04-26-2018 Marijuana on Main Street? Watervliet planners seek public comment on issue Monday night;

Huffman’s Furniture building demolished


GOING, GOING, GONE… What some may call icon and others call eyesore fell to the wrecking ball (claw), as the former Huffman Furniture Building at 1 East Main succumbed to the City’s demolition order on Tuesday, April 24. The crew from Pitsch Company of Grand Rapids brought the building down with minimal effect on traffic or debris, with Center Street and Main reduced to a single lane adjacent to the work site. Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the workers articulate dismantling of the structure that dates back to the mid 1800s. Those who might romanticize the condemnation of the structure should understand multiple attempts to rehab the building were met with cost estimates nearing $1 million coupled with the inability to finance such a project. The severely distressed condition of the structure left the City no choice but to call for its demolition for sake of public safety. (TCR photos by Jon Bisnett)


Marijuana on Main Street? Watervliet planners seek public comment on issue Monday night

By Annette Christie Opt in or opt out will be the question for the Watervliet City Planning Commission as they discuss which direction they would like to go on medical marijuana facilities. City Commissioner and Planning Commission member Luke Strunk announced at the last Watervliet City Commission meeting that medical marijuana will be on the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting being held on Monday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Public Act 281 of 2016, the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act is intended to license and regulate medical marijuana growers, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters, and safety compliance facilities. It provides power and duties to state and local officers, one of those powers being that local elected officials can choose to opt in or opt out. The Act allows that a state operating license shall not be issued unless the municipality in which the proposed marijuana facility will operate has adopted an ordinance that authorizes that type of facility. A municipality may adopt an ordinance to authorize one or more types of marijuana facilities within its boundaries and to limit the number of each type of marijuana facility. A municipality may adopt other ordinances relating to marijuana facilities within its jurisdiction, including zoning regulations, but shall not impose regulations regarding the purity or pricing of marijuana or interfering or conflicting with this Act or rules for licensing. Strunk said there has been some interest in a possible location within the city for that purpose. He is very interested in people’s opinion on the matter so that the Planning Commission can make an informed decision that could ultimately end up with the City Commission. “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. The Planning Commission meeting is Monday, April 30, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.

Candidates file for county and state offices Co. Commissioners facing opposition in August Primary, Bainbridge Twp. Supervisor Bill Hodge seeks to unseat County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman; Pauline Wendzel running for vacated 79th District State Representative seat

By Annette Christie As the 4:00 p.m. deadline closed in for filing for the upcoming elections this year, incumbents from both Van Buren County and Berrien County learned Tuesday that they will face an opponent in their party at the August primary.

Local County Commission Candidates declare Voters in Van Buren County District #4 which includes Hartford City, Hartford Township, and Keeler Township, will choose between incumbent Richard Freestone and challenger Mike Chappell. Freestone resides at 31002 60th St., in Bangor. Chappell resides at 65234 W. Red Arrow Hwy. in Hartford. Voters in Berrien County District #2 which includes Watervliet Charter Township (south of M-140), Watervliet City, Bainbridge Township, Pipestone Township, Berrien Township, and the Village of Eau Claire, will choose between incumbent Jon Hinkelman and challenger Bill Hodge. Hinkelman resides at 2201 N. M-140, in Watervliet. Hodge resides at 1050 Bainbridge Center Rd. in Benton Harbor. He is currently the Bainbridge Township Supervisor. As the election nears, full biographies of all candidates will be included in the Tri-City Record.

State Representative 79th District When the list was revealed following the filing deadline on Tuesday afternoon, a familiar name was amongst the candidates seeking to fill Kim LaSata’s upcoming vacant seat. A fellow Bainbridge Township woman, Pauline Wendzel, will be seeking to win the Republican candidate spot on the November ballot. LaSata is also from Bainbridge Township. She is seeking the State Senator seat for the 21st District. Wendzel, who resides at 8510 Danneffel Rd., Watervliet, will face four other Republicans including: JoAnn DeMeulenaere of Bridgman; Bruce Gorenflo of St. Joseph; Troy Rollings of Benton Harbor; and Maria Moen of St. Joseph. There will also be two Democrats on the ballot in the August primary hoping to move forward to November. Joey Andrews of St. Joseph will face Marletta Seats of Benton Harbor.

Coloma Township works out plan between baseball and dogs

By Annette Christie

An area of concern for some of the individuals involved in the baseball programs at Washington School Park was presented at last month’s Coloma Township meeting, due to a planned dog park on the same grounds.  By this month’s meeting, April 11, 2018, the Coloma Township Parks Committee had met with both parties and reached an acceptable solution.

Matt Moser, Coloma Township Trustee and Chairman of the Park Committee said the committee held a meeting with both parties and discussed many of the issues that were brought up.  “Everyone came to an agreement,” Moser said.

The original proposal from Caleigh Dahn for a dog park in her hometown was in the green space at the corner of Becht and North Coloma roads which would put it in behind the ball fields.   After discussions with the recreation league and Dahn, they both liked the dog park location in the gravel area, keeping them away from the baseball fields. Dahn is taking on the dog park as a Girl Scout project and plans to do all the fund-raising for the project.  When Dahn first presented the idea to the whole Coloma Township Board in February, Trustee Bryan Duffield assured the board that the Parks Committee was in favor of the dog park just not sure of the location. The Township Board concurred that they were in favor of the project, just not sure where to put it. With the agreement between all parties, it appears that the dog park will move forward.

Paw Paw River cleanup

Kevin Haight with the Two Rivers Coalition made a presentation to the Coloma Township Board regarding the Paw Paw River Trail. He said the coalition is one of the stakeholders in the Paw Paw River Water Trail.

Haight said that over the last two years the coalition has been working to implement the water trail concept, this is a regional concept of the whole 68-mile water trail.  Through grant funding, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission planned the clearing of Paw Paw River last year and will plan to use the remainder of the grant funds this year.

Haight said they will probably focus on the beginning part of the trail; Paw Paw, Lawrence, Hartford, Watervliet and Coloma.   Haight said, “This year they also hope to schedule many community paddles to get people out and on the river.” He noted that the funding is going to run out this year and to move forward they have to figure out how they are going to continue to fund this ongoing project.

He said that the Paw Paw River Trail has gained some popularity on the internet with a website and a Facebook page.

Employee retirement plan

While the unfunded liability of the township’s MERS Retirement Plan has been lingering over the last few meetings, the board hasn’t quite reached a decision on how to address this issue.  Treasurer Jim Fulton told the board that it does look like the township will have some extra funds available and he would like to put $8,000 more a month toward paying down the retirement plans’ unfunded liability of approximately $800,000. The township already has a payment plan and Fulton suggested that they put in the extra amount in addition to that.

There was some discussion amongst the board about different options for how to handle the situation. Trustee Bryan Duffield suggested maybe they look at a different plan for future new employees. Police Chief Jason Roe, speaking on behalf of the employees stated, “Our concern is our benefits. We made a life decision to come here based on those benefits. We would like some assurance so that we can make decisions for ourselves and our family.”

Fulton said, “They will always have a pension. We are looking at every option.”

In other business the board took a unanimous vote to end township employee Rory Bell from working for the City of Coloma.  “He will no longer be their person in the City,” Supervisor Ken Parrigin said.  While he would not go into any further details, he said if anyone had any questions they could speak to the Police Chief.  Bell, who works for the Coloma Township Police Department, was doing ordinance enforcement work for the city and will no longer be doing that.

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