LEADING THE MOVE… Director Stephanie Daniels and Assistant Director, Patty Schroeder direct movers bringing in items from the Franklin Street location for the Hartford Public Library’s new home at the Arthur and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center. Turn to Page 8 for the story. (TCR photo by Anna Layer)
Recreational cannabis facility possibly on its way to Watervliet Township
By Joshua Coffin Watervliet Township Hall met for their monthly meeting held as a teleconference, due to Governor Whitmer’s restrictions in response to COVID-19, on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. The meeting was led by township clerk Patricia Bambrick to discuss township involvement regarding a potential upcoming recreational marijuana grow facility.
Finances The board approved the general ledger account of $2,348,652.41 with Certificates of Deposit and Money Markets in the amount of $338,905.89, for a total of $2,687,558.30 for the township. Bills for the month of July were also approved with general bills at $190,904.33 and payroll at $27,556.66 totaling $218,460.99.
New business Though there were a few more topics for discussion planned for the online meeting, the township board primarily focused on further examination of the MJA Enterprises proposal for land acquisition and development of a recreational marijuana grow facility. This is to be placed on Industrial Drive in Watervliet Township. The 1.9 acres of land has been agreed upon to be purchased for $20,000. Presenter Mike Gray was in attendance with hopes for further progress to be made for a recreational cannabis facility. The proposal details a two-story facility with 30,000 square feet of usable space on each floor that will be used to operate a licensed cannabis cultivation and processing facility for recreational use for adults in Michigan. Each story of the facility would be raised in two phases over a two-year time period. Within the first year, it is planned that the facility would bring eight to ten full-time jobs to the Watervliet community and in the second year the opportunities for employment would double. The construction of the facility is expected to employ 60-70 members of the Watervliet community and surrounding areas. In order to move forward, it is asked of the board to undo its previous decision and opt-in to adult-use cannabis for the township of Watervliet. In addition, a public hearing will be held at a later date to inform the public of all further details that surround the recreational marijuana facility. “In the minds of a lot of people there’s still an emotional and a political difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.” said township trustee Joe Stepich. “I’m more sensitive to making sure we’ve got some support from the residents for recreational than even we did for medical.” His comment was met with full understanding, thus an approval of the purchase of the 1.9 acres of land still needs to be voted on. Tabled for later With little information for a presentation, discussion of the South Watervliet Drain Project was tabled until the next meeting on Sept. 21, 2020.
Tri-City schools reopen to new protocols, in-school and at home
By Angela Widdis School districts play an important role in the substructure of communities. They are not only responsible for the education of the communities’ youth, they are also critical in the economy of the area by being the employer of many staff members. And when the students are in school, it allows their guardians to work. But what does all that look like for students that are returning to school while we are in a global pandemic? In most cases, the local school systems are offering options. These options are still trying to meet the needs to support the whole child, while meeting all requirements that have been set by the Michigan Safe Start guidelines, Center for Disease Control recommendations, state mandates, and the needs of the parents and guardians of each student, all the while addressing the health concerns for all. In the Tri-City Area the back to school options are in the classroom or face to face, remote or distant learning or E-learning with the use of technology for delivery, and lastly, a combination of both face-to-face and remote learning. In compliance with the Return to School Roadmap, under the MI Safe Start Plan, all three school districts have posted their Safe Start Plans on their websites. Here are the highlights.
Hartford Public Schools (HPS)
The bell will ring on August 31, 2020, for the first day of school for the Hartford School District. They will be offering two options for learning this 2020/2021 school year.
Watervliet Public Schools (WPS)
The Watervliet Public School System is offering three options for its parents and students for the 2020-2021 school year. Option A is most like the traditional school with face-to-face instruction in a classroom with safety measures enforced.
Coloma Community Schools (CCS) Coloma Community Schools will offer full-time, in-person learning amid the pandemic. Unfortunately, enrollment for Coloma’s Virtual Academy is closed for the first semester. The plan is to reopen enrollment for the second semester in December. CCS will also be using a phase-in approach to the start of the school year. They, however, will be having different grade levels attend different days. The breakdown is as follows: Monday, Aug. 31 will be a half-day for all Kindergarten, 8th, and 12th graders. Sept. 1 will be a full day for 1st, 4th, 7th and 11th grades. Sept. 2 will also be a full day for grades 2, 5, 6 and 10. Finally, on Sept. 3, grades 3 and 9 will have a full day onsite while all intermediate and junior high school students will have a remote day.
Governor now urges flu shots; Soccer and volleyball on hold per MHSAA
By Jon Bisnett
At Tuesday’s press conference, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined with the state’s health officials to urge Michiganders to get flu vaccinations as soon as possible. The “Facing the Flu Together” campaign warns residents with the coming flu season to take steps to prepare for the flu that has a proven vaccine with the thought to avoid fighting influenza along with COVID-19, and unnecessarily stressing the state’s healthcare system. Whitmer went so far as to receive an injection of the vaccine during the press conference, demonstrating how simple and easy the process is. Residents are encouraged to contact their family doctor, local health department and many pharmacies, all offering free or low-cost flu shots.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 3 in that Governor Whitmer does have the power to unilaterally extend the state of emergency linked to the pandemic. The obscure 1945 law gives the authority to issue executive orders, such as the state of emergency that Whitmer said protects all Michiganders. The Governor recently extended the state of emergency through Sept. 4; a full 26 weeks since it was first declared in March. Republican lawmakers who filed the suit promise the case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
While Michigan theaters, gym, and bowling alleys bleed out on the floor of the state’s economy, Governor Whitmer says she is still determining whether the state can safely allow these businesses to reopen. She said at her press conference Tuesday, “I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision. I’m going to follow the science, I’m going to work with Dr. Khaldun, but we are looking very closely at those businesses that have been closed for the duration to determine if those protocols are there and if the seven-day averages and the number of positive cases per million per day would support doing a little bit more on those fronts,” Whitmer said.
High school sports
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association approved competition across only the northern portions of the state in girls volleyball, boys soccer, girls swimming and diving.
MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said schools in all other regions (which include all of Southwest Michigan) may continue outdoor practice, pending further guidance from the governor’s office allowing for the opening of indoor facilities and physical distancing while competing in those areas.
National level sports
Last weekend the world viewed a belated version of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with the rescheduled empty-stands running of the Indianapolis 500. Fans will have to wait until next year to see all the facility updates in person that new track owner Roger Penske has provided.
The PGA continues to play with only golfers and minimal crew. The NBA and NHL are having great success with the “bubble” approach with hockey and basketball enjoying uninterrupted empty-stadium play thus far. Major League Baseball continues to struggle with over 30 games ill-affected by the pandemic since the restart of the MLB season.
Back to School
As Tri-Cities schools draw closer to opening on August 31, those schools and colleges that opened last week have seen a rather bumpy road so far.
The Michigan Department of Public Health has identified 14 COVID-19 outbreaks in schools including K-12 and universities. (Outbreak is defined as 2 or more cases from a single source.) One in Region 1, which is in central and central southern Michigan; eight in Region 2S, which includes part of Detroit and Ann Arbor; two in Region 2N, which includes part of Detroit and Pontiac; and three in Region 3, which including Saginaw and Flint.
An initially reported 32 cases at Central Michigan University quickly jumped to 85 confirmed cases in less than a week, while Hope College also reports 38 cases. Similar spread is appearing nationally with over 500 cases reported by The University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide alone, jeopardizing the entire fall schedule in Tuscaloosa.
School administrators blame large off-campus parties and in some instances have suspended students for their actions. Others criticize the administrators for their lack of vision and preparation for what many feel was inevitable when a large group of students, many of which away from home for the first time, are thrust into the college environment with a predictable youthful proclivity for poor decision-making.