Hartford commission holds public hearing on possible marijuana dispensary
By Nancy Albright
The Hartford City Council held a public hearing on June 19 to provide the public with a forum in which to express their opinions regarding allowing a medical marijuana dispensary to operate within the City of Hartford.
On April 18 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.
Several city commissioners are opposed to the idea and continued to express their concerns at the hearing. Commissioner Terry Tibbs stated that, “I have spoken with numerous residents of this community and overwhelmingly people do not want this in our city.” Frank Dockter said that the city plans to spend a lot of money renovating Ely Park, and that the proximity of Hartford Public Schools and the proposed Community Center in the Red Arrow Elementary building to a downtown dispensary is not ideal for kids. Mayor Johnson added that, “The bottom line is that this isn’t the image we want to project on Main Street.”
Mr. Vonkoenig told commissioners that, “Marijuana is already here. People grow it in their homes. We want to regulate it in Hartford.” Medical marijuana was legalized in the State of Michigan in 2008. If an individual holds a medical marijuana card and has caregiver status, the caregiver is allowed to legally grow up to 72 plants.
Discussion ensued between the council and public in attendance regarding the economic benefits which could be reaped from a dispensary, as well as potential crime the enterprise could draw.
Janel Napier told the council, “To do nothing is no answer. Your duty is to get ahead of the game in your city,” before Mayor Johnson closed the discussion.
Council pushes enforcement of blight ordinance
The council re-opened the discussion regarding enforcement of the city’s blight ordinance on Monday night. City Commissioner Dennis Goss stated of residents in violation who ignore the citations that, “You can ticket them all day long and they’re not going to change. If we want change we’re going to have to take more drastic measures, such as condemning properties that don’t comply with the ordinance.”
Mayor Pro-tem Rick Hall said that, “Every time we take someone to court for not paying blight citations we spend $300 minimum, and it’s also a waste of law enforcement resources. As far as I know it doesn’t cost much to keep your yard clean. I work long hard hours and still manage to maintain my property.”
Hartford resident Chris Cowgill suggested that the council connect residents who are not physically able to maintain their property and have no one to do it for them with someone who would be willing to help on a charity basis; possibly advertise this type of solution on the ticket itself.
City Manager Yemi Akinwale told the council that the local Methodist and Lutheran churches do provide these types of services, but Rick Hall cautioned the council that, although a good idea, it could backfire and end up enabling other violators to take advantage of the offer.
Mr. Akinwale and Commissioner Goss agreed that, although the police do a fine job, enforcing the ordinance should not be a top law enforcement priority and that the ordinance officer has no real power to force violators to pay the fines issued to them. The city manager suggested that the city ordinance officer could in future issue another ticket immediately following failure to pay.
Commissioner Terry Tibbs said that “We need to instill some kind of responsibility in our residents,” and that, “Yemi needs to make this happen.”
Goss agreed and asked that Mr. Akinwale make the issue a priority and keep the council updated on progress. City Clerk Roxann Rodney-Isbrecht suggested commissioners review the ordinance and that, at Goss’ request, she will research ordinances used by similar communities to help the council amend the current ordinance to better enforce its rules.
Ely Park renovation may materialize
Pending a site visit by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the city could be awarded a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant that will help fund installation of a new playground in Ely Park.
The proposed development project consists of new playground equipment for 2-5 year-olds and 5-12 year-olds, an adult fitness station, and handicap accessible parking, pathways and benches. The proposed development will also include lighting, cameras and fencing to increase security during park hours.
Huffman building slated for demolition
The council moved to seek bids to demolish the building at 1 East Main Street in Hartford. The owner of the building did not respond to the formal letter of condemnation by the May 30, 2017 deadline, which requested a plan of action to bring the building up to code and present evidence of financial resources with which to do so to avoid razing the decrepit and unsafe structure.
Demolition costs will be charged to the owner and in the event the owner refuses to pay, the cost will be added to the property tax. Mr. Akinwale anticipates that the bid will be awarded in approximately 30 days.
Early weather alert system proposed
Former Hartford firefighter and EMT Bob Latus requested that commissioners consider installing an early warning system to alert residents to severe weather before it happens, rather than sounding the all clear when a storm has passed, as is often the case. Currently, the Hartford Fire Department activates the alarm when it receives a warning from the weather center in Grand Rapids, which is not always in time for early warning.
Mr. Latus suggested mounting a camera on top of the Hartford water tower to monitor incoming storms. The council agreed that Mr. Latus work with the Hartford City Manager and Hartford Fire Chief Rob Harting to design a solution for presentation to the council in order to begin discussions.
Medic 1 recognized for service
Medic 1 Board Chairman Pete Sinclair told the council that Medic 1 was awarded the 2017 Gold Plus Award by the American Heart Association for the third consecutive year for their performance in the Mission: Lifeline program. The Medic 1 EMT team has consistently outpaced the official goal of 90 minutes from on-scene to surgery for cardiac patients in their care. A 12-lead EKG device used by Medic 1 emergency responders is capable of sending on-scene diagnostic results to ER physicians. If the physician confirms the diagnosis, the ambulance service can bypass the emergency room and deliver the patient directly to surgery.
Bainbridge continues reviews of township policies; approves adopting Principles of Governance
By Angela Stair
The Bainbridge Township Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting on Monday, June 12. The simple review of the planning commission that was suggested last month has turned out to be a far larger job than expected.
Township clerk Patty Hiler-Molter explained to the board that when they began looking at the township policies they realized that several needed more details. (The clerk is working with the planning commission on this.) She noted that most of the items were clerical in nature, but would take time to straighten out.
The clerk said she would not mind doing it, but it would take time and then the corrections and details would have to be looked over by the planning commission for details needed and corrections made. She felt it should be ready by the next month’s board meeting.
Township supervisor Bill Hodge asked the clerk about how long would it take her to go over the ordinances and she thought it would take three weeks and then the planning commission would have a week to go over it before the next board meeting.
Supervisor Hodge informed the board that since the work the clerk was offering to do was usually done by a professional planner and could be quite expensive; he suggested they pay her for 80 hours to cover her extra time that was needed. After a brief discussion, the board approved paying the 80 hours over the next four weeks.
During the second public comment part of the meeting, a resident asked about the 32 grass violations that were noted in the ordinance enforcement report. She wanted to know what length the grass had to be before it was a violation.
Supervisor Hodge told her that was one of the problems that would be addressed by the clerk and planning commission. There was an ordinance to keep your lawn mowed, but did not specify the maximum length your grass could get before you would get a notice.
Other policies to be looked at; dump pass, burning permit, MTA
The MTA (Michigan Townships Association) is asking that all township boards adopt the Principles of Governance. In part they stated, “MTA members throughout the state have embraced these principles as their own code of conduct, and the MTA Board urges you to reaffirm, or adopt for the first time, these Principles of Governance as an official policy of your township board.” The Bainbridge board approved it.
The supervisor asked the board what the policy and guidelines for a burning permit were for the township. He was told residents were to call the fire department that served their area to notify them they wanted to have a fire for whatever reason; grass, brush. The fire departments issue the permits and then if someone driving by reports a fire at the location they are aware of, they will have an idea of what it is.
Supervisor Hodge suggested that they update the burning permit policy and guidelines, starting with a call to both the Sister Lakes Fire Department and the Benton Township Fire Department to make the process uniform. The board approved and will be working on it.
The board went over the dump pass policy and guidelines to update and refine them to combat the abuse of the free pass residents get each year. Clerk Hiler-Molter commented that the abuse is the cause of the pass having to be changed.
Some of the points discussed were; establishing dates and hours that the pass is available, and if someone cannot make it during that time, they could pick it up prior to a board meeting which is always in the evening; one dump pass per household and it would have to be picked up by a resident of that household. The board will be working on the updates of policy and guidelines.
Supervisor reports, Sheriff’s report, other business
The supervisor’s reports included Pride Care and their activity in Bainbridge during April. They had a total of nine calls; two priority 1 calls with an average response time of 06:30 minutes and seven priority 2 calls with average response time of 08:27.
Benton Township Fire Department reported eight fire runs with one brush fire in March. Sister Lakes Fire Department reported they had ten fire runs for May with one in Bainbridge Township for a motor vehicle accident. Average response time was 08:40.
Deputy Eberhard of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department related the department’s activities in Bainbridge Township for the month of April. There were 24 complaints worked, 15 tickets issued and two arrests made. Among the 24 complaints were two accidents, three assaults, two civil matters-family disputes, one robbery and two trespassing.
The Board approved the paying of bills in the amount of $36,546.69, Payroll $9,009.43, Liabilities $1,738.00 for a total of $47,294.12. They also approved Pearson Construction to Point existing mortar joints on the town hall building, prior to being painted, for the sum of $2,600.00.