01-26-2017 City of Coloma makes another payment to MDOT; Coloma’s East St. Joseph Street project; Mi

City of Coloma makes another payment to MDOT

By Christina Gelder

It was approved at the Monday, January 23 meeting of the Coloma City Commission to make a third payment to MDOT for the E. St. Joseph Street project. The commissioners clearly did not want to approve these but Mayor Jim Polashak said they would have to be paid eventually.

To sum up the thoughts on the project and its winter shutdown Commissioner Marsha Hammond said she is disgusted with how MDOT and the contractor are handling things. The City has no control however because it is an MDOT project.

When it came time to vote commissioners Jason Hicks and Julie Smith voted “yes, under protest” and Commissioner Linda Freitag voted no.

Purchase of cold patch approved

Commissioner Hammond announced that the Department of Public Works has the opportunity to buy cold patch from Berrien County. She said that last year they had trouble finding any and would like to approve the purchase. The price will be $104 a ton.

Department of Public Works Supervisor Rod Burkholder said they plan on purchasing 3-4 tons. He told the commission that it will not last long. The purchase was approved.

In other news, the commission voted to continue to allow Commissioner Hammond to fill in at City Hall in the event one of the employees there is out of the office. They also approved the collection of summer taxes for Lake Michigan College, which is something they do every year. The federal poverty guidelines were approved for 2017 in light of the upcoming Board of Review. Spring clean-up dates will be May 8-11.

Miss Spirit for 2017 chosen; Hartford and Watervliet make Top 5

By Annette Christie

 Representatives from the communities of Watervliet and Hartford that were vying for the title of Miss Spirit made it to the Top 5 out of 18 young ladies.  Katie Marie Schultz, 17, of Watervliet and Makayla Robinson, 16, of Hartford were a part of 18 other community first runners-up that were involved in this additional opportunity to be a part of the Blossomtime pageant.

The winner of the Miss Spirit title 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.

Natalie Smiy of Stevensville was selected as Miss Spirit.  She is the daughter of Alan and Julie Smiy and attends St. Joseph High School.  Following high school, she will be attending Aquinas College on an academic scholarship to major in business and mathematics.  She will also be a part of the Aquinas Saints Cheer Team.

Katie Schultz is the daughter of Randy and Tina Schultz.  Schultz is a senior attending Watervliet High School.  She plans to attend Lake Michigan College to study nursing, followed by a four-year university.  She plans to specialize in pediatrics.

Makayla Robinson is the daughter of Gary Robinson and Sandy Paluch.  As she approaches her senior year, she will be dual enrolled in Kalamazoo Valley Community College studying nursing.  Following that portion of her education, she will transfer to Grand Valley State University to obtain her bachelor’s in nursing.  She hopes to join the team at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo in the neonatal unit.

Watervliet’s Aliea Chapin, outgoing 2016 Miss Spirit served as a co-emcee with Tim Taylor until she gave her crown away to Miss Spirit 2017. She also performed the National Anthem at the contest’s beginning.

Rounding out the top five were Maddie Gelesko of Bridgman and Maggie Siefert of Three Oaks/New Buffalo.  Emily Keller of New Buffalo was selected as the People’s Choice Award and won a $25 Target gift card. Madelyn MacMillan, a Hartford High School student also participated as the first runner-up to Miss Heart, representing the community of Covert.  She is the daughter of Joseph & Casey MacMillan.

The chairpersons for the contest were Jeff Alisch and Gianna Abdelnour.

Miss Spirit receives a scholarship and a wardrobe allowance as provided by the Blossomtime Festival.

Coloma’s East St. Joseph Street project

By Christina Gelder

East St. Joseph Street, also known as Red Arrow Highway, in Coloma has needed work for a very long time. As the road deteriorated over the years the City struggled to find room in the budget for such a massive project. Last year however, they were awarded a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) grant. This would cover the complete redoing of the section between Church and Sassafras streets.

The grant is for $397,000 with the City of Coloma matching 20% of that. The City did vote to update the infrastructure at the same time which includes water lines, sewer and storm drains. With this addition, the City’s total payout will be about even with the grant monies. In the past few months they have already paid well over $150,000 to MDOT and Midwest Civil Engineers for work on the project.

With the MDOT grant comes MDOT control, and while many are complaining about the timing of the project, the city commission cannot do anything about it. MDOT handled the bids and hiring of the contractor as well as the timeline.

The project started on October 3 and is slated to be completed on May 31. At the moment, no work is being done due to winter shut down. They hope to resume work, weather permitting on February 27.

Commissioner Marsha Hammond reports that the infrastructure work is completed. That area of the city had a lot of old water lines that were not well mapped out and had a tendency to break, so updating all of that did prove somewhat challenging. The water has been pressure tested and is back online at this time. Residents did not experience many delays in service while this was done.

The project has now been described as a nightmare by the City who has been trying to get something done about the fact that the street was torn up completely and then abandoned on December 1 when the weather turned colder. Commissioner Hammond says that really when it was frozen there was not that much of a problem. Now that it has thawed it is more difficult for home owners to get in and out. The City’s plow trucks cannot service the section under construction but when snow has been an issue the Department of Public Works has plowed routes for residents with a pickup truck. Milling was put down from driveways to the closest outlet but that was a very limited fix.

In early January, the commission met with Dave Wiatrowski, site manager from Midwest Civil Engineers, to discuss their frustrations. Midwest Civil Engineers is the City’s engineering firm and works with them on all projects. Wiatrowski was able to pass the concerns and requests on to the contractor, Peter’s Construction Co. but to no avail. The response received says that the MDOT contract does not address the winter shut down, contractor responsibilities, or an interim opening of the roadway. They are unwillingly to resume work unless they receive additional compensation from the City at this point.

As this issue affects one of the main traffic routes through town it has become an obstacle for many residents. At least a dozen residents have driveways off of the stretch that is blocked off and detoured, as well as a handful of businesses. Commissioner Marsha Hammond summed up the thoughts of many involved when she stated in a recent meeting that she is “disgusted with the project and how MDOT and the contractor are handling it”.

Organization meeting planned for Watervliet Independence Day


 Members of the Watervliet Independence Day Celebration 2016 (WBA) committee are planning an organization meeting on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. at the Watervliet Fire Department. Please mark this date on your calendars and plan on attending. We need your help to make this festival bigger and better than last year!

Hagar begins 2017 remembering former Fire Chief Skip Schinck; Township hears from AEP on outages

By Jon Bisnett

Hagar’s first meeting of 2017 was scheduled in the shadow of the NCAA Football National Championship, and went by rather quickly with the bulk of township issues deferred to the coming months.

Supervisors Report

Supervisor DiMaggio began on a somber note with the announcement of the passing of former Chief and Founder of the Lake Michigan Fire and Rescue Department, Skip Schinck. Along with his father, Schinck led the charge in creating the local department which then eventually merged into the North Berrien Fire and Rescue.  Skip also served as Trustee on the Hagar Township Board for over 20 years.  DiMaggio remarked, “Skip was a great asset to Hagar Township and his legacy of public service enriched the lives of many residents within the Township. Our most sincere condolences and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

American Electric Power

DiMaggio outlined his recent communication with Kenneth Holloway, the District Manager of AEP, regarding the residents’ concerns of frequent power outages throughout Hagar, specifically citing the chronic failures in the Lake Michigan Beach corridor.  DiMaggio commented, “Mr. Holloway seemed to be very interested in seeking possible solutions and assured me that he would first meet with his own engineering department. Once a course of action can be determined as to what solutions may be implemented, he promised to get back in touch with me.”

Other Business

The Hagar Board approved Gary L. Lisle Sr. to serve as an alternate on the Board of Review.  Lisle is retired officer of the Michigan State Police and retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran. In addition Gary has served as an election poll worker for several years.

The Trustees also voted to fix the date of the Annual Hagar Township Public Meeting and Budget Hearing. The meeting is set for Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at the Town Hall.  The general public is encouraged to attend.

The Board also unanimously supported payment of those costs associated with the attendance of Board Members for the Michigan Township Association Annual Conference. The MTA event is slated for April 10-13, 2017 in Lansing.

Fire Chief search update

DiMaggio changed hats as Fire Board representative to update the Board and residents on the search process for a new Fire Chief.  The Search Team has been meeting weekly. The job posting for the position has been placed in several industry resources on a wide basis. A newly revised formal job description for Chief has been developed.

Applications will be paired down by the consulting firm.

A testing assessment program will take place under the consultant’s supervision for only the best candidates to be held in early March. A community meeting will follow later in March for the local communities to meet with the three finalists. Fire consultant, Jeff Swanson, will attend the February 13 Hagar Township Board meeting to provide a more formal update of the process.

Having no other business DiMaggio then adjourned the meeting in 32 minutes. The next monthly meeting of the Township Board will be held 7:00 p.m. Monday, February 13.


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