09-12-2019 Coloma business owners call for action to stop parking feud; City commissioner calls sit

9-11 SERVICE RECALLS SACRIFICES OF EMERGENCY RESPONDERS OF SEPT. 11, 2001 and those of all emergency responders every day. VFW commander of the Watervliet Post MC’d the program which included the Pledge of Allegiance by the Watervliet 5th grade class, an opening prayer by American Legion Vet, Pete Petruk, the National Anthem sung by those attending, the message given by Pastor David Haase, and the Rifle Salute and Taps performed by the North Berrien Military Rites Team. Four wreaths commemorating the courage and honor of the Police, Fire, Military, and the Medical Community for their daily sacrifices were presented in front of the flag poles. (TCR photo by Karl Bayer)

Coloma business owners call for action to stop parking feud; City commissioner calls situation “ridiculous” and suggests path to resolution

By Nancy Albright A public parking debate that has been raging since July continues to escalate and commissioners and business owners are calling for a solution. In July, Denise Donohoe, owner of Coletta’s Closet/Keep Me in Mind, 144 N. Church St., requested that the city consider reinstating the parking spaces in front of her business for customers. She said that painted lines designating parking had worn off. The Department of Public Works was instructed to paint the spaces NO PARKING until the city attorney could fully review the situation. Taylor Prestidge, owner of Soulard’s Café, 124 N. Church St., reported at the same meeting 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 downtown, including a State Representative that parked temporarily to pick up a table Prestidge loaned for use at the Glad-Peach Festival. Prestidge also stated in July that Donohoe claimed 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 designated for public parking. On September 9 at the Coloma City Commission meeting, Prestidge told the council that a car had been parked in a two-hour parking zone in front of her business all day and was still parked there when she closed the café to attend the city council meeting. She took pictures throughout the day to document the violation. “I have asked the city for help, filed complaints and spoken to the police. I have been accused of favoritism and I don’t think it’s fair that one person should bully the town over parking.” Prestidge stated that she works hard to make her business a success and that the situation is nonsense and needs to stop. “I don’t know why the city even put up the signs if they don’t enforce the law.” Coloma Chief of Police Wes Smigielski said that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that marking tires with chalk to gauge how long a vehicle has been parked in a time-regulated space is now illegal. The chief stated that he would like to research the situation further and is willing to discuss options with all parties involved in an adult manner. “I don’t want to see any business owners leave Coloma over parking issues and would like to help overcome these barriers.” He also suggested that Prestidge give the photos to Public Works Supervisor Rob Burkholder, who also serves as the City Ordinance Officer, so he can monitor the situation and ticket as necessary. City Commissioner Fred Reeves called the situation “ridiculous” and urged Donohoe and Prestidge to document their complaints and any evidence they have collected and give it to the city council. “We should meet in a neutral zone, such as Coloma Township Hall, to rectify this issue as adults.” Donohoe told the council she was berated in front of a customer and a Watervliet business owner, and that she plans to contact her attorney.

Blight ordinance revised On August 12, Coloma resident Joyce Williams requested that the council consider revising the city’s blight ordinance that indicated residential garbage cans 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 would work with the public to re-word the language. In a letter to city officials dated September 6, 2019, Williams thanked Hicks for working with the Ordinance Committee and the public to amend the document to read, “Trash receptacles must be removed from the curb within 24 hours of pick-up service” in order to resolve the issue. “Personal thanks to Jason Hicks for keeping his word at the City Hall meeting on Monday, August 12, 2019, whereby he stated that he would revise the wording. The words ‘removed from view’ were deleted at the August 26 meeting. Jason stated that he will see that the Notice of Public Hearing regarding all newly proposed ordinances will be mailed to residents with the October 1, 2019 water bill. This is true democracy in action, and I do hope that the committee intends to continue the practice of advising the public by way of the water bill so that their ideas and suggestions can be heard.” The council will hold a public hearing on Monday, October 14, 7:45 p.m., at City Hall to vote on the amended ordinance. The next regular Ordinance meeting will be held on Monday, September 23, 2019 at 6:45 p.m. Williams also thanked Rob Burkholder for removing the dead maple tree on Marvin Street, leaving her lawn free of large limbs and debris. In other business Chief Smigielski reported that the City of Coloma Police Department executed a drug warrant to conduct a raid on a house on Apple Street resulting from a two-month investigation in cooperation with the Michigan State Police. The two-time offender has been brought up on drug and gun charges. The city will pay its portion of a new fire truck in the amount of $4,947.32 and will retain part-time Public Works employee Steffan Kolenko through May 2020 at a rate of $10.50 per hour.

Watervliet City to charge for court ordered breath tests

By Annette Christie At the request of the Police Chief, the Watervliet City Commission authorized a policy that will set rates for completing preliminary breath tests for individuals that are on probation and/or parole at their Monday, September 3 meeting. The individuals needing to have the breath tests completed to stay in compliance with court orders will ask City of Watervliet Police Officers to conduct the test. There is a cost to this service that is not always benefitting City of Watervliet residents, including the cost of the device, the straw used for each test, and the labor involved. Chief Sutherland said that currently his department is giving about four to six of the tests per day causing the road officer to come off the road, perform the test, and then provide a brief report as to the results of the test. The fee schedule approved is as follows: $5.00 for Berrien County residents, $10.00 for out of Berrien County residents, and $15.00 for requests to conduct the test at a residence or any location other than the Police Department. Sutherland said that by state law, departments can charge up to $20 for the test. The rates approved are consistent with other agencies throughout the County.

Equipment purchase approved The commission also approved the purchase of a Brushcat (Bobcat attachment). The city manager, Tyler Dotson, told the Commission that the City could obtain one at a discounted rate of $4,606 through MiDeal. Dotson also told the Commission that following recent park clean-ups he is confident that this piece of equipment will save on labor. The use of the equipment includes, but is not limited to, creek/river bed clean-up; residential/commercial code violations; upkeep at Flaherty & Hays parks and the former paper mill site; and other areas that may require heavier equipment use at various times. Trick-or-Treat Watervliet City set the Halloween trick-or-treating hours on Thursday, October 31 from 3-5 p.m. for the downtown merchant event and from 5 – 7:30 p.m. for the city-wide residential trick-or-treating.

Beach erosion closes Hagar Township’s Roadside Park

By Jon Bisnett Hagar’s Roadside Park has been a favorite spot going back for decades of “Senior Skip Days” and family outings alike, but the “Big Lake” wind and waves have now left it dangerous and unusable this season, forcing closure. Hagar officials made the call to officially close Roadside Park at the September 9 regular business meeting, due to extreme beach erosion problems caused by the high Lake Michigan water levels. Parks Director Beth Raiser reports the most recent bluff collapse has uprooted a large tree, endanger picnic tables and benches, leaving a drop-off of some six feet to the water’s edge, along with damage to the walkway. The board accepted a $4,500 bid from Wiltse Fencing to install approximately 300 feet of chain link fencing to prohibit entry to the parking lot, with long range plans to move the fence to the lot’s west perimeter once the beach can be restored. “The problem is that the DEQ is backed up with several months’ worth of permit applications,” says Raiser, “With several lakeside homeowners facing similar issues.” The Army Corps of Engineers predicts several months before lake levels will normalize. A permit application requires a distinct plan of proposed repairs, which will be the next task for Raiser, putting Roadside out of commission until sometime in 2020. Hagar Beach Park, on the other hand, had minimal beach available last season, but was comparatively spared from erosion damage this summer, despite being located barely a mile north of the beleaguered Roadside site.

Berrien Co. Sheriff’s Department Deputy VanKampen visited, presenting a report of August activity totaling 57 complaints, with two citations issued and nine arrests. Supervisors Report Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio reports the Berrien County Road Department is looking to the township for concerns of future road projects. DiMaggio invited residents’ comments and urges anyone may contact him with suggestions and recommendations. Peter Cook, Director of Programs and Outreach for the North Berrien Historical Society, has offered to visit with a program on the Hagar area. DiMaggio also queried the board if they wished to continue to pursue improvements and maintenance yet this year on the hall, in the way of brickwork, roof replacement and the addition of a generator.

Clerk’s Report Clerk Sarah Rodriguez reminds residents that major rules changes from the State of Michigan have now gone into effect regarding local elections, absentee voting and the like. Anyone with questions should contact the clerk directly. Steve Lauder of Pride Care was on hand to report ambulance activity for the prior month with 16 Priority I calls at 11:20 and 15 Priority II runs averaging 14:51. A total of 31 calls were run in the township during the month of August with an overall average response of 13:02.

Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Marlene Davis presented expenses for August in the amount of $58,634.10, also reminding that Summer Taxes are due September 16. Davis reminded residents as well that free annual Landfill Permits are available at the hall, providing up to four yards of drop-off per household at Orchard Hill Landfill. The next Cemetery Workshop is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23 at 6:00 p.m. Fire Report Supervisor DiMaggio reported the North Berrien Joint Fire Department responded to just 15 calls during the month of August with six runs in Hagar Township, five in Coloma Charter Township, three in the City of Coloma and one mutual aid which involved a swift water rescue. DiMaggio added that the department is considering a watercraft to be added to the tools available to affect a water rescue in light of the recent growth of kayaking popularity.

Building Inspector Butch Kelley issued eight building permits for August for a total of $192,000, including one new home. Kelly commented that several violation notices have gone out to property owners in the past 30 days. Regarding the matter of the “junk sale” at M-63 and Central Avenue, Kelley explained the owner has been sent a notice of violation and to cease the sale and proceed with a cleanup of the property. Parks Beth Raiser reports that work is in progress for power washing and painting of maintenance building and guardrail at Hagar Park. New street lights are being installed at Children’s Park. Raiser presented bids for replacement of the roof at the Hagar Park maintenance building which was unanimously awarded to Daugherty Roofing in the amount of $2,200.

New business It was pointed out that despite all the work and updates of the Township Hall over the past few years, the building itself has no visible address number displayed on the exterior. Staff will follow up on a solution. Having no further business, Supervisor DiMaggio adjourned the regular business meeting at 7:45 p.m.


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