07-26-2018 Applications accepted until Aug. 17 for Berrien Co. Register of Deeds; Embezzlement trial

NEW SIGNAGE… at the Coloma access point for the Paw Paw River Water Trail. The river access is near the City Public Works garage behind Wesco. One sign indicates to proceed down the hill and the other sign is located at the river. The funding for these new signs is part of the donation given in 2017 to the Coloma Watervliet Area Economic Development Corporation (CWAEDC) from the Menasha Corporation Foundation to improve the Coloma access site. (TCR photos by Rick Rasmussen)

Applications accepted until Aug. 17 for Berrien Co. Register of Deeds

The Register of Deeds Appointment Committee announces it is currently accepting applications for their consideration. The Committee comprised of the Presiding Probate Judge, Mabel J. Mayfield, County Clerk, Sharon Tyler, and Prosecuting Attorney, Michael Sepic, is authorized by statute to fill the vacancy left by the untimely death of Lori Jarvis. The appointment is for the remainder of the current term ending December 31, 2020. The Committee is requesting candidates send a county application, resume, and cover letter describing the applicant’s specific qualifications for the appointment. The county application is available on the county’s Website at: https://berriencounty.org/581/ Employment. The application, resume and cover letter should be addressed to Berrien County Clerk, Sharon Tyler, Courthouse, 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085 and received no later than 4:00 p.m. on August 17, 2018. Applicants shall be at least 18 years of age and registered to vote in Berrien County. Desired experience could include managing a small staff, managing an office budget, and familiarity with real estate matters. For 2018, the annual salary of the Register of Deeds position has been established by the Board of County Commissioners as $81,930. The position also offers health and retirement benefits.

Embezzlement trial for former Hartford Township Sexton is underway

By Jon Bisnett Gerrie Lee Heskett, 62, of Hartford was back in the Paw Paw courtroom of Judge Kathleen Brickley as her trial began Monday, July 16 on one count of embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000 and one count of embezzlement by a public official over $50. Hartford Township’s board first alerted the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department in the fall 2016 who then launched an investigation in January of 2017 into alleged missing funds, mostly cash transactions that were the responsibility of Heskett. The period involved spanned January 2011 through December 2016.

The investigation report was turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office, which ultimately authorized the embezzlement charge. Hartford Township officials discharged Heskett in late 2016 when discrepancies arose. During arguments Heskett’s attorney Joseph Fletcher focused on the fact that the forensic accountant Karl Haiser averaged numbers in his review.

Assistant Van Buren County Prosecuting Attorney Jay Blair’s questioning reflected that averaging is a common practice in forensic accounting. Haiser stated he used a reasonable average and had no way of knowing if the sales were to residents or nonresidents which might reflect a 50% increase in the selling price. Ultimately Judge Kathleen Brickley ruled that the averaging system is reasonable and proper. The jury will get to decide if they want to base their findings on either the averaged total or the one minus the discrepancies as the defense contends.

Bainbridge Twp. receives okay on policy book update; Board adopts ordinance on zoning and land use maps, continues discussion with land owner over conditions of properties

By Angela Stair The Bainbridge Township Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting on July 9 at the Township Hall. Trustee Don Baiers rang the school house bell, signifying the beginning of the meeting at 7:00 p.m. More than a year ago, Township Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter took on the project of updating the Bainbridge Township Policy Book. Working with the Township Board and the Township Planning Commission they succeeded. The Planning Commission approved the changes and it was sent on to the Berrien County Planning Commission to get their approval of the changes. On June 18 the Township received a letter from the Berrien County Planning Commission that said in part, “The Commission concurred with the Township Planning Commission in recommending approval of the proposed text amendments as presented. The Commission acknowledges the thorough review and updates to the Zoning Ordinance that can serve the residents and Township officials better.” The Board approved the resolution to adopt the Bainbridge Township policy book. The resolution was ordered to take immediate effect. The Bainbridge Township Board also approved the adoption of Ordinance 49 Q Zoning Map and Future Land Use Map. During the calendar year of 2017 and 2018 the Township Planning Commission reviewed the current Zoning Ordinance, Zoning Map and Future Land Use Map and prepared an update text, for the purpose of encouraging and guiding orderly and efficient future growth and development of the Township.

340 and 350 Millburg Drive Property conditions at 340 and 350 Millburg Drive were discussed. Christopher Blaine, owner of the properties was sent a letter on June 14, 2018 from Ross Rogien, Building Official noting the disrepair for well over 18 months of the two properties. A second letter was sent on July 5 informing Blaine that the Board would be discussing the status of the properties at their July 9 meeting. As of July 5, he had not made contact with anyone. Blaine showed up at the Township meeting to address the issue. He told the board he has been working on the inside of the properties when he can, he does his own work. His regular work takes him out of town at times and he can only work on it occasionally. He said he had not gotten the first letter until just before the July 5 letter because he was out of town. He asked for more time to work on the properties. After some discussion the Board agreed to set up a follow-up meeting with Blaine to see if they could work out something. Township Supervisor Bill Hodge said the situation cannot go on as it is.

Other Business The Board approved Township payments of bills in the amount of $61,543.10, payroll in the amount of $8,323.72, and payroll liabilities of $2,671.23 for a total of $72,538.15. Sister Lakes Fire Department reported there were 13 calls they answered for the month of June. Of those 13 calls only three were in Bainbridge Township. One was a burn complaint, one an EMS assist and one an EMS/CPR assist. The Board approved $500 to have the windows washed and the light fixtures cleaned.

Bake Sale & Goulash Dinner at American Legion #362 on August 25 Coloma American Legion #362 invites the public to their Bake Sale and Goulash Dinner on Saturday, August 25. The Bake Sale runs from 4 to 7 p.m. with the Goulash Dinner served from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Cost for the dinner is $6 per bowl including one refill. The event is being held and tickets are being sold at the Legion Hall located at 351 E. St. Joseph Street in Coloma.

Berrien Community Foundation ‘For Good’ Grants total $117,900

The Berrien Community Foundation recently awarded ‘For Good’ Grants of over $117,000 to 24 Berrien County nonprofit organizations. “This round of ‘For Good’ Grants was particularly diverse,” said Lisa Cripps-Downey, Berrien Community Foundation President. “We could really see the needs throughout our county and respond. We are so thankful for the philanthropic gifts made to the Community Endowment held at the Berrien Community Foundation which allows us to provide that community support.” Grants were made to organizations throughout Berrien County. The grants supported everything from environmental projects in Harbor Country to rebuilding school music programs in Eau Claire. There was a grant for library renovations in Niles, a literacy program in Benton Harbor and a suicide prevention initiative in Coloma. Community members make grant decisions. “It is the community’s foundation,” Cripps-Downey said. “Volunteers are reading and reviewing grants. That is one of the reasons it is so important for us to have volunteers from all over Berrien County. We also have a youth grant making committee making grant decisions for youth centered programs. We try to get students from each school district to represent their area.”

Smaller organizations took the opportunity to apply for the new and easier ‘For Good’ Minor grants of up to $1,000 to support smaller projects. The second round of ‘For Good’ grant applications are due September 10 and can be found on the Berrien Community Foundation website at www.berriencommunity.org. The first round of ‘For Good’ Minor Grants totaled $6,325. The recipients were: Girls on the Run of Southwest Michigan to support Camp GOTR Scholarships; Coloma Community Schools for Junior High Suicide Prevention Program; African American History and Literature Gallery for their Community Clean Up Project; Boy Scout Troop 570 to support Project Pan Handle; Southshore Concert Band for the Fall/Halloween Concert; SW MI Human Trafficking Task Force for the Planting Hopes Victim’s Service Directory; Watervliet Free Methodist Church for the Safety First Quest.

The ‘For Good’ Major Grants awarded totaled $111,575. The recipients were: 100 Women Strong for Emergency Financial Assistance to Berrien County Women; Berrien County Council for Children for the Child Abuse Prevention Education Program; Berrien County Youth Fair Association to fund a Sanitary Sewer Study; Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor for the Summer Literacy Program; Chikaming Township to support the Cherry Beach Preservation and Expansion Project; Children’s Music Workshop to support new equipment for theatrical productions; Cornerstone Alliance to fund the 2019 Mini Maker Faire; Eau Claire Public Schools to support the Music Program; Friends of the Harbor Country Trails to support a Trail Path on the Marquette Greenway; Grace Christian Schools to fund a new Safe Stage; Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan for the Animal Rescue and Re-homing Program; LOGAN Community Resources to purchase Window Blinds to Aid Sensory Needs; Mosaic Christian Community Development for the Jobs for Life Program; Niles District Library to renovate unused space for a Community Center at the Library; Southwest MI Symphony Orchestra to support the production of the musical In The Heights; St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church to support the Community Food Pantry; YMCA to support the Benton Harbor Summer Impact Program. The Berrien Community Foundation was established in 1952 as an innovative means by which any concerned individual could put charitable dollars to work for the benefit of Berrien County and beyond. For more information about the Foundation call 983-3486 or visit www.berriencommunity.org.


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