06-25-2020 Watervliet City Commission approves cautious budget; A view from above: DNR explores dron

Coloma Jr. High Principal’s Awards announced

Principal’s Award selections for Coloma Junior High School have been made by Principal Wendy Tremblay based on staff input and in recognition of outstanding character, citizenship, and dedication to upholding Coloma standards during the 2019-2020 school year. Coloma Jr. High is proud to announce the student recipients are, for 6th Grade: Ava Cartwright and Brayden Symonds; 7th Grade: Karen Alvarez Maltos and Cole Hartmann; and 8th Grade: Payton Penkal and Trevor Massey.

Watervliet City Commission approves cautious budget

Other business The City Commission renewed their letter of engagement with Maner Costerisan out of Lansing. That is the audit firm used by the city. Dotson asked the city to approve a three-year commitment with the company and in doing so were able to lock in the rate of $18,100 annually. Commissioners approved a repair to a police squad car following an incident. The total cost approved was $3,970.65, payable to St. Joe Auto Body. Due to filing an insurance claim, the city will ultimately pay just the $1,000 deductible. Annually the City Commission approves the master fee schedule. The main change this year was increasing the park building rental at Hays Park. Previously it was $60, with the increase it will be $85 and will match the rental price for the building at Flaherty Park. Dotson was also seeking a 6% increase in both the water and sewer rates. He told the Commission that the sewer fund is operating in the red, and with an anticipated 2-3 short years the sewer fund balance will also be in the red. In seeking an increase in the water rate, Dotson noted the State’s lead and copper unfunded mandate that will strap the city in the future. Mayor Dave Brinker explained that increasing the water rate is planning for the future. The City Commission approved the increase in parks rental and the sewer rate increase; however, the water rate increase failed.

A view from above: DNR explores drone technology

By Kathleen Lavey Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists were looking for a bear. Not just any bear. They were in search of a sow that had previously been used as a surrogate to raise orphaned cubs. But she had broken and slipped out of her radio collar. So, they took advantage of one of the DNR’s newest programs and called for a drone. “We know the general area where she dens, kind of this 40-acre spot,” said Kevin Jacobs, aviation manager for the DNR. “But there is a lot of heavy cover. We put a thermal camera on there and got a really good heat image that was the right size on the ground.” Finding a surrogate mom for bear cubs is just one way that the DNR uses drones – often referred to as UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicles. Licensed DNR staffers also use the pint-sized choppers equipped with cameras to help manage and promote state forests, parks, wildlife and fishing. The drone program, based in the department’s Forest Resources Division, has been expanding since it started with just three vehicles in 2016. “The DNR entered this really at the front half of the drone industry. As far as commercial viability, we thought it was important to be at the head not at the tail,” Jacobs said. Jacobs and DNR resource analyst Nick Dohm have shepherded the program since its beginning, paving the way for thoughtful growth. “We didn’t want to get carried away at first,” Dohm said. “We’ve got good control over what the program is, what we’re looking for, where we want to grow in the future. We’ve been able to look at what worked and what didn’t work so far, and we can expand on that a little further.” By the middle of 2017, the DNR program had three drones and a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the second Michigan agency to receive a certificate, after the Michigan State Police. “At that point, it was just sort of trial and error, ‘show me what these things can do,’” Dohm said. “Over time we have built up just how useful they are for the department.” They can do a lot. The DNR crew now includes seven licensed pilots and 10 drones of different sizes and capabilities. The team has explored using drones to assess forest health, look for various types of wildlife and get photos and video that show off Michigan’s glorious landscapes. They are currently preparing to fly a drone down a 4-mile stretch of the Tahquamenon River. They also have flown over harbors and shooting ranges to make promotional videos. See examples of drone footage in videos about Palms Book State Park – Kitch-iti-kipi, the Rose Lake Shooting Range and the 2019 state parks centennial celebration. Drones never can replace the DNR’s existing aviation program. Instead, the tiny aircraft complement what their larger, fixed-wing counterparts can do. “Drones will fly 20-35 minutes on a charge versus an airplane where we can fly six hours nonstop at 150 mph,” Jacobs said. “You’re really covering two different needs with those two different tools. The idea is to use both of those tools to their fullest.” One advantage for drones: hovering. That makes it easier to use thermal imaging to search for animals, people or hot spots in wildfires. “With the plane you would have to do continuous loops to look at the area,” Dohm said. DNR drones have been used in joint projects with the National Audubon Society to search for tern nests and to do a survey of muskrat huts with Central Michigan University. Equip a drone with the proper camera, and forest health staff also can get a deeper look at what’s happening in the forest, right down to single trees. “We can fly a regeneration site that has 4-foot pines in it and get updated, high-resolution imagery and tell the health of individual trees,” Dohm said. In a partnership with Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, DNR drones used high-resolution imagery to map an 80-acre stand of trees that had root disease moving through. “You could see what trees were dead, but also give a perspective of which trees were suffering or in the process of dying that you couldn’t see with the naked eye,” Dohm said. Once the images and global positioning satellite locations were loaded into an iPad, forest health experts could walk up to individual trees for an in-person assessment. Michigan also is exploring the use of drones to fight wildland fire. Dohm, Jacobs and other DNR staff members watched a demonstration of the IGNIS firefighting drone last fall and have purchased one for DNR use. Michigan is one of the first Midwestern states to adopt it. “The tool is being used with great success nationally,” Jacobs said. The drone is equipped with a carrier that contains hollow spheres filled with a mix of chemicals that will burn when mixed and dropped. It can create fire breaks or start prescribed burns in terrain that firefighters find difficult to reach. “These things can really cover a lot of ground versus somebody on foot,” Jacobs said. “When we do prescribed burns in some of these marsh areas, they’re lighting phragmites or cattails out of a canoe or we have to wait until there is ice so we can navigate through the wetland.” Both Dohm and Jacobs see continued, strategic growth for the drone program. They’re looking into even more possibilities such as using drones to plant new trees in clear-cut Kirtland’s warbler habitat and to spray herbicide, which is sometimes used to eradicate invasive species. “We want to keep an open mind,” Jacobs said. “There are ideas that are continuously evolving, so we see what is popping up and available and what might fit our needs. There is a tremendous amount of potential in areas where we probably don’t even have a clue yet.”

LMC students earn spots on President’s, Dean’s Lists for spring semester Lake Michigan College has announced the names of students recognized for academic achievement during the spring 2020 semester. The President’s List includes students who achieved a 4.0 GPA at full-time status. The Dean’s List includes full-time and part-time students who achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher. President’s List Coloma: Kylee Bailey; Jillian Delke; Emily Greenman; Narelle Hickmon; Katie Swisher Hartford: Mariela Gutierrez Quintana; Amalia Perez Watervliet: Tyler Pennington; Brittany Rogers Dean’s List Coloma: Marie Cowgill; Jaidyn Hutsell; Jacob Huttenga; Jacqueline King; Elizabeth Pelate; Samantha Schreiber Hartford: Christopher DeFord; Tyler Gendron; Aaron Palomo Watervliet: Kaitlyn Hobbs; Courtney Little Part-Time Dean’s List Coloma: Amber Bronkala; Luis Cervantes; Trent Dowe; Carlos Hernandez; River Jorgensen; John LaPlante; Donia Mannino; Nadesta Piper; Cole Pline; Michele Rigozzi; Samantha Rogers; Mikayla Romeo; Shana Rosenbaum; Gregory Schrubba; Kersten Strunk; Vendan Workman Hartford: Luis Barcenas-Perez; Olivia Castelan-Rodriguez; Dawn DiMatteo-Kemmer; Lainey Goodson; Nathan Shuler; Joel Soto; Ashton Vassar; Emily Wilson Watervliet: Ashley Bumstead; Chyna Coulson; Heather Frank; Aspen Gerlach; Emalie Gitersonke; David Heck; Augustus Hinch; Jennifer Howard; Serena Kerr; Kirstie Sexton; Kyah Sexton; Danielle Smith; Aaron Snider; Susanna Van Lente

Former Watervliet City Manager heading up Berrien County By Annette Christie Brian Dissette, who once served as an intern with the Berrien County Economic Development Department followed by serving as the Watervliet City Manager from 2002 to 2004, will return to Berrien County effective July 1. Dissette was selected to be the next Berrien County Administrator by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

Dissette will be taking over the reign from William Wolf who had served as the County Administrator since January 2005. He retired on June 12. Dissette has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Public Administration from Western Michigan University. As the South Haven City Manager, he operated a $41 million annual budget, oversaw the grant process, served as administrator for emergency services, oversaw economic development efforts aimed at retention and attraction of industrial and commercial businesses and year-round local jobs, and provided weekly communication to the elected officials and community leaders. With the selection approval of Dissette by the Board of Commissioners at their May 21, 2020 meeting, they will work towards finalizing an employment agreement with him prior to his start date. In the interim, the Board of Commissioners brought back former County Administrator Mike Henry during the transition from Wolf to Dissette.

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