10-15-2020 COVID-19 Rules still in place as local agencies pick up those cut from state mandates; Ho
Dan Hutchins Obituary is on Page 6 Watervliet Twp. loses Supervisor
By Annette Christie Sadly, long standing Watervliet Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins passed away on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Hutchins has served in that role for 16 years. Prior to that, he was a trustee for one term. In August, Hutchins faced opposition on the primary ballot from Rich Quinn. Hutchins was successful in that primary and would have been the lone candidate on the November ballot for Supervisor. Hutchins, a lifetime resident of Watervliet, was first elected as Supervisor in the fall of 2003 after serving as a trustee for four years. As with any election year, candidates are interviewed so that voters can learn more about them. After proudly talking about his wife and family, Dan proceeded to tell the Tri-City Record that he wished to continue serving the residents of the township. He talked about the things that he saw as being important to the residents, but a priority for sure was the condition of Paw Paw Lake and the preservation of it. The next Watervliet Township Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. It is expected that the vacancy will be discussed at that meeting. Two individuals have announced their interest in being a write-in candidate on the November 3, 2020 ballot. Rich Quinn, who was on the primary ballot opposing Hutchins, and current Trustee Joe Stepich, who is also on the ballot as a trustee are the two write-in candidates. Stepich has been a trustee for 12 years.
COVID-19 Rules still in place as local agencies pick up those cut from state mandates
By Jon Bisnett The Michigan State Supreme Court ruling that drained the ink from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s pen does not exempt Michiganders from COVID-19 mitigation, rather in effect transfers those measures to the Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services and local Health Departments. The ongoing use of face masks and social distancing are still a mandate via MDHHS as the fall weather moves more Michiganders indoors for goods and services. Residents should not forget that health departments across the state work in the background 365 days a year, charged with the ongoing health and welfare of Michigan citizens. The good news is that outdoor events with limited attendance as in high school sports have shown to be relatively safe so far, with no significant events of outbreak. That being said, new cases and hospitalizations are trending up in the last week in Michigan and 30 other states across the nation. In just the last 24 hours Dr. Anthony Fauci stated, “I think we’re facing a whole lot of trouble.” Fauci continued, “We have a baseline of infections now that vary between 40,000 and 50,000 per day. That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall, and the colder weather of the winter. In addition, we would like to see the percent positivity be coming down.” Local effect Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Health Departments strongly urged to continue virus mitigation by: Wearing a mask when indoors and outdoors when you are unable to keep a 6-ft. distance from others; Practicing social distancing by keeping six 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, restaurants and all businesses are looking to their local Health Departments for ongoing guidance as to specific interpretations of the removal of the Governor’s Executive Orders. With just three weeks to go before Election Day, Michiganders need to decide if they choose to use vote-by-mail, absentee voting or voting in person. Contact your local Clerk with questions. Above all, remember no matter what you read on social media or hear from someone else, masks are most definitely still a thing as is social distancing. Be well, be informed, be safe and be kind.
PATRIOT TOUR… A group of patriots who have volunteered to drive iconic fire and safety vehicles across the country visited Coloma’s Baker Park on Tuesday, Oct. 13. The trucks have been wrapped to celebrate and memorialize the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers who created it, and the men and women, past and present, who have defended those inalienable rights and freedoms for all Americans. Seven Patriot vehicles are making the 5,000 mile journey this fall. The themes include: The Flag & The U.S. Constitution, Military, Police, Monuments, the 2nd Amendment and Freedom of Religion. The convoy crossed through Berrien County and was joined locally by North Berrien Fire & Rescue Department, Watervliet Fire Department and other local agencies as it traveled from Coloma to Watervliet on Red Arrow Highway turning south on M-140.
Homecoming looks a little different in 2020; Student assessments show affect of COVID pandemic shutdown at Coloma Schools
By Annette Christie As with many things that students are faced with this year, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, their Homecoming celebrations and memories will also carry that title, “Different”. At the Coloma School Board meeting held virtually for the public on Monday, Oct. 12, many administrators carried that same story when reporting the goings on at their buildings. High School Principal Mike Churchill reported that the homecoming king and queen will be crowned and there will be a pep assembly but for the high school only. Dress up days will occur at almost every grade level and the high school grades will have fence decorating around the stadium. All other events are being paired down in this historic year. Churchill also told the board that fall testing will be going on and all four grade levels are being tested. This will happen in person with two grades present and two grades having a virtual day of learning when they are not being tested. The staff was applauded for all of their continued efforts to adjust and accommodate what is needed and best for the students.
Jr. High report Junior High Principal Wendy Tremblay announced that the student council will hold formal elections this year to coincide with the national Election Day. Students will run for and campaign for office; however, they will be encouraged to have a positive campaign. The Children’s Advocacy Group will be providing virtual learning for the students as they talk about personal body safety. The goal is to help educate students, to teach them how to speak up and tell if they are being abused or touched in a bad way. This is in response to Erin’s Law, a law that requires school districts to teach students about personal safety. Erin’s Law, now active in 37 states, was named after a childhood sexual assault survivor from Illinois. The format provides resources for students, school employees and parents on how to prevent and stop child sexual assault. Making this learning available to students meets the requirement of Erin’s Law.
Intermediate School report At the Intermediate School, students have had access to the mobile library, as it comes to each classroom for kids to check out books. They are also holding a spirit week this week filled with dress up days. They will be having Halloween parties this year and parent/teacher conferences will be held virtually this year.
Elementary School report Mr. Klein reported that at the Elementary School, all of the initial assessments are done. As suspected, and as a continued affect of COVID-19 mitigation, the percentages of students that are below their desired levels in 2nd and 3rd grade are higher than administrators would like to see. Staff and administration will be making many adjustments to respond to this data. Klein reminded the board that when schools were shut down last March, new learning halted, and the packets of schoolwork being sent home for the kids focused on things they already had learned. They now have to adjust and will accordingly.
As they head into the late fall, the kindergarten class will have their annual fall field trip brought to them due to the kindness of Jollay Orchards. Due to the coronavirus, the students cannot make the trip so the orchard and all its fall festivities will come to them.
Elementary students will also be having Halloween parties with students dressing up and remaining with their individual classes.
Superintendent report Superintendent Dave Ehlers stated that the required count day of students is looking like it will be approximately 12 more than the estimated number of students hoped for. This could of course change prior to the actual count day.
Adjustments in Return to Learn wording As the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that the State of Michigan Governor’s Executive Orders since about the end of April have been invalid, school districts needed to adjust their Return to Learn plans to take out references connected to those invalid orders. Ehlers provided a sample for the high school. The changes reflect the title “2020 Reopening Plan”, removes the references to the word “phases”, and re-names Phase 3 as Remote Learning and Phase 4 and 5 as Face-to-Face Instruction. It explains that while in face-to-face instruction, that the district will enforce “any lawful order issued by any local, county, state, or federal agency” and all the expectations listed in the Reopening Plan shall remain in full force and effect until the COVID-19 pandemic no longer exists. Remote Learning Plans may be implemented by the State of Michigan “or other governmental agency” or when the district determines that there is a need to stop or slow a community or school spread of COVID-19. While in Remote Learning, at the high school level of instruction, there will be no athletic practices or competition, no in-person extra-curricular activities, no off-site special education services, buildings will be closed to the public including students, and the food service department will provide meals in a manner to be determined but could be reflective of how it was done last March when schools were closed down.
The School Board also re-confirmed that their preferred instruction style for district-wide students is in-person instruction with a virtual option. Ehlers told the board they can expect to have to pass that reconfirmation every month as required.
Hartford Twp. Board focused on cemetery maintenance
By Anna Layer
The Hartford Township Board met on Thursday, Oct. 8, both in person and via Zoom, and agreed to terminate their contract with Lakeshore Landscape and Design for lack of sufficient effort towards maintaining the lawns agreed upon with the township. Clerk Julie Sweet has attempted to reach out to them numerous times regarding lawns not being mowed, trash not being picked up, and sticks not being picked up.
Sweet explained, “They do not respond to my emails. I’ve sent them emails listing everything I do not think they are doing regularly, and I even asked, ‘Are you doing the work or are you contracting it out?’ and they do not respond to me. There’s multiple complaints. Legitimate complaints. We’ve got people mowing their own spots, it’s a mess.”
The exit clause in the contract stipulates a thirty-day notice is required to terminate the contract. The township agreed to terminate the contract but withhold the final payment until the service is provided per the contract. The contract does stipulate that payment is made once the township is satisfied with the work completed.
Flagpoles at cemeteries
Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik reported a problem with cemetery flagpoles in the township.
“Pioneer Cemetery and Maple Hill Cemetery, there are flagpoles. There was a funeral about a week or two weeks ago and somebody had put a flag up on this flagpole and it was an American flag, but it was a disaster. It was ripped. Only about half of it was there.” Sefcik went on to explain that the township cannot fly flags overnight because law states that you can only fly a United States flag at night if the flagpole area is lit. Neither flagpole at either cemetery is lit, so if the Hartford Township Board is to regularly fly a flag at either cemetery, someone would have to put it up in the morning and remove the flag at night. The options for the township are to take steps to light the flagpole areas, or to remove the flagpoles so that flags are not flying when they shouldn’t be. A search within the Michigan Cemetery Regulation Act, number 251 of 1968, did not yield any results for legislation regarding flagpoles in cemeteries. The board is checking into any potential legal ramifications before making any decisions regarding the flagpoles at the cemeteries.
Prepping for winter and other disasters
The Hartford Township Board is also currently accepting bids for snow removal at both the township hall and the cemetery. The board is seeking a person to remove snow when contacted by the township, because the cemetery doesn’t need to be plowed regularly. The township would reach out when snow is excessive and/or when there will be a funeral occurring. Interested parties should contact Hartford Township Hall at 269-621-4658 before Monday, Nov. 9.
Additionally, the Hartford Township Board voted to approve renewal of the existing insurance policy, including terrorism coverage, for $10,194.75.
The next regular Hartford Township Board meeting with be held on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m.