Lakefront and fire lane sales eyed, Coloma Township looking at ways to save funds or pay off debt
By Annette Christie
In an effort to save township funds and to strategically plan for the financial stability of the township, Coloma Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin put together a group of staff members to discuss ideas. At their regular meeting held on Wednesday, February 8, township employee Rory Bell presented some of the preliminary ideas for doing just that.
Bell told the board that they are looking at six properties that the township owns and is paying taxes on, that if sold, could present some substantial income to the township. Enough so, Bell told the board, that the township could pay off almost all if not all of the loan being held on the township hall building. Paying off the township hall loan early would of course save the township interest on the loan. Some of the property the township would consider selling is lakefront property and also fire lanes which the fire department has deemed unusable.
HAPPY RETIREMENT TONY… Tony Forestieri, 83, was saluted by co-workers at the Coloma Harding’s recently on his January retirement. Along with a large chocolate cake, there were tears and cheers as he was presented a plaque commemorating his work there since it was Hilltop Foods in 1987. Tony and his wife Vivian owned the A&W in Coloma from 1963 to 1987. Vivian died in 2009. Tony in thanking his friends for their thoughtfulness said, “You shouldn’t have done it. But I’m glad you did.” (TCR photo by Karl Bayer)
For the most part the township board was supportive but some were leery about the legalities on selling township property and the best way to go about it. A motion passed authorizing the group to continue moving forward and included having a consultation with a township lawyer to find out the proper procedure.
Clerk Sandy Kraemer informed the board that she is working with AEP on a possible lease option for a piece of property that they are no longer using in the township which could be used for kayak and canoe launching on the Paw Paw River. Kraemer said this goes along with recent efforts to clear the river to make it passable for use by kayakers and canoeists. Kraemer said once an agreement is finalized she will bring it to the board.
Bob Howell, one of two that represents Coloma Township on the North Berrien Fire Chief search committee, reported that the committee is on target with the search. They had narrowed the applicant pool down to 10 and then one dropped out. He said they are working through the application process and will be narrowing that pool down to six, and then again to three that will be presented to the public. Howell said they expect to have a recommendation going forward to the North Berrien Fire Board for an employment offer in April.
Township Trustee Bryan Duffield, who sits on the cemetery committee, said that the committee went to bid for their auditing services. He said they are in the process of selecting the audit firm and he will make the township board aware of that once they are selected and notified.
Kraemer told the board that next month they will have to look at making an appointment from the township board for the sewer committee. John Oakley, who has served on the sewer committee for the township for 20 years, would like to step down from that position. Oakley told the board that it was an honor representing the township and being a part of the sewer plant which operates well.
In other business, the township was visited by Rob Cleveland, President of Cornerstone Alliance. He provided the board with the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. The plan is intended to improve Berrien County’s standing as a top competitor for businesses to make this home and for it to be a place for new jobs. Cleveland noted that they are always looking to promote empty buildings that could house new businesses, such as the APL Logistics facility. He said they have had some interest in the building.
The four “centerpieces” of their plan are changing the economic future; enhancing our assets; sharing our secret with the world; and investing in Berrien County’s next chapter.
Their five-year goals are to lead efforts that attract 10 new businesses, expand 15 businesses, and add $100 million in new capital investment; to respond to qualified leads that generate new project opportunities; to offer resources and specialized assistance during proactive business retention and expansion calls to strengthen relationship building that leads to referrals and additional business retention and expansion assistance; to actively support and collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Southwest Michigan First to advance initiatives while leveraging local, state and federal resources; and to maximize small business administration funding to assist in the creation of 50 small business starts while training and counseling 2,500 people.
Informational meeting held to update on Territorial Road culvert replacement
By Annette Christie
Several employees were on hand Thursday, February 2 at a special meeting held at Bainbridge Township Hall to update the public on the road closure at Territorial Road in Bainbridge Township. The estimated completion date for the major project is July 4, 2017 for the portion of the road that has been out of commission since April 2016.
It was in early April that Territorial was closed east of Millburg due to a culvert and road collapse. Traffic is being detoured onto North Branch and Park Roads. Early reports were that it could take several months for the replacement to be completed on the over 70 year-old culvert that goes over Blue Creek.
The Road Commission tried to replace it 12 years ago but could not obtain the necessary permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which wanted a full bridge put in its place for the body of water known to be a trout stream. The DEQ is requiring that the 42” diameter culvert must be replaced with a 7’ by 12’ concrete box culvert.
To help offset the cost of the expensive project for this primary road, the Road Commission applied to the federal government. By acquiring the federal funds for the culvert replacement the Michigan Department of Transportation now has the oversight. Through MDOT the plans were approved and put out for bid. Original estimates were that the project would come in at $944,003.37. The lowest bidder on the project which drew bids from eight bidders was $1,038,715.13 from Kalin Construction, Inc.
Project engineer Kevin Stack explained that they have ordered the concrete box needed to do the replacement to DEQ standards. The box will come in 21 sections and will be 120` from one end to the other. The Road Commission has about four weeks of prep work before the sections come in. Once they have a delivery date on them they will finalize the project schedule.
Road Commission Director Louie Csokasy commended the people of Bainbridge Township for their patience and professionalism in this difficult situation. About 20 people were present at the meeting for the update.
Bainbridge Township Supervisor Bill Hodge stated that the Berrien County Road Commission has done a great job and that county residents should be proud of their staff and their management. Road Commission staff had the daunting task of moving all the water that backed up in the creek following the culvert failure, some 15 million gallons of water. When Csokasy reached out across the state to find someone else who had experience with this kind of project he found that no other road commission across the state had that experience.
Csokasy commented that they hope the other culverts across the county that are in need of replacement can hold out. In a recent survey of culverts, they found that 99 should have been replaced in the last five years but were not. The standard life span for a culvert is 50 years. With funding of course being an issue, Csokasy added that he plans to approach County Commissioners in 2019 about a county-wide culvert replacement millage to hopefully make that happen.
Newlyweds Kenneth and Veronica win the Tri-City Record “Be My Valentine Love Letter Contest”
Married just last month, Veronica Bragg thought writing a letter about her husband Kenneth would be a perfect way to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple.
Kenneth and Veronica have been best friends for 10 years, enjoying each other’s company and spending all their free time together. It was not until last March when Kenneth was planning a trip did he realize his real feelings for Veronica and made them known to her.
The couple currently lives in Benton Harbor where Veronica works for Twin Cities Transportation (Dial-A-Ride). Kenneth is retired and originally from Coloma.
Veronica says, “He’s great and my best friend, I couldn’t be more blessed.”
Selected as the 2017 Be My Valentine Love Letter contest winner, the Bragg’s will receive the following prizes donated by the Tri-City Record contest sponsors: A gift certificate to the Board of Trade Restaurant in Watervliet and a dozen red roses from the Tri-City Record; A heart shaped pizza from DiMaggio’s Pizza; $25 gift certificate to Watervliet Hardware; Dinner for 2 at Gala-T-Inn in Hartford; one gallon Valspar Interior paint from Big C Lumber in Coloma; and a portrait session from Kaden Photography in downtown Watervliet.
Veronica’s letter as published in the February 9 issue of the Tri-City Record follows.
In love with best friend
Kenneth Dale Bragg has been in my life for ten years, nine of those years as my best friend. He has always treated me with respect, he has never crossed the line, nor toed it, and he’s always a gentleman. As of last month, I was blessed to marry him.
I could go on about the positive effects he has had on my children and me. When he walks through the door the room lights up from his energy and smile; he has such compassion and love for animals and others that I am left speechless at times. His sense of humor and side comments keeps us laughing and spending time with him is always an adventure.
The way I catch him staring at me, and whispering “I love you” twenty times an hour… I cannot think of anything better than being in love with your best friend.