02-20-2020 Coloma and Watervliet schools among those considering pre-Labor Day start; Hartford Fire

THIS KUTE KID IS… Reagan Dinges riding her pony. Wait… what? That’s not a pony! Reagan is the adorable daughter of Paige DuMont & Shane Dinges of Eau Claire. Reagan’s proud grandparents are Kimberly & Robert Jenkins of Dowagiac, Robert DuMont of Neenah, Wisconsin, Tom Dinges & Carol Bunch of Sodus and Debbie Everett of Hartford. Her great-great-grandma is Joyce Gammon of Hartford.

Coloma and Watervliet schools among those considering pre-Labor Day start

By Annette Christie Both Watervliet and Coloma school districts have had “Pre-Labor Day School Start” as one of their agenda items at recent meetings. This is just one part of a bigger discussion in which Berrien RESA is gathering data on how many districts would be interested. RESA Superintendent Kevin Ivers said that the State Law allows for districts to apply for a waiver that would allow them to move forward with it if they choose. While the ability to apply for the waiver is not new, part of what is driving in that direction is with the Tuesday after Labor Day being September 7, that could make it so that schools had to go into the third week of June. In addition, it would benefit districts by putting the semester break at Christmas and allow for a new semester with the New Year. Another benefit is that in doing so, college and high school schedules would be the same and for students that are dual enrolled, their breaks would be coinciding. Ivers said that they have had good feedback of teacher, parent, and staff support of the proposition. The Bridgman School District went ahead on their own and applied for the waiver, which they got. If it was to be approved, it is likely that the districts that did choose to start before Labor Day would only be starting the week before Labor Day. Once RESA gathers all the feedback from the individual school districts, the plan would be to start the waiver process, including having a public hearing on the subject. Individual school districts would still have the option to start after Labor Day even if the waiver is approved. Jeff Mills with the Van Buren County Intermediate School District said they previously had asked their individual school districts whether they were interested in moving the school start date up but didn’t have much support. In Van Buren County, Mattawan Schools had previously asked for and obtained a waiver on their own. With little overwhelming interest by the individual school districts, Mills said he didn’t expect to see any action by the Van Buren County Intermediate School District.

Hartford Fire Board hosts Joint Annual Budget Meeting

By Jon Bisnett On Wednesday, Feb. 12, the Hartford Fire Department Board hosted the annual joint meeting of Hartford City and Township officials to present the 2020-2021 Fire Board Budget and Chief’s Report on the department’s 2019 activity. Chief Robbie Harting began by announcing two new members to the department roster for a total of 23. Harting reminded it was only a few years ago that the HFD was at a minimal crew and has experienced solid growth in recent years. Three new cadets are in training along with one previously on board. Updated Insurance Services Organization (I.S.O.) Protection Class Ratings have improved to 4/4Y from the prior 5/8B ranking, which put the HFD in the top 18% of all Michigan departments, with only 37 having a higher rating. Those being predominantly full-time units located in urban areas with full hydrants throughout their service area. These ratings translate to savings in the charges on residents’ homeowner’s insurance. A major replacement purchase of 16 updated respirator Air Packs took place in 2019, with additional units slated for replacement under the 2021 budget. Calls for service hit a record high of 673 calls for service including 399 medical calls and another 78 medical assists. Harting noted that the rise in medical calls is due to the new dispatch protocol whereby the HFD runs every medical call typically serving as Medical First Responder prior to Pride Care Ambulance arrival. Harting expects the call volume to remain relatively stable in the coming years as the department is approaching the first full year under the new arrangement which is designed to give residents a consistent fast response to medical calls. Building fires numbered 21 for the year as the department also responded to a litany of various calls and mutual aid over the course of the year. Public relations efforts were strong highlighted by the second year of the Halloween Spooktacular event held at the fire station. The pancake breakfast saw record attendance and funds educational efforts targeting grade school children during Fire Prevention Week. Hartford Fire Department officers include Assistant Chief Kevin McGrew, Captain Mike Chappell, Lieutenants Chad Kostrzewa and Ryan Flemming, along with Safety Officer Scott Weberg. Operating Budget Fire Board Chairman Steve Starner presented projected expenses for 2020 in the amount of $297,413.36, up from $267,748.85 in 2019. Notable increases came in the line items for employee benefits, auditing services, building maintenance and medical supplies along with a switch to new FirstNet AT&T cell phones. FirstNet is a newly advanced proprietary telecommunication system specifically designed to give first responders service even in the case of system overloads caused by mass events. Replacement Truck Rescue Pumper #1871 is reaching the end of its serviceable life and is slated to be replaced. Increasing maintenance cost and frame corrosion have hastened the process. HFD expects to place the unit out for bid with as many as eight manufacturers in the coming months. Estimated cost is in the neighborhood of $650,000. Once a bid is accepted the HFD will be required to purchase the base chassis and expect delivery 355 days from that point, putting the bulk of the actual purchase some time in 2021. Pumper #1871 is fully functional and will remain in service until the replacement arrives. Any serviceable gear that can be transferred will be carried on to the new fire truck to save cost. City and Township officials will now take the HFD budget to their respective regular monthly meetings for approval.