03-09-2017 Spaghetti dinner to benefit Bingaman family; Hartford officials discuss perceived Medic 1

Spaghetti dinner to benefit Bingaman family, Friday, March 24

Watervliet Public Schools is hosting a spaghetti dinner on Friday, March 24 to benefit the family of Catherine Bingaman. Bingaman is the student counselor for Watervliet North and South schools. Her daughter, Jocelyn, has Rett Syndrome and they need a wheelchair accessible van.

The dinner is being held at North Elementary, 287 Baldwin Avenue in Watervliet from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children, 10 and under.

Tickets for this benefit are available at all buildings. At the middle/high schools call Teri Richcreek at 463-0730; Dana Morris or Karla VonKoenig at North Elementary can be reached at 463-0820; or call South Elementary’s Deb Beebe or Diane Collis at 463-0860.

1,000 & COUNTING….CHS Sophomore Zack Goodline scored his 1,000 high school point last week. Read about it in the Press Box on Page 12.

Hartford officials discuss perceived Medic 1 failure to deliver

By Nancy Albright

A special meeting of the Hartford Township Board and Hartford City Council was called for March 7 to discuss dissatisfaction with the level of service provided to the Hartford area by Medic 1 Ambulance Services.

Officials voiced concerns regarding what they consider Medic 1’s failure to station one ambulance in Hartford on a routine basis, and that the request made by the township that the ambulance service streamline the current dispatch protocol has not been addressed.

Approximately $135,000 in millage funds generated by the Hartford community is allocated for emergency service to Hartford city and township residents and many officials voiced their feeling that Hartford is not getting what they pay for.

Hartford Township Supervisor and Township Representative to the Medic 1 Board Ron Sefcik stated that Hartford has received equipment from Medic 1, but the ambulance service has failed to deliver on the two main issues under discussion for almost a year.

In response to questions from the group regarding why an ambulance is not regularly stationed in Hartford, Medic 1 Operations Manager Bob Hale explained that one emergency vehicle is allocated to Hartford and the cost of that vehicle is shared with Watervliet Township. The truck is housed in a garage in Watervliet leased by Medic 1 and is stationed in Hartford on a routine basis.

Hartford Township Clerk Julie Sweet asked Hale to explain why backup coverage was requested 57 times between December 1, 2016 and February 23, 2017. Hale said that in the event the Hartford ambulance must be put into transfer service, Medic 1 replaces that vehicle with a fresh truck and crew, and requests standby via Van Buren County Central Dispatch in case the replacement vehicle is called into service. If both the replacement and standby vehicles are called out to address emergencies, backup coverage is again coordinated so Hartford is not left without emergency services.

Commissioner Terry Tibbs asked Hale if transfers are more important than Hartford citizens to which Hale responded, “Absolutely not.” Tibbs then stated that he feels, “We deserve better service from you. Are you going to do that or not?”

Hale explained that emergency vehicle operations are coordinated by Van Buren County Central Dispatch, which is operated by the county sheriff’s department in Paw Paw and functions as the county-wide hub for emergency fleet logistics. Medic 1 does not contact agencies directly to request backup. Central Dispatch is notified of requests and makes the decisions on how to best provide backup coverage to the entire service area. This protocol is recorded in the Articles of Incorporation approved by the 16 municipalities in Van Buren County that comprise Medic 1 Community Emergency Services, which includes Hartford City and Hartford Township.

In a letter to Hartford Fire Chief Robbie Harting dated March 2, 2017, Covert Fire Chief Doug Myers cited an incident that took place on March 2. While the Covert agency was on standby for Medic 1, they were requested to provide coverage for a call in the Hartford area. Covert responded and transported the patient to Watervliet Hospital. Upon arrival, a Medic 1 ambulance driver was sitting in the ER and when asked what had prevented Medic 1 from taking the call, Covert learned that the driver’s partner was in a job interview with the hospital.

Chief Myers wrote, “I’m not sure if supervisors at Medic 1 know this type of situation happens, but I would say it definitely would be worth investigating.” When questioned by Hartford’s joint session if this incident has indeed been investigated and disciplinary action taken, Hale told the group that this type of thing should not happen and that Medic 1 will address the issue.

Chief Myers went on to say in his letter to Chief Harting that, “Covert Township Fire Department is more than willing to assist our neighbors when in need, but in the case of Medic 1, that need seems to be increasing to the point that I feel is not fair to the taxpayers of my township, and unfair to Medic 1 patients due to the increased response time.” The incident had a 17-minute response time.

Between September 2016 and March 2, 2017, Medic 1 has requested backup coverage from Covert 96 times, but when Covert requests backup from Medic 1 they are told that Medic 1 is unavailable. Chief Myers closed his letter with, “In all fairness, I have not had the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Medic 1 supervisor so this is just one side of the story.”

City Commissioner Dennis Goss asked Hale to explain how the Medic 1 fleet works. Hale explained that the fleet consists of 36 staff members that operate 12 trucks, 6 of which are utilized 24-hours a day on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until 7 p.m., and that a seventh vehicle is staffed via overtime. When Mayor Pro-tem Rick Hall asked if an eighth ambulance might help solve the problem, Commissioner Ron Burleson commented that, “Your data proves we need another truck.” Hale agreed an additional vehicle may help remedy the issue and told Hall that he will run the numbers to determine the fiscal feasibility of the request to begin working toward a solution.

Medic 1 Director Pete Sinclair stated that the issues under discussion were not raised at either the February 20 meeting of the city council or the Medic 1 Board meeting that took place on February 23. “If no one tells us there’s a problem we can’t do anything about it.”

To Sinclair’s point, Township Trustee John McClellan stated that he believes that a factual attack on Medic 1 does not make sense and that he does not see a concrete argument against the ambulance service. “The point is that an ambulance be in place where it can do the most good.”

Member of the public Judy Sinclair also addressed the session, highlighting the integrity of Medic 1. Mrs. Sinclair stated that Medic 1 is “nationally recognized for outstanding service” and “provides the best service in Southwest Michigan.” She explained that professionally trained personnel use up-to-date equipment to provide patients with the best possible care. When Mrs. Sinclair asked Township Supervisor and Medic 1 board member Ron Sefcik how many times he has escalated issues to the proper authorities, Mr. Sefcik replied, “Once or twice.”

Mrs. Sinclair pointed out that Medic 1 answers thousands of calls each year, unforeseen circumstances come into play and that, “there are hiccups in any large organization.” She also stated that, “Personally I think that someone is on a witch hunt. They are not keeping their constituents’ best interests in mind, but instead are using their own vendetta to make changes.”

Rick Hall said that, “The long and short of it is that Hartford doesn’t have as much medical expertise as Medic 1 staff and we would like to have our vehicle sitting as close as possible to Hartford.”

Hale replied that, “We have lower response times because the Hartford ambulance is sitting closer and our numbers show that.” He went on to say that Priority 1 and 2 response times of 12 minutes and 20 minutes respectively are at 90-percent and that Medic 1 is continually working to improve these statistics. In addition, they are hammering out a system to better track vehicles and keep dispatch operations briefed of arrival and departure times for on-scene and medical facility stops.

Joint members of the session passed a resolution that Hartford City and Hartford Township receive a written response to the requests no later than May 2, 2017. Medic 1 is working on three proposals addressing the requests to station an ambulance in the Hartford community on a routine basis and not use that ambulance as a transfer vehicle, and that Medic 1 utilize a streamlined dispatch protocol. The proposals will be provided to the Medic 1 Board for review.

City of Watervliet running out of working water meters

By Annette Christie

A plan to convert the city to automatic read water meters as a cost saving measure has not been completed. Now meters slated to be installed in the City of Watervliet are used as replacements for faulty ones, Mayor Dave Brinker explained the problem at the February 28 City Commission meeting.

Brinker provided an overview to the Commission on the automatic read water meter installation that was to occur city wide. In 2008, the city made the decision to switch to automatic readers for their water system. At that time approximately 850 auto readers were ordered to complete the process.

Fast forward seven years and 600 have been installed with the rest of the installation not happening. So given the time lapse, the city has had to start replacing some meters, thus taking from the original inventory that was purchased for the base installation. At this point Brinker said there is about 50 auto readers left in stock and the problem readers continue to increase.

Brinker said with the recent water system billing audit that was completed, 80 meters were not reading again and an additional 50 do not read anymore.

With the approximate 150 meters that were never installed and the estimated 130 that are broken, the city is looking at needing to buy another inventory just to be able to continue and finalize the original replacement installation. On top of that, they would need to look into what kind of warranty these auto readers had and what will be required to replace the ones that are not functioning. Commissioner Deah Muth thought that the warranty was for 10 years. Even while City Hall may need to look into the warranty, Brinker noted that sooner or later the city is going to have to buy more meters.

New City Manager Michael Uskiewicz recommended that the city contract out the installation of the remaining new readers to at least complete the original project. City staff will continue to look into what options the city has for this subject.

Dispute with Comcast settled

The Watervliet City Commission has settled a dispute with Comcast over a franchise fee increase that did not occur on Comcast’s part. The city signed a 10-year franchise agreement with Comcast in 2003 which was supposed to increase the fee from 3% to 5%. At some point, Comcast reduced the fee back to 3% for what they were to pay the City.

Once Comcast was made aware of the error, they researched it but due to a State of Michigan statute, they only have to pay the city back for three years even though the deficit could have been for a longer time frame.

Comcast has agreed to pay the city $721.54 for that deficit. Going forward Comcast will pay the 5% franchise fee. The city did have to vote on whether they wanted the 5% based on the limited programming or the broader programming. The broader programming could provide more income for the city and would not adversely affect their residents who are paying the 5% anyway. The City Commission voted to go with the 5% on the broader programming which could provide an additional $3,600 annually.

The city agreed to continue its partnership with the township in regard to the upkeep of the cemetery. Last year, Watervliet Township took on the maintenance and upkeep of the joint cemetery. The township has agreed to do what is needed for $7,000 annually. Mayor Dave Brinker commented, “We have had no complaints, they fixed the roads, straightened gravestones, it looks really good.” Watervliet Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins said they are proud to have that for our community.

Watervliet City resident Rick Rasmussen presented a tally of his investigation into the sidewalk conditions in the city. He volunteered to compile the information after attending a DDA meeting where the discussion was held.

Rasmussen said that there are 27 areas that need repairs, most of which are not replacement, just repair. He identified the areas that are in need and provided some photos to reflect that. Brinker said they will have to start working on it and get some quotes for repairs. It was noted that a couple of people have been injured due to falling because of the sidewalk condition and one store owner has been sued over it. Brinker thanked Rasmussen for his work on the subject. “We appreciate you taking the initiative,” Brinker said.

FOUR SEASONS SPA & POOL SERVICES… was one of the first businesses to pull out their green and decorate for St. Patrick’s Day. Coloma will be celebrating the holiday this Saturday, March 11 with a lighted parade and many other festive activities. (TCR photo by Christina Gelder)

Coloma celebrates St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday, March 11

By Christina Gelder

Coloma has an awesome line up of fun, family oriented St. Patrick’s Day events scheduled for this Saturday, March 11. Participants of all ages are invited to start the day off well with some exercise by taking part in the 2nd annual St. Patrick’s 5K Fun Run/Walk. The Coloma Lion’s Club is once again hosting this race which will start and finish at the Coloma Township Hall.

This time around they are raising funds specifically for Leader Dogs for the Blind, one of the world’s most respected leader dog programs. Due to their focus on fundraising for dogs they invite racers to bring their 4-legged companions to do the 5K with them. Dogs must be on a leash, tagged, up-to-date on shots, and get along well with others. Registration is available up until the race day. The 5K will begin at 9:00 a.m.

The Coloma Public Library will be opening their book sale up to the public from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and there are sure to be deals for every book lover. They will also be hosting their annual themed story hour in the community room. Not only do they highlight children’s books that have a connection to the holiday, but they also have a snack and simple craft for kiddos to make. Story hour begins at 1:00 p.m.

The North Berrien Historical Museum has a new event planned for the day. Intended for children ages 6-12, they will be hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt. The hunt will start at 2:30 p.m. and has lots of fun facts about the history and traditions surrounding the Irish Holiday. After finding the pot of gold there will be light refreshments. Families are welcome to come enjoy the hunt together.

The highlight of the day is certainly the Lighted St. Patrick’s Day Parade which will travel through downtown Coloma beginning at 8:00 p.m. Registrations for the parade will be taken up until start time. If you would like to take part in this fun Coloma tradition line up begins at 7:15 p.m. at the Coloma Fire Station. The parade will also end at the station with lots of great prizes, as well as cookies and cocoa for all.

In addition to all of these amazing events many of the local businesses will be decorating their windows and serving up themed specials.

Mr. and Miss Blossomtime contests March 12 and 13

By Annette Christie

A sure sign of spring is the happening of the Mr. Blossomtime Contest/Showcase of Queens and the Miss Blossomtime Pageant.  The events will be held March 12 and 13 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center. Sunday night will start at 6:30 p.m. and Monday night will start at 7:00 p.m.

New this year is an opportunity for the public to help in sending their favorite of the 24 community queens to the Top 10 of Miss Blossomtime.  By visiting the Blossomtime website (blossomtimefestival.org), the public can cast their ballot for their favorite young lady to send to the Top 10.

Tickets for both events are still available and can be obtained by contacting the Blossomtime Office at 269-982-8016. Tickets for Sunday are $15 and Monday are $20.


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