09-22-2016 Good Samaritan Law expansion; PARKing Day a success; Coloma Twp. gets legal opinion; new

Good Samaritan Law expansion should be signed by the Governor soon

“We will make sure that Mason’s legacy will not be in his death but in the lives that are

saved because  of this legislation,” says Pscholka

PARKING DAY FUN IN DOWNTOWN WATERVLIET… The downtown of Watervliet was bustling Friday evening as city businesses participated in PARKing Day. In spite of MDOT’s refusal to issue permits for the planned event, merchants, city residents, and visitors alike took part. Here, Jorden Parker of Wightman & Associates speaks with an interested party about Watervliet, its strengths, and its weaknesses.


By Annette Christie

The Michigan State House of Representatives took action today, September 20, 2016, to pass an expansion to the current Good Samaritan Law. The law is linked to Mason Mizwicki of Watervliet.     Representative Al Pscholka worked with Watervliet’s Lori Mizwicki to pass legislation that would provide protection for an individual under the age of 21, calling 911 for help when someone needed medical attention due to prescription drug use.  The effort was driven by Mizwicki with Pscholka due to the New Year’s Eve death of her 16 year-old son Mason.  He died from a prescription drug overdose while other teenagers who were present, did not call for help for fear of getting in trouble.  The expansion of the law that was passed in December of 2015 would remove the age limit and would be for anyone suffering from an overdose of all controlled substances.  The bi-partisan House Bill 5649 was introduced by Pscholka and Representative Sam Singh of East Lansing.  In the first go around in the House, it passed almost unanimously, one representative voted no.  When presented before the Senate, a few minor tweaks were made before approval.   Pscholka said that since his original bill was passed, it has been effective.  “This is a common sense piece of legislation.  We know that this has saved lives,” Pscholka stated.  Rep. Singh adds, “Research shows that the most common reason for not seeking medical attention for a drug overdose is fear of police involvement or arrest.  The current law has been effective and appreciated by law enforcement, the courts and certainly by individuals struggling with addiction. We now have the opportunity to expand the law to help save someone’s life regardless of age or substance.”  Pscholka said that the original bill was just a starting point motivated by Mason’s story.  However, even at the time of its original introduction, some Representatives thought that it did not go far enough.  Singh was one of those individuals and thus joined Pscholka on the expansion.  Pscholka said they wanted to take the legislation in steps and worked with law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to ensure that they were working in the right direction for all.  Now that it has been approved by the House, it is expected to be signed by the Governor within days.   Pscholka was pleased with the results of the House vote, 105 -1 in favor.  “There is only a handful of bills that we vote on that are literally a matter of life and death, and this was certainly one of them,” Pscholka said adding, “we will make sure that Mason’s legacy will not be in his death but in the lives that are saved because of this legislation.”   While a strong supporter and advocate for the passage of the original bill and this expansion, Lori Mizwicki has always said that passage of the law was not intended to or should be seen as condoning prescription drug, heroin, or any other kind of drug use, but rather giving kids a chance to help their friend if they are in trouble.   The numbers of drug overdose deaths in Michigan have been steadily increasing and kill more of our teens than traffic accidents.  Thirty-seven other states have enacted some form of Good Samaritan legislation.

Coloma Township Board gets legal opinion on Court ruling

By Annette Christie

Coloma Township Attorney Scott Dienes was on hand at their September 14 meeting to inform the township’s board of the recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling and what it means.  Coloma Township sued Berrien County over the use of a training facility/shooting range located on Angling Road in the township.   Dienes said that he was pleased to announce that the Township won the litigation against the County.  He said the case was actually argued before the Court of Appeals in December of last year and they have been waiting for the ruling for a long time.   Dienes provided the four-page opinion to the board. As it was a 2-1 ruling, he also provided the dissenting opinion.  Dienes explained that the premise to this saga is two powers at odds, one being the county’s authority under the County Commissioner Act to site county buildings; the other being township authority to regulate land use. The County Commissioner Act provides authority  if the county wants to site a jail, hospital, or a courthouse like building, and items around the building that are needed to get to the building like sidewalks, driveways, etc. “Now we fast forward to this litigation and remember, the County bounced around a bit, shooting at the (Coloma) Rod and Gun Club, we got a judgment against that (and) then the County moved back to the landfill location and did so by siting a building on that property, noting that the building they sited and the shooting is ancillary to that building,” Dienes said. While Berrien County Circuit Court Judge John Dewane agreed, the Court of Appeals did not. Dienes implied that between the township’s own ordinances in place and this court ruling, the county will not ever be able to train and shoot at those ranges again.  Also as a result he said the township may be able to regain some expenses related to the litigation such as filing fees, and administrative fees.    County Commissioner Bill Smith provided an update to the township board on recent activities at the county level.  He said following the tragedy in July at the Courthouse, he wants citizens to rest assured that the primary needs for security have been met.  He said that they have hired a company to come in and look at all county facilities to provide a security overview and provide recommendations. The County Board has been reviewing the Indigent Defense system and he said the county has an expert working on that.  Smith also said changes being made to that system will be part of the budget hearings.  Trustee Jim Fulton, who also sits on the Planning Commission, told the board that he has provided each of them a copy of two ordinance changes for review.  He said one is a definition of an attached garage and the other revamps accessory buildings in industrial zones, so they can be larger. Fulton commented that the township only has a couple industrial zones.   In other business, the board discussed the search for a new Fire Chief for the North Berrien Fire Rescue Department.  The township would be sharing in the cost of the consultant fees to assist in that search.  Supervisor Ken Parrigin said the cost for the township’s share is $3,300.    The board received a presentation from Candace Elders to update the board and those attending on Lake Michigan College.  The college has three campuses, Benton Harbor, South Haven, and Niles.  The school has 7,000 students of which annually 30% are early college students; students graduating from college and high school at the same time.  Elders said the college is doing more and more to make it more accessible and affordable.   The college also provides custom work force training for existing businesses. It is estimated that by 2020, 70% of Michigan jobs will required college or training after high school.  To attract even more students, the college is hoping to modernize programs and facilities, expand the early/middle college program, train a skilled workforce, and keep college affordable and accessible.    With hopes to be able to provide more and have adequate opportunities for Southwest Michigan families, there is a millage on the ballot in November for Lake Michigan College capital improvements. With it the administration would focus on three major areas, safety and security, modernizing classrooms and teaching equipment, and student success centers. One of the major improvements is replacing the HVAC system on the Benton Harbor campus, including the Mendel Center.  Elders said the Mendel Center sees about 100,000 visitors a year.  The college is asking for .48 mills for 10 years and would cost a property owner with a $50,000 taxable value about $24 a year.  This would be the first capital millage for the college.  They have not seen an increase in the standard millage since 1996.

Watervliet District Library appoints Sharon Crotser-Toy to be new Director

By Angela Stair

The Watervliet District Library Board, headed by President Mary Tatter, has been looking for someone to replace long time Director Lois Hartman.  Hartman retired from the library after 22 years of service to the community.   Sharon Crotser-Toy will take her position as Director of the Watervliet District Library on Friday, September 23.  She is looking forward to the position and all the possibilities it offers.  “The staff seems very committed and dedicated and I would like to support some of their ideas, as they seem very good.  I would like to give us time to figure out where to go forward from here.”   Married to Art Toy, who is self-employed and owns the business Four Elements Energy, they live in rural Lawrence with their 12 year old daughter, Jian.  They also have a grown son Jeremiah, who is married with two children.  Toy is an expert in renewable energy and serves as both a consultant and an installer.   Crotser-Toy comes by way of the Allegan District Library where she has worked as Assistant Director, Youth Services Librarian, and Programs and Outreach Coordinator since 2013.  For the last five months she has served as the Interim Director.   During her time at Allegan District Library she acquired two AWE station early literacy computers through successful grant application, created and implemented programming for elementary age children and teens and instituted a year-round structured volunteer program for area teens.    Prior to working in Allegan she worked as reference librarian and circulation supervisor at the Kalamazoo Community College Library where she developed and presented educational database instructions for student use.   Sharon served as Lawrence Branch Librarian for the Van Buren District Library from April 1992 to December 2006 when she took time off to raise daughter Jian.  During her time at Lawrence she not only served as Librarian, but supported a successful millage campaign to fund construction of a new facility.  She worked with the system director, township and village personnel to achieve the desired facility goals.    While in Lawrence she introduced to the library community artists, authors and musicians, served six years on the Lawrence Village Planning Commission and two years on the Village Council.  She also instituted the Lawrence Writers’ Group in 1993.  Sharon has created and implemented library programming for users of all ages.   In her letter written with her resume she states, “Small public library work has been my passion throughout my career.  I chose Clarion University of Pennsylvania for my MLS degree work because it allowed me an emphasis on rural libraries.  It is within small libraries such as Watervliet that staff establishes the quality of connection to the community and to its individual members that I find most meaningful and effective.”   Crotser-Troy earned a Master of Library Science degree from Clarion University; Clarion, PA in May 2012, summa cum laude.  In April of 1991 she earned a Bachelor of Sciences Degree awarded magna cum laude from Western Michigan University with a double major in Environmental Studies and Geography.   “I am so excited about my new job!” Sharon said, “It feels like I am coming home”.

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