08-31-2017 Hartford City votes 5-2 to opt out of Medic 1 ambulance service By Nancy Albright; A won

A WONDER-FULL WALL… A giant mural designed and painted by Chris Frank, former WHS graduate, will delight students at North Elementary School this school year. This is one of two murals at the school painted by Frank.

A wonder-full mural at Watervliet Elementary


Kristy Noack

Students at North Elementary School in Watervliet will notice some very big changes on their wall space when they return to school Tuesday, and it’s going to cause the students to wonder, dream, and achieve. At least that’s the goal of local artist Christopher Frank, a 2006 graduate of Watervliet High School.

Frank has taken two blank, white walls at the school and transformed them into large, colorful, educational murals.

The process got started simply enough. Fifth-grade teacher Heather Metz approached principal Joe Allen and asked if Chris could take the plain walls and create a mural. According to Allen, “I approved whole-heartedly as Heather loves to dress up the walls.”

Metz contacted Frank and “she asked if I’d be interested in painting the hallways,” Frank explains.  “The school was renovated a few years ago, and the walls were pretty plain and boring, so I was excited at the opportunity to do something creative.

“When I first saw the halls, I instantly began thinking of all the different things we could fill the spaces with, so I basically just combined all those into one big mural.”

Allen said, “To date, Chris has done two murals: one with the coordinates of Watervliet and the other is a mix of all the subject areas, notable historic figures, architecture, and our Panther logo.”

Frank advised that the small mural located near the front office is almost seven feet wide. The large  one extends 34 feet wide.

For Frank, his love of art began at a young age. “I’ve always been interested in art – for as long as I can remember. It really started with me drawing Power Rangers and dinosaurs in early elementary school. The other kids would always ask me to draw stuff for them. I just really enjoyed doing anything artistic and creative that got people’s attention.”

AN IMAGE DEVELOPING… Christopher Frank, 30, of St. Joseph draws out part of a mural on a wall at North Elementary School in Watervliet. Frank created two murals at the school and is looking forward to the opportunity to paint more.

Although Frank loved to draw, he didn’t begin taking art classes until he attended middle school. In high school, he had the opportunity to paint a few designs above the gym doors, but those images no longer exist.

Frank was intrigued by the size and scope of work he could potentially perform. “I’ve never done something like this on this scale before. I’ve never actually really thought about wanting to do a mural until I was asked to do something creative at the school. A 34-foot mural is something I’ve never considered, so it was definitely a challenge to pull it off, especially with trying to get it ready for the start of the school year.”

And while drawing comes easily to the artist, painting, on the other hand, presented a different challenge.

“Painting is actually something I’m kind of new to. I’ve always been more into drawing with pencils or graphic design on the computer. I only started using paints a few years ago when I got the idea to paint different images on rocks and saw blades. Recently I’ve really gotten more into painting and I enjoy it just as much as the other things I’ve done,” Frank shared.

Frank, 30, currently resides in St. Joseph and is what you might call a busy man. He has two other paying jobs and was only able to work on the murals during the weekend. He said, “I’ve been at the school for six weekends working on the large mural. It’s probably about one week total worth of work spread out over a six-week period.”

Not only is Frank an artist, but he is a generous one at that. According to Allen, North Elementary “was able to purchase the supplies through our school store funds. Chris donated his time to this project.”

It is clear Frank cares about his community, his former hometown, and the young Panthers who attend North Elementary.

Frank shared, “I’m inspired to do things that I would want to see myself. I can’t even remember what the halls looked like when I attended North School, so I think about what would be memorable for students today. That’s why I wanted to do something beyond a simple painting. I would love for people to think of North School as ‘that school with all the art on the walls.’”

The goal of the mural goes beyond just dressing up the wall. Frank hopes the students get something out of seeing the images. “Not only is it satisfying to know that my art will be seen by a lot of people, but it will also, hopefully, make some kind of impact with the students.”

Allen foresees a definite impact on his charges. “I hope students see the murals as an inspiration. I want students to aspire to do great things and strive to make a positive difference in our world, just like the folks on our murals have done. I am amazed at Chris’ ability and his drive. He put in a lot of hours to make this happen and it simply makes our school look better.”

To Frank, the impact is less about him and more about the children who call North Elementary home.

“I hope it gets (the students) curious and asking questions. I hope it gets them more excited about being at school and makes them more eager to learn. And I hope it’s something that they remember for years when they think back on their time at North School.”

North Berrien township supervisors in favor of County takeover of Road Commission

By Annette Christie

The supervisors of Watervliet, Coloma, and Hagar townships have spoken out in favor of a Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ takeover of the Berrien County Road Commission.

The supervisors did so in a letter written to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners on August 21, 2017:

“It has become apparent that the Berrien County Road Commission is experiencing operational problems and has for some time, leading to numerous rumors that, perhaps, the Road Commission will be replaced in authority and function by another entity. In light of this, the undersigned believe that dissolving the Berrien County Road Commission, and putting the operation and maintenance of all county roads under the responsibility of the County Board of Commissioners, would, in our minds, lead to a more effective and efficient operation that would be more responsive and attentive to all districts within the county. We highly urge the Board of Commissioners to undertake this step.”

The letter was signed by Kenneth Parrigin, Coloma Charter Township Supervisor; Izzy DiMaggio, Hagar Township Supervisor; and Dan Hutchins, Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor.

The Board of Commissioners received the letter in their weekly communications at their August 24, 2017 meeting.  On that day, the second public hearing was held on the subject of transferring the powers now held by a 5-member Road Commission, to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.  During the public hearing, five individuals spoke publicly.  Included in those speaking was DiMaggio, who stated that the Board of Commissioners should make the Road Commission a department.

Another public hearing on the subject will be held on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. at the Berrien County Administration Center, 701 Main Street, St. Joseph, Michigan.     If the public has an opinion on the matter of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners taking over the Berrien County Road Commission this would be a perfect opportunity for them to express their opinion.

The Board of Commissioners did authorize draft resolutions to be created that would outline the steps of the transfer of powers.  Commissioners voted 10-1 (1 absent) to have the resolutions drafted.  It allows extra time for the commissioners to review the different aspects of making it a Road Department as the Board of Commissioners are not meeting on Thursday, August 31.  Corporate Counsel James McGovern instructed the Commissioners that they are not to discuss the resolutions until the next open meeting.

The County Board of Commissioners’ Act allows for a county board of commissioners to pass a resolution to transfer the powers, duties, and functions that are otherwise provided by law for the appointed board of county road commissioners, to the county board of commissioners. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is considering that the transfer of powers from the Road Commission to Berrien County could be added without hindering other essential services provided by Berrien County.

Those that are not able to attend the last public hearing may submit their comments in writing to the Board of Commissioners, 701 Main Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085 or via email to akrieger@berriencounty.org.

Hartford City votes 5-2 to opt out of Medic 1 ambulance service

By Nancy Albright

The Hartford City Council passed a resolution on August 28, 2017 to opt out of Medic 1 ambulance service, effective February 2018.

Medic 1 has been the City of Hartford’s emergency services provider of choice since 1988, but in recent months the council has become dissatisfied with Medic 1’s performance. Issues under discussion have been the council’s perceived failure of Medic 1 to station an ambulance in Hartford on a routine basis; the Hartford ambulance being put into use as a transfer vehicle; and the emergency dispatch protocol.

In a written response provided by Pete Sinclair, Medic 1’s board director explained that Medic 1 does assign an ambulance to Hartford during “peak hours almost daily.” “Besides my own observations, I have seen photos of our units in Hartford on social media. When we standby for VBEMS we put a unit at the fairgrounds.”

In response to concerns that Hartford is not covered if the ambulance is called into service as a transfer vehicle, Sinclair stated that, “Medic 1 does not reduce Hartford area coverage to complete a transfer. This has always been our policy. Hartford is covered even for short-term transfers.”

With respect to radio communications and dispatch: “Medic 1 has done everything we can to improve communications, but we cannot force Van Buren County to make the changes needed just as we cannot force the Hartford police and fire departments to make radio changes.”

In attendance at Monday night’s meeting was Van Buren County Dispatch (VBCD) Director Tim McGee. McGee explained that prior to June of 2017 VBCD used a court-tested and vetted flip-card system – the “gold standard” – to dispatch EMS vehicles. The system prioritizes calls based on standards set by Medical Control for Priority 1, 2 and 3 emergency situations.

In June of 2017 the county implemented the ProQA Priority Dispatch System, which has the same capabilities as the flip-card system, but is automated for increased efficiency. According to McGee, “The system works. From the county’s standpoint, we don’t care who has your service, we dispatch all calls.”

VBCD has the capability to talk to all county EMS services, but as McGee explained, the dispatch service contacts Medic 1 directly via mobile phone rather than via radio because VBCD does not have the required permissions from Medic 1 to do so, nor does Medic 1 have the equipment required to enable direct dispatch through the system. Medic 1 covers both Berrien and Van Buren counties and when the EMS service is in Van Buren County they must be on a VBC frequency to enable basic radio communications, which they are not.

Commissioner John Miller asked if it would be possible for the city to work with VBCD and Medic 1 to remedy this issue. “It seems like the technology is there. Why don’t we work with you as a dispatch service to break this barrier and become a leading example to the nation?”

When asked by Miller what steps the city needs to take toward a solution, McGee explained that Hartford needs to ask Medic 1 if VBCD can bypass Medic 1 dispatch. Medic 1 would then need to talk to the county about the possibility of implementing an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) tracking system as a means of automatically determining and transmitting the geographic locations of vehicles to better manage ambulance travel and more effectively dispatch Medic 1 ambulances.

In conclusion, the council voted 5-2 to opt out of Medic 1 emergency services. Majority ruled and City Manager Yemi Akinwale agreed to begin immediately to create a Request for Proposal to seek bids for a new emergency services provider.

Public services enhancements

Mr. Akinwale reported that the Hartford Police Department’s union contract has been finalized. Officers will be required to continue to maintain current certifications under the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. The city has purchased digital cameras for police vehicles and is working on purchasing body cameras to help officers better enforce the law.

Officers will now work 12-hour shifts – three days on, three days off – rather than eight-hour shifts, and the city plans to hire a part-time officer to fill in the gaps. Hartford will also partner with Bangor to hire a full-time officer that will be under contract for the next three years.

Commissioners also voted to approve and formalize in writing their participation in the West Michigan Public Works Mutual Aid Program, whereby the City of Hartford agrees to provide mutual aid to area municipalities in the event of natural disasters, as in the case of Hartford’s willing assistance to Bangor to help in the aftermath of the 2016 tornado. The agreement calls for aid in the form of supplies and equipment, facilities, personnel and needed services.

Reminders from City Hall

The city would like to remind residents that the last day to register to vote in the November 17, 2017 election is Tuesday, October 10, 2017, and Friday, October 27, 2017 is the last day to register as a write-in candidate for City Council and Mayoral seats. City Hall will be closed on Monday, September 4 in observance of Labor Day. Trick or treating will be on October 31 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

City of Hartford Treasurer Linda Gray will retire effective October 1, 2017 after 17 years of service. Mr. Akinwale told the council that Gray will remain on a part-time basis until a replacement is hired.


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