08-06-2020 Governor tightens COVID rules for northern counties, orders farmworkers tested, and vetoe

KEEPING IN SHAPE… These ladies are part of a group called the Walkie-Talkies from Coloma and Watervliet, ages ranging from mid-60s to 80-plus, serious about keeping in shape during COVID-19 restrictions. The group walks 7 days a week in various neighborhoods. They wear masks and maintain a distance; some days there may be six walking together, and some days as many as 16. They say they have encountered wonderful folks along the way and appreciate the drivers who slow down when passing by and waving.

Governor tightens COVID rules for northern counties, orders farmworkers tested, and vetoes rest home bill

By Jon Bisnett Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order is pressuring state police, licensing agencies and state departments to aid with enforcement of coronavirus restrictions. Whitmer, in an executive directive issued on Tuesday morning, ordered the Michigan State Police to enforce COVID-19 executive orders like they would other violations of law and called on state departments to prioritize enforcement as well. Michigan’s Department of Agriculture will be required to consider closing operations at facilities where a hazard related to COVID-19 is identified. State departments and agencies made aware of violations must also refer violations to the licensing agencies with domain over the business. Nursing home veto Characterizing the bill as “nothing more than a political game”, Governor Whitmer vetoed a bi-partisan bill aimed at protecting Michigan’s senior citizens. The vetoed bill, Senate Bill 956, would ban nursing homes from admitting or retaining anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 until after they have recovered – unless they can house those patients in a separate building. Screws tightened in north counties Yet another executive order from the pen of Governor Gretchen Whitmer will now impose uniform restrictions on indoor social gatherings and bars across the state, tightening rules that had previously been eased in northern zones. Under rules now made statewide, bars that derive at least 70 percent of their sales from alcohol are prohibited from serving customers indoors. And indoor events may not exceed 10 people. The prior order had allowed bar service and indoor gatherings of up to 50 people in the 32 counties of northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Whitmer’s order also allowed Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos to reopen at 15 percent capacity beginning on Aug. 5. Sources report some 2,500 casino workers have been furloughed since March at Motor City Casino alone, while tribal casinos around the state have since reopened more than a month ago with self-imposed limited capacity and COVID policy best practices in place. Farmworker tests ordered Under an emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, officials have issued new emergency orders requiring COVID-19 testing for Michigan agricultural and food processing employees. A spokesperson said department officials were not aware of any other states requiring such universal testing of agricultural and migrant workers. The MDHHS cited 11 specific outbreaks at sites in Michigan including both farms and food processing facilities. The order requires migrant housing camp operators to provide: One-time baseline testing of all residents ages 18 and over; testing of all new residents within 48 hours of arrival, with separate housing for newly arriving residents for 14 days and a second test 10–14 days after arrival; testing of any resident with symptoms or exposure. Employers of migrant or seasonal workers, meat, poultry and egg processing facilities and greenhouses with more than 20 employees on site at a time must also provide: One-time baseline testing of all workers; testing of all new workers prior to any in-person work; testing of any worker with symptoms or exposure. Employers and housing operators must complete a testing plan by Aug. 10. Completion of baseline testing and implementation of ongoing testing are required no later than Aug. 24. Grants are available to help mitigate testing costs.

Federal COVID relief In Washington, D.C., the new round of COVID support is in the negotiation stage on Capitol Hill and may include direct payments, unemployment support and a rollback in payroll taxes. COVID Liability Protection for small-business is also a point of debate. The latest GOP plan Monday entails $1,200 individual payments, $200 unemployment supplement, and billions for schools with some of the money aimed at helping classrooms reopen for students. The proposed legislation also proposes additional funding for the small-business Paycheck Protection Program. Congress has until Aug. 24 to extend the Eviction Moratorium created by the CARES Act. Trading high kicks for low risk It seems we always miss one event that nobody ever thought of. It was announced this week that New York City’s world-renowned Radio City Music Hall Rockettes have canceled their annual Christmas dance performance. Back to school The nation’s eyes are on Georgia Public Schools as they opened this week. The use of masks and distancing is not being employed, leaving many educators and administrators around the country in a quandary as to what outcome can be expected. Local Tri-City schools have until August 15 to submit their detailed reopening plans to the Michigan Department of Education.

Primary Election results

By Annette Christie

Berrien County Townships

Coloma Charter Township

Coloma Charter Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin will face Democrat Jeffrey Weber in the November general election.

Ken Parrigin, Coloma Charter Township Supervisor for 17 years, was being challenged by fellow Republican Phil Hickmon and was victorious. Parrigin received 503 votes to Hickmon’s 344. Weber received 226 votes.

As Clerk Sandy Kraemer was not seeking re-election, Matt Moser, Sheila Hickmott, and Debra Becht, all Republicans, were all vying for that position. Sheila Hickmott edged out Matthew Moser (338 to 332). Debra Becht received 159 votes. Hickmott will not have any challenger in the November election.

Treasurer Jim Fulton faced no opposition in the primary, nor will he face any in November. He received 708 votes.

There were four trustee positions open and four candidates running which will look like the same, the past, and the new at transition time. Top vote getter incumbent Bryan Keith Duffield, received 662 votes; Jerry Willmeng, incumbent received 561 votes; Lance Becht, once again returning to the township board, but this time as trustee and not as treasurer, received 590 votes; and newcomer Kendyl Ann Adams received 567 votes.

Voters in Coloma Charter Township were in favor of the Berrien County millage renewals (law enforcement 910 yes, 223 no); (911 970 yes, 170 no); and (senior centers 953 yes, 183 no)

Watervliet Charter Township

Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins will be returning for another term following Tuesday’s primary election. Hutchins, who was first elected as supervisor in the fall of 2003, edged out opponent Rich Quinn. Hutchins received 298 votes while Quinn received 97. Clerk Patt Bambrick received 361 votes, Treasurer Tom Scheid received 359, and the four trustee candidates received the following: Joe Stepich (incumbent 273), Bob Wallace (incumbent 307), Glenn Giannetti (incumbent 279), and new to the board will be Karl Bayer (299). Current trustee Joe Matthews did not seek re-election.

The majority of voters were in favor of the Berrien County 911 Millage (471 yes, 106 no); Berrien County Law Enforcement Millage (426 yes, 144 no); Berrien County Senior Center Millage (466 yes, 110 no); Watervliet Charter Township Fire Renewal proposals 1 (409 yes, 166 no) and 2 (375 yes, 173 no); Watervliet Charter Township Police Services renewal (382 yes, 171 no); Watervliet Charter Township Public Safety Millage renewal and increase (359 yes, 191 no); and Watervliet Charter Township Road Millage renewal and increase (366 yes, 167 no).

Berrien County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman, who serves the residents of Watervliet Charter Township south of M-140, received a total of 1,603 votes. He faces no opposition in the November general election. His district also includes Watervliet City, Bainbridge Township, Pipestone Township, and Berrien Township.

Berrien County Commissioner Dave Vollrath, who serves the residents of Watervliet Charter Township, north of M-140, received 1,774 votes in all. His district also includes Coloma City, Hagar Township, and Coloma Charter Township. He will face Democratic challenger Kevin Holmes in November. Holmes received 600 votes.

Bainbridge Township

Just over 500 votes were cast in the Bainbridge Township primary. Treasurer Nancy Weber, Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter, and trustees Don Baiers, and John Yetzke will move forward to November; however, none of them are facing opposition. Rodney Winkel, in his first bid for elected office, received 529 votes for the supervisor position. Current Supervisor Bill Hodge was not seeking re-election.

The majority of voters were also in favor of renewing the county millages for law enforcement, 911, and senior centers.

Hagar Township

Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio (484 votes), Clerk Sarah Rodriguez (195 votes), and Trustee Andy Ulleg (363 votes) all received the votes needed to return for another term. Trustee candidates Deb Frank and Peter Colovos were also seeking the other trustee seat. Peter Colovos received the next highest number 280 over Frank’s 235 votes.

DiMaggio will face Democrat challenger Dennis Knuth in the November general election.

Hagar Township voters spoke out in favor of the renewal of the Berrien County 911 millage, Law Enforcement millage, and Senior Center millage. They also voted in favor of a renewal of their fire truck millage.

The majority of voters in the City of Coloma and in the City of Watervliet were in favor of renewing all of the Berrien County millages (law enforcement, 911, and senior centers).

Van Buren County Townships

Keeler Township

Voters in Keeler Township voted as the majority on the question of putting in a County 911 Millage. There were 201 yes votes vs. 113 no votes. None of the board members will face opposition in November; however, there will be four new faces on the township board. Joining Clerk Carl Davis on the Keeler Township Board are Supervisor Don Blackmon, Treasurer Sharon Kay Rudel-Clupper, and trustees Jerry E. Morin and Kenneth C. Rahn.

Hartford Township

Hartford Township voters cast 292 votes for Supervisor Ron Sefcik, 300 votes for Clerk Julie Sweet, and 291 votes for Treasurer Steve Starner. For the two trustee seats, voters had a choice of three, John McLellan, Mike Phillips, and Chris Cowgill.

Mike Phillips, who was appointed as a trustee in April 2020 received 209 votes. The other two candidates both received 153 votes each. The candidate that is selected will be done through the election process.

The majority of voters in Hartford Township were all in favor of the 911 County Millage, and both the township road and fire proposals.

The majority of voters in the City of Hartford also were in favor of the County 911 Millage and the fire proposal (in partnership with Hartford Township).

Van Buren County

Van Buren County official candidates had no challengers in the primary election. This includes the following: Susan Zuiderveen for Prosecutor; Sheriff Daniel E. Abbott; Clerk Suzie Roehm, Treasurer Trisha Nesbitt, Register of Deeds Paul W. DeYoung, Drain Commissioner Joe Parman, Surveyor Donald Gilchrist, and the County Commissioner whose district includes Hartford City, Hartford Township, and Keeler Township, Mike Chappell.

The final numbers were not available for the 911 millage; however, voters in all of those municipalities voted in favor of the millage.

Berrien County

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, Drain Commissioner Christopher Quattrin, and Surveyor John Kamer have no opposition in the August or the November election.

As Prosecutor Mike Sepic has chosen not to run again, candidate Steven Pierangeli had his name on the ballot for the first time. He faces no opposition.

Clerk Sharon Tyler, Republican, faced no opposition in the August primary but will face Gwen Swanigan, Democrat, in November.

Both the Register of Deeds and the Treasurer appeared to be on their way to victory in the late hours of Tuesday night. They were both being challenged by fellow Republicans. Neither of them have any competition in the November general election.

Lora Gnodtke Freehling, current Register of Deeds, was appointed to fill the remainder of the term when Lori Jarvis tragically passed away during her term. It is her first time running for the office. She will face Brandon Vance.

Shelly Weich, the current Treasurer, was appointed to fill the term when former Treasurer Bret Witkowski retired in April of 2020. She was challenged by Troy Rolling.

Commissioner Jon Hinkelman, of District 2 (Watervliet City, Watervliet Township south of I-94, Berrien Township, Pipestone Township, and Bainbridge Township) faces no opposition in the primary or the general election in November. Hinkelman resides at 2201 N. M-140, Watervliet.

Commissioner Dave Vollrath of District 1 (Coloma City, Coloma Charter Township, Hagar Township, and the portion of Watervliet Charter Township north of I-94) will have opposition in the November general election from Kevin Holmes of 6235 Hagar Shores Rd. W., Coloma. Vollrath resides at 4729 Wil-O-Paw Dr., Coloma.

State Offices

Pauline Wendzel will be moving onto the November general election to face Democratic challenger Chokwe Pitchford. She is the State Representative for the 79th District. While the final numbers were not in, Wendzel had a substantial lead over challenger Jacquie Gnodtke Blackwell in the late hours of Tuesday night.


Long serving representative in Congress, Fred Upton, will move onto the general election in November. While the final numbers were not in, Upton had a substantial lead over challenger Elena Oelke.

As of late Tuesday night, Democratic educator Jen Richardson was leading Jon Hoadley and was expected to also move forward to the general election.


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