Coloma Twp. Board names Wes Smigielski Police Chief
By Annette Christie Since December, Wesley Smigielski has been serving as the Interim Police Chief; however, at the Coloma Township Board meeting on February 13, 2019, they made it official. With his immediate family present, Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin stated, “We think a lot of Wes and hopefully he will retire here.”
NEW CHIEF FOR COLOMA POLICE… Wesley Smigielski (left) signs the oath of office after he was sworn in by Clerk Sandy Kraemer (right) as the Coloma Charter Township Police Chief. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)
While the three-year contract was not finalized, it was close with just a few details to change here or there. The new chief has been with the Coloma Township Police Department since 2015, prior to that he worked in Charleston, South Carolina and also in Benton Harbor. Over the years he has obtained experience in a narcotics unit and as a detective. Smigielski has been a part of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Task Force and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force. The department will be fully staffed with eight officers including the chief. During the meeting Smigielski also named Brett Langston as Sergeant making Langston second in command. The new chief named the School Resource Officer as one of his first priorities in his new role. He feels that there should be a way for that to work, if the officer is shared with the road patrol work as well. He thinks the School Resource Officer could improve school security and help to teach students about the ramifications of social media. In addition, Chief Smigielski would like to work on educating his officers on drug use, especially the production of methamphetamine and the effects of it. He identified it as a problem that focus needs to be given to more, much like everywhere else in Southwest Michigan. In other business, the township board named the members of the Miss and Mr. Coloma courts as honorary citizens of Coloma Township.
Watervliet Athletic Hall of Fame Induction celebrated Saturday
NEW MEMBERS HONORED… Watervliet Athletic Hall of Fame members for the Class of 2019 were inducted Saturday evening during halftime of the Panther varsity boys’ basketball game. Present to receive the honors were (from the left) Front row – Vivian Miller (wife of deceased Coach Steve Miller), Rachel (Sheffer) Walker, Sarah (Sheffer) Fiacco, Andrea Hutchins, Lynda (Hagenbarth) Wurzel; Back row – Coach Jim Winter, John Epple, Mike Leith, Geoff Geisler (representing Lewis Mohler) and Tim Lynch. (Photo courtesy of Gloria Reeves)
By John Oliphant The Watervliet Athletic Department inducted eight former players and two coaches into the Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 16. The days’ events began at the Fairfield Inn with a reception for the inductees, family members, and close friends. Also attending were the induction committee and members of the Watervliet Board of Education. After dinner there was lots of conversation and story-telling.
Athletic Director Ken Dietz spoke to the group on several topics, including the inductees’ accomplishments, the induction process, and the location of the members’ plaques at the high school. Eventually the group traveled to the Panther gymnasium to watch the varsity boys’ basketball game against the Brandywine Bobcats. At halftime, the Class of 2019 was officially inducted into the Hall. Accepting the honor for former athlete Lewis Mohler (1955 graduate) was his brother-in-law Geoff Geisler. Former athletes present to receive their plaques were Mike Leith (1972), Tim Lynch (1978), Lynda Hagenbarth Wurzel (1984), John Epple (1986), Andrea Hutchins (1995), Sarah Sheffer Fiacco (2007) and Rachel Sheffer Walker (2009). The late coach Steve Miller was represented by his wife Vivian Miller. The final inductee was former coach Jim Winter. This year’s class joins ten inductees from 2018. That group consists of coaches Jerry Barchett, Ron Farac and Gene Bednarowski. The athletes of the group are Richie Morlock, Jason Forrester, Tom Hutchinson, Rick Sprague, Kim Gear, Don Finnefrock, and Dan Hutchinson. The Watervliet Public Schools and the Watervliet Athletic Department congratulates both the class of 2018 and 2019 on their inductions, and especially thanks them for their support and attendance at Saturday’s event.
City of Hartford calls meeting over fire budget concerns; City and Township pleased with exceptionally good service, “We just need to find a way to pay for it,” Mayor Hall says
By Jon Bisnett Following the recommendation of City Manager Yemi Akinwale, the City of Hartford hosted a joint meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, of the City, Fire Board and Township officials to discuss the 2019-2020 Hartford Joint Fire Department’s budget originally presented in mid-January. Both the City and Township are in total agreement on what has been described as exceptionally good service on the part of the Hartford Fire Department. The current roster of the HFD has grown to 18 members with a record number of Medical First Responders. They have improved response times and 100% coverage on medical calls thanks to a new dispatch arrangement via Van Buren County Medical Control working in coordination with Pride Care Ambulance Service.
In the past the HFD had complained of a lack of notification on ambulance calls within the service area. At that time the Medical Control of Berrien County made the decision as to whether HFD was notified and asked to respond. Now under the new arrangement all medical calls dispatch HFD in coordination with the ambulance service. Call volume has increased radically which prompts an approximate 30% increase in labor and fuel. Akinwale referred to this increase “shock”, but was quickly reminded by Fire Board Chair Steve Starner that the city receives detailed monthly reports of calls and budget which clearly indicated the trend of the “new normal” was not just an anomaly. Mayor Rick Hall reiterated his high regard for the improved roster and high level of service the HFD provides, commenting, “We just need to find a way to pay for it.”
Citing a provision in the Joint Fire Agreement for review of the split between Township and City every five years, Akinwale suggested a committee be formed by each municipality to review the current 60% Township, 40% City contributions towards the HFD Operating Budget. The proposed HFD 2019-2020 Operating Budget is in the amount $267,748.85 up from $206,105.85 with the bulk of the $61,000 increase coming from Firefighters/ Medics Payroll expense and other associated costs of the higher call volume, representing an increase to the City of $24,657 annually, translating to roughly $2,000 per month. Responding to Akinwale and Hall’s questions of how to fund the increasing budget, Starner explained a method by which the HFD could be separated as an independent municipal services entity with taxing authority of up to 10 mills. He stated there are several Michigan departments that operate as such across the state.
Reaction from Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik was to agree to appoint a committee to review the Fire Agreement, but in fact did not express any concern of funding the Operations Budget as far as the Township was concerned. In conclusion Steve Starner posed the direct question to the City as to what their intentions were regarding the current budget proposal. “Are you going to approve it?” as he went on to say any long-term solution to the City’s concerns would not come into play before the new budget is due. The City meets February 25 for a combined workshop/ business session and assured the Fire Board it will take a vote on the budget at that time.
Superintendent candidate search meetings set for Watervliet Schools
By Annette Christie
The Watervliet School Board finalized the dates for meetings as a part of their Superintendent search. A special meeting will be held Monday, February 25, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. for the purposes of choosing potential Superintendent candidates.
Round one of the interviews will be held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, March 4-6 at 6:30 p.m.
The second interviews will be held on Tuesday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m.
A special meeting is being held on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. for the possible selection of the individual who will be the new Superintendent.
All of the meetings will be held at the Watervliet High School Media Center, 450 E. Red Arrow Highway, Watervliet. The deadline for applying was Friday, February 15 at 4:00 p.m.
Be Safe – Be Respectful – Be Responsible at South School
During their regular business at the Monday, February 18 meeting, they were treated to an elementary school program put on by students and faculty from South Elementary. The program stemmed from an application process to RESA in which the South Elementary was selected for the program. The team that spearheaded the program is made up of people in each grade level. Following their training, the Team created a behavior matrix, and developed definitions of major and minor behaviors. All teachers were provided lesson plans for the teachers on how to teach it.
Right after Christmas, they put on an all school assembly to kick it off. The program focuses on “Be Safe – Be Respectful – Be Responsible”. Within the matrix are specifics for how to accomplish all of the positive behaviors for each area. For Be Safe they can stay within their boundaries, follow adult directions, use equipment correctly, and have safe hands and feet; For Be Respectful they can use kind words, include others, and share and take turns; For Be Responsible they can solve small problems on their own, ask an adult to help with big problems, clean up equipment, and line up quickly.
By following the examples, the Students can “Be a MIGHTY Panther on the Playground.” Following the program School Board members were honorary MIGHY Panthers by answering the examples for each goal.
In other business, the board was notified that Greg Chisek, an instrumental leader of the W-A-Y program, has submitted his letter of resignation, effective in June. This is the second time he has stepped down at the district. His previous position was as High School Principal, which he retired from.
The establishment of the Watervliet Education Foundation is underway and the leadership was introduced at the meeting. A group of community members who have taken this on started months ago and held their first organized meeting in February. The board has been formed and they have written bylaws. Their next meeting will be on March 2. Members of the board were introduced and included Barry Nilson, President; Mark Lambrecht, Vice President; Barb Schofield, Treasurer; Angeline Conkin and Greg Krell. The plan is that the foundation will be a non-profit charity foundation.
They also approved a sixth grade field trip to Chicago for a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry.