10-08-2020 South Watervliet Drain Project to start this week; State Supreme Court rules against Gov.

NOW SHOWING…The Coloma landmark downtown movie theater LOMA opens this week after being closed for eight months due to the Covid Pandemic. Manager Rodney Lynch made it official by lettering the classic marque. Lynch noted the closure wasn’r entirely wasted with deep cleaning of the three movie screening rooms, concessions and restrooms. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)


South Watervliet Drain Project to start this week

City addressing other areas of need simultaneously; thousands of dollars saved

(Press Release) The Berrien County Drain Commissioners office has informed the City that the South Watervliet Drain Project (SWDP) is scheduled to start the week of Oct. 5, 2020. The project will improve the overall drainage network within the drainage district and will also consist of water main and water service improvements. The majority of these infrastructure improvements will take place along West Division Street, Lucinda Lane, Silver Terrace, Summit Drive, South Pleasant Street, and Park Street.

The project was initiated due to the need for drainage improvements within the district. The existing storm sewer infrastructure within this area is significantly undersized, dilapidated, and obsolete. As such, the City filed a petition for maintenance and improvements with the Berrien County Drain Commissioners office to address the growing stress on the initial 1920 course of the drain. In total, the project is estimated to repair or replace 5,700 feet of storm sewer, storm water detention, 3,700 feet of ditching, 1,800 feet of sidewalk and ADA ramps, 1.25 miles of roadway replacement, and restoration within the drainage district.

In addition to storm sewer and roadway improvements, approximately 3,800 feet of water main improvements and associated water service replacements will be included within the project. Included in these improvements are the replacement of undersized water mains as well as mandated water service replacements where lead services or galvanized previously connected to lead services have been identified as mandated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, & Energy (EGLE).

When discussing the project and the innovative approach to maximize the mobilization of equipment, reduce overall engineering costs, and limit inconvenience for the public, Watervliet City Manager Tyler Dotson stated that “this project will save tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars as well as several thousands of dollars from our water fund.” He went on to say that “working with the Berrien County Drain Commissioner has allowed us to use one contractor and address maintenance needs in not only our storm sewer system, but our roads, sidewalks, and water system. All in all, this is a huge win for our community and the residents who live within the district. They’ve been dealing with these drainage issues for a while and we’ve really maximized our resources and improvements here.”

In total, the project is estimated to bring nearly $2.2M worth of infrastructure improvements with the City (municipality) paying nearly $720K from revenue sharing funds via. MDOT’s Act 51 funding program and the City’s sewer fund. Additionally, the City is spending just under $400K from its water fund to pay for the aforementioned water line/service replacements. Outside of direct City funding, the project is being funded through various assessments to Watervliet Charter Township, Berrien County, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and residents within the drainage district. These assessments were calculated by the Drain Commissioners office.

The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2021 but according to Dotson, the City is actively planning future infrastructure projects using the newly completed CityWide Asset Management Program (CAMP) and was recently awarded a $117K grant from the State of Michigan for a project to be completed late next summer on Elm Street.

State Supreme Court rules against Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 State of Emergency extension

By Jon Bisnett

The Michigan State Supreme Court ruled last Friday [Oct. 2, 2020], that Governor Gretchen Whitmer lacked authority after April 30, 2020 to declare a “state of emergency.” The court ruled 4-3 that Whitmer’s decision to declare a state of emergency without approval from state legislators was unconstitutional, citing the 1976 Emergency Management Act, which states that “after 28 days, the governor shall issue an executive order … declaring the state of disaster terminated” or request an extension. The court’s decision in-effect strikes down her orders to extend a coronavirus-related state of emergency past April 30 without legislative approval.

Saying the governor is “ready to work across the aisle” for “common ground,” Governor Whitmer’s Press Secretary Tiffany Brown has issued a statement in response to Friday’s ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court voiding the governor’s executive orders after April 30.

“When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we are all in this together. The governor is ready to work across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature where we can find common ground, but she won’t let partisan politics get in the way of doing what’s necessary to keep people safe and save lives. The Supreme Court’s ruling raises several legal questions that we are still reviewing. While we are moving swiftly, this transition will take time. As the governor said last week, many of the responsive measures she has put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in the court’s ruling. We will have more to say on this in the coming days. Make no mistake, Governor Whitmer will continue using every tool at her disposal to keep Michigan families, frontline workers, and small businesses safe from this deadly virus.”

Local effect

Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Health Department Officials recognize there has been uncertainty stemming from the October 2, 2020 Michigan Supreme Court ruling. The department is continuing to interpret the rulings and establish the best course of action to protect the health of the public. This ruling does not change the importance of continuing the preventative actions residents have been taking to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Residents are strongly urged to continue to prevent spreading the virus by: Wearing a mask when indoors and outdoors when you are unable to keep a 6-foot distance from others; practicing social distancing by keeping 6 feet or more between you and others; washing or sanitizing your hands frequently; staying home if you are ill or have COVID-19, or other respiratory illness symptoms.

People who are at highest risk of the virus should avoid large gatherings.

Schools and restaurants are working with their local Health Departments on an ongoing basis to unravel the proper protocols following the latest court decision.

National

Twenty-five states are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases in the last week.

Just a week after reopening, schools in some New York City neighborhoods may close again. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday proposed temporarily closing all schools and nonessential businesses in nine ZIP codes with high test positivity rates in Brooklyn and Queens beginning Wednesday, pending state approval.

The Preakness ran over the weekend with empty stands as filly Swiss Sky Diver brought the final leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown to a close at Pimlico Race Course.

And the update wouldn’t be complete without the report of some 14 people in President Donald Trump’s inner circle have recently tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the POTUS to spend four days at Walter Reed Army Hospital, while the First Lady remained at the White House for monitoring.

Hartford Schools Safe Start “So far, so good”

By Jon Bisnett

The Hartford School Board met in person on Monday, Sept. 21 with masks and social distancing, while live-streaming to the general public for its September Business Meeting.

Finance

Normal monthly bills were paid. Business Manager Rebecca Drake noted several bills for cleaning supplies and PPE that were purchased with Federal COVID funds.

Also, on the report was the first semester billing from colleges providing classes for dual enrollment students.

Personnel

Elementary teacher Kalani Reeves resigned effective Aug. 24, following five years of service to take a position closer to her home.

High School custodian Dave Conklin resigned effective Sept. 11, after three years of service.

Superintendent Andy Hubbard announced the hiring of Jessica Sydlick as bus aide and Brian Shockley as Edustaff custodian.

Business

The board gave its approval to the Extended Learning Plan. Thanks were extended to Middle School Principal Ken Mohney for his work on the plan. The Van Buren Intermediate School District will now review the plan, which once approved will be added to the district website transparency page by Oct. 1.

The board also formally approved the recommendation from Athletic Director Nick Blackmer of adding Comstock as the newest member of the Southwest 10 Athletic Conference.

Board reports

Trustee Ginny Rice noted that youth Rocket Football has been reinstated in Hartford.

Trustee Fidel Mireles mentioned that cheerleading has not yet been reinstated but hopes that someone will volunteer to get it up and running.

Mireles also inquired as why the logo on varsity football helmets this year was different.

Superintendent Hubbard explained that Riddell, the company that supplies the helmets, notified the district at the last minute that they could not print the former Indian Head logo due to a pending lawsuit with the Washington Football Team and anyone attempting to use the logo.

The revised decals this year have a block H in the center of the circle instead of the Indian head.

Superintendent report

Superintendent Andy Hubbard began by informing the board that Health Department concern for Eastern Equine Encephalitis is back once again. Currently there are no cases in Van Buren County. If there is a positive case then the assumption is the Van Buren Health Department will once again mandate that all outside activities conclude by dusk.

Title IX awareness training has been given to all employees. The Board of Education will receive the training their meeting.

Budget update: Hubbard said the government is close to finalizing a budget for this year. All signs point to flat revenue in the school aid fund but a foreseeable reduction in the 21-22 budget.

Face to face instruction seems to be going very well due to all the hard work of the district’s teachers, administration, and support staff. “So far, so good.”

Virtual Academy has been a huge undertaking. Staff involved has spent time the last four weeks working night and day on the program. It has been a rough start but things are turning a corner now. All students have been assigned teachers and most are starting to progress the way they should be. Hubbard said he sincerely appreciates everyone’s patience and understanding as they work together to make the virtual academy successful for all students involved.

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