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