03-30-2017 City of Coloma approves budget; Van Buren Technology Center students compete in Business

City of Coloma approves budget

By Christina Gelder

A new budget was approved by the Coloma City Commission at their Monday, March 27 meeting. The new fiscal year begins for them on April 1. The 2017-2018 budget approval came after amending the 2016-2017 budget and transferring some funds to different categories.

The 2017-2018 budget has the General Fund with $756,665 in revenue, $743,583 in expenses; major streets revenue of $155,111 and expenses of $15,511; local streets revenue of $34,070 and expenses of $38,142; water and sewer revenue of $800,493 and expenses of $777546.

Request to keep chickens

Valerie Krause, of Coloma Avenue, attended the meeting to request permission to keep three chickens on her property. She had purchased the chicks after putting an offer in on a house outside the city limits but that deal fell through. She is prepared with fencing and a coop. Krause also provided a letter to the commission from her closest neighbor stating that she was not bothered by them.

After being assured that she would not keep any roosters, the commission voted to give permission for her to keep the birds. The ordinance concerning chickens state only that permission must be received from the commission.

Sidewalk troubles

Neighbors Frank Ambler and Fred Reeves both of Harriet Street were also at Monday’s meeting. They came to ask about the sidewalks that run in front of their properties. Both homeowners feel that the sidewalks are a hazard that opens them up to injury and possible lawsuits. The request of the men was to have them repaired or to be able to remove them completely and plant grass.

Commissioner Marsha Hammond told them that any sidewalk work is a 60/40 split with the homeowner and they would be responsible for 60% of the cost. Due to the fact that there is not a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalk, and it is not complete (only a section of the street), they are leaning more towards taking them out. Mayor Jim Polashak said that someone will come out and take a look at the situation and get back to them.

In other news Mayor Polashak was sent a certificate of appreciation for taking some time to visit with and read to children at Coloma Elementary for March is Reading Month. The commission also received a thank you letter from the St. Patrick’s Day committee for their donation to that event.

Aaron Nance

Van Buren Technology Center students compete in Business Professionals of

America State Leadership Conference; four qualify for nationals

 On March 16-19, 2017, thirty-five students from the Commercial Art, Cyber Security & Computer Network Technology and Software Engineering programs at the Van Buren Technology Center participated in the Business Professionals of America State Leadership Conference at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids. BPA is a student organization with over 43,000 students in 23 states. This three-day event included 65 competitive events, 12 professional development sessions, a full assembly general sessions, election of state officers, college fair, a formal dinner and dance, and various other activities.

The following four Van Buren Technology Center students were recognized for their accomplishments at the DeVos Place on Sun­day, March 19: Jacob Brink – Bangor High School, Cyber Security & Computer Network Technology 5th place, Computer Network Technology; Callum Hume – Mattawan High School, Cyber Security & Computer Network Technology 3rd place, Administrative Support Concepts 3rd place, Computer Programming Concepts; Aaron Nance – Watervliet High School, Cyber Security & Computer Network Technology 2nd place, Network Administration Using Microsoft; and Joel Vernon – Dowagiac High School, Cyber Security & Computer Network Technology 3rd place, Financial Math & Analysis 3rd place, Information Technology Concepts 4th place, Systems Administration Using Cisco 4th place, Computer Security.

These students also qualified for the BPA National Leadership Conference in Orlando, May 10-14. In addition, they also earned a $3,000 per year scholarship to Davenport University, renewable for four years with an overall value of $12,000.

Watervliet City Commission improves water billing system; zoning amendment needed for proposed downtown farmers market

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission took action at their Tuesday, March 28 meeting to improve the software used for the automatic read water meter system. City Manager Michael Uskiewicz stated that the upgrade will make the city more effective.

Uskiewicz had previously gone to the Public Works/Water/Sewer Committee with the proposed software upgrade that will update the technology being used and improve the effectiveness of the data collection. The upgrade will cost $4,300 overall but the city already had $1,500 in the budget for this year. In addition, the meter reader will receive an upgrade as well. Onsite training is also included in the cost.

On another note, Uskiewicz said that the water meters city wide have been read, the bills are in the process of being printed and they will be mailed by the end of the week. The city water billing has been delayed while they did a system wide audit of every bill.

Included with the water billing will be information about the city-wide spring clean up. City residents will be able to hold garage sales without a permit on May 11, 12, and 13. Curbside pickup will be May 15-22. Items should be at the curbside beginning Sunday evening, May 14 as crews will begin to pick up early Monday morning.

The following items will not be picked up: Tires, paint, oil, chemicals, household garbage, yard brush/lawn clippings/leaves, and no appliances containing Freon. Items at curbside should be limited to an 8 X 10 sq. ft. area.

In addition to curb-side pickup, a dumpster will be located across the street from the public works garage for larger items. City residents may take the items there and place them in the dumpster. The city asks that you do not place anything outside of the dumpster with the exception of appliances that contain Freon.

City residents are reminded that this service is being provided as a courtesy to the City of Watervliet taxpayers and officials ask that residents do not allow friends and family who live outside the city to participate.

Commissioners also took action toward changing the ordinance that provides oversight to the Planning Commission. The change will repeal the previous code that they were operating under and shall change it to operating pursuant to the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, Public Act 33 of 008 (MCL 125.3801 et seq.) as amended and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, Public Act 110 of 2006 (MCL 125.3101 et seq.) as amended.

Uskiewicz also asked the city commission to consider a change in their zoning ordinance. He had attended a DDA Place Committee meeting on March 16 to learn about a proposed farmers market to be located on the Arclight Brewing Company property. The plan is to construct a facility on the corner of the property that is currently graveled. Uskiewicz said that one hurdle however is that the use of an open air market does not fit within the B1 District which is what the property is zoned. To amend the zoning ordinance, a public hearing is required. It will be held at the Watervliet Fire Station on April 24 at 7:00 p.m. in conjunction with a joint DDA/Planning Commission meeting.

During public comments, a resident asked the city commission if they knew whether or not Lakeland Hospital Watervliet is accepting patients. The resident said it was her understanding that the emergency room was still available, laboratory services are still available, and inpatient rehabilitation but medical inpatients are being taken elsewhere. The resident said she had asked her physician about it and he confirmed her findings. The city commission did not seem to be aware, however, another resident said his wife was on the board of the hospital and he said he would ask and get back to them.

Hospital CEO Ray Cruse told the Tri-City Record Wednesday morning the hospital admits patients; those that can be better served by a specialist are transferred to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph. He also said orthopedic surgeries are still performed at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet. He added the orthopedic patient rooms had been increased to 18 from nine and that outpatient and inpatient orthopedic services had been expanded.

“We found most general admission patients have been better served by sending them to the main Lakeland Hospital. And we doubled the capacity and size of the orthopedic unit at Watervliet for increased leg and knee replacement surgeries,” Cruse said.

Presentation to Paw Paw Lake Rotary on volunteering at Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet by Mary Spessard, Volunteer Coordinator

 Serving as a Coordinator of Volunteers has to be one of the best jobs in the world. Since this is a part-time job, your schedule is set by what you have to do and when you want to do it. But the best part is working with dedicated community members who are here simply to give of themselves. Most jobs involve working with some stressed, “don’t want to be here” folks who know they need to show up to put food on the table and pay the rent. If a volunteer discovers they don’t like the job, they resign and move on to other adventures.

Volunteerism has changed over the years. In the past, many wives and moms didn’t work and they filled their days with social events that often surrounded volunteering. They had a life to share with their families at the end of the day and felt good about being able to help out in the community. Today most women are busy and often choose volunteering after they have completed a busy rewarding career, and many volunteers, after serving as a caregiver for a spouse or child, now seek interaction with friends and the reward of knowing they can continue to do for others.

We are always thrilled to have the teenagers who are filled with the spirit of helping others. They are a fun ray of sunshine at our work areas. (Volunteering does look good on their resumes.) Lakeland also assists our local court system by providing opportunities for those who made a youthful mistake and are asked to do community service. Also, whenever we can find appropriate assignments for our handicapped community members, we do our best to provide that opportunity. It is heart-warming to see the eyes light up with joy and self-worth when they are thanked.

Our volunteers

Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet (LHW) has 83 active volunteers. Our team is made up of 17 males and 66 females. We have 17 volunteers who are over 80, and the youngest is 15. There is an average of 13 volunteers in our facilities each weekday, serving in various capacities such as: assisting customers in the gift shop; greeting patients and visitors at the information desk, preregistering patients for services, or the walk-in clinic. Some work in patient care departments such as in-patient rehabilitation services where they sanitize equipment, assist therapists when needed, secure menus from patients for the next day’s meals. The out-patient rehabilitation services, provided at our clinic on Red Arrow Highway, is where volunteers also sanitize equipment, wash and fold towels and assist where possible to allow therapists to focus on patients. Another special assignment is being available in the patient waiting rooms such as lab/radiology. Often patients and family members are there for tests that will have a serious impact on their futures. The volunteer is there to assist but also to visit, should the patient be interested, and help to create kindness in a difficult situation. Other valuable volunteers include clergy, who arrange for visits from our team of chaplains; our book cart volunteers who provide magazines and books to patients and keep the waiting room areas up-to-date.

Our auxiliary also provides an emergency alert system called Help Alert, allowing patients to be in their homes with a quick system to secure assistance by pressing a button. This is a totally volunteer run program, managed by Joan Smith, who is now in her 33rd year of volunteering for Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet.

Contributions of the auxiliary volunteers

Through snow drifts, heat waves, rain storms and freezing cold, (and a lot of beautiful Southwestern Michigan days) our volunteers put in close to 15,000 hours. During 2016, volunteers worked 14,893 hours. That is a financial value to our hospital of $350,879 according to the National Point of Light Volunteer Organization.

The beauty of this volunteer group is how they fill in and substitute for others when life events make it difficult to be at their station. Our focus for the last 4 years has been “to be there when we said we would be there,” allowing staff and professionals to be able to count on us. As a result of that effort, volunteers have been given greater responsibilities which accompany a greater feeling of making a difference.

A team of volunteers donate time and talent by crocheting and quilting lap robes for all of our in-house patients. Another group sews beautiful walker bags, allowing patients to have a place to store their essentials as they walk. Patients appreciate the donated gifts and make sure they have them when they leave for home.

Fund raising activities

The auxiliary volunteers raised over $30,000 last year. Some funds were made by vendors coming in, but a majority of it came from many volunteers stepping up to take on multiple tasks. With this money we were able to fund $20,000 in grants to various service departments, providing lead aprons, CAT scan positioning devices and a new go-cart to radiology; bariatric parallel bars and bariatric training stairs to rehabilitation-physical therapy; an automated external defibrillator to the emergency department; new window shades to improve the training environment in the board room; and shades for the very hot gift shop. We even donated multiple rolls of stickers for the children in the walk-in clinic.

A very special gift of $1,000 went to the newly created “clothes closet” at LHW. Often clothing is kept as evidence in a violent incident. This money went toward the creation of a closet where clothing will be given to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, allowing them to leave the hospital with dignity after a traumatic experience. Later during the holiday season, our volunteers donated another $385 to the closet at their holiday luncheon.

Our two money making businesses are our Park Bench Gift Shop and our Help Alert Services. While we keep the prices in the gift shop low for our employees and guests, and our Help Alert services are the lowest in the area, they manage to contribute $10,000 to our fundraising efforts.


Lakeland Healthcare requires a high level of training and background checks before volunteers are permitted to work at the hospital. Applicants to volunteer must go through an interview, orientation and specific training at their work stations. Much is federally required, as it should be, but much of it is just raising the level of awareness of the impact of our kindness, sensitivity to cultural issues and the rights of patients.

The LHW’s strongest energy comes from the administration team and the staff. We retain volunteers because they know they are valued. Ray Cruse does not allow an opportunity to pass without praising our volunteers. His attendance at luncheons, fundraisers, and volunteer events speaks volumes.

Volunteering is one of the best deterrents to old age. It’s been proven by research!

While we realize we will often not see the impact of our volunteer efforts, we do agree with Nelson Henderson when he said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”


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