SW Michigan may experience indoor agricultural growth, conceptual plan presented at Hartford Township Board meeting
By Nancy Albright An indoor agricultural business park may be on the horizon for Van Buren County. Antonio Wright, managing partner at db3 Agricultural Solutions, presented a conceptual site layout to the Hartford Township board at the board’s June 13 meeting for a full-service agricultural campus that would serve cultivators and farmers in Southwest Michigan. “We would like the community to be part of the discussions and are currently introducing the plan to nearby cities and townships to get feedback,” said Wright. The proposed agricultural facility would be located at 66th Street near I-94 and is designed for 24/7/365-day growth. The cultivation buildings would accommodate any agricultural crop up to 28 feet, including floral, hemp, and traditional farm products grown using any method. “We would like to start by focusing on blueberries, as there is a strong market here.” The buildings could also be used to store product.
NEW EQUIPMENT… Hartford Fire Chief Rob Harting (left) and Assistant Chief Kevin McGrew demonstrated the department’s new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus at the Hartford Township meeting on June 13. The air packs will help firefighters locate other firefighters that become trapped in burning structures. The department also purchased new masks, and detachable harnesses that can easily be washed to remove carcinogens that get trapped in the fabric. The equipment was put into service on May 19, 2019.
Leasable spaces would start at $20,000, and each suite is designed with independently controlled grow environments. The site would include a business center, campus support functions, collaboration center, community events center, daycare center, food services, innovation center, managed loading dock, product transition and outbound processing center, research and development center and a certified testing laboratory. It is possible that the testing lab would operate in partnership with the University of Michigan. Multiple multi-level buildings would have 24/7 security, access to the railway and I-94 and be powered by a modular co-generation plant with a pump station that produces natural gas. Wright explained that the entire site plan comprises 1.2 million square ft. of space. Proposed Phase 1 development would be for 375,000 square ft. If all four phases of the plan are executed, db2 anticipates the project will create 1,200 construction jobs to build the entire site. The group anticipates 40 small homes to house the workforce, each comprising about 1,500 sq. feet. “We have met with the Van Buren County Road Commission to discuss a frontage road and will be meeting with fire and ambulance services, as well. The property is currently under contract and we hope to break ground in July to begin site improvements and prepare for construction.” According to Wright, db3 expects the project to be completed within two years.
Help for Van Buren County veterans Honorably discharged veterans are now eligible to receive funds for needed healthcare. Van Buren County Commissioner Mike Chappell reported that the county has allocated $40,000 to help honorably discharged veterans and their eligible dependents afford inoculations, and dental, hearing and vision care. Veterans may receive up to $1,000 and must show a DD214 to the VBC Health Department to qualify for the program. “On a side note, even if you are not a veteran, the Van Buren County Health Department has an excellent dental clinic that charges about 60% of what a regular dentist charges and they take most dental insurance,” said Chappell. Chappell also reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation has awarded a grant in the amount of $348,000 to VBC Public Transit. VBC commissioners accepted the funds, which are authorized under the operating grant’s Rural Area Program and will use the money for the VBC Transit Bus system. VBC Commissioners paid an annual appropriation of $5,000 to South Haven’s near-shore monitoring buoy, which tracks water temperature, wave height and other weather conditions to help keep Lake Michigan boaters and swimmers safe on the Southwest Michigan coast as far south as Bridgman. The buoy is part of the Upper Great Lakes Observing System and was redeployed on April 24. The buoy has been in place since July 25, 2014 by request of the South Haven Chapter of the Michigan Steelheaders and the Salmon Fisherman’s Association. Visit glbouys.glos.us for weather conditions. The South Haven buoy is number 45168.
Safer equipment for Hartford Township firefighters The Hartford Township Fire Department has acquired new air packs to help firefighters rescue others that become trapped in burning structures. The new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus technology from 3M Scott Safety features a 45-minute supply of oxygen plus 15 minutes of additional operational time. A larger display that glows in the dark helps firefighters locate trapped firefighters that initiate emergency requests for aid. Firefighters also have new masks, and detachable harnesses that can easily be washed to remove carcinogens that get trapped in the fabric. Each harness has the firefighters’ corresponding truck ID and pack tracker information, which helps account for each firefighter. “The new technology also has longer quick-connect emergency hoses that allow us to hook into another firefighter’s air pack to avoid getting dragged by the face in this type of situation,” said Assistant Fire Chief Kevin McGrew. Eight local fire departments are purchasing the new technology, including Keeler and Lawrence townships. The new oxygen packs went into service on May 19. Fire Chief Rob Harting told the board that the cadet program is continuing to grow. Seventeen cadets are now certified firefighters, including two existing and one new cadet from Hartford High School. Average Pride Care emergency response times for a total of 31 Priority 1 and Priority 2 calls combined was 9.26 minutes in May.
On the road VBC Road Commissioner Rick Boze told the board that the road running east-west with a postal address of 65th Street is not a certified road, so the Road Commission is unable to maintain it with respect to plowing and repairs. The Road Commission will work to certify the road and the Hartford Township board will send a letter to residents explaining the situation. Boze also reported that the Road Commission has begun chip sealing in Lawrence Township with other townships to follow. Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik requested of Boze that the Road Commission consider posting signage at the bridge on CR687 near Sportsman’s Park to allow access to kayakers and canoers. The county was reluctant to lease the area for purposes of a township park, which would prevent the Road Commission from making bridge repairs when necessary. The board discussed creating an Off-road Vehicle Ordinance to protect motorists and ORV drivers and passengers. Sefcik pointed out that ORVs are not stable until they reach 50-60 mph, and Trustee Kurt Dowd made the point that the vehicles are not road legal, therefore uninsurable in the event of an accident. The board will seek the advice of the township attorney before deciding to create an ordinance. Board approvals The board approved the appointment of Pam Kibler and the re-appointment of Tad Moody to the Hartford Township Planning Commission. The board also appointed Tad Moody to serve on the Board of Appeals. Each will serve through March 31, 2022. The board approved May expenses in the amount of $356,247.42, and maximum allowable millages without a Truth in Taxation hearing. A Budget Hearing and Special Board Meeting will be held 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at Hartford Township Hall, 61310 CR687. The proposed budget is available at Township Hall. Lastly, the board approved the Animal Services Agreement with Al-Van Humane Society for 2019-2020 in the amount of $3,000.
Other business Van Buren Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Murphy will replace Deputy Dan Rowse, who has taken a position with the Canine Unit. “Deputy Murphy is a more than competent replacement,” said Rowse. Supervisor Sefcik commended Rowse on his service to Hartford Township and congratulated him on his new appointment. “You have done a great job for us and we’re happy that you’re moving over to the Canine team. We think you will do really well.” The board discussed the need to fill the position of Zoning Administrator and whether to include the duties of a Noxious Weed Officer or appoint a separate person to oversee noxious weeds in the area. The board will resume the discussion at the next meeting. The next Hartford Township Regular Board Meeting will take place at Township Hall on Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m.