COMING SOON… The lot of the former Badt’s Drug Store in downtown Coloma wasn’t vacant for very long. Within a few days of the demolition of the building, work on a new business building was underway. According to the sign in the picture above, AutoZone will be its tenant. For a history of the Badt’s Drug Store see Page 3. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)
COVID-19 closures lifted for bars, restaurants, and salons
By Jon Bisnett The latest battle of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in a courtroom rather than hospital ward, when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s attempt to penalize and strip the license of 77-year-old Owosso barber Karl Manke who refused to shut down his barber shop in defiance of the Governor’s May 4th order. The Michigan Supreme Court overturned orders that directed a barber to close his shop during the pandemic, ruling 7-0 in his favor with Justice David Viviano commenting that judges need to follow the “rule of law, not hysteria”. As a result, or part of the Governor’s master plan, Michiganders will now see salons and spas reopening statewide on June 15. Michigan bars and restaurants across the entire state have begun reopening at 50% capacity as of this week. While some are thrilled to get open, others are cautious or unable to adapt the 50% rule. Locally Gala-T-Inn in Hartford and Coloma’s Eddie’s Drive-In have both indicated they will not open their dining rooms at this time. Mill Creek Charlie’s remains dark in Watervliet, while other establishments are adjusting table spacing and stepping up their sanitizing protocols to comply with several restrictions that remain in place. Michiganders are still to wear masks in enclosed public spaces while also maintaining social distancing of at least six feet. Restaurant and bar owners remain positive, but for many the 50% capacity rule along with labor issues present a huge challenge to get back up and running. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association predicts as much as 25-30% will close their doors permanently in the next 90 days thanks to the irrevocable effect of the 3-month closure. “It is almost not worth it for us to continue,” said one owner. “We have 100% of our rent and utilities due, 100% of our staff to pay, with only 50% of our income coming in the door.” According to data in late March from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 37,948 direct hotel-related jobs were lost due to the pandemic. In that same time frame, 45-percent of the 193,432 hotel industry employees in Michigan were already furloughed or projected to lose their jobs. As of June 3, nearly 6 out of 10 hotel rooms were empty across the country. The most recent executive order says any indoor services or facilities, or outdoor services or facilities, involving close contact between people for amusement or other recreational or entertainment purposes are still closed.
Additional court ruling vs. Governor The Michigan Court of Claims has ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a legal battle over the lawfulness of one of her now 115 executive orders issued since the coronavirus pandemic began, The contested portion involves the penalty for violating the reopening standards. Prior versions included 90 days in jail or up to a $500 fine, the maximum penalty for conviction of a misdemeanor. Whitmer increased the possible penalty, without cause, to up to $70,000 per infraction by attempting to justify the infraction falls “within the meaning of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. “An employer who willfully or repeatedly violates (the MIOSHA) act, an order issued pursuant to this act, or a rule or standard promulgated under this act may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000.00 for each violation, but not less than $5,000.00 for each willful violation,” reads the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. The act also attempts to penalize a violator with prison for up to a year and up to three years if they are convicted of violating the act multiple times. Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray ruled penalties under the emergency laws that Whitmer used to create the order are limited to a misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine. The MIOSHA reference is not applicable.
Grad parties OK Under the new order, outdoor high school graduation parties are also allowed as long as people who don’t live together stay at least six feet apart. Those gatherings can’t exceed 100 people. Outdoor fitness classes, athletic practices, training sessions and games are allowed as long as coaches, spectators and participants not from the same household maintain a distance of six feet from one another at all times, Whitmer said. That means gyms and fitness centers can hold only outdoor classes and workouts as well, but they have to meet the social distancing guidelines. In-home services, such as house cleaning, are also permitted. Drive-in movie theaters can open, but indoor theaters remain closed
High-profile cancellations The prestigious 333-mile sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, scheduled for July 17, has canceled for the first time since 1920, as announced by the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Committee last Friday.
Locally The Summer Jam concert hosted by 97.5 Y-Country radio station and 98.3 the Coast’s Smooth Jazz at Sunset concert have both been canceled. Promoter Gayle Olson says the “uncertainty surrounding public health requirements going forward simply preclude organizing a quality event for thousands of concert-goers this year,” but he stressed plans to be back in 2021. Four Winds Casino Resorts has now officially announced noon on June 15 as the reopening date of all four properties with new social distancing partitions and requiring guests to wear face masks. Guests and employees must refrain from smoking except in specially designated outdoor areas.
Expanded testing Testing for COVID-19 is becoming more readily available all over the state. Contact your local Health Department or your family physician for resources.
Hagar reopens Roadside Park; appoints new Trustee
By Jon Bisnett The Hagar Township Board held a pair of meetings via virtual platform in May to address a trustee vacancy and remediation of Roadside Park along with the usual monthly business.
Special Meeting of May 4 Parks Director Beth Raiser had already stated she would not seek another term at the post due to personal matters that would not permit her to continue in the position, but those changes came sooner than expected resulting in her immediate resignation already in May. The board accepted the resignation and immediately posted for applicants to fill the position, with the intent to fill the post at the upcoming business meeting. Acting on a recommendation from local resident John Nadeau the board engaged the services of Meyer Excavating in the amount of $2,500 to affect repairs at the township’s popular Roadside Park. Meyer removed the clay left behind from an unauthorized construction road that hampered the natural movement of the dune sand causing dangerous erosion which led to closure of the park late last summer. The work was completed quickly restoring the park to public use in plenty of time for the anticipated beach-goers on Memorial Day weekend.
Business Meeting of May 11 Trustee vacancy Long-term residents Deb Frank and Sheila Schultz both applied for the vacant trustee position. Frank has also declared her intention to run for trustee on the November ballot. Frank was the unanimous choice of the board and will assume the seat and direction of the
Maintenance Supervisor opening Three letters of interest have been received. Travis Hanko, Andrew Steinbrook and Gunther Paul have all expressed interest in the position. Discussion led to tabling the matter for 30 days to allow newly seated Parks Director Deb Frank to interview the candidates since her post works so closely with the position.
Ordinance Enforcement Officer Ordinance Enforcement Officer/ Local Liquor Inspector George Schemenauer has resigned effective May 5 for health reasons. The board accepted his resignation and is now actively seeking qualified applicants for the position, with preference to those individuals with a police background. Software purchase The board gave unanimous approval to the purchase of a $500 annual software license to be used in conjunction with the GIS cemetery mapping project for the Township website.
Treasurer’s report Treasurer Susan Herrmann presented monthly bills in the amount of $4,528.09 from March, and $48,324.67 for April, both subsequently approved. The board further moved to authorize the new Treasurer as signatory on Township Chemical Bank accounts and issuance of an Edgewater Bank credit card in her name.
Landfill Permits Free annual Landfill Permits are available at the hall as of June 1, one per household providing up to four yards of drop-off at Orchard Hill Landfill in Watervliet. The board will review usage and may consider a fall program as well. Having no further business, Supervisor DiMaggio wished all to stay safe and continue to follow Berrien County Health Department best practices, as he adjourned the meeting.
Watervliet Schools hires new high school principal
By Annette Christie The search for a high school principal ended Monday night, June 8 as the Watervliet School Board voted to appoint Christina Powers to that position. Powers is currently the principal at Union City High School in Union City, Michigan. She has been in that position for 10 years. The position has been vacant since last year when Brad Coon left. Curriculum Director Susan Toothman has been the interim principal since that time. Toothman commented that Powers was a strong candidate. She was one of 17 seeking the position and will begin her duties in July.
WPS is a School of Choice The school board also voted to continue its participation in being a school of choice option. The school will begin to advertise for the openings in the district by grade level. Superintendent Ric Seager said that they have nine openings in the young 5 level and 23 in the kindergarten level, in addition to other grade levels. More information on how to apply can be found on the website. Seager said families that already have students in the district are given preference in the application process.
5th year of WHS means students will graduate with an Associate’s degree The district will also continue offering the 5th-year early/middle college to its students. The program offers students an opportunity to continue their high school course work while also attending college. If completed, upon their 5th year in high school, they will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from college. The college coursework is mostly paid for through the school district.
Last day of next school year will be June 9, 2021 Aside from any additional Governor’s orders that could prevent it, the district is expecting to begin the 2020-2021 school year on August 31 this coming fall. Seager said in doing so, the district calendar would coincide with pretty much every other school in the county and the other options that the kids have shared time in. The last day of the school year would then be June 9, 2021. July 24 is this year’s WHS Graduation Ceremony This year’s graduation ceremony has been postponed until July 24, 2020. Seniors will have an opportunity to participate in the Baccalaureate ceremony, the graduation rehearsal and the senior cook out as normal, just delayed due to the Governor’s order associated with the COVID-19 response. Summer programming such as summer camps and the credit recovery program are slated to start in July. As it gets closer information on that will be available on the district’s website.