04-19-2018 River group ask Watervliet Township to consider regional benefits of river; Speed limits

River group ask Watervliet Township to consider regional benefits of river

By Annette Christie

Kevin Haight with the Two Rivers Coalition presented an update at the Watervliet Township Board meeting on April 16 about the efforts to clear and maintain the Paw Paw River. Haight was presenting on behalf of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the fiduciary for a $100,000 grant that was provided by the State of Michigan for the purposes of clearing the Paw Paw River so that it could be used as was intended by canoes and kayakers.

55 mph on a side road? Roads such as Huntoon and Forest Beach have had their 25 mph speed limit signs removed leaving the unposted speed limit at 55 mph. (TCR photo by Lacey Krohn)

Haight said the Paw Paw River Water Trail is a 68-mile canoe/kayak trail from Paw Paw to Benton Harbor. It has 10 public access points in that 68-mile length. Haight said that their organization is one of the stakeholders in the Paw Paw River Clean-up project and they are a volunteer group.

He said that in 2018, the clean-up effort was focused on eight beginner levels of the river water trail. Of the $100,000 that was provided by the State of Michigan, approximately $46,000 was spent on five contractors, 36 work days on the river, 55 miles of water trail worked on at least once, and 21 miles done a second time. Of that, Haight said that $11,450 was spent on the 12.5 miles of the Paw Paw River that surrounds the Watervliet and Coloma area.

When spring weather arrives, the river will be checked out to determine the areas that have to be worked on this year. The stakeholders will meet to discuss the direction they should go in.

Haight said one of the major concerns about this is to figure out how to obtain the funding in the future. “We have created a great resource in this water trail but we have to keep it maintained,” Haight said. He stated that the regional water trail, the whole length of the river from Paw Paw to Benton Harbor, has more value that just focusing on the 12.5-mile section between Coloma and Watervliet, the focus of the Friends of the Paw Paw River. Rick Rasmussen with the Friends of the Paw Paw River has already been to the local municipalities asking for some financial backing for the clean-up for that section going forward. Prior to the $100,000 grant, Friends of the Paw Paw River did their own fundraising and with the support of businesses and residents, began river clean-up efforts well before the other funding became available.

A meeting of the stakeholders will be on Wednesday of this week to discuss the remainder of the $100,000 grant and how to use it. It must be used by September.

Airport equipment

Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins brought up the airport equipment being used to maintain the grounds and facilities and expressed the need to replace the aged equipment.  He explained that the tractor and mower had been purchased a long time ago and they have been piecing them together bit by bit but it is getting more costly to do so.  “We are just wasting money putting it into 30-40 year old equipment,” Hutchins said.

The equipment that Hutchins cost out is between $50,000 and $70,000.  He explained that the township has not had to put any money into the airport in many years, it has been self-sufficient, but cannot expend that kind of money.

Some members of the board questioned why the township was being forced to foot the whole bill while the city is also a partner in the airport.  Treasurer Tom Scheid said he would like someone from the township to at least ask the city about participating in this large expense.

Trustee Bob Wallace said he would like additional information and the township to look at other options.

The subject will be placed on next month’s agenda where Hutchins expects that they can make a determination.

Speed limits on township roads

Faced with disappointing State legislation that turned a 25 MPH zone on a township road into a 55 MPH zone, the Watervliet Township Board is taking action to hopefully have that changed.

The board passed two resolutions, one for Huntoon Avenue and one for Forest Beach Road from Paw Paw Avenue to M-140.  The resolutions ask the same thing of the Berrien County Road Department and the Michigan State Police, to have a speed study completed which will hopefully end with results that will give those bodies the stats needed to lower the speed limit.

Legislation that went into effect in January 2017 changed the requirements for a road to have a 25 MPH speed limit. In response to the legislation, and to have the roads legally marked with the proper speed limit, the signs marking some roads as 25 MPH were removed. Unmarked roads are all 55 MPH.

The resolutions passed by the Township Board at their Monday, April 16 meeting, state that the roads named has had steadily increased traffic over the past years due to development and growth, thus increasing the number of access points on the county roads. That additional traffic, according to the resolutions, makes it increasingly difficult for residents to negotiate left hand turns and makes it less safe to move in and out of the flow of traffic.

In approving the resolutions, Watervliet Township agrees that it is asking for a speed study with the understanding that the results of the study could raise the speed limit, lower the speed limit, or keep it the same.  The township agrees to abide by the decision made by the Road Department and the Michigan State Police.

Other business

Pride Care COO Marie Eisbrenner presented the stats for the month of March 2018 for the ambulance provider.  There were 12 priority one calls and 22 priority two calls for the month. The average combined response time was 6:40 minutes.  The broken out average response times were 4:26 for priority one calls and 7:53 for priority two calls.

As the Planning Commission begins to update the Township’s Master Plan, the Township Board is being offered an opportunity to submit information on how they see the township and where they would like it to go. It should be discussed at next month’s meeting.

Trustee Joe Stepich said that the Paw Paw Lake improvements needed this summer should not include a complete lake treatment as only affected spots will need to be done.  The committee continues to look at options for water quality analysis and algae bloom research.  They will be removing the aeration equipment as its effectiveness could not be confirmed.

Berrien County Commissioner Dave Vollrath told the Township Board that he will be running again this year for his seat. The Board of Commissioner terms are for two years.

Landfill passes will be available to township residents and may be picked up at Township Hall.

Zach Smith builds Eagle Scout project to benefit Community Garden

Zachary Smith of Watervliet is working to build the project that will earn him the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. A member of Boy Scout Troop 696 of Coloma and Watervliet since the second grade, Zach is currently a freshman at Watervliet High School. He is the son of Ray and Nichole Smith.

The Community Garden consists of fifteen raised beds, many of which are dedicated to the pantry. Last year, the Community Garden provided over 575 pounds of fresh produce for clients of the pantry. Community members are also invited to help in the garden or to work a bed for their personal use. Interested persons may contact Sherry Meyer at 468-6119 for more information. Zach’s scoutmaster, Ron Roemer, has noted that this project is one of the most exciting and ambitious community projects to come before the Scout Council. Zach is no stranger to ambition in scouting. Some of Zach’s scouting achievements include earning the Arrow of Light, election to the Kishahtek Chapter of the Order of the Arrow (lower Michigan), awarded Brotherhood in the Order of the Arrow, served in the Governor’s Guard at Mackinac Island, backpacking in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, camping in South Dakota, not to mention a myriad of badges. In all, Zach has shown himself to be a dedicated Scout, well on his way to earning his Eagle Scout honors.

Veteran from Riverside  honored for service in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam

Sen. John Proos paid tribute recently to U.S. veteran Juanito Dela Cruz of Riverside for his service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.