4.0 GPA and has received numerous Academic Excellence Awards. She has received the DAR Good Citizen Award and was selected as the 2017 Homecoming Queen. In keeping with the Blossomtime theme the contest hosted a tribute to Muhammad Ali, rolling out the carpet to honor his legacy. Each of the 19 contestants introduced themselves and spoke to why they were inspired by the man. When asked why the red carpet would be rolled out to the new queen she said because of her community service and volunteerism around the world. Ziemer has been involved in a mission trip to Ecuador and she hopes for more mission trips in her future. She has volunteered as a camp counselor and as a tutor in Spanish. She has 60 hours of community service which includes food drives, blood drives, fund-raisers for children in need, and assisting with the Awana program. Ziemer was joined as a contestant by Livia Boughner of Watervliet and Samantha Fischer of Coloma. Fischer was selected as the People’s Choice winner. The Miss Spirit of Blossomtime pageant is open to all first runners-up of community pageants. The winner of the Miss Spirit pageant will go on to participate in the Miss Blossomtime pageant though she is not eligible to win Miss Blossomtime, first runner-up, or second runner-up. She is eligible to be selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow Blossomtime contestants. She may also win awards for the modeling, communications, photography, and community service portion of the contest. Following the Miss Blossomtime pageant, Miss Spirit will also be able to participate in all the Blossomtime activities that the community queens participate in such as a visit to the State Capital, the Shriner’s Hospital, and the Farm Tour. The emcees for the evening were Tim Taylor and Katlynn Kennedy.

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