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.