04-06-2017 Easter Activities; Millage proposal on May 2 ballot to expand Van Buren County court comp

SPRINGING INTO A TRIM NEW LOOK FOR DOWNTOWN… Matthew Culby of Precision Cutz, a tree trimming and lawn care business in Coloma, trims the trees along Main Street in Watervliet on Saturday. Precision Cutz, owned by Travis Hanko, spent two days getting the downtown trees spruced up for spring. The improvement was spearheaded by the city’s Downtown Development Authority. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Easter Egg Hunt in Ely Park, April 8

 On Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. the Van Buren Sportsmen’s Club is sponsoring an Easter Egg Hunt in Hartford’s Ely Park. The hunt is for kids 10 and under. In the event of rain, the hunt will be held on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m.

Good Friday Breakfast

 Hartford United Methodist Women will host their annual Good Friday Breakfast on Friday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m. inviting all women to attend this free event. Breakfast casserole, fruit, Hot Cross Buns, coffee, tea & juice will be served.  Rev. Gini Heller of South Haven UMC will present “The Crosses.”  The church is located at 425 E. Main Street in Hartford (across from the fire station).

Coloma Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt, April 15

 The Coloma Lions Club assisted by the Coloma Lioness Club will once again be sponsoring an Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 15 at 11:00 a.m. at the FOP Sports Park in Coloma.  The Lions will be joined by the North Berrien Fire Rescue and the Coloma Glad-Peach Queen and King as well as their Court. The Coloma Fraternal Order of Police will also be holding a Pancake Breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m.  The Easter Bunny will be making an appearance at the breakfast. The four baseball fields will be used to allow for separate age groups.  Easter Baskets may only be used on the field reserved for kids one to three years of age. All other participants are encouraged to wear sloppy clothing to accommodate the collection of the eggs.  There are several prizes to be discovered in the approximate 4,000 eggs to be found on the four fields.

Watervliet Lions’ Easter Egg Hunt, April 15

 The annual Watervliet Lions Club Easter Egg Hunt will be Saturday, April 15 at 11:00 a.m. at Hays Park. All children through 10 years of age are invited. No baskets will be allowed on the field for children over four years of age. The Lions Club will be filling the eggs Thursday, April 13 at the Board of Trade at 6:30 p.m. Everyone that would like to help fill the eggs is invited. Any questions, please call Linda Kabel at 269-463-4746.

Freshwater Community Church Easter Egg Hunt on Easter morning

 Sunday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m. the Freshwater Community Church is having an Easter Egg Hunt at Coloma Upper Elementary following an 8:00 a.m. sunrise service. Everyone is invited. There will be lots of great prizes!

Watervliet Free Methodist Church Holy Week services

 Watervliet Free Methodist Church will celebrate Holy Week beginning with a Community Service on Good Friday, April 14, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. Easter Sunday will feature Sunrise Service at 8:45 a.m., breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and worship of our Risen Lord at 10:30 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend. The church is located at 7734 Paw Paw Avenue, Watervliet.  Please call 269-463-8280 or email watervlietfmchurch@gmail.com for more information. You can also visit the church website at www.wfmchurch.org.

Holy Week schedule for St. Joseph Catholic Church

 St. Joseph Catholic Church in Watervliet will start their Holy Week on Thursday, April 13, with a Mass at 7:00 p.m. followed by Adoration.  A Good Friday service will be held at 2:30 p.m. followed by Stations of the Cross.  On Saturday, April 15 there will be an Easter Vigil Mass at 8:30 p.m. with Easter Sunday masses at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.  The church is located at 157 Lucinda Lane in Watervliet.

Senior Services

Hartford United Methodist Church

425 E. Main St., Hartford

 Monday, April 10 – Coffee & conversation, 10:00 a.m.; LUNCH, 12:30 p.m.; Cards, 1:00 p.m.; Bingo, 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, April 11 – Coffee & conversation, 10:00 a.m.; LUNCH, 12:30 p.m.; Computer help, 1:00 p.m.; Knitting & crocheting, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, April 14 – CLOSED

All seniors, age 60 and older, residing in Van Buren County are eligible to participate in these programs and activities.

Any questions or comments, please contact Senior Services Paw Paw office at 269-655-8000. Rides are available through Van Buren Public Transit with no less than 24-hour advance notice at (269) 427-7921.

Millage proposal on May 2 ballot to expand Van Buren County court complex

 Van Buren County 36th Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Dufon addressed the Hartford Township Board and public meeting attendees on March 9 to garner support for a millage proposal that will be placed on the May 2, 2017 Special Election  ballot to fund the restoration and expansion of the Van Buren County Courthouse which is sorely in need of attention.

If voters pass the Improved Public Safety and Public Services Millage, funds raised from the 0.70 millage will be used to remedy the current limitations of the county courts, jail, and administration facilities of the 116-year-old building. The tax increase will be minimal to residents. For example, Van Buren County residents owning a home worth $100,000 with a taxable value of $50,000 will pay $35 per year for a proposed time frame of 20 years.

Five million dollars of the potential $32 million bond is earmarked for the jail house addition project. According to Trial Court Administrator Frank Hardester, “Due to liability concerns at the jail county officials are proceeding with the jail expansion now using rainy day funds. This decision was made against the recommendation of the county’s financial consultant. The county hopes to replenish funds from the jail expansion using funds from the millage proposal if approved by voters.”

Thirty Family Court employees work across the street from the present courthouse in the basement of a building plagued by frequent floods and sewage backups, and in the main courthouse 15 Juvenile Court staff members are doubling up in work spaces intended for one, while others are working in closets. There is one conference room that is shared by four courtrooms, which leaves little privacy for those forced to meet in public spaces to discuss confidential issues. Prisoners from the Van Buren County Jail, which sits behind the courthouse, must be transported from the jailhouse to the courts through the main rotunda, and restrooms are on the third floor so inmates must be escorted upstairs through public spaces to use the facilities. Both scenarios pose serious security issues to employees and visitors.

Judge Dufon showed the board the proposed site plan illustrating the intended improvements to a four-court system which currently functions in a structure built for two courts. The historic courthouse, which was built in 1901 and does not meet current national standards, will not be razed; rather it will undergo necessary improvements as well as restoration to retain the original design. The new court facility will extend out from the back of the Court Annex, which was constructed in 1976, allowing prisoners to be transported directly from the jail to the courts. The new court building will house four new courtrooms, a hearing room, conference rooms, work spaces, restrooms and other necessary amenities.

The Van Buren County Jail was built in 1901 and expanded in 1962. The building does not have enough intake holding cells and there is no space to separate male and female inmates. There is insufficient space for medical treatment and there is no mental health facility. Also, technology is outdated so security monitoring is minimal, posing heightened risk to employees and the prisoners themselves.

The overhaul will bring the courthouse and the jail into compliance with the American Disabilities Act, and create 91 new parking spaces.

New technology creates efficiencies

Van Buren County has partnered with Berrien, St. Joseph, Cass and Otsego counties to implement a Jury Management System in order to create a user-friendly experience that benefits jurors and the courts. The system generates online questionnaires to help determine jury qualification, and pushes out text message, email and voicemail reminders to reduce the Failure to Appear rates of jurors. The courts have also changed the three-week jury term to two weeks in order to improve juror utilization.

Improved satisfaction ratings for Van Buren County court system

The Annual Performance Measures Survey for the courts shows that Van Buren County performed at higher rates in 2016 than in both 2014 and 2015. When participants were asked if they were treated with courtesy and respect by court staff, numbers rose from 95% in 2014 to 97% in 2016, two and four points higher than the statewide average respectively. And 90% of those tried in 2016 understood what happened in their cases, four points higher than the statewide average.

Courthouse tour available to the public

A public tour of the historic courthouse is offered on April 27 at 1:30 p.m., and anyone who would like to tour the building on alternate dates is welcome to schedule a tour at mutual convenience. For more information call (269) 657-8200 or visit the Van Buren County Services and Information Center website: www.vbco.org/circuitcourt.asp.

Hartford Township Board commended for service

Judge Dufon commended the Hartford Township Board for their service, stating that, “I know that leaders only hear from the public when things are going badly. I thank you for all you do.”

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