05-18-2017 Watervliet Township approves School Resource Officer; Accepts Brownfield property; Non-c

WHS TOP TEN STUDENTS… Watervliet High School is proud to announce the Academic Top 10 students leading the graduat-ing class for 2017. Pictured (from the left): Seated – Tyler Brant, son of Chett & Sarah Brant; Karli McClendon, daughter of David & Kathlene McClendon; Magdalene Lynch, daughter of Greg & Katrina Lynch; Devon Flowers, son of Ryan Flowers and the late Jen Hollomon. Standing – Mikayla Lee, daughter of Mike & Ronda Lee; Cameron Rendo, son of Derrick & Jodene Rendo; Emily Fellows, daughter of Stephen & Lerita Fellows; Jarred Fish, son of Michael & Jeanese Fish; Logan Mizwicki, daughter of Tim Mizwicki & Lori Mizwicki; Brent Simmons, son of Jack & Carla Simmons. Watervliet High School seniors will graduate outside at Panther Stadium (HS gym if bad weather) Friday, June 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Watervliet Township approves School Resource Officer; Accepts Brownfield property

By Annette Christie

After some discussion, the Watervliet Township Board approved the agreement with the Watervliet School District and the City of Watervliet for providing a School Resource Officer.

The program, which has been in discussions since last summer, would place a certified police officer in the school district full-time for the school year.  During the summer months, the officer will provide extra staffing for the city, at a time when it is needed the most.

All three parties are participating in the funding with the school picking up $30,000 and the township and city each providing $20,000.  While the Watervliet Township Board had approved their participation last December, Supervisor Dan Hutchins had publicly spoken about some contingencies that he wanted put in place in order for them to participate.  Hutchins said then that he wanted a three person oversight committee with representation from the city, the township, and the schools; wanted the development of a comprehensive line budget for the resource officer; and wanted the funds to be kept separate from all other municipal funds.  Hutchins also said that he would like to see the program managed by the oversight committee.

Since that time, Hutchins has worked with Superintendent Kevin Schooley and new City Manager Michael Uskiewicz and he told the Watervliet Township Board prior to their vote Monday night that he was satisfied with the agreement and the way the program was going and now felt those things were unnecessary.

Watervliet Township Sheriff’s Deputy Guy Puffer assured the board that Watervliet City Chief Tim Sutherland has worked really hard on this and really wants to make this happen.   The vision for the individual selected for the position is that of someone who is very involved with the school.  Puffer said the individual will be a certified police officer who will seek additional instruction to become a Certified School Resource Officer.  “This will be a normal officer that will be 100% in the school system,” Puffer said.

The motion to approve the 3-year contract was unanimously approved by the board.

Brownfield property

Hutchins told the board that since their last meeting he had been contacted by Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette and learned that the Berrien County Brownfield Authority would like to convey all properties they currently own in Watervliet Township to the township and forgo any repayment of expenses.  This property referred to was a part of a large paper mill cleanup project completed many years ago by the Berrien County Brownfield Authority in cooperation with the City of Watervliet and the township.

Hutchins explained that the township would need to complete a baseline environmental assessment (BEA) to protect them given that the properties involved are brownfields.

Alan Smaka with Wightman & Associates was on hand to explain that process.  The township would have to complete a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment, and the BEA.  He estimated that the cost would be around $14,000 to complete all three studies.

Hutchins explained to the board that with the Brownfield’s similar action to the city, they forgave $93,000 that was owed.  He estimated that it would be closer to a half a million for the township and if the township accepts this transfer of property that would be forgiven for them as well.  The board approved up to $15,000 for all three needed studies to help in finalizing this transaction.

In other business, the board approved the creation of a Public Works Operator/Technician position.  The position will be full-time with a salary between $45,000 and $47,000 annually.  Hutchins explained to the board that many of the duties contained in the job description had been done by himself and Treasurer Tom Scheid, however both would like to step away from these physical duties.  He suggested that the board would either need to approve outsourcing the duties or hiring someone.  Both Scheid and Hutchins had been doing them for the township for no additional pay, in addition Bob Lohr had been doing some as well for no additional pay.

The position includes caring for township grounds and property, maintaining lift station generators, operating the leaf pickup equipment, and performing maintenance on township equipment. With the approval of the job creation, the board also approved hiring David Pudell for the position.

It was announced that some dump passes were still available for township residents through the next couple of weeks.  He also noted that some township residents have put furniture out for pickup at the roadside and announced that those individuals will be cited for that as that type of pickup is not available in the township.  Hutchins suggested that perhaps some residents might be confused because the city is doing that kind of pickup right now for their residents.

Non-consensual sex is sexual assault is message to WHS Juniors and Seniors 

“He raped me”

Elisabeth Fellows shares Miss Michigan Platform with fellow Panthers

By Annette Christie

Elisabeth Fellows, a former Miss Watervliet who went on to be crowned Miss Southwest Michigan 2017 last August, shared her platform with juniors and seniors at Watervliet High School this week; a platform that is very personal to her.

Fellows, now a student at Grand Valley State University, spoke to students about “It’s On Us”, a national campaign that began in 2014 with the Obama administration.  Its main focus being on college campuses, Fellows saw a need to spread the message even further to high school students.  The mission of “It’s On Us” is to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault; to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur; to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given; and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

Fellows was first made aware of the movement while attending GVSU and seeing posters around campus.  She checked into it and learned that there was not a high school facet to it.  She worked with the organization to learn more about it and in sharing the program.

When first attending college Fellows was involved in a relationship, after a while, she explains, the relationship became sexually abusive and she was raped.  Fellows describes the time following as a long phase of denial, feeling some sense of responsibility, and not thinking that anyone would believe her if she told.  Her only experience with a sexual assault victim was with a friend of hers when she was younger, a friend who was assaulted and went to the authorities but was not believed and whose violator went unpunished. “Based on that experience, I couldn’t come forward,” Fellows said.

As many children are warned of strangers and the dark alleys where things like this occur, Fellows said, “I wasn’t prepared,” adding, “Actually 80% of victims are assaulted by someone that they know and trust.”

Her path out of the darkness she was living in was a long one.  She became interested in weight lifting and through that activity, saw herself get stronger physically, and ultimately she saw herself as a strong person overall.  She said by the grace of God, she was able to graduate with honors despite the struggles she was hiding.    She finally made the decision to open up about what happened to her to her youth pastor at church.  She found after talking to him and ultimately others that it was not her shame to carry and not her fault.  The more she shared, the more she healed. She has sought the help of others through her youth pastor, a mentor, with a professional, and from the love and support of her parents.

Fellows has seen it happen, that by sharing her story, others speak out as well.  She hopes to reach the ones that might know their violators, and who were violated in the safety of their own home by someone they trusted and even loved.  “Once we get them talking, that is when change can occur,” Fellows said.  Having researched statistics that she is a part of, she learned that only 13% of victims report it to authorities. “How many are happening that are not?” Fellows asks.

The “It’s On Us” campaign is one to change what some may think is acceptable in society, to overlook the sexual assault of another.  “With ‘It’s On Us’ it is everybody’s responsibility to stop it and change the attitude toward it as a culture,” Fellows said.  Through the program, individuals can take the pledge, “To commit to helping create a culture of consent, bystander intervention, and survivor support.” This year they hope to bring the message and materials to 1,000 campuses across the country.

While Fellows thought that she was done with pageants, the ability to share the story and the ability to promote this platform was more important.  “When I tell my story, it helps someone else to tell theirs,” adding, “This is a part of so many people’s story.”   In the sharing of her story, Fellows offers a suggested direction different than the one she followed, “Seek police help and tell someone,” Fellows said.

Fellows will continue to share her platform as she competes in the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant being held June 15-17 in Muskegon. If she wins that she would move forward to the Miss America Pageant. The Miss America Organization gives the most scholarships of any organization. Supporters can vote for her for the People’s Choice Award by visiting MissMichigan.org.

Fellows is studying to become a      medical laboratory scientist. She sees herself in the future working in a hospital lab and diagnosing and analyzing bodily tissues and fluids.  She hopes to do her hospital clinicals in a children’s hospital.

Asked how she manages being a full-time student, having two jobs and running for Miss Michigan, she answered, “I have three planners that organizes it all.”  She uses motivational sayings to keep her focused such as remember what your goals are, remember why you are there, and learn how blessed you are by seeing it as an opportunity instead of an obligation.

Fellows is still involved with the Watervliet Pageant Organization (WPO).  She serves as a peer mentor with the contestants and teaches walking and stage presence.   “Every year I feel like I have a whole new group of friends,” Fellows said.

Coloma Township wants rate study on water system

We’re losing money

By Annette Christie

The Coloma Township Board approved moving forward with a rate study for the water system at their May 10 meeting. Township residents that are customers of the city’s water system pay 1.5 times what the city residents pay.  The water system agreement between the city and the township states that with any major improvements into the system that a service study is to be done.

Coloma Township Treasurer Jim Fulton said that the township is losing money on this project. “We are not collecting enough to cover costs let alone putting some of the money away,” Fulton said.

The agreement also states that the city and the township should share in the cost of the study.  Supervisor Ken Parrigin said he would meet with the mayor if the township decided to move forward with the study.

The estimated costs of the full service study which includes a financial projection could be up to $15,000.  The township board voted to move forward with the study. Parrigin said he will talk to the mayor about paying their portion of the study as detailed in their agreement.

A representative with the Coloma/Hagar Softball Association was supposed to attend the township board meeting to continue the request to have some night games at Washington School Park. The group was asking for permission to hold more than one game with a starting time of 11:00 p.m., to be played under the lights.  Clerk Sandy Kraemer said that she spoke to a representative that did confirm that they had spoken to the neighbors and had received their concurrence.  The board held off on any decision for now until they can confirm that the neighbors are OK with the idea.

The board did approve the road projects scheduled for the year.  Trustee Bryan Duffield said that there is work scheduled for certain sections of the following roads: Spring Hill Road, Angling Road, Taube Road, Becht Road, and DeField Road to get prime and double seal; Wil-O-Paw Drive, Coloma Road, Johnson Road, and Clymer Road to get sealcoat; First Avenue, Second Avenue, Shore Drive, Shore Court, Island Court, Woodland Court, Bayview Drive, Hollywood Drive, and Janet Drive to get an asphalt overlay; and Van Road to get gravel.  The township is investing between $300,000 and $350,000 towards the projects to be funded from the road millage funds.  Parrigin said that the township has done a nice job of taking care of the roads.  “We appreciate the people’s patience for residents that didn’t complain about the roads that were kept gravel until they could be completed,” Parrigin said.

Following the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the board also approved two special land use permits.  The first was a reoccurring special land use permit for Jake’s Fireworks to set up and sell from a tent in the Harding’s parking lot. Police Chief Jason Roe confirmed that he has not had any problem with the company or their set up.  The board confirmed the special land use permit for Carlos Stockwell for two more storage units. They said that once this phase is finished the project will be complete.  Stockwell told the board that for 20 years they have been working on this and this will finish it out.  Clerk Sandy Kraemer commented, “I’m glad you are in the community.”


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