FIRE DEPARTMENT IS THE COMMUNITY… Attendees to the 100-year celebration Open House of the Watervliet Fire Department (WFD) hear Fire Chief Dan Jones (right) give a short history of the WFD, and Chaplain Brian Hall, pastor of Watervliet Free Methodist Church, speak on how the fire department is more than just a part of the community, it is the community. More than 100 people visited the open house, held last Saturday afternoon, where they looked over historic photos of fire department events and personnel, met local firefighters and then enjoyed a meal which included hotdogs, hamburgers and salads. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)
Coloma Glad-Peach Fest discussed at council meeting
By Nancy Albright
Coloma resident Harold Bragg opened a dialogue with the city council on Monday night, Aug. 12 to address low attendance at this year’s Glad-Peach Festival.
“In the past the festival has been so crowded that you had a hard time walking through,” said Bragg. “This year it seemed there were more police than people. I don’t want people to throw up their hands and let it go. I would like Glad-Peach to be successful and continue on every year.” Bragg suggested that the festival committee cultivate what is working now, like the foam pit, stories for children, the library book sale and the magician, and address issues that need work.
Coletta’s Closet owner Denise Donohoe said that the foam court sponsored by the church was delightful, but that it was only in operation for one hour. “I sponsored the magician this year because no one else invited him. That is horrible; it’s the man’s livelihood.” She reported that there were moving vehicles in the blocked off section of the street, including golf carts. “It’s a bad move and shouldn’t be allowed. Also, I wouldn’t put my kid in one of those rides for all the tea in China; they would need a tetanus shot. Those carnies are not the image we want to project.”
She went on to say that that there is no festival signage, the festival website has not been updated since 2016, and that vendors should not be allowed to start packing up until five minutes after the festival ends. “It can’t hurt to have new ideas.”
Donohoe also said that the stage was not removed until 1:30 p.m. on Monday which caused a parking issue.
Bragg observed only a half dozen people or so dancing near the stage at this year’s festival, which was moved to one end of the street. He suggested moving the stage back to the center of the festival to encourage “dancing in the streets”, and the committee considers music for all age groups, such as a polka band for middle-age festival goers; dance competition for teenagers; and dance performances. “Inviting professional dance studios like Citadel from Benton Harbor and Dance Arts from Stephenville where the dancers are from all over the area might draw people from other towns.”
Bragg informally polled some festival goers and learned that there was no announcement that the kiddie parade had been cancelled, there was no advertising on COZY-FM, and brochures were not distributed. He suggested that next year the committee distribute brochures to Coloma businesses, and businesses in other communities like the Mason Jar in Benton Harbor, which according to Bragg is always crowded.
In conclusion, Bragg said that the bright spots were the foam ring and the book sale at the library, which was the largest in memory. He also thanked the police force for their positive attitude and public works for an outstanding job. “Our public works department is second to none. You wouldn’t have known anything had even taken place the day before. The city was spotless.”
Mayor Polashak commended the Coloma Police Department and Department of Public Works for all their hard work at the festival. “You guys were great.”
Police Chief Wes Smigielski reported there were no major incidents at the festival, aside from excessive incidents addressed by police officers of kids being rude and starting fights. The chief also said that he plans on attending the festival committee meeting.
Commissioner Linda Freitag is the city liaison to the Glad-Peach Committee and asked that anyone who would like to join the committee meeting leave their contact information with her and she will let them know the date and time of the next meeting when it is scheduled.
Parking wars hit Coloma city streets
Local business owners are feuding over public parking spaces on Coloma’s main streets. At the July city council meeting, Denise Donohoe––owner of Keep Me in Mind/Coletta’s Closet, 144 N. Church St.––requested that commissioners consider designating the No Parking zone in front of her business as parking spaces for customers.
At the August meeting, Taylor Prestidge, owner of Soulard’s Café, 124 N. Church St., reported that Donohoe uses the No Parking zone as a loading zone and has harassed café customers that use the zone to drop off people to shop, as well as a Michigan State Representative that parked in the spot and used hazard lights when picking up a table Prestidge loaned out for the Glad-Peach Festival.
Prestidge also told the council that Donohoe claims the alley next to Coletta’s Closet is parking for her customers. Prestidge pointed out that the alley is Baker Street, and the spaces are for public parking. The council told Prestidge and Donohoe that the city attorney will continue to review the situation.
Coloma resident Sieg Freitag asked that the council also investigate a city parking situation caused by a business owner that has monopolized parking spaces for the last two months with a dumpster, dump truck and trailer, and placed orange cones around the parking area. Freitag said that the offender is violating a State law designating no overnight parking on a public street. “People who can’t walk need to be dropped off at the bank and other businesses in that area,” said Freitag. The council agreed to review the request.
Left turn only
Coloma resident Ron Winfield complimented city workers on the wonderful job they do to keep the city clean and safe, and suggested that the city paint arrows at the crossing next to the BP station at 121 S. Church St. to indicate there is a forward lane and a left turn lane. Winfield said that he has almost been hit by drivers twice that don’t realize there is a left turn lane. Department of Public Works supervisor Rod Burkholder told the council he will investigate the safety issue and Chief Smigielski said he will keep an eye on the intersection.
Working on the railroad
The Michigan Department of Transportation and CSX Transportation, Inc. will soon begin work to upgrade the rail grade crossing on West Street. The renovation will include removing the cantilever, installing flashing light signals and a half roadway gate, and realigning the driveway in the southwest quadrant. The estimated cost of the project is $875,000, all of which will be paid for with federal and state funds. The only cost to the city is a nominal fee of $600 paid annually for use of the crossing.
At the July 8 meeting, Coloma Chief of Police Wes Smigielski requested that the council draft a Fireworks Ordinance in the event of a fireworks incident. The council voted to accept the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, Public Act 256 as written, which sets specific dates and times for use of consumer-grade fireworks like firecrackers and bottle rockets. The ordinance does not cover commercial grade fireworks, which can be used 24/7 according to North Berrien Fire Rescue Chief Mike Maddox. The fireworks ordinance is available at City Hall.
Maddox reported that the new Ford F-250 utility pick-up truck purchased from Tapper Ford for approximately $41,000 is now in service, complete with emergency lighting, radio equipment and decals. The vehicle will be used in medical emergencies in place of a firetruck.
Fire Committee Chair Linda Freitag announced that the Fire Department Auxiliary will hold their annual Quarter Auction on October 10 at Station 1. Freitag advised those assembled to bring lots of quarters!
Out of sight out of mind
Coloma resident Joyce Williams spoke for a group of 50 citizens voicing their concern about language in the city’s blight ordinance that, as written, indicates that trash receptacles must be kept out of view when not on the curb for pick-up: “Trash receptacles must be removed from view within 24 hours of pick-up service.” Williams pointed out that some people don’t have a garage or other means to completely hide garbage cans.
Ordinance Committee Chair Jason Hicks told Williams that the committee will work with the public to re-word the language. The council will meet in the office at City Hall on Monday, August 26 at 6:50 p.m. to discuss the language. Anyone who is interested is invited. The public hearing scheduled for August 26, printed in the July 25 edition of the Tri-City Record, has been postponed until further notice. The notice of public hearing will be mailed to all residents with their next water bill.
Harold Bragg again spoke, this time on the issue of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which is a “comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or committee. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices.”
Bragg indicated that of the four women on the city council, one is not a committee chair, and he thinks this is discrimination. Currently, Linda Freitag chairs the Fire Board; Marsha Hammond chairs Public Works and the Water Service Advisory Board; and Martha Darling is the Administrative Chair. Only Julie Smith does not chair a city committee.
Bragg suggested that the council appoint Commissioner Smith to replace Commissioner Kent Churchill as Finance Committee Chair due to Churchill’s difficulty seeing. “Kent is one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, a fine man, but removing him from Finance would open up the appointment for Smith.”
Mayor Polashak stated that Bragg did not have all the facts and tabled the discussion.
Ryan and Jen Dunafin of 858 Tannery Dr. asked the council to provide a sewer update. When the neighborhood line clogs it floods their basement. Six days after the Dunafins bought the house sewage backed up into a shower in their basement resulting in $10,000 in damages. Public Works Chair Marsha Hammond agreed that their neighborhood water table is the lowest in the city and that she will talk with Public Works Supervisor Rod Burkholder to remedy the issue.
The city approved the removal of a large dead maple tree on city property on Marvin Court at a cost of $750. Commissioners also approved the purchase of a new desktop computer from Tri-County Computer Services in the amount of $1,058, which includes hardware, software, delivery and setup.
The City of Watervliet in collaboration with the Watervliet High School Athletic Department is proud to announce “Impact Watervliet,” a day of student-athlete community service. Lead by City Manager Tyler Dotson, and Watervliet High School Athletic Director Ken Dietz, this day of service will see local athletes, coaches, and city staff, working together to improve public spaces while empowering our students to make significant impacts in our community. The idea was sparked after a few discussions between Dotson and Dietz. Impact Watervliet will not only provide over a hundred volunteers to help improve public grounds, the project offers an opportunity for the local high school sports teams to work alongside each other in a team-oriented environment that will make a lasting impact on the community for years to come. High School Athletic Director Ken Dietz stated that he and Dotson discussed working together on a project last fall shortly after he [Dotson] was hired. “In that first meeting we both agreed that empowering our student-athletes and doing something substantial was important. We didn’t want to do a simple trash pick-up or clean-up, we wanted something they could really take ownership and pride in,” Dietz stated. Working with Watervliet Public Works Supervisor Jeff Allen, Dotson began putting together ideas that would meet the goal he and Dietz discussed. “Our ability as a city to do all of the things we want to see done is often limited by our budget and our staffing restraints,” said Dotson. “We’re hoping to get a lot of painting and some light repair work done. The dugouts, concession stand, well house, and support structures in Hays Park are in need of a fresh coat of paint as well as the decorative light posts downtown and some structures in Flaherty Park. We can’t ask for a better group of volunteers than our own student-athletes. I’ve seen first-hand how hard they work and their success as an athletic program as a whole speaks for itself.” The project has received financial support from the Watervliet Rec. Council and the City is waiting to hear back from a small handful of local supporters and area organizations. Regardless, Dotson has confirmed that the city has funds for the maintenance and repair work in the recently passed city budget. The event will take place on Friday, August 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout Watervliet’s parks and downtown area and will include members of the cheer, cross country, football, soccer, and volleyball teams.
Watervliet native on journey to fulfill childhood declaration 2,190 miles long Appalachian Trail hike halted 500 miles short by broken ankle
Brian Kibler, Watervliet High School graduate of the Class of 1971, has hiked over three-fourths of the Appalachian Trail (AT), a trail covering 14 east coast states and 2,190 miles long. He is the middle son of Wilbur and Virginia Kibler and was raised on the family farm in Bainbridge Township with his brothers, Bill and Bruce.
When Kibler completes his quest, he will become the first upper extremity amputee to navigate the 2,190 mile trail unassisted
At 12 years old, Brian “Kibs” Kibler and his family visited his grandparents in Vermont. As he spent time with his family on vacation, he learned about the Appalachian Trail. One evening they went on a drive looking at the sights and came across a large sign for the trail. His grandfather explained it was a very long hiking trail covering 14 states and over 2,000 miles long. Kibler was so impressed he declared he wanted to hike it someday. Fifty-four years later, Kibler has fulfilled the promise to his grandfather. He had decided from his home in Jersey Village, Texas near his retirement from his career to embark on the hike in May 2018. He wanted to complete the trail before he was physically unable to do so. An injury while hiking the trail caused him to abandon his journey in 2018. On April 1, 2019 he returned to the east coast from his home in Texas to continue with the goal to be the first upper extremity amputee to solo, unassisted hike the entire 2,190-mile trail. Kibler, who lost his left arm in a car accident when he was 19, said hiking the trail is demanding regardless of the absence of his arm, which has been replaced with a prosthetic arm. He ended his hike in 2018 early after breaking his ankle, forced to find a road due to low visibility for rescue helicopters. With the help of fellow hikers, he built a walking splint and hobbled down the mountain while others carried his pack. It took five hours before he was picked up by a 4 x 4 rescue vehicle. After being attended to in a hospital ER he traveled to Watervliet to stay with his brother and have surgery to repair his ankle. Kibler then returned to his home in Texas for rehabilitation, and training to go back to the AT and complete his dream. This summer he continued the journey, starting from Harpers Ferry, WV, and heading south to cover the southern portion of the trail. He finished the southern portion that ends at the traditional starting point in Springer Mountain, GA, on July 19. To further his planned trip an Amtrak train ride on July 22 took him back to Vermont were he ended in 2018. On Monday, July 29 he took a second fall while hiking and broke his other ankle. In spite of these falls, Kibler has found the experience of hiking the AT worth the risk. In a combined period of seven months he has hiked 1,690 miles of the 2,190 total miles in 12 of the 14 states that cover the Appalachian Trail. At 66 years old, he finds hiking the AT as probably the hardest thing he has ever tried to accomplish. He has overcome, endured, and learned to thrive in some of the most remote, unforgiving back country and worn out five pairs of shoes! Most memorable for him is experiencing stunning and spectacular mountain vistas, sunsets and sunrises, and beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountain streams. Many of which he has captured on pictures and videos.
FULFILLING A PROMISE… Brian Kibler, former Watervliet resident, is tackling a childhood declaration to hike the entire east coast Appalachian Trail. His journey began in 2018 after retirement from his career. A fall while hiking forced him to continue his quest this summer. As of Monday, July 29, 2019 Kibler has proudly navigated 1,690 miles of the 2,190-mile trail. A fall has once again taken him off the trail of setting a record as the first upper-extremity amputee to hike the entire length of the AT unassisted.
Kibler relayed that he met some of the most incredible people on and off the trail from practically every walk of life. He also said he learned how to co-exist with nature while employing ‘leave no trace’ principles to protect flora and fauna, water ways and campsites. Though he narrowly missed by 500 miles hiking the entire AT he has yet to decide if he will return. Currently, Kibler is viewing the mountains and recuperating at Genesis Rehab in Rutland, Vermont waiting for when he is healed enough to go home to Texas – probably the first week of September. For those who know Brian and would like to drop him a line or send a card, the address of Genesis Rehab is 9 Haywood Ave., Rutland VT 05701 (Room 114-B).