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07-25-2019 Vacant lot purchased by Watervliet DDA for possible community pavilion downtown; Dog pa

FAIR FUN… Michigan Monster Truck Shootout, held Wednesday, July 17, at the Van Buren Youth Fair, was one of several grandstand acts during the fair’s week-long run. At the conclusion of the monster trucks show, a balloon from Michigan Cloud Balloon (shown in the background) provided tethered rides that were originally scheduled for Monday night. (Photo courtesy of Paul Garrod)

Vacant lot purchased by Watervliet DDA for possible community pavilion downtown; Dog park relocation talks continue

By Annette Christie

On July 18, 2019, Watervliet City officials finalized a land purchase with the assistance of DDA funds. Earlier in the month, the Watervliet City Commission gave the approval to move forward with the purchase of property right next to the city parking lot at 390 N. Main Street for the purchase price of $18,895.75.

At the DDA meeting held the evening of the closing, Watervliet City Manager Tyler Dotson said that many ideas were discussed including but not limited to building a pavilion that could be used as a farmer’s market, and could be used during city sponsored holiday events such as the Christmas and Independence Day festivals.

While the discussions are in the very early stages, the DDA has expressed excitement over the purchase and all its possibilities. At the City Commission meeting where the action was taken to authorize the purchase, DDA Chairperson Kristi Noack told the City Commission that this is their first major project and they do have a plan in place that follows up from work already done by a Steering Committee. “I feel good that we are going to start and finish this project,” Noack said.

Watervliet City Dog Park

At the July 2 Watervliet City Commission meeting, Dotson told commissioners that they were approached by Coloma Township about becoming home to a dog park. Also in the very early stages, the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee is now discussing this subject.

Coloma Township Parks and Recreation Committee Chairperson Tony Bertuca said that they have offered all of the equipment that they have to Watervliet City if they are interested including but not limited to trash cans, benches, a water fountain, and fencing to close the dog park in.

The Watervliet City Parks and Recreation Committee is looking at potential locations, locations that have all the necessary components such as land, parking availability, and water service. “They are looking at locations that will serve a need now and in the future,” Dotson said.

It is expected that once a plan has been put together by the committee, it will be brought to the City Commission for approval. “We are not in a hurry, we want to do it right,” Dotson said.

The next regular City Commission meeting will be held on August 6, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.

The Dog Park that was or wasn’t to be

Coloma resident and Girl Scout Caleigh Dahn had a dream to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award for a dog park creation project. Her dream was to raise the funds for and build a dog park in a neighborhood like what Washington Park in Coloma Township had to offer.

Dahn first went to the Coloma Township Board in early 2018. Dahn’s plan was to build a dog park on a part of the township’s Washington Park. The township acquired it from the Coloma School District for the purposes of continued public use of the property. The dog park project was approved by the Coloma Township Board in early 2018. They told Dahn she could start the fundraising and move forward based on the presentation that was given.

What followed was an embarrassment given what this young lady had to deal with right out in the open. The project was put on hold after being told that it needed additional approval by the township’s Planning Commission. It was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission and was approved by the township board again, but was once again delayed in September of that same year. For this girl that was given the go ahead by her township officials not once but twice, she was then told that township officials and/or staff had determined that the fence was not the proper material, that the top soil was not properly placed and was insufficient, and that a site plan had to be prepared and presented. All along Dahn sought an amicable solution in an effort to finalize the project.

With the support of many but not of all, Dahn dealt with problems and conflicts with neighboring users of the park, safety, adjusting her plan, concerns from neighbors, and with the local government officials. She has gained a lot of experience speaking in public, winding her way through local politics, fundraising, and earning the support and admiration of many local organizations and businesses.

While Dahn raised the original amount of funds needed for the project costs (estimated at $10,000), changes to plans, products used, and having to duplicate processes created a need for additional funds, which she was also able to raise.

With all the delays, it was anticipated that this spring the dog park would be placed at Washington Park, however, Dahn has moved on to the next chapter in her life and in a letter posted on her Facebook page, explains that it all lies in the hands of the Coloma Township Parks & Recreation Committee (now the governing body that Dahn had to work with).

“Hello friends and supporters of Amicus Dog Park:

It has been more than enough time since our last update and we are happy to announce progress! As of now, all of the donations, both physical or monetary, have been given to the Coloma Township Parks Committee lead by Tony Bertuca. As I am going off to college next month, I thought it would be appropriate to do so. I have been told that Amicus Dog Park will most likely be moved in the area, may also have an opportunity to grow to an acre, and may be completed as soon as this summer! I am looking forward to these changes and hope you are too. For further updates and questions, I would direct you to attend both Coloma Township Parks Committee and Board of Trustee meetings or contact Parks Chairman Tony Bertuca. I hope this update finds you well and I look forward to seeing your pups enjoying the community we all do!

Thank you for all of your support and love over the past two years. Many of you have impacted me more than you will ever know.

All the best, Caleigh Dahn”

City Commission welcomes new Coloma Public Library Director; well work OK’d; emergency training eyed for employees

By Nancy Albright City commissioners welcomed new Coloma Public Library Director Mary Harrison at the city council meeting on July 22. Harrison has a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Alabama and comes to Coloma with 30 years of experience. Harrison graduated from Coloma High School and worked at Kalamazoo Public Libraries, Kalamazoo College, and Berry College in Georgia. “When I walked into the library for my interview I could tell this was the place I was meant to be. I am thrilled to be here.” Coloma resident Harold Bragg said, “Mary is an outstanding librarian and we are lucky to have found someone to replace the irreplaceable Chuck Dickinson who has been our Director for the last 42 years.”

City wells to receive overhaul Peerless Midwest has completed their annual inspection of city wells one and two and determined that both wells need an overhaul. Peerless cannot provide a cost estimate until work begins, but Department of Public Works Director Rod Burkholder told the council that well four was replaced at a cost of $20,000 and that typical costs run between $12,000-$20,000, which includes a warranty.

The council approved the work regardless of the cost. Commissioner Marsha Hammond said, “We have a sophisticated water system that is worked on every day and we take that system very seriously to keep it up and running to its full capacity.”

Mary Harrison New Library Director

Parking on Paw Paw Street Denise Donohoe, owner of Coletta’s Closet, If the Shoe Fits, and Keep Me in Mind, requested that the council review reinstating the parking spaces in front of the old firehouse for customers. She reported that the spaces have been designated with diagonal lines for the last five years but have since worn off. The spaces have been designated parking since the firehouse closed 30 years ago, but the DPW was instructed to paint them NO PARKING until the city attorney reviews the situation. Donohoe also asked why she received a blight citation for the weeds on the side of her building at 178 Paw Paw St. facing the Subway sandwich shop. Burkholder explained that the DPW only weeds on the roadside of Paw Paw Street and each business is responsible for weeding its section on the other side of the sidewalk. If a business does not weed its portion of the sidewalk, the city issues a citation in the amount of $200. Other business The city requested that Pride Care Ambulance Service provide CPR, First Aid and AED Defibrillator training to city employees, including the Department of Public Works. The city needs to replace its current AED, and Pride Care’s Steve Lowder told the council that in addition to setting up training at the city’s convenience, he will speak with Pride Care’s CEO to help the city purchase an AED replacement unit at a reasonable cost. Mayor Polashak told those assembled that the Senior Center has also purchased a new AED unit and is offering training to anyone who would like to attend. The city has received an estimate on a new desktop computer from Tri-County Computer Services in the amount of $1,028, which includes hardware, software, and delivery and setup. The city will also seek an estimate from Those Computer Guys of Coloma, which services the Coloma Public Library computer system. City Ordinance Officer Jason Hicks will submit a new Blight Ordinance to the Tri-City Record for placement in the legal section for review by the public. A public hearing will be held at City Hall on Monday, August 26, 2019 at 7:45p.m. The city will share 40 percent of the cost of sidewalk replacement with the residents of 164 Harriet St. in the amount of $1,022.

V.B. Youth Fair had less than “fair” weather Despite delays caused by heat, rain,

and wind the show went on

By Paul Garrod About 400 youth, 4-H and open class exhibitors, braved extreme heat conditions and rain to take part in the 64th annual Van Buren Youth Fair, held July 15-20, at the fairgrounds in Hartford. Van Buren Youth Fair Board President Stephanie Zabavski said Skerbeck Entertainment Group provided quality, family-friendly carnival rides that thrilled riders of all ages. “Skerbeck delayed opening on Friday and Saturday due to the extreme heat conditions.” The Fennville, Michigan-based carnival was scheduled to open at 1 p.m. both days, but were forced to delay until 5 p.m. due to the heat. Saturday’s delay was extended due to rain. Saturday night’s grandstand entertainment was hampered by a late afternoon-early evening rainstorm that moved across the area. Unique Motor Sports, which closed out the grandstand entertainment that night, was able to get the show in, despite rain-filled skies and rain-soaked track. At the beginning of the week, Magic Cloud Balloons, Monday’s grandstand show, was unable to provide tethered rides that night, due to high winds. However, they returned Wednesday night to provide those rides to fair-goers. “The Van Buren Youth Fair is a long standing community event that has become a tradition for many residents,” said Zabavski. “Our fair offers affordable family fun for summer ‘staycations’,” said Zabavski. Next year, the fair will mark its 50th anniversary at the same location, the corner of County Road 681 and Red Arrow Highway.

City of Hartford stays course of condemnation order for Marion St. home; more interest in medical marijuana opportunities shown for sites in city

By Jon Bisnett

With Mayor Rick Hall back at the helm, the Hartford City Commission began the July 22 Business Meeting with a “Show Cause” Hearing for Parcel #80-52-180-021-00 located at 40 Marion Avenue. Following several months of no response to communications from the city, Dan Webster appeared for the hearing representing the owner Mrs. Fleetwood.

Webster described Fleetwood as a widow in ill health who is in the process of liquidating properties in three states. The Marion Avenue is alleged to be part of a 10-property pending sale according to Webster, who was unable to disclose any detail of the buyer until the sale closes.

Discussion that followed led the commission to continue the demolition order unless a firm plan of rehab of the property could be presented, including a timetable and proof of financial resources to accomplish the task. Webster said he would attempt to contact the purchaser to see if they would be willing to contact the city before the purchase was final. Otherwise the city will continue the demolition process in short order.


State Representative Beth Griffin will host the Local Officials Meeting July 29 at the Van Buren ISD Conference Center from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Nomination petitions for Commission seats and Mayor were due by July 23 for the November election.

Van Buren Veterans Office Open House is August 5 from noon to 7:00 p.m. in Paw Paw.

Guests/Public Comment

Principal owner Doug VonKoenig of Med+Leaf, the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary, visited to update the commissioners on the build-out progress for the facility which is slated to open October 1. VonKoenig also addressed the requests of two additional dispensary concerns present that evening seeking to have the city’s Medical Marijuana Ordinance expanded to allow additional provision centers in the city.

Summarizing the contents of a letter sent to the city from Med+Leaf, Von Koenig asks the city to be patient and recognize that Med+Leaf has worked through the process for over two years during which time it has invested significant resources to come to this point. Further explaining that it is impossible for anyone to understand the true market potential of Hartford until a baseline of a year’s business is in the books and a second year to provide validation of the initial operating year. VonKoenig reiterated the statement he has made from the very beginning as to representing themselves as a family-owned, veteran-owned business who intends to be a good neighbor of the business community in terms of marketing to attract customers not only to their business, but to Hartford in general, be it for fuel, food or other retail establishments in the community.

Other dispensary concerns present at the meeting represent two different out of town entities, one seeking a site parceled out of the Hartford Speedway on Bowie Street and a second looking to acquire the former Hoekzema Ford building on West Main. Both seek the expansion of the current ordinance which allows only one of each category of Medical Marijuana Licensing.

Van Buren County

County Commissioner Mike Chappell brings notice of the National Night Out Open House is Tuesday, August 6 at Lawrence Park Pavilion. The free family-oriented event features public safety and first responder’s equipment demonstrations.

Minutes & Reports archived

Departmental Reports for June and minutes from the July 15 Workshop, June 24 Business Meeting were approved and archived.

Old business

In regard to both possible amendment of the Medical Marijuana Ordinance and the release of recent Recreational Marijuana Emergency Rules, Mayor Hall appointed a committee composed of commissioners Frank Dockter, Helen Sullivan and Dennis Goss to research the subject and bring a recommendation to the commission at the August workshop meeting.

New business

The City has received multiple applicants for open seats on the Fire and Library Boards. Chris Postello of East Street and Charles Hadley of East Main have expressed interest in the Fire Board, while the Library Board has seen two candidates, Ann Burch of Olds Avenue and Anne Rockey of Spaulding Street. Mayor Hall again appointed a review committee to bring recommendation to the August workshop.

Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned the meeting at 8:17 p.m.

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