03-02-2017 Demolition of vacant Huffman furniture building sought by Hartford Commission; Coloma’s S

PANTHER PRIDE AND PANDEMONIUM… Members of the Watervliet girls’ varsity basketball celebrate on the court following their 47-28 win over Bangor, which earned them the Southwestern Athletic Conference – Lakeshore Division championship. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Demolition of vacant Huffman furniture building sought by Hartford Commission

By Jon Bisnett

The February 27 business session of the city commission question Chris Brayak of Wightman & Associates following his recent inspection of the former Huffman Building. While Brayak did pronounce the building as “savable” but citing roof rot due to water infiltration in the northeast corner gave a rough prediction of seven to 10 years before risk of collapse becomes imminent. The state of disrepair is further exacerbated with a third floor populated by dead pigeons and feces, while extensive mold issues combine with the need to address extensive mold and asbestos remediation. A quick conservative estimate by Mayor Pro Tem Rick Hall came in at roughly half a million dollars just to get the building safe to occupy. Building owner Aaron Blaylock has stated that he cannot do anything more until he has $45,000 to create blueprints, before any lender will even speak to him.

Following discussion based on the latest information, the commission directed City Manager Yemi Akinwale to take steps to begin the process to demolish the uninsured building, currently owned by Aaron Blaylock of Hartford. Blaylock will receive notification of 90 days to come up with a formal business and development plan including a timetable and demonstrate available assets or funding to accomplish said plan.

Brayak added that the city may be able to leverage a current grant program that Wightman has recently used to demolish neglected property in Dowagiac and Marcellus.


 March Board of Review will be held March 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and March 23, 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

March 1, a joint City/Township Committee Ambulance Meeting, 2:00 p.m. at Hartford Township Hall.

City Manager’s Report

 City Manager Yemi Akinwale reported a negative response from the township as to participate financially in the proposed playground equipment grant for the newly acquired Ely Park Annex. Akinwale will scale back the project and a grant application will follow.

Akinwale announced the availability of funds via an MNTF Grant of up to $2 million for infrastructure improvements and repair. Akinwale intends to move on Marian Street and Prospect with an application to be approved next month.

Fire Report

 The HFD responded to 33 calls in the month of January, including 19 medical assists, two structure fires, three false alarms, one power lines down, one fuel spill, six canceled en route and one mutual aid.

Chief Robby Harting reports two more firefighters have passed their certifications giving the HFD a total of nine medical first responders on staff.

Medic 1

 Medic 1 Board Representative Pete Sinclair filed a written report of 37 calls for the month of December with 26 being ambulance calls and 11 were wheelchair transports. No response times were noted.

Police Report

 Chief Tressa Beltran presented a written report detailing activity of 740 duty hours with two foot patrol hours which included 89 complaints for the month of January, resulting in three arrests including one felony.

Ordinance Officer Report

 A written report from Ordinance Officer Jim Coleman noted 11 property inspections for the month of January. Blight postings for the month totaled 31 violations resulting in 31 follow-ups.

Public Works

 A written report by Superintendent Dan Stauton’s department is reaping the benefits of a very mild winter, with no shortage of street salt or overtime snowplowing hours this year. Just one water turn-off took place with one new service turn-on; eight meters were manually read by request while the city pumped 5.384 million gallons for the month.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

 A written report from Operator Tom Strand indicated that all State of Michigan reports for the month have been filed. Strand reported routine tasks as he continues work with Wightman engineers to get the ultraviolet system clarifiers to function correctly.

Old Business

 Discussion continues driven by Commissioner Terry Tibbs in the City’s blight ordinance. Akinwale will bring a new proposal to the council in March.

WWTP operations are again under fire as to sharing information with Wightman & Associates to provide data they require for adjustments to get the plant running in an optimal state. Commissioner Rick Hall said, “We can talk all night… we know where the problem is and this just has to get done…” An independent consultant from Rural Water concurs with a written assessment from Mickey Bittner of the Wightman firm in saying the plant will work in its current configuration.

New Business

 A unanimous approval was granted to the HFD budget presented at the joint fire board meeting with a variance of less than 1% over the prior fiscal year.

City officials were surprised to also hear at that meeting that Medic 1 is again under fire from the township and HFD for performance issues that will be discussed in detail at a joint committee meeting slated for March 1 at the township hall. The 2:30 p.m. meeting will have two representatives each from city, township and HFD. A subsequent full board meeting will follow once findings are reviewed.

Two resolutions were unanimously approved:

Resolution 2017-002 Poverty/Income Guidelines & Asset Test

Resolution 2017-003 Supporting Hagar Township Canoe Launch Grant Application

Having no further business Mayor Ted Johnson adjourned the meeting at 8:55 p.m. The commission meets next to review Ambulance Committee findings on March 7.

COLOMA ST. PATRICK’S DAY COMMITTEE… pictured are (from the left) standing – Chana Kniebes, Kandy Hays, Susie Moser, Rory Bell, Marsha Hammond and Sandy Kraemer; seated – Coloma City Mayor Jim Polashak and Sherry Polashak. Not pictured are Jason Roe and Ross Streu.

Coloma’s St. Patrick’s Day Committee

announces events for 2017

The Coloma St. Patrick’s Day Committee is busy planning and looking forward to Saturday, March 11. Come on out and enjoy a 5K fun run/walk that begins at 9:00 a.m. that morning at the Coloma Township Hall.  The Coloma Lions Club is hosting the run and all profits benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind that has been empowering people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind with skills for a lifetime of independent travel since 1939.

The Coloma Public Library will have their popular book sale from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. that day with Irish story time and craft for the kids at 1:00 p.m.

There is also an Irish Scavenger Hunt for kids ages 6-12 at the North Berrien Historical Museum; families are welcome to find the hidden pot of gold from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. with light refreshments to follow.

At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 the St. Patrick’s Evening Lighted Parade will begin at the fire station with line-up at 7:15 p.m. And then end at the fire station with shamrock cookies and cocoa.

You can still enter the parade and run so visit the Coloma Watervliet Area Chamber of Commerce website www.coloma-watervliet.org for applications.  There are prizes and “gold coins” for the winners in each parade category. Thank you to the many businesses and sponsors for these events.

Don’t forget to enter the window display contest for a chance to win $150 of advertising courtesy of the Tri-City Record.

Many downtown restaurants also get into the spirit with Irish theme menu items.  So put on your green, come on down, and have a fun day in Coloma.

Watervliet signs $55,000, 2-year contract with new city manager

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission finalized the contract with the new city manager at their Tuesday, February 28, 2017 meeting. Michael Uskiewicz began his duties at City Hall just the day before following a successful interview and selection by the commission on February 14.

The two-year contract was approved by the city commission unanimously with commissioners Duane Cobb, Luke Strunk, and Vick Kinzler absent. Uskiewicz will have a basic weekly schedule of 40 hours that for the most part will be completed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

I SWEAR…Mike Uskiewicz to the city Manager oath of office Tuesday. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

His annual base salary is $55,000 with an evaluation scheduled at least 30 days prior to his anniversary date. He will receive two week vacation, 12 holidays, and 48 hours of paid time off (PTO) annually. Uskiewicz will be paid a cell phone stipend of $30 per check and will be given a vehicle allowance of $125 monthly for business use of his personal vehicle.

The City of Watervliet will fund membership dues for the Michigan Local Government Management Association, Michigan Municipal League, and one local civic organization.

Job duties were not specifically referred to in the contract however, they defer to the Watervliet City Charter, the Code of Ordinances for direction.

Uskiewicz was already very knowledgeable on several subjects that were discussed at the meeting. He commented that the contract was a standard template that the city had used with other employees.

Mayor Dave Brinker later said that one of the ways he hopes to help the city manager to be successful is to establish a quarterly review where he will be able to update the city commission on projects and to ask for help if needed, etc.

Brinker said he will also be setting some goals for Uskiewicz by the next meeting.

Before coming to Watervliet, Uskiewicz served as the city manager in Bessemer, Michigan from October 2011 through April 2016. He has also served as a city manager in Toccoa, Georgia; Alpena, Michigan; and in Dunn, North Carolina. In addition, he has served in other leadership roles in towns and townships.

Uskiewicz has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Grand Valley State University.

City of Coloma renews Pride Care agreement

By Christina Gelder

For several decades, the residents of Coloma have depended on Pride Care (formerly Coloma Emergency Medical Services) for ambulance service and for now, that is not going to change. Marie Eisbrenner attended the Monday, February 27 meeting of the Coloma City Commission on behalf of the service as the current service contract expires at the end on the month.

The new agreement will take effect Wednesday, March 1 and is the same as the former one. There will continue to be no cost to the city and the contract is for five years. Community members can contact the ambulance service about membership options that would eliminate co-pays if a need for their service arose.

Dairy Queen gets permission to put up signage

Amber Kelley, owner of the Coloma Dairy Queen, attended the meeting to get permission to put up a couple of temporary signs. The popular summer hangout is scheduled to open on Friday, March 3 and unfortunately the road directly in front of them is still completely torn up.

Kelley is concerned that will have a negative effect on her business so she purposed setting up a sign in Baker Park on the corner of Center and Paw Paw streets as well as another one on Center Street. People can still appease their blizzard cravings by driving in behind the store on S. Paw Paw Street that runs behind the BP gas station.

The commissioners approved the signage which will stay up only until E. St. Joseph Street is open again. Construction workers have returned to that project and a completion date of May 31 is still the goal.

Fire coverage costs have increased

Mayor Jim Polashak announced that the shared cost of fire coverage has increased. There is a formula to determine what percentage each of the three municipalities (Coloma, Coloma Township and Hagar Township) is responsible for in the North Berrien Fire Rescue budget.

This year the City’s portion has gone up 12.4%. That ends up being a cost of $2,144. The two townships do cover the brunt of the cost as they receive more value from the service.

In other news Commissioner Jason Hicks said that the parking ordinances his committee have been working on were ironed out. He will be sending the revised version to the attorney and has called another ordinance committee meeting for Monday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner Chana Kniebes reminded everyone that the run, story hour, parade and other events will be on Saturday, March 11 this year. She said that there is some confusion about which weekend it is but it is the Saturday before the holiday.

Commissioner Marsha Hammond is concerned about the growth of roots in a sewer main along Timber Brook. It was approved for her to seek bids on getting that main coated to impede that growth.


Related Posts

See All

Four bats test positive for rabies in Michigan

The Michigan departments of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Natural Resources (MDNR) are urging Michiganders to adopt practices to protect their famili

Recycle event this weekend in Hartford

The Hartford Lions Club in cooperation with the Hartford Bible Church and the Hartford United Methodist Church will be hosting a recycling event. The recycling event will take place on Thursday, May