10-05-2017 Berrien County Road Department established; Road Commission is no more

COLOMA HIGH SCHOOL HOMECOMING 2017 CANDIDATES… are (from the left): Blake Cartwright, son of David Cartwright and Rhonda Kling; Samantha Fischer, daughter of Jason and Jennifer Fischer; Edwyn Rodriguez, son of Javier and Noemi Rodriguez; Gabby Ezell, daughter of Bar-bara and Donald Ezell; Jordan Pierce, son of Ricky and Teresa Pierce; Skylar Crisenbery, daughter of Brenda and Jason Crisenbery; Willie Donald II, son of Charles and Mary Do-nald; Mallory Spaulding, daughter of Tracy and Jason Spaulding. The Coloma Com-et’s homecoming game is this Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. against the Schoolcraft Eagles.


Coloma Comets Homecoming Oct. 6

 Coloma High School celebrates Homecoming this week. The varsity football game against Schoolcraft Eagles kicks off at 7:00 p.m.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. there will be the Homecoming Parade that runs along S. West Street, ending at the high school football field.

Prior to the game and following the parade, the Coloma Athletic Boosters sponsor food and fun for the community. There will be free hot dogs, chips and water for the first 600 fans, courtesy of Chartwells, providing food service for Coloma Community Schools. Also, Jumping Jack Inflatables is providing inflatable fun for the kids.

Go Comets!

Berrien County Road Department established; Road Commission is no more

By Annette Christie

Action taken during the September 28, 2017 Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting finalized, once and for all, that the Berrien County Road Commission is now dissolved and the business of maintaining miles of county roads, bridges and culverts will fall under the responsibility of the Berrien County Road Department.  While many citizens may have thought that road maintenance and construction of county roads has always been the responsibility of Berrien County, the fact is that it was actually administered by a separate appointed body known as the Berrien County Board of Road Commissioners.  This board was appointed by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners but aside from that, Berrien County government had no direct control or oversight for this public service. The action taken at last week’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting follows months of information gathering and discussion.

The Board of Commissioners held three public hearings on the subject of the Road Commission.  While a resolution was presented that outlined the many actions that would occur with a “yes” vote, there was some disagreement amongst the commissioners regarding those actions and/or details.  One of which was the hiring of a Road Department Director on an interim basis.  The original resolution presented to the Commissioners had no timeline for the interim person; however, in a presentation to the Board of Commissioners, Administrator Bill Wolf speculated that the person could be in the position from five – 15 months.

The person who Wolf selected for that interim road department director position was Louis Csokasy, the former Managing Director.  Csokasy became Managing Director in October of 2013 and remained in that position until the spring of this year. Some of the commissioners saw that as a stumbling block.  Some of the commissioners wanted to be included in the decision for the interim road department director.

As discussions on this continued, action was stalled until the September 28 meeting.

Commissioner Mac Elliott, Chairman of the Administration Committee, offered a resolution, for the commissioners to vote on, that was different than the one that was drafted by staff.  The commissioners held a lengthy discussion on the subject until the meeting took a short recess at 1:00 p.m. (the meeting began at 10:30 a.m.).

Commissioner Jim Curran, Chairman of the Finance Committee offered another revised resolution very similar to the one drafted by staff but with the following changes: The search and recruitment for the hiring of a permanent Road Department Director shall begin immediately and the County Administrator may select an interim road department director for a period not to exceed three months unless the board approves an extension beyond that time frame.

Commissioners took a vote on the resolution; six voted in favor of the resolution (Jeanette Leahey, Don Meeks, Debra Panozzo, Ezra Scott, Mamie Yarbrough, and Jim Curran), five voted not in favor of the resolution (Michael Majerek, David Vollrath, Mac Elliott, Teri Freehling, and Jon Hinkelman) and one was absent (Bill Chickering). Following the vote Elliott said that he voted no because he wanted to continue to work with the Road Commission; Freehling said she voted no because of the process of hiring an interim director; Majerek, Vollrath, and Hinkelman voted no due to the resolution stating that the interim Road Department Director could only be in the position for three months which was too short of a time period.

While other news outlets covered the meeting and the decision, it did not go into the explanations for the no votes.  Because of this Commissioner Dave Vollrath posted this statement on his Facebook page, “Good morning all, I’d like to take a moment to clarify something I feel is important. If you live in our area you know that we, the Berrien County Commissioners, have been for about 6 months closely studying and analyzing the possibility of dissolving the BC Road Commission, and adding them as a department of the county. After months of presentations and discussion, I have been in favor of this takeover for a couple months. This past Thursday 9-28, we were presented with a resolution that would dissolve the Road Commission. I was very much in favor of this resolution and would certainly have voted for it. There were some among us who did not approve of some of the terms, and changes were made, and the resolution with the changes was presented for a vote, and I voted no on the resolution because of those changes, not because I didn’t want to dissolve the Road Commission, the resolution passed by a vote of 6-5, that is the point I want to make very clear. I certainly respect the opinions of my colleagues, and I know, now that it’s done, everyone at every level will work extremely hard to make sure this will be a seamless transition and we welcome all the road department employees with open arms. Berrien County always was and will remain a great place to live, work, and play.”

Road Department work begins with no break in service

With the approval of the resolution, the Road Commission was dissolved on that date.  The transfer of the powers, duties and functions of the Road Commission are now absorbed into Berrien County government as a new department.   The Berrien County Road Department assumes all pending contracts, work orders, funding agreements, and adopted plans that were previously approved by the Road Commission with no break in service.  Berrien County staff will be working with this new department and its employees through the transition period, as all employees and positions of the former Road Commission are transferred to the Road Department.

The County Administrator has appointed Louie Csokasy as Road Department Director (interim), Don Geisler as Road Department Superintendent (interim), and Brian Berndt as Road Department Highway Engineer (interim).  A salary schedule for all non-union employees will be established prior to December 31, 2017 and the collective bargaining agreement for the union employees is recognized. The County Administrator is directed to combine and/or amend job responsibilities and make the necessary personnel changes associated with these changes to improve the efficiencies within the Road Department.  All policies of the Road Commission are adopted by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners until such time as they are reviewed, amended and/or replaced by County policies.  It is the intent of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners to approve the hiring of a Road Department Director by December 31, 2017.

Berrien County has also procured the services of an environmental consulting firm to complete Baseline Environmental Assessments for any appropriate properties. While this transition is underway, the website formally used by the Road Commission, bcroad.org, is under construction.  To place a service request for road maintenance issues please call (269) 925-1196 and follow the prompts or visit www.berriencounty.org and select the “contact us” option.

It is the Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ intent to assure a smooth transition of this department and to provide the best service for the residents of Berrien County while maximizing the efficiencies and opportunities offered by departmentalization

3rd Annual Senior Conference Oct. 11 in St. Joseph

“Preservation of Health, Finances, and Self”

Berrien County TRIAD (The Right Information and Direction) seeks to reduce the criminal victimization of older citizens and enhance the delivery of law enforcement to this population.

They are holding a FREE conference for senior citizens on Wednesday, October 11. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Chapel Evangelical Free Church located at 4250 Washington Avenue, St. Joseph. There is no registration necessary, simply show up at The Chapel to get some valuable input from keynote presenters.

The presenters include Keynote Speaker Casey Pieleneier from Michiana Home Care; Julie Griffin, Caring Circle; Luis Zapata, 1st Source Bank; David Bell, 1st Source Bank; Scott Williams, Inner Journey Healing Arts; and Melissa Hochstetler, Brentwood at Niles.

Breakfast snack will be provided; there will be vendor booths, and door prizes.

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