03-05-2020 Error in last week’s meeting report; CHS grad opens new ice cream shoppe March 8; Wate

OPENING SOON… Jonathan Federico Romero-Santana (left) and his parents, Federico Romero and Maira Santana holding baby brother Edwin, welcome all to Las Mangonadas Ice Cream shoppe, 147 N. Paw Paw St. in Coloma. Las Mangonadas opens March 8. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Students are offered 20% off the many Mexican and American ice cream treats being served. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)


CHS grad opens new ice cream shoppe March 8 Las Mangonadas opens in downtown Coloma

By Teresa Smithers Jonathan Federico Romero-Santana, 19, graduate of Coloma High School, is opening Las Mangonadas, a new ice cream shoppe in Coloma on March 8. He has three goals in mind: To provide fresh and delicious Hispanic and American treats, to provide a safe place for students to hang out, and to help bridge the gap between Hispanic and American cultures. Becoming an ice cream shoppe owner was not in Jonathan’s original plans, but he is definitely a long-time trainee in the restaurant business. As Jonathan recalls, “I started working here before I was tall enough to reach the computer.” That isn’t a problem now for the tall young man. His parents, Federico Romero and Maira Santana, brought the family to Coloma from Irving Park, Illinois, in 2007 in order to allow their children to attend a good high school. Too, they had a dream. Federico Romero knew that he could only succeed so much working for someone else; his dream was to own his own business. Maira always wanted to run a restaurant. Combining their dreams, they opened the downtown Coloma restaurant, El Asadero, serving quality Mexican and American dishes. The ice cream window had become a popular part of El Asadero and needed room to expand. Thus, they took a second look at the building across the street. And with Jonathan graduating and considering career options, his parents thought this would be a perfect opportunity for him. The Romero-Santana family revamped the old “Shingle Diggins” building located at 147 N. Paw Paw St. with a fresh new exterior and an all-new spacious and colorful interior. There will also be picnic and umbrella tables outside for tourists and locals, alike, to enjoy. When asked why he made Jonathan the owner of Las Mangonadas, his father’s answer was simple and echoed many parents, “I want him to succeed.” Any parent who has sacrificed for their children’s success can relate to that. Jonathan said at first he wasn’t sure he even wanted to be in the ice cream business, but then he remembered what his father and grandfather always said to him, ““The earlier you start to work, the earlier you can go.” He realized that he had already started the work, learning the ropes at El Asadero. Why stop now? He saw it as an opportunity to weave his dreams with his father’s. “I want this to become a safe place for students,” Jonathan says, “a place where they can hang out.” Unlike many businesses, Las Mangonadas will welcome students and encourage hanging out.

His father agrees. “When I would pick Jonathan up at school, we would see all these kids walking to McDonald’s, because it was the only place to go after school. We want to offer another choice.” In support of that goal, Las Mangonadas is offering a 20% discount to all students. It will be easy for anyone, no matter their age, to hang out at Las Mangonadas. The fruit will be fresh and the ice cream homemade. Really, homemade! It is made by Jonathan’s aunt at her Chicago restaurant and trucked to Coloma to create treats that may have Spanish names but taste great in any language. Mangonada, made of frozen yogurt and fresh mangos was the most popular treat at El Asadero’s ice cream window. It is now receiving top billing as the name of the ice cream shoppe, “Las Mangonadas.” Chamoy y tajin (equal parts hot sauce and candy) is the special sauce on the Sandia Loca (Crazy Watermelon), Piña Loca (Crazy Pineapple) and more. There will also be refreshing Raspados (shaved ice), and many treats with more familiar names, like fried ice cream, bubble tea, Twisters, banana splits, walking tacos, and more.

Las Mangonadas will also serve the popular Tex-Mex treat, Street Corn, which is fresh corn, on or off the cob, with a delicious mayonnaise-based sauce. In addition to – maybe even more than – being a great ice cream hangout, Jonathan hopes Las Mangonadas will bridge the gap between Hispanic and American cultures. “I am Hispanic,” Jonathan said, “but I am also very much American. Hispanics have stores, like in Hartford and Covert, but we remain separate. I want to bring Hispanics and Americans together.” Like it is in his heart. And what sweeter way for different cultures to come to a better understanding than over a dish of ice cream?

Error in last week’s meeting report Coloma City does not approve motion to re-visit recreational marijuana issue

By Nancy Albright Tri-City Record correspondent Nancy Albright incorrectly reported that the Coloma City Council approved a motion to re-visit the issue of bringing recreational marijuana to town.

The article appeared in the February 27, 2020 edition of the newspaper. Coloma opted out of recreational marijuana in 2019 because the state did not have all the regulations in place. Commissioner Jason Hicks requested at the February 24 meeting to add consideration of a motion to re-visit the issue to that evening’s agenda. The council agreed, and following a brief discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Marsha Hammond suggested that before making a motion to re-open the conversation about recreational marijuana, the council investigate the issue further. Hicks rescinded his motion and agreed to gather more information to present to commissioners as a basis for a decision to re-open the discussion. The council will also collectively review the City Attorney’s written statement regarding the issue that was provided to each council member last year.

Watervliet City Officials have Census 101 Low census numbers could cost county $$$ millions

As the United States begins the countdown to the 2020 Census, the Watervliet City Commission received a lesson at their Tuesday, March 3 meeting on the importance of being counted. Kathy Stady with the Berrien Community Foundation told the Commission that the count starts March 12.

Stady said that through the process of the Community Foundation, a non-profit organization, getting involved in preparing “Be Counted Berrien” she learned a lot about just how important it is for people to be counted and how it can affect communities if they aren’t.

It is estimated that Berrien County will count 156,813 residents for 2020 Stady said. Based on previous counts and projections, the Census Bureau estimates that 30,000 people will be hard to count because they don’t complete the census survey. In numbers of dollars, that could mean a $44 million loss in funds that are coming into Berrien County now. The funding includes money for roads and bridges, infrastructure, education school lunches, WIC, childcare, the state’s children’s insurance program, employment programs, health centers, transportation, etc. The numbers from the census are also used to determine the lines for state and federal representation.

Stady said that those that are hard to count include people of color, children under the age of five, immigrants, those in low income households, mobile individuals, and people that move around a lot.

The census questionnaire consists of nine questions and includes things like name and gender and does not include questions about citizenship. This year’s first attempt to obtain information will come in the form of a letter in the mail with a code that can be used to go online and complete the information asked.

Stady said this could create problems in obtaining the information from people that have limited internet access. In addition, this could create problems with the population of those that don’t trust the internet.

It is very important, Stady noted, to assure the residents that the information obtained from the Census Bureau is just that, extremely confidential. The information cannot be shared with courts, FBI, IRS, CIA, or the DHS. She stressed that the likes of landlords and/or bill collectors can’t get the information from the count either. Stady repeated, the number of people comes down to money, “We want all of those people counted because we need that money,” Stady said.

The Berrien Community Foundation, recognizing the importance of an accurate count of residents, has provided grants to businesses that will assist with obtaining a count. The Watervliet District Library is one of those grantees. The census track for the community of Watervliet includes the City of Watervliet and Watervliet Charter Township. Census officials predict a 21% undercount here.

“That says to me that we have a lot of residents in Watervliet that we need to encourage to fill out the census,” Stady said.

The Berrien Community Foundation will be keeping an eye on the numbers and will put in extra efforts in the community if the numbers coming in through the process, reflect what is expected.

Stady said government officials can help by displaying posters and fliers and by talking to people, encouraging them to be counted. “We need everyone to be counted,” Stady said. Additional information can be found on www.becountedberrien.org.

Street Administrator

City Manager Tyler Dotson asked the City Commission to approve a resolution naming Department of Public Works Supervisor Jeff Allen as the City’s designated Street Administrator. As part of the city’s effort to ensure staff roles and responsibilities are assigned and conducted properly, Dotson recommended the move. The designation is required by the Michigan Department of Transportation. Previously, Mark Bolin, who was the Public Works Supervisor, was the designated individual prior to becoming the Water Supervisor.

Plumbing Inspection Project

In November, the City Commission had a discussion with regards to inflow and infiltration and the new lead and copper rules, an unfunded mandate of the State. Dotson worked with Frank Renaldi of Wightman and Associates to put together bid documents for a city-wide plumbing inspection project that address both of those issues. By the January deadline, the city had not received any bids. Dotson worked with Renaldi to enhance the bid request and authorized him to go out once again for bid, which included some companies that Wightman & Associates have worked with.

The city received two bids by the deadline of February 27. The work to be included consists of the following:

Set appointments with property owners or residents to enter homes and businesses and investigate the type and size of water service connection and footing drain connection including filling out the Survey 123 questionnaire; identify plumbing which is collecting clean ground water and determine preliminary scope of plumbing modification necessary to remove clean water from the sanitary sewer discharge including proposed discharge location; provide a preliminary estimate of work to be completed to replace any lead or galvanized water service lines; and provide a preliminary estimate of work to be completed to modify plumbing to remove clean water from the sanitary sewer system and identify a discharge point which will direct this clean water to the storm water collection system either via existing ditches or storm sewer connection.

Dotson recommended that the city award the plumbing inspection bid to Ace Plumbing and Heating of Stevensville in the amount of $20,425.

Budget Amendments

In his role as City Manager, Dotson continues to fine tune the budget process and worked with Mayor Dave Brinker on a budget amendment presentation for Tuesday’s meeting. Dotson was seeking budget amendments that would more reflect the workings of the city.

Dotson said when he came to Watervliet, the city didn’t have an iron clad budgeting format. He said it has been his goal to nickel and dime the budget breakdowns. He noted that although they had authorized a budget amendment in December, it was necessary to do another. “This process gets easier and easier,” Dotson said.

Dotson noted a few specific line items where amendments were needed including penalty interest on late taxes, rental registration fees, state shared revenue, and wage adjustments.

The City Commission approved the following amendments: Reduce general fund revenues from $1,254,750 to $1,239.150; reduce general fund expenditures from $1,250,234 to $1,233,944; overall revenue from $2,432.050 to $2,424,705; and overall expenses from $2,404,528 to $2,397,088.

Dotson noted that the Commission could hold off on the budget amendments; however, he thought it was best to approve them sooner. He told the Commission that in their revenues there are certain things that may not come to fruition. Brinker stated that this is the first time since he’s been here that they have ever done budget amendments in the middle of the fiscal year. “This is a good thing,” Brinker said.

The City Commission will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. On the agenda is the South Watervliet Drain Project, the demolition of a building in Watervliet, and next year’s budget discussion.

Hartford Township PFAS update 80 homes could be hooked up to city water

Hartford Township officials were visited by representatives from both Abonmarche and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at the regular February business meeting to update the current progress towards the PFAS (perfluorooctanoic acid) contamination stemming from the idled Du-Wel Metals site.

Tony McGhee, Vice-President of Development Services for Abonmarche explained options and potential funding sources to connect approximately 80 affected homes via a proposed extension of the City water supply system. Leveraging a U.S. Department of Agriculture Grant and a potential grant from the State of Michigan Emergency Drinking Water Budget could be sought to lessen the blow of the infrastructure costs estimated at $2.8 million. Affected residents along Red Arrow Highway have a more immediate solution available, since the City has a water line already in place from the extension installed back in 2011 to service Four Winds Casino. Those 13 residents have recently received letters outlining a grant process to aid in connecting to the existing water line.

Details need to be worked out as to which entity, City or Township, initiates the construction along with who will own and maintain the lines, how billing will work; all contingent on the release of the DEQ 2020 annual budget aimed at such solutions which is expected on or about the 1st of April.

Abonmarche will contact the City for an initial discussion while DEQ District Supervisor Heather Bishop will monitor funding availability from the State, working in concert with Abonmarche.

Guests

County Commissioner Mike Chappell reported on activity around Van Buren County.

Three County-wide millage requests will appear on the March 10 ballot:

VBC Road Commission renewal request for .9769 mills for four years. This revenue funds maintenance, repair, and reconstruction of local roads.

Public Transit renewal millage of .2471 mills for four years.

Veterans’ Service millage proposal of .10 mills. This is a new millage request. If approved, the millage would generate approximately $339,740 and provide services dedicated to honorably discharged veterans who reside in Van Buren County. This millage is for four years, 2020 through 2023.

Community Corrections Grant: Commissioners approved acceptance of a grant totaling $128,879 from the Michigan Department of Corrections. This funding will provide pre-trial supervision, drug testing, Moral Recognition Therapy, and electronic monitoring.

Mental Health Authority: Commissioners honored the Van Buren Community Mental Health Authority and its Director Debra Hess with a resolution celebrating its 50th year of providing services to Van Buren County residents. The Mental Health Authority is a $26 million operation with approximately 195 employees working out of eight different sites in Van Buren County. It provides over 25 different services for persons of all ages with mental illnesses, emotional disorders, or developmental disabilities. This organization serves over 2,700 county residents each year.

Disaster Request: Commissioners approved a resolution asking the Governor to declare a disaster area along the shores of Lake Michigan. This declaration could provide financial assistance to the towns, villages, and counties who have lost infrastructure because of the high water.

Education Request: Corrections Officer, Nate Penning, asked the Board to allow him to cash in some of his unused personal days, vacation and sick time to cover his expenses at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Police Academy. His request was granted by Commissioners.

Domestic Violence: Melanie Hooker, of the Domestic Violence Coalition, reported receipt of a $53,000 grant to establish a domestic violence response team.

Sheriff’s Department

Van Buren County Sheriff Deputy Chad Hunt logged 1,820 miles in Hartford Township for the prior month including 10 citations, 15 arrests composed of 13 misdemeanors and two felonies.

Fire Department

Hartford Fire Chief Rob Harting reported 31 fire calls in the township for the month of January.

Harting again reminded everyone of the free smoke alarm distribution program slated to begin after the 1st of the year. A grant from the American Red Cross will fund the program available to all Hartford residents. Call the HFD to arrange an installation at (269) 621-4707.

Heartsaver CPR Classes are being held at the HFD all through the month of March. Call (269) 539-0212 to schedule.

The February 13 Auto Safety for Kids program went well, distributing 20 child safety seats, in the joint program with Bronson Wellness.

Road Commission

Mike Boze reports extensive tree trimming efforts thanks to the mild weather and reminds all of the Road Millage renewal on the March 10 ballot.

Accounts Payable

Treasurer Steve Starner presented bills in the amount of $41,879.16, which were unanimously approved.

Planning Commission

Trustee Kurt Dowd reports work continuing on the Township’s Master Plan.

Old business

The board continues its search for alternate members to serve on the Board of Review.

New business

The board had introduction and brief discussion with Robert DeLoof as candidate for the position of Zoning Administrator.

The board passed a resolution to allow protests to the Board of Review submitted in writing.

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