05-25-2017 Hartford City Council continues to explore possible medical marijuana dispensary; Pancake

Banasik – Mead wedding on Saturday Vanessa Banasik and Daniel Mead will be united in marriage on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Vanessa is the daughter of Bob and Sheila Banasik of Coloma. She is the granddaughter of longtime Watervliet residents Gordon (St. Johns, MI) and the late Joan Banasik, and the granddaughter of Carl and Lin-da Frazee of Watervliet. Daniel is the son of Aaron and Debra Mead of St. Joseph. Vanessa and Daniel are 2013 graduates of St. Joseph High School. Daniel graduated from Lansing Community College this spring with a degree in electrical technology and manu-facturing. He will be employed at Gentex Corporation in Holland. Vanessa graduated from Michigan State University in May with a degree in human biology. After a honeymoon in northern Michigan, the couple will reside in Holland.

Hartford City Council continues to explore possible medical marijuana dispensary

By Nancy Albright

At the May 15 City Council Workshop discussions resumed regarding establishment of a medical marijuana dispensary in the City of Hartford.

At the April 18 Workshop Cass County residents Janel Napier and Alex Vonkoenig requested that city commissioners consider adding a provision to the existing City of Hartford Medical Marijuana Ordinance to allow non-medical professionals to operate a dispensary within city limits. At that time commissioners requested that the couple present the council with a formal business plan.

Napier and Vonkoenig presented a working plan on May 15 for council review only. They told those present that they are now considering leasing a property downtown if the council grants their request, in order to get their feet on the ground before purchasing a permanent location for their business.

When asked by Commissioner John Miller, who supports the idea, if the city or a potential lessor would be held accountable if for any reason the dispensary were to be shut down, Vonkoenig explained that the State of Michigan provides protection as written into the State of Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

Commissioner Frank Dockter is not in favor of the dispensary and voiced his concern that Red Arrow Elementary and Ely Park are in close proximity to downtown which could unnecessarily expose children to dispensary activity. He also pointed out that Hartford is a poor community, opening the door for potential crime.

Vankoenig ensured the council that heavy security measures will be put in place. A surveillance system, safes to protect product, security personnel during non-business hours, a frosted glass storefront which would be shuttered overnight, and discreet advertising and signage are all part of the security plan.

When asked by City Manager Yemi Akinwale if the business plan factors in competition from other dispensaries in Van Buren County Vonkoenig stated that there are 3,700 medical marijuana card-carrying patients in Van Buren County, 65 percent of which purchase medical marijuana legally from dispensaries, leaving approximately 2,500 potential customers. Each patient purchases on average one ounce per month, which would keep the business well-supplied.

Vonkoenig also reiterated the potential economic growth for Hartford. There is a three percent tax on medical marijuana, and approximately 25-30 percent of that three percent would be distributed between the municipality, schools and law enforcement agencies.

The State of Michigan will begin accepting applications for licenses to dispense medical marijuana on December 15, 2017. The council agreed that they need to make a decision in order to respect Napier’s and Vankoenig’s request to provision the city Medical Marijuana Ordinance to allow non-medical professionals to dispense. The issue will be added to the June Workshop agenda.

Randy Pratt of Med Leaf Marijuana Services also attended Monday’s meeting to introduce the council to his idea of operating a dispensary in Hartford. Pratt has initiated discussions with three commercial property owners in town to begin exploring a possible dispensary site. Med Leaf has nine years of growing experience and may eventually grow medical marijuana in the area to expand his operation.

Pratt expressed his wish to contribute to Hartford’s economic growth, as well as extending the option to area residents of relieving suffering from health conditions such as cancer and chronic pain with medical marijuana. He explained that marijuana is a safer option than prescription drugs to improve quality of life, as opposed to the abuse of physician-prescribed and black market opioids which is on the rise. Pratt was employed by pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson for ten years and explained that the company faced countless lawsuits as a result of prescription drug overdoses.

Council continues discussions about Red Arrow Elementary School building

Hartford Board of Education Vice President Mike Banic attended Monday’s meeting and reminded city commissioners that the end of the school year is rapidly approaching and plans for future use of the Red Arrow Elementary School building are still in the initial stages.

Banic stated, “Please don’t sit on this. There is only X amount of time. The school has already hired an architect to assess what needs to be done and we need to know if the council supports alternate usage. We believe the city has the power to bring in businesses and we prefer that the city find people to fill that building. We made a promise to the people that the building is not going to sit idle and we intend to keep that promise.”

Discussions are ongoing regarding use of the building after it is vacated at the end of the 2018 school year. Hartford Senior Services and the Hartford Public Library have toured the facility and expressed interest in occupying sections of the building which comprises 48,000 square feet of space. Hartford Schools would like to relocate the Adult Education program into the building. There is also talk of using the gymnasium for community meetings, dances, and sporting events such as pickleball.

Banic also presented the idea of using the building as an incubator for entrepreneurs to start up businesses. Once businesses are up and running they would vacate the building to make space for new entrepreneurs.

Commissioner John Miller stated that he would like to see a plan and financial projections before agreeing to formulate a motion for the proposed repurposing of the building. It is a possibility that former Hartford Board of Education Treasurer Mike Hallgren would act as financial consultant for the project.

At this time no formal committee has been established to oversee the project. Those involved need to gauge interest from community organizations to convert the building for alternate use and if consensus is gained the group agreed that a steering committee should be formed.

Fate of 1 East Main hangs in the balance

May 30, 2017 is the deadline for the current owner of the Huffman Furniture building to respond to the City of Hartford with regard to what he plans to do with the structure which is sorely in need of repair.

A meeting with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation garnered options to refurbish the building, but City Manager Akinwale believes the financial resources required to supplement state assistance are unattainable.

The city plans to move forward with plans to officially condemn and demolish the building if no response is received by the May 30 deadline.

Blight municipal infractions enforced effective immediately

The City of Hartford Blight Ordinance will be strictly enforced effective immediately. Upon review of the ordinance the council confirmed that it allows enforcement in the form of both municipal infractions and misdemeanors. A blight violation will constitute a municipal infraction going forward and Hartford law enforcement will begin issuing citations immediately. Tickets must be paid at City Hall. If violators do not pay, the delinquent payment amounts will be transferred to city tax rolls, subsequently impacting all Hartford residents.

In a cursory survey of the city, several council members and Chief of Police Tressa Beltran have identified five properties that have blue tarps covering roofs in need of repair. The city has contacted all five property owners in writing to request that repairs be made and the tarps removed. One owner has already repaired the roof, three have requested extensions, and one has yet to respond.

City Manager Akinwale stated that, “I think the most important part of the process is that they have all acknowledged the negative impact their properties have placed on their neighbors’ property value.”

In a sidebar relative to the pride, or lack thereof, of some city residents, Commissioner Frank Dockter stated that, “Hartford has no pride. This town sucks.”

News from City Hall

The City Council would like to remind residents that City Hall will be closed on May 29 in observance of Memorial Day.

Petitions are now available at City Hall to nominate candidates for City Commissioner and Mayor, to be elected on November 7, 2017.

There will be a joint meeting between Hartford Township and Watervliet Township beginning at 7:30 p.m. on May 24 to discuss Medic 1 ambulance service. The meeting will take place at Hartford Township Hall.

News from the Van Buren County Conservation District

In a communication from the Van Buren County Conservation District the district would like to remind residents that the Native Plant Sale will take place from 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 19 at the VBCD office located at 1035 E. Michigan Avenue in Paw Paw.

Household Recycling Collection and Passenger Tire Cleanup Collection is Saturday, June 17 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Van Buren County Department of Human Services at 801 Hazen Street in Paw Paw. Only residents can recycle tires.

Passenger Tire Cleanup Collection is also scheduled for Thursday, June 22 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm.

Van Buren County Japanese knotweed alert

Japanese knotweed grows quickly and can reach up to 20 feet, threatening the infrastructure of homes and other buildings. It is difficult to control once it takes hold and easier to treat in its initial growing stages.

Knotweed is a tall hollow plant with zigzag stems that produces large, heart-shaped leaves, and blooms white flowers in late summer. The roots can grow up to ten feet deep. If residents have knotweed on their property do not dig or mow it because it causes the weed to spread further.

The VBCD encourages residents with Japanese knotweed on their property to report it to the Southwest x Southwest Corner Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) at www.misin.msu.edu or contact the VBCD at (269) 657-4030.

McDowell II Apartments for rent

A letter from Compliance Specialist Cassie Richards of Management Resources Development in Lansing requests the city council to announce that one- and two-bedroom apartments in the McDowell II Apartments located at 55921 County Road 687 in Hartford are available for rent. Units are available for occupancy by only those with low to moderate income households. Call (269) 621-2089 on Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. if interested.

Pancake breakfast Sunday, May 28

 The Sister Lakes Lions Club will have an all you can eat pancake and sausage breakfast on Sunday, May 28 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at its clubhouse in Lions Park, 66991 95th Avenue.

The cost is $7.00 for adults and $3.00 for children ages 4 to 12; children under 4 are free.    Tickets are available from Lions Club members or may be purchased at the door.

Proceeds from the breakfast will go to support Lions Club projects.


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