04-12-2018 Body found in Paw Paw River presumed to be missing kayaker; Watervliet city manager gives

Body found in Paw Paw River presumed to be missing kayaker

MEMBERS OF THE BERRIEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT were able to locate a body in the Paw Paw River on Tuesday, April 10. Many agencies have been looking for a kayaker who went missing on February 27. Deputy Justin Goff (standing on the bank) along with Deputy Jessica Frucci (in the water) assisted with the search. Undersheriff Chuck Heit said that the body of the white male was taken to Lakeland Hospital. An autopsy and positive identification will take place on Thursday in Kalamazoo. It is believed that the body is that of 35-year-old Cory Wright of Niles. (Contributed photo)

The ongoing efforts by multiple emergency services agencies to find a kayaker, who went missing in the Paw Paw River on February 27, have resulted in his body being found.

On April 10, 2018 Berrien County Sheriff Lt. Marty Kurtz and Undersheriff Chuck Heit were patrolling the Paw Paw River in the continued effort to locate 35-year-old Cory Wright of Niles.

While patrolling the river, Lt. Kurtz observed a suspicious object under the water. Upon further investigation it was believed to be a human body.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team was activated and contact was made with Watervliet Fire Department Chief Dan Jones as well.

Divers from the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team located and recovered the body of a white male at 4:47 p.m. The body was transported by Pride Care Ambulance to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph.

An autopsy will be conducted and the positive identification of the recovered body is ongoing.

Cory Wright, 35, of Niles was kayaking in the area with two other men when they hit a log and flipped over.  One of the men re-surfaced by Wright did not.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and the Watervliet Fire Department have worked together for the last 43 days in attempts to locate the missing kayaker.

Distracted Driving Enforcement through April 21

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, the Bridgman City Police Department, the New Buffalo City Police Department, the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety, and the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety are ready to crack down on texting-law violators during the 3rd National Texting Enforcement Crackdown.

The increased high-visibility enforcement by these agencies will be conducted at various times and dates which began on April 9, 2018 and continues through April 21, 2018.  However, enforcement action will be taken by all law enforcement officers, who observe violations, even the officers not assigned to the high-visibility distracted driving enforcement.

During April, law enforcement officers will be stepping up patrols for motorists who text while driving. The National U Drive, U Text, U Pay high-visibility enforcement campaign has two goals: conduct enforcement on anti-texting laws and advertise these efforts with media and social media outreach to make drivers aware of the enforcement and encourage them to obey the law.

Driving and texting is not only dangerous and irresponsible, it’s illegal. Drivers who break our state’s texting law will be stopped and cited. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves three main types of distraction: visual (taking your eyes off the road); manual (taking your hands off the steering wheel); and cognitive (taking your mind off the task of driving).

Michigan’s texting law prohibits drivers from reading, manually typing, or sending a text message while driving. Violating the texting law may be costly. Drivers convicted of a first offense may be fined $100 with subsequent offenses of $200.

In addition to texting, distracted driving can include eating and drinking, using a navigation system, attending to children, grooming, reading, including maps, talking to passengers, and changing the radio. Distracted driving statistics paint a grim picture: In 2016, an estimated 3,450 people were killed nationwide in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted driving crashes made up 9.2 percent of all fatal crashes in 2016.

In Michigan, distracted driving accounted for 12,788 crashes in 2016. Those crashes resulted in 43 fatalities and 5,103 injuries, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

The State 911 Committee gives tribute to Michigan telecommunicators and their vital contributions to public safety.

In 1991, the United States Congress designated the second week in April, this year April 8-14, 2018, as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. In Michigan, the State 911 Committee is privileged to honor the men and women who serve in this role to protect the citizens of our Great Lakes State.

“This is the week we take time to highlight the important role that telecommunicators have in facilitating emergency services and say thank you,” declared Harriet Miller-Brown, State 911 Administrator. “It is an honor to celebrate these exemplary individuals who demonstrate the highest levels of professional conduct and extraordinary performance. Their dedication and hard work touches the lives of countless people daily.”

In Michigan, 911 centers serve as the primary point for dispatching police, fire, and EMS responses. In addition to answering and dispatching emergency calls, telecommunicators also provide medical pre-arrival instructions, activate weather alerts, additional incident scene response such as Child Protective Service, hospitals, road commission, utility, and public works department notifications; and handle the call-outs for specialized response teams such as search and rescue, activating medical examiners, and hazmat response teams. Telecommunicators receive calls through many different 911 dialing systems including wireless, traditional telephones, Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), and in some counties, via texts.

Mr. Jeff Troyer, Chair of the State 911 Committee, also recognizes the accomplishments of 911 telecommunicators across the state and said, “911 is the gateway to emergency services for residents and visitors during their time of need. Our well-trained 911 professionals in the State of Michigan answer this need more than six million times each year. I commend these individuals for their exemplary service.”

The State 911 Committee was established in accordance with Public Act 79 of 1999. It is a 21-member organization that works together to promote the successful development, implementation, and operation of 911 systems across the State of Michigan.

The 911 system is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. On February 16, 1968, Alabama Speaker of the House, Mr. Rankin Fite, made the first 911 call from the Haleyville City Hall. Today there are 142 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in Michigan and approximately 2,000 telecommunicators.

According to the 2017 annual report, of the counties and service districts that reported, the telecommunicators in Michigan answered: 6,382,487 calls to 911; 4,733 Texts-to-911; and 7,109,529 calls from non-911 lines.

North Berrien Fire Department battles barn fire

The North Berrien Fire Rescue Department responded to a barn fire at 6201 Carmody Rd. in the early morning hours of Friday, April 6.  The call came in at about 1:43 a.m. with units arriving on scene at 1:56 a.m. Members of the department remained on scene until approximately 5:40 a.m.

The barn, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Aaron Molter, was fully involved upon arrival. Chief Michael Mattix stated that the barn and its contents were completely lost, with numerous farm implements and a warehouse cooler full of apples inside. The damage is estimated at approximately $205,000. The fire is still under investigation.

The North Berrien Fire Department was assisted by the fire departments of Watervliet, Hartford, Keeler, Sister Lakes, and Eau Claire/Pipestone.  In addition, they were assisted by the Coloma Township Police Department and Pride Care Emergency Services.

NEED THE WATERVLIET POLICE? REACH THEM WITH THE PUSH OF A BUTTON… Watervliet Police Chief Tim Sutherland points out the new call box installed on the exterior of City Hall at the Police Department entrance located at the corner of Pleasant and First streets. With the installation of the outdoor police telephone, residents who need to reach police for non-emergency situations can do so at the push of the button on the phone. If they do not answer the phone, the call will be transferred to Berrien County Dispatch, who will, after inquiring with the caller, contact the on duty officer. Watervliet City has a 24/7 police department but with the on duty officer often patrolling throughout the city, reaching them can sometimes be difficult. The call box offers one more way to offer assistance for their residents. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

Watervliet city manager gives notice, leaving end of June; Planners invite public to medical marijuana discussion

By Annette Christie Watervliet City Manager Michael Uskiewicz has given the City Commission his contractual required notice that his last day will be June 30. In a letter provided for their April 10 City Commission meeting, Uskiewicz stated that he wished to spend more time with his family. Uskiewicz described his departure as a “notice of retirement.” The City Commission accepted his letter of retirement unanimously. In addition, he offered them a proposed timeline in finding his replacement and offered to stay on after that date if everything is not in place by the June 30 date. Commissioner Duane Cobb stated that Uskiewicz has done an excellent job for the nearly two years that he has been here. “City Hall is running smoothly,” Cobb added. In other business the Commission appointed David Coyle, Arclight Brewery owner, to the Downtown Development Authority to fill the vacancy left when Jennifer Moore moved her business out of the city. Bob Becker announced that on April 20 at 11:00 a.m., the Paw Paw Lake Rotary Club would be planting trees on the new Par Course behind Lakeland Hospital. He said that the Par Course is being worked on and will include two quarter mile tracks and eight pieces of equipment. He said they will be planting the trees near the gazebo. Becker said this service project is being done with the help of high school students. The public is welcome to attend and to help if they would like.

Fire and police millage proposals to be on the August ballot The Watervliet City Commission will ask voters to renew the city’s police and fire millages. They will both be on the August 7, 2018 ballot and will be for 2019, 2020, and 2021. The fire millage proposal will be for two mills for the purposes of providing fire protection services within the city. The ballot proposal will read, “Shall the City of Watervliet continue to levy a total of two (2) mills, which is equal to $2.00 for each $1,000 of taxable value, on the real and personal property subject to taxation in the City of Watervliet for the tax levy years of 2019, 2020, and 2021, inclusive for the purpose of paying for fire protection services within the City, thereby raising in the first calendar year approximately $54,406.” The police millage proposal will be for three mills for the purposes of providing police protection services within the city. The ballot proposal will read, “Shall the City of Watervliet continue to levy a total of three (3) mills, which is equal to $3.00 for each $1,000 of taxable value, on the real and personal property subject to the taxation in the City of Watervliet for the tax levy years of 2019, 2020, and 2021, inclusive for the purpose of paying for police protection services within the City, thereby raising in the first calendar year approximately $81,060.” Personnel Committee items Based on the recommendation of the Personnel Committee the City Commission voted on some personnel handbook changes. In a unanimous vote, the commission voted to limit the amount of vacation time that can be carried over to another year to one week, it acknowledged that vacation payouts will not be allowed, and it approved paying employees a $100 stipend per pay period if they obtain their healthcare by other means. In addition, they voted to make that retroactive for an employee that recently had stopped using the city’s health insurance. City Commission seats Clerk Dena Yow announced that there are three commission seats that will be on the November ballot. She has packets available at City Hall for anyone interested in running for City Commission. She also reminded everyone that the May regular meeting of the City Commission will be held on Wednesday, May 9 due to the school election on May 8.

Medical marijuana on agenda for Planning Commission; public input sought Planning Commission Chairman Luke Strunk announced that medical marijuana will be on the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting being held on the Monday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. He acknowledged that the City does have an individual interested in a building on M-140, and the City is going to need to make a decision on whether they will opt in or opt out. “I want the public’s input. I know how the Planning Commission feels about it. I think I know how some of the City Commission feels about it and I need public input. I want to know so we can make an informed decision,” Strunk stated in a plea. Strunk urged everyone to do their research and really hopes that many members of the public will attend to provide their view on the subject.

Hagar board informed of interest in vacant APL Logistics building;  Study of area roads planned

By Jon Bisnett

The April 9 meeting of the Hagar Township Board showed signs of spring with several new building permits, an equal number of blight ordinance actions and a pair of inquiries for the idled APL Logistic property.

Sheriff’s report

Sergeant Ryan Sullivan visited to report on February activity in the Township. A total of 42 complaints were worked in Hagar.  The report showed only two traffic tickets issued and just one arrest during the month.


Commissioner Dave Vollrath visited reporting the State Supreme Court ruling against Berrien County’s appeal effectively closing down the controversial gun range in Coloma Township once and for all.

Vollrath also told that initial work has begun at the new county park site on the Paw Paw River in Watervliet.

During the meeting, Vollrath made clear his intention to run to retain his appointed post as commissioner.

79th District State Representative Kim LaSata was also present and commented on the recent gun range ruling calling it “a lesson to be learned.” She went on to say that she wished the clock could have been turned back before all the costly legal wrangling saying she wished all concerned parties could have worked out their issues before things ever went this far.

LaSata serves on the House Committee on Appropriations as Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education. She spoke briefly in regard to recent events at Michigan State University saying “…the Attorney General’s Office is in charge of the investigation; my committee is working on budget as usual, however I can guarantee you that we will make every effort to close loopholes in the system that were obviously exploited. We will greatly increase protection for our students and strengthen Title 9 on every Michigan campus.”

LaSata announced in February that she will be seeking the Republican nomination for the 21st State Senate position now held by Sen. John Proos who will leave office due to term limits

Supervisor’s report

Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio began his report by noting a productive meeting held on March 19 with the Drain Commissioner which resulted in a commitment by the DDA to fund up to $20,000 for a study of issues on Hampton, Coloma and Fikes roads. DiMaggio was pleased to say the study will be performed by the local firm of Wightman and Associates.

DiMaggio announced a request from the Paw Paw River group to visit the May meeting with a short presentation of the group’s work towards developing the Paw Paw River for recreational non-motorized watercraft navigation.

Two entities have made initial inquires of the former APL Logistics building on Coloma Road. The massive warehouse facility had operated in one form or another for 50 years, but went dark in July of 2016. DiMaggio reported an initial inquiry from a Detroit area lawyer who represents a client looking for a building to house a large scale commercial medical marijuana growing operation, while a second inquiry came from the Ludington area for use as warehousing for steel building material. Either entity could potentially offer local area jobs in the wake of some 50 jobs lost when APL ceased operations.

Clerks report

Clerk Sarah Rodriguez reported on activity with Pride Care Ambulance with 11 priority one calls in March with the average response time of 10:22 minutes. There were 14 priority II calls coming in at a time of 13:05 minutes. Just two priority III calls came in with average response time of 14:25 minutes. Pride Care responded to a total of 27 calls in March with a combined average time of 12:05 minutes.

Rodriguez reminded of a May 8 election that concerns only those Hagar residents that live within the borders of the Coloma School District.

Treasurer’s report

Treasurer Marlene Davis had no April report; rather stating she will present same at the May session.

North Berrien Fire Rescue report

Supervisor DiMaggio reported NBFRD had 15 calls in the month of March; with five in Hagar, four in Coloma Charter Township and none in the City of Coloma.

A pending Federal grant for $145,000 with 5% local match for the purchase of extrication equipment has made it through the first phase of the approval process. If successful the grant would require roughly $7,500 of local funds to acquire updated rescue tools for the department.

Parks Department

Parks Director Beth Raiser reported on bids for crack repair, sealing and striping of parking lots at Hagar Park. The board unanimously approved Arnt Asphalt with a bid of $5,675.

Raiser also says stairs at Hagar Park are now repaired and there is even a little bit of beach this year due to lower lake levels. New grills and trash bins are coming this spring while estimates are still coming in for new fencing at Momany Field, which may possibly include a dog park area.

Building Inspector

Butch Kelly reported 13 new permits for $339,320. Joined by Township Ordinance Office George Schemenauer, Kelley revealed a series of 14 violations that he has taken action on; 13 of 14 have responded to the initial communication. Be it debris, litter or outright condemnation, his office will campaign to enforce ordinances and to clean up the township.

Schemenauer further explained his role saying, “If it’s a first time violation I give them a warning. But if I must revisit the property or a habitual offender it will be an automatic ticket.” He went on to suggest the board take a look at the “junk car” ordinance that currently provides 30 days to resolve, while Schemenauer contends that 10 days is the standard in most communities.

Old business

Trustee Andy Ulleg indicated that in his role on the Planning Commission it was time to revisit the township Zoning Map to clear up some ambiguous areas. Ulleg also expressed a level of frustration regarding township authorization of the township attorney to accept contacts from Williams & Works when working on zoning issues. DiMaggio will address the matter.

Having no other business DiMaggio then adjourned the board at 7:38 with the next regular monthly meeting of the Township Board to be held 7:00 p.m. Monday, May 7, 2018.


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