APL building sale cloaked in mystery, buyer could employ up to 100 at Hagar Twp. site
By Jon Bisnett The word at the Hagar Township board meeting on Monday, July 9 is July 19 for the real estate closing of the sale of the former APL complex that has been idle for nearly two years displacing some 50 workers at the site located at 4412 Coloma Road.
SALE PENDING… The idled APL Logistics complex on Coloma Road in Hagar Township is slated to reemerge later this month when a yet unnamed buyer will close on the property. Cornerstone Alliance Business Development Manager Cathy Tilley remains “tight lipped” on the identity of the company except to say they are tied to the automotive industry and will use the facility for distribution and warehousing to the tune of as many as 100 employees. “It would be safe to say this is the biggest company to come here in a long time…” said Tilley. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)
The Cornerstone Alliance has been instrumental in finding a buyer but has been quite secretive in revealing the name of the company involved. Cornerstone Business Development Manager Cathy Tilley gave clues only to the degree that the entity has two other manufacturing facilities in Michigan and is tied to the auto industry. The Hagar site will serve as distribution and warehousing, potentially employing as many as 100 workers. Closing is scheduled for July 19, while steps have been taken to seek a tax abatement project over $500,000 in repair and updates to get the site up and running. The Hagar board is thrilled to see the reemergence of the property near at hand. Trustee Andy Ulleg commented, “We saw a lot of local people get hurt by the APL pull-out and to think this new opportunity may double the amount of jobs offered previously is just great!” Tilley added to the mystery by saying, “This is the biggest company to come to Southwest Michigan in a very long time.” Guests Commissioner Dave Vollrath visited sharing updates on the new Paw Paw River County Park currently under construction in Watervliet. Construction is said to be on schedule and expected to be completed before fall. The 79th District State Representative hopefuls Maria Moen and Troy Rolling visited as well, each seeking a spot in the Republican ballot for fall via the August Primary. Candidates Bruce Gorenflo and Pauline Wendzel had already visited previously in June. Supervisor’s Report Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio had just one item on his report introducing a motion to schedule a public hearing, at the request of the Cornerstone Alliance to establish an Industrial Development District for 4412 Coloma Road, for 7:15 p.m. at the upcoming August regular township board meeting. Clerk’s Report Clerk Sarah Rodriguez had not received an activity report from Pride Care Ambulance due to the holiday. With the August Primary in mind, Sarah is always looking for election workers to volunteer. Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Marlene Davis reported June expenses of $24,937.38 with nothing remarkable. North Berrien Joint Fire Supervisor DiMaggio reported NBJFD did not meet due to the holiday. Parks Department Parks Director Beth Raiser reports sealing and striping of parking lots at Hagar Park is complete with new grills, picnic table pads and trash bins being currently installed. New playground equipment for Children’s Park has arrived pending installation. Approval was given to Wightman & Associates with the low bid of $1,400 for survey work at Hagar Park in regard to determining property boundaries concerning tree removal. Building Inspector Butch Kelly reported of just five new permits totaling $42,400. New Business Discussion of needed work on Duncan Road addressed the literally unusable condition during heavy rains. The township will work with the Berrien County Road Commission to get an estimate for a solution. Having no other business DiMaggio then adjourned the board at 8:18 p.m. with the next regular monthly meeting of the Township Board to be held 7:00 p.m. Monday, August 13, 2018.
2018 VBYF ROYALS… The Van Buren Youth Fair royalty contest was held June 24, at the Lawton Community Center. Selected to reign over this year’s fair, which runs from July 16 to 21, include (from the left): Front row – Duchess Lillianne Ashbrook, of Bloomingdale, a member of the Lucky Clovers 4-H Club; and Duke Caleb McLemore, of Lawton, a member of the Porter Busy Fingers 4-H Club; Middle row – Princess Dora Behrman of Decatur, an Open Class exhibitor; and Prince Kenton Behrman, Decatur, Open Class exhibitor; Back row – Queen Taylor Streit, of Lawrence, a member of the Farms, Friends & Family 4-H Club; and King Andrew Behrman, of Decatur, an Open Class exhibitor.
Youth Fair at Hartford opens Monday; tethered balloon rides offered on Thursday
The 2018 edition of the Van Buren Youth Fair, July 16 – 21, will feature a variety of grandstand attractions, from tethered hot air balloon rides and monster trucks, to a rodeo, demolition derby, and more. On Tuesday night, at 7, the Hartford NTPA Nationals, featuring super farm tractors, two-wheel drive pickups, and super stock combo, will get underway. Returning this year, following a very successful show last year, Wednesday night’s grandstand entertainment will feature Michigan Monster Truck Shootout, at 7:30. The event will feature an ugliest truck contest, a show-n-shine contest, and back-to-back pickup truck pulls. New this year, on Thursday night, will be Magic Clouds Balloon Corporation’s Hot Air Balloons that will offer tethered balloon rides for a small fee. On Friday, at 7 p.m., The Super Kicker Rodeo Production, sponsored by Ram Rodeo Series and the Van Buren Youth Fair, will headline grandstand entertainment. A free fireworks show will close out Friday night. The fair’s week-long run ends Saturday night with a demolition derby and more, beginning at 7, presented by Unique Motor Sports. Grandstand and hillside seating for ages 13 and over on Tuesday is $7, and ages six to 12, $5; under five are free. Wednesday night seating is $10 for ages six and over. Five and under are free. There will be no charge Thursday night for hillside seating to watch the balloons. However, there will be a small charge to ride the balloons. On Friday and Saturday nights, ages 13 and over are $7, and ages 6 to 12, $5; under five are free. The Fair Board continues to pay full premiums to youth and adult exhibitors this year, marking the ninth straight year, after funding was cut by the state to all 86 fairs located throughout the state. Several groups and organizations have again stepped up this year to assist the fair in paying those premiums to the 4-H and open class exhibitors, according to Fair Board President Stephanie Zabavski. The Van Buren 4-H Leaders Association and the Van Buren Sheriff’s Mounted Division are two groups who have supported the fair with financial donations toward premiums. Skerbeck Entertainment Group will offer carnival rides and amusements this year. For the eighth year, a “Mega Pass” will be offered by the carnival company that will allow fairgoers unlimited access to the rides during fair week. Pre-sale Mega Pass ride tickets, good for Monday through Saturday, July 16 – 21, are $70. On Monday, July 16, the price will be $80 after 1 p.m. Those tickets will be available at the fairgrounds, located on the corner of County Road 681 and Red Arrow Highway, midway between Hartford and Lawrence. More information about this year’s fair may be found on the Web at: www.vanburenyouthfair.com. The fair also has a Facebook page.
New Watervliet City Manager takes lead at first meeting
By Annette Christie
The new Watervliet City Manager, R. Tyler Dotson, was taking care of business at his first “standard business” meeting of the Watervliet City Commission on Tuesday, July 10. The agenda was full of action items for them to complete and his first official City Manager’s Report. This followed a special meeting held on June 26 to approve his contract.
Agreements approved for Joint Fire Board, and 356 N. Main St. property; auditor discussion to be revisited
Previously tabled, the City Commission voted to approve the Amended and Restated Joint Fire Board agreement. Dotson said he spoke with the two representatives from the city that are on the Fire Board and basically two items have changed in the agreement. One is a chain of command clarification, in the absence of the Fire Chief, and the changing of the terms of the Fire Board so that all of the appointments are staggered. The Fire Board is made up of two representatives from the city, two representatives from the township, and one at large position. The City Commission also re-appointed Melanie Marvin on the Fire Board until 2024 (6-year term).
Continuing with a project that started with Dotson’s predecessor, he recommended that the City Commission approve a Conveyance Agreement with Hector Matos for property located at 356 N. Main Street. The negotiation of property to Matos began with former City Manager Michael Uskiewicz in an effort to eliminate blighted properties. Upon securing the property, the plan by Matos is to clear out debris and garbage, strengthen the infrastructure, and bring the build up to code. His plans include starting a restaurant and providing affordable housing. “In my perspective this is as close to a home run as we can get, ridding the city of blighted property,” Dotson said. Matos thanked the City Commission for the agreement.
The City Commission discussed the agreement with their auditing firm, Stevens, Kirinovic & Tucker. While the Commission didn’t have any problems with their services there was some question about what the overall cost was for their services and how it was broken up amongst the city’s line items. The Commission will look at it again next month.
Redevelopment Ready Communities
Dotson presented the baseline report of the Redevelopment Ready Communities findings. The city had previously agreed to participate in the program provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and is partnering with them to build a place that is ready to attract talent and business investment. According to the report synopsis provided by the MEDC, the city has completed 33% of the Redevelopment Ready Communities best practice criteria and through partnership and local stakeholders, are on their way to completing another 33%.
The program looks at public outreach, zoning regulations, development policies and procedures, recruitment and education, and economic development strategies with marketing and promotion. It is a no cost technical assistance program and often technical assistant match funding becomes available to communities that follow all the steps in the program. With the successful completion of the program, Watervliet will become a Redevelopment Ready Certified Community.
In this next step of the program the City Commission approved a resolution stating that they authorize the implementation of recommendations made by the MEDC as determined by the baseline assessment. “I strongly support continuing the work in this program,” Dotson said.
In other business the City Commission approved an invoice to C & H Concrete for $7,800 for sidewalk replacement at Flaherty Park; $5,800 to Jack’s Excavating and Trucking for the demolition of a house and barn at 408 Lucinda Lane.
During public comments, Pauline Wendzel, candidate for the 79th District State Representative, introduced herself. Wendzel graduated from Watervliet High School and Michigan State University. She has worked for the North Berrien Historical Museum and is currently employed at Coloma Frozen Foods.
She comes from a 4th generation of farmers. “I think it is time for my generation to get involved instead of complaining behind their computer screens,” Wendzel said. She said there are a lot of issues that are important to her but agriculture is very important given the area in which we live. She is endorsed by Farm Bureau. Wendzel is also interested in finding the solution to the state’s infrastructure, broadband, roads, and bridges challenges. “I want to represent Southwest Michigan, our morals and values, and assure that we are fairly represented in Lansing,” Wendzel said.
City Manager Report
Dotson plans to do a City Manager Report weekly. Though the City Charter requires a monthly report, he plans to do it weekly. “It won’t provide in depth detail, but can be used as a mechanism of some of the bigger parts that the city is engaging in,” Dotson said. He encouraged the City Commission to bring up things that they would like him to include. “If you have any recommendations, please tell me, it is a report to help you and inform you as a Commission,” Dotson said.
Dotson said he came and volunteered for the 4th of July festivities and saw and took part in many of the events. He commended Jeff Allen and Chief Sutherland for helping to facilitate the event. Dotson said he will look at the numbers and what the festival is actually costing the city and suggested that it will be higher than they think. One of the things that Dotson recognized was the condition of the parking lots throughout the city and was shocked that the tent provider for the event actually staked in the tent in the parking lot, causing damage to public property. He said he hopes to get with festival organizers, who did a phenomenal job, to look at the big picture and determine the goal for the festival.
Dotson said that Commissioners may have noticed a slight change to the agenda format. He said he tweaked it a little bit but would like input from the City Commission.
On Monday, Dotson said the Department of Public Works Department will begin replacing the 124 meters that they have been sitting on for some time. They will replace all of the dead meters that are currently in place. He will work on establishing a time line for the 94 Badger meters that are not part of our system.
Dotson has spoken with Attorney Jessica Fette, about the possibility of being the City Attorney. She currently represents the neighboring Watervliet Township. Dotson said they have done some checking at City Hall and they do not believe that they are currently under contract with any law firm. Dotson hopes to have the City Commission approve an agreement with Fette at their August meeting.
An in depth overview of the City’s website is also on the new City Manager’s radar. “It is sad, it is in need of maintenance,” Dotson said. City staff is doing some research into the current provider and web designer and any formal agreement that the city may have. “We don’t have anyone on staff that is a master coder, we need that service,” Dotson said. In addition, a city Facebook page is also in the future plans.
Dotson announced that Watervliet City will host the August 2 Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ Meeting at 6:00 p.m. Prior to the meeting, a press event will be held with city and county leaders at the new Paw Paw River County Park which is nearing completion.
He also hopes to unveil a plan at the August City Commission meeting to bring back the workshop or Committee of the Whole format with the ultimate plan of dismissing the committees. “This would allow all seven members of the Commission to be involved in all decisions. You all have experiences and backgrounds that we can use to spring the city forward,” Dotson said.
Commissioner Deah Muth commented that she wanted to give kudos to Amy Loshbough and her crew for all their hard work on the 4th of July celebration and added that while she knows it is an expense, it also is a draw.
Commissioner Larry Hehl commented that the Managers Report was well done and that he liked it.