09-27-2018 Hartford Commissioners support zoning change for major I-94 corridor development; Pier sa

9/11 TRIBUTE… Hartford Fire Department Captain Mike Chappell joined the salute to the fallen heroes of 9/11 at Wings Stadium during the Kalamazoo Memorial Stair Climb. Participants climb the stadium steps in full turn-out gear to pay homage to those who lost their lives climbing to the 110th floor of the World Trade Center during the attack of 9/11. Climbers carry a “Never Forget” ID badge with the name and photo one of the first responders lost in the tragedy. Chappell also presented a cash donation from the Hartford Firefighters Association to the annual event. All proceeds support the National Fallen Firefighters Association.

Hartford Commissioners support zoning change for major I-94 corridor development

By Jon Bisnett

Hartford City Commissioners unanimously approved a zoning change recommendation at their September 24 Business Meeting from the Planning Commission that could spur major development near I-94.

The 111-acre parcel owned by John Faulkner will move from Agricultural to Commercial, paving the way for a multi-dimensional commercial development adjacent to the northeast exit off I-94.

The vision according to Faulkner would place single and multi-family housing around the focal point of a man-made lake, with hope of a major retailer, strip mall and perhaps two restaurants. While no conceptual site plan was available and no formal plans are in place, Faulkner was pleased to accomplish the first step of the process with positive support from local government.

While one development moves forward, the same cannot be said for developers seeking the City’s blessing on their application for a medical marijuana grow facility on a 5-acre leased property on the northwest end of Hartford Speedway Park.

After clearing the Planning Commission, the application from K.O.K. of Atlanta, Georgia has stalled indefinitely on the desk of the City Attorney citing incomplete information for background checks and a possible distance to schools issue wherein the required 1,000 feet may be debatable as to the property address and specific measurement method.


Bill Mears of Pride Care Ambulance visited to update the council on call activity for August with eight Priority I events running 7:28; six PII at 8:06 and four PIIIs timed at 11:12.

Mears went on to report that Pride is now actively recruiting EMTs in Indiana and Illinois. Pride recently hired four new paramedics locally and proudly announced that Pride Care sent two units to aid the hurricane-stricken Carolina coast, staffed by three salaried office personnel.

Design Consultant Judy Loomis presented a proposal for holiday decorations on Main Street. No action was taken on the $1,350 bid, pending review of the prior year’s expense.


Knights of Columbus annual Tootsie Roll Sale is October 12-14; Trick or Treat hours will be 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on October 31; November Council meetings to be combined on November 19; December Council meetings to be combined on December 17.

Minutes & Reports

Minutes from September 17 Workshop and July 27 Business sessions were approved and archived along with August 2018 Departmental Reports.

City Manager Report

City Manager Yemi Akinwale says the building at 5 South Haver will be demolished this week at the owner’s cost.

Paving and resurfacing will take place on Church, Linden and Prospect streets.

Akinwale and Mayor Rick Hall recently personally toured every street in the city and with only 2 or 3 exceptions were in complete agreement with blight violations as had been noted in the Ordinance Officer’s stepped-up campaign report. Commissioners Frank Dockter and Terry Tibbs again complained at the protracted time it takes to get any action completed. Additionally, Tibbs disagrees with the mailing of letters to violators saying, “They should get a knock on the door…” Mayor Hall reminded that “due process” must be followed, regardless of their personal feelings on the matter. Tibbs further insists that ordinances on blight need to be revised to include stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, while also complaining of what he characterizes as “no change” in the Paras Hill neighborhood where he resides, saying “We need to put some teeth in our ordinance.”

New Business

Nancy Spoula was unanimously appointed to the seat on the Planning Commission vacated by Frank Emery who recently moved out of the city following many years of service at the post.

Acting on a request from the Hartford Lions for the city’s annual contribution to holiday lighting for Ely Park, commissioners were undecided and took no formal action in light of Lion Judy Sinclair’s visit. She explained the Lions are short on funds this year due to a near cancellation of the Strawberry Run because of the weather. The run revenue funds the holiday lights and leaves the club short roughly $1,000 even with help from both city and township. Mayor Hall suggested perhaps a coffee-can campaign to make up the difference, while other commissioners were willing to give an additional $500 if the township would match. No decision was forthcoming.

Having no further business, Mayor Hall adjourned the meeting in 7:56 with the council next slated for the monthly business session on Monday, October 22.

Pier safety signs erected bearing names and photos of victims

By Annette Christie

An effort by a local St. Joe realtor to erect signs warning of the potential dangers of the north and south piers leading to Lake Michigan in St. Joseph has been victorious. Over the past two weeks, Chris Siriano and a group of some of the victims’ family members, followers, and supporters have erected one sign on each of the piers. While the signs may be a little different in the details, the message is the same, “Caution: Pier Safety is Critical!” and “Danger: Water Safety is Critical!”

SOUTH PIER… This safety sign located on the South Pier off of Silver Beach County Park warns visitors of the dangers of the pier structure and of the Lake Michigan waters below. It is adorned with the photos of Brandi Mannino and Travone Shannon. Mannino of Watervliet and Shannon of Benton Harbor both passed away following a tragic interaction with Lake Michigan and / or the piers that frame it. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

Siriano obtained approval by the Army Corps. of Engineers, the actual authority for the piers, with acceptance from the Berrien County Parks & Recreation Commission and the City of St. Joseph.

The signs feature a photo of the lighthouse with a caution and danger warning regarding the safety of the pier which is designed for navigational purposes only. The sign notes the danger of being on the pier in rough seas, high winds, and for those jumping off the pier.

NORTH PIER… Two Hagar Township teens lost their lives after being swept off of the south pier in 1981. The photos of Wade Coleman James and Douglas Wayne Freeman are included on this sign on the North Pier of Lake Michigan in St. Joseph. The signs were erected recently after a St. Joseph Realtor, Chris Siriano, spearheaded the task in an effort to do something to warn visitors and remind residents of the dangers of the lake and the piers in less than ideal weather conditions. The others listed on the sign are James Allen Crow, William “Buddy” Nail and Eike Krebs. Krebs was with Brandi Mannino on the night of November 19, 2015 when the two lost their lives in Lake Michigan. Mannino is pictured on the sign on the South Pier. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

The sign erected on the south pier include images of Brandi Mannino and Travon Shannon, each passing away from different situations related to Lake Michigan and/or the piers. It is believed that Mannino, a Watervliet native, and a male friend of hers went to the beach and/or the pier on the evening of November 19, 2015. The conditions on that night were that of high waves and strong winds. It is assumed that they were swept off of the north pier as Mannino’s car was found at the beach and her body was discovered the next morning on Tiscornia Beach.  The male friend, Eike Krebs, 23, was found one month later.  It was reported at the time of their disappearance that they had been seen together that night and were going to the pier or the beach. Krebs’ photo is on the warning sign erected on the north pier.

Shannon perished the following spring, in June 2016, after jumping off of the south pier.  Siriano, who lives on the beach, watched as the pier that usually carries beach goers, walkers, and fisherman, was filled with emergency vehicles and emergency personnel looking for Shannon.  It was on that day that he decided something needed to be done to warn visitors and remind residents alike of the dangers that come with the structure.

The sign on the north pier which can be accessed through Tiscornia Beach in the City of St. Joseph includes the images of James Allen Crow, Wade Coleman James, Douglas Wayne Freeman, William “Buddy” Nail, and Eike Krebs.

Siriano, who received permission from each of the families whose loved ones are identified, will continue to add names as permission is given. He said in his research he found approximately 100 people that have pier related deaths in Southwest Michigan alone.  While the death of Shannon was the one that ultimately put Siriano’s plan into action, Siriano recalled two of his classmates at Lake Michigan Catholic that died in a similar fashion. He remembers the devastation for the family and the classmates.  “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?” a rhetorical question, Siriano would often ask.

Siriano said that after posting the idea on a Benton Harbor/St. Joe memories page on Facebook, he began to get more and more feedback that it was a good idea.  The support was backed by the families of those that have passed. While he has funded the two signs that have already been erected, a Go Fund Me page has been established for those that would like to contribute to the cause. The account name is St-Joe-North-Pier-Safety-Sign. He has had inquiries from other communities that would like something similar. Siriano is not opposed to the idea.

Pete and Beth Mannino, Brandi’s parents, were present when the second sign was put in place. Beth Mannino hopes that it will help make a difference commenting that Brandi loved the lake and the beach. “The lake was once beautiful to us as well and we’re trying to think of it that way again,” she said adding, “I pray no parent has to endure what we’ve gone through.”

Brandi, who was 24 at the time of her death, was a graduate of Watervliet High School and Western Michigan University. An amazing, young woman, she was also a DRE/Youth Minister at St. Joseph Catholic Church, and a mentor.  Notably a Pro-Life activist, she was described as a valiant defender of the unborn.

In high school, she had been involved in cheerleading and the dance team. She was a runner-up to Miss Watervliet. At the time of her death, she was employed by Midwest Family Broadcasting.

With so many deaths connected to Lake Michigan and the piers, the signs note that rough seas, high winds, slippery surfaces, and dangerous rocks below the water surface can harm or even cause death for unsuspecting visitors. In addition, it warns that rip currents exist in the lake and around the pier structure; the lake has deep water with drop-offs that visitors may not suspect.  Mannino would like to see organized instruction on the dangers of the water and the piers much like other subjects such as drug use, internet safety, stranger danger, etc. “It would be really great if the schools had the Coast Guard come in and talk about the dangers of the lake and or the pier,” Mannino said.

Douglas (Wayne) Freeman and Wade James

The headlines of a local paper on September 28, 1981 declared that “Hagar Township Teens Presumed Dead”.  Mike Mullins remembers that day like it was yesterday because he was there.

He remembers going to the mall with his brother and their nephew and cousin. They then went down to the beach and the pier.  Mullins recalls that the waves were really high that day and that the water on the pier was coming up over their ankles and that he and his brother turned around to go back to shore. From shore they could see their relatives at the end of the pier, up on the structure there and waving.

The Herald-Palladium reported that Freeman, 17 at the time, was attempting to make his way back to shore when he was swept into the lake.  James, 15 at the time, attempted to go and save him.  He was swept into the river side.

A witness who was also on the pier told the Herald-Palladium that James seemed to be OK as he could see him swimming to the other pier but then he went out of sight.  The witness, Paul Schimp, then attempted to make it back to shore and actually had been washed into the river but then another wave washed him back on the pier.  He said he told the Coast Guard vessel that was approaching to tell him to get off the pier, about the two young men.

As the Mullins brothers watched the Coast Guard boat out looking for their relatives, Mike said he could see the water coming up over the boat.  He estimated that the waves were 6’-8’ high. The deaths of Freeman and James came less than two months after Anthony Schramm of St. Joseph. The 12-year-old drowned off Silver Beach while swimming in rough water.

Mullins said it was about 10 days or so before Freeman was found on the beach in Bridgman.  It was during the visitation for him that the family learned that James had been found.

Mullins has passed on the dangers of the pier to his children. “When my son tells me he is going to the beach, I tell him to say off that pier,” Mullins said.

Since the signs have been erected, Siriano has witnessed people stop and read and learn about the dangers that could occur from the structure and the water surrounding.  “It’s working,” Siriano said.


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