04-16-2020 State COVID-19 action draws blowback; LaSata tells Governor banned mosquito treatments le

THANKS FOR LUNCH… Medical personal at Spectrum Lakeland Hospital in Watervliet wave a big thank you to Mike and Laura Mullins of Mike’s Pitstop in Coloma for the delivery of lunch Friday, April 10. Pictured are Tara Mundt, Brianna Schultz, Kelsey Beeching and Nathan Prine.


State COVID-19 action draws blowback; LaSata tells Governor banned mosquito treatments leave folks threatened by EEE

By Jon Bisnett The COVID-19 outbreak continues to top the news with some of the latest developments in the State of Michigan as devastating to business, as the disease itself. Washington Direct deposit stimulus payments from the Coronavirus Relief Bill are beginning to land in the accounts of those taxpayers who filed returns in 2018 or 2019. The one-time direct payments of $1,200 per adult plus $500 payments per child under 17 will be made via direct deposit to the bank account used for 2018 tax filing within three weeks per the Office of Treasury. Otherwise checks will be mailed. Individuals on Social Security who have not been required to file a return can fill out an online form to ensure their payment. Additionally, some of the unemployed have begun to receive the additional $600 per week Federal help. President Trump is looking at the possibility of reopening some segments of business and stay at home directives as early as May 1. Skirmishes are surfacing in regard to who is truly empowered to make such decisions. Governors say it is their choice, not Washington, while Trump differs. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is drawing a great deal of fire from both members of the state legislature and thousands of Michigan small business owners following her most recent stay at home order, while she has specifically called out landscapers as “low-wage non-essentials” much to the ire of many local business people. Whitmer had sought 70 additional days of lockdown and was granted just 30 by the legislature. By the time this edition of the Record is printed, a scheduled protest for Wednesday, April 15 will have taken place with the intention to blockade the State Capital in Lansing with landscapers, garden center and construction workers, and other small businesses and their supporters, all sidelined by the Governor’s recent action. Bainbridge resident Senator Kim LaSata is now asking the Governor to relax restrictions on landscapers. In a letter warning that following state guidelines to prevent mosquitoes further threatens the safety of Michigan residents since Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), which is spread by mosquitoes, is an issue for many people who rely on landscaping companies to spray for mosquitoes. “Last year, half of the individuals who died from EEE were from my district,” LaSata said. “Now our concern is that at this time landscapers need to be out there spraying to prevent EEE from occurring again.” The same mild winter, that robbed landscapers of their usual off-season snowplowing income, can actually worsen the EEE infestation and could make this year even worse. The double whammy! Social media has been on fire this week challenging Whitmer’s perceived over reach that affects sale of paint, seeds, plants and much, much, more. Online recall petitions abound as unemployment in the state soars, only to find a broken, overloaded UIA website that suffered a major crash on Monday when it was first opened to the self-employed and others who had not previously qualified for benefits. Whitmer was quoted as follows regarding reopening the state; saying four areas of concern will guide her action. “We must see a sustained reduction in infection rate; enhanced ability to test and trace COVID-19; sufficient healthcare capacity to handle resurgence; and best practices in the workplace. We can’t afford a second wave, and so it’s going to be incredibly important that we do this right.” Schools Coloma, Hartford and Watervliet Public Schools will continue to provide meals to students through June 9 along with new Bridge Card benefits just recently announced. Families that already qualify for free or reduced lunch will receive $193.80 total for March and April for each eligible K-12 student, and another $182.40 total for May and June. Our Tri-City schools are working diligently to implement their individual plans to continue learning under the restrictions imposed thanks to the novel virus. Each school will contact students and parents directly to address how they will proceed. Conversations with local Superintendents indicate that a hybrid plan will likely be the choice of most schools, whereby online technology is used where possible, but good ol’ pen and paper workbooks are implemented in cases where Internet service is not readily available. A letter from a faithful Tri-City Record reader this week asked about schools. Rex Machay asked, “I read the Record every week and I noticed no mention now that school is canceled, of a locker clean out day. “I would like to see inquiry of the Tri-City schools as to what may happen. Hartford, Watervliet, and Coloma together, we’re talking about 1,000-plus students, which means with social distancing, will take some time to do.” Thanks Rex, good question. And it’s closer to 4,500 students! For all the piles of information this reporter has gone over in the past weeks, that thought never crossed my mind, but here’s the short answer. Quoting Hartford Superintendent Andy Hubbard, “Locker cleanout would be considered non-essential and therefore off the table until after May first or whenever the restrictions are lifted.” Then speaking candidly, he shared it will take some thought, as there are some major differences between how they address high school versus elementary school which will ultimately need to be ironed out at each building level. Good answer. Each school will undoubtedly do things their own way and will reach out to their students with ongoing communications. Meanwhile – Stay the course Hang in there. It won’t be forever. Again, continue to follow the recommended best practices to slow the outbreak: Wash hands often, cough into your elbow, avoid touching face, keep safe 6-foot distance and stay home if you are able.

COVID-19 illness cluster identified at Benton Harbor long term care facility

The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland are working to investigate a cluster of COVID-19 illness at Hallmark Living Benton Harbor, a skilled nursing facility in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As of Monday, April 13, four employees and four residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Three of the residents who tested positive and had been terminally ill prior to COVID-19 diagnosis have died.

The employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 are isolating at home and are no longer having contact with any of the facility residents. The facility residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being isolated in their rooms and all group activities have been canceled at this time. All residents and employees are being monitored for COVID-19 symptoms. The Hallmark Living Center has been working closely with the Berrien County Health Department to ensure residents and staff are safe by following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines. Berrien County Health Department will continue to monitor this group of positive cases, as well as provide needed personal protective equipment and infection control guidance needed by the facility. The Hallmark Living Center is implementing all recommended outbreak mitigation strategies to protect their residents and employees from COVID-19: Taking temperatures on all residents and staff twice a day; shutting down all communal spaces and residents are quarantined to their rooms; prohibiting all visitors to the facility; enhancing hand hygiene and use of personal protective equipment for staff; enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the facility. Nicki Britten, Health Officer at the Berrien County Health Department says, “We have known that COVID-19 is present in our community, but this cluster of illnesses and loss of life at a facility serving some of our most vulnerable in our population is a sobering reminder that our community must continue to be vigilant with our actions to keep this virus from spreading. In addition to continuing mitigation strategies in the community, our department will continue to address the needs of our vulnerable populations, including those who live in congregate settings like long-term care facilities.”

The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland continue to provide personal protective equipment supplementary support, staff education, and infection prevention technical assistance to long term care facilities and nursing homes across the county to ensure that these high-risk settings have what they need to adequately prevent and mitigate any potential clusters of COVID-19, as well as other illness.

As of April 13 at 3 p.m., there have been 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Berrien County and five deaths due to the virus. BCHD continues to perform contact tracing for all identified COVID-19 positive individuals in Berrien County, resulting in over 1,500 contacts made at this time. For updated information regarding COVID-19 in Berrien County, visit www.bchdmi.org/COVID19 or www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org/covid19.

VIRTUAL HAGAR BOARDROOM… Hagar Supervisor Izzie DiMaggio calls the meeting to order via Zoom Video Conferencing software as many local municipalities adapt to a recent executive order from the Governor’s office relaxing rules of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. Social distancing rules cause boards to quickly retool their technology. Most are moving to online virtual platforms for previously in-person public meetings to keep their jurisdictions operating smoothly and keep the staff safe. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)


Hagar Township meets via video conference

By Jon Bisnett

Reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hagar Township Board met via Zoom teleconferencing on Tuesday, March 31 to conduct the regular March meeting under new relaxed guidelines of the Michigan Open Meeting Act.

Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio began by observing a moment of silence honoring the sudden passing of Dale Davis who was a “very important member of our township family who will be missed”. DiMaggio continued with thanks to Secretary Sarah Rodriguez for putting together the online meeting format.

For sake of expediency, the usual monthly departmental reports we deferred to a future meeting with the exception of a written report already received by Pride Care Ambulance.

Ambulance

Pride Care Ambulance submitted a written report on activity for the prior month. There were nine Priority One calls in February with the average response time of 11:46 minutes. There were 15 Priority Two calls with an average response time of 15:27 minutes. A total of 25 calls were run in February with an average response of 14:07.

Payment of bills

The board gave unanimous approval to routine bills in the amount of $35,322.30.

Business

A request from a property owner was received in regard to the unnamed lake located on their parcel near I-196, just north of Damon Drive. The property owners own 40 acres including the lake they wish to have officially designated as Damon Lake. Berrien County Commissioners have already approved the request, as did the Hagar Board with the sole caveat that it be done at no recording cost to Hagar Township.

As suggested by Michigan Townships Association, discussion took place in regard to adoption of a policy to allow for Clerk and Treasurer to make payment of routine bills such as payroll, utilities, critical bills to avoid penalty prior to formal Board action.

Four bids were received in regard to annual maintenance contract proposals for the township’s public parks: Jenkins Lawn & Landscape $46,450; Precision Cuts $46,000; DJs Landscape Management $43,460 (with garbage service additional); Martin Landscaping $52,687. The contract was unanimously awarded to Precision Cuts of Coloma, at a cost of $46,000.

The board also reviewed two proposals for the mandatory annual financial audit; one from Gabridge & Co. over three years, at $6,000 per year. Hungerford Nichols of St. Joseph presented a bid with an incremental charge of $10,000, $10,400, and $10,800. The bid was unanimously accepted from the Township’s current auditor, Gabridge & Co. of Grand Rapids, for three years at a cost of $6,000 per year.

Two bids were reviewed in regard to the Township’s Master Plan, with submissions from Williams & Works at $16,500 and Wightman & Associates at $26,500. The bid was awarded to Williams & Works to Review & Update Master Plan not to exceed $10,000, with consideration of other work currently in process that reduces the overall outlay.

Voters will be pleased to see a proposal on the August ballot to reduce the Hagar Fire Vehicle Millage down to a 10-year, .2500 mills, (reduced from the current .500 mills.)

Researching the matter of vehicle needs with Chief Mattix revealed an excess in the math for Hagar whose projected share of the actual need will be $613k over the next 10 years, which in turn justified lowering the millage. The fund is also to be officially renamed Fire Vehicle Fund to clarify its purpose to vehicle purchase as opposed to other apparatus or operating expense.

The board approved Headlee Amendment the recapture proposal – 4 years, .3637 mills; to be placed on the coming ballot in August.

Susan Herman from the website committee reports, the process is moving forward as expected and is now in a stage of developing content.

Next meeting date was set for Monday, April 13 at 6:00 p.m., to include the Regular Meeting following the Annual Meeting, and then followed by the Annual Budget Hearing.

Budget draft copy is available by phone or email request only, as the Township office is closed until further notice.

Having no further business, Supervisor DiMaggio wished all to stay safe and follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines as he adjourned the meeting at 8:12 p.m.

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