10-24-2019 Delinquent Hagar Township audit causes concern; Coloma students have representative on sc
Delinquent Hagar Township audit causes concern
By Jon Bisnett Hagar Township finds itself on the Michigan State Department of Treasury’s “Naughty List” by virtue of delinquent submission of the required annual audit of the township municipal funds. The usually upbeat Hagar Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio spoke in an untypically somber tone as he shared recent communications from the township’s accounting firm Gabridge & Company during the regular October meeting on the 14th. In a message sent to the entire board, dated September 15 Laura Wenneman, CPA for Gabridge, warned that it was unlikely that they would be able to render an opinion of township financials by the required filing deadline of September 30 due to account reconciliations issues, missing credit card receipts, missing employee I-9 and W-4 records, further recommending monitoring needs improvement, specifically citing a $250,000 State Revenue Sharing deposited into the incorrect bank account. The communication also stated at the time that several emails had been sent to the Clerk and Treasurer without a response. Dated October 3, the Township received a notice from the State Department of Treasury formally warning of the failure to file on a timely basis, warning the pertaining laws permit two possible punitive actions by the State; Public Act 2 permits the State to conduct the audit itself at the expense of the local unit and/ or under Public Act 140 of 1971 “may withhold Revenue Sharing…” The letter went on to state to avoid either of these actions the township’s Certified Public Accountant must submit the audit requirements no later than 30 days from the date of the letter. Clerk Sarah Rodriguez responded that all current I-9s and W-4s and credit card receipts that were requested have been forwarded from her office since that time. A follow-up email from Gabridge to DiMaggio dated October 14 confirmed receipt of documentation from the Clerk stating those issues were mostly resolved pending full review of credit card receipts, but at the same time indicated Tax Revenues have yet to be reconciled and had not yet received a response from the Treasurer. Comments indicated the majority of the $250k tax revenues appeared to be sitting in the tax fund and was not distributed to the respective funds by March 31 as required. Gabridge further stated the inquiries of the Treasurer must be answered before they could move forward to complete the audit. While no malfeasance on anyone’s part was inferred, the lack of timely responses was an obvious factor as to the audit delinquency. Since that meeting the Tri-City Record has received information that the Treasurer was meeting with Gabridge representatives mid-week. At the time of press the matter remains unresolved. DiMaggio concluded commenting he is hoping the matter can be professionally resolved without any undue financial burden to the township. Supervisor’s Report Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio began with details regarding the reimbursement process for the Berrien County Highway Department work in regard to the Bundy Road Grant. BCRD’s Don Geister answered questions as to the FEMA process for the grant which totaled $89.442. The balance of the $143,000 project was assumed by the BCRD. The township newsletter will be going out soon. DiMaggio encouraged recommendation for points of interest be forwarded to him as soon as possible. Updating the new Kayak Park, DiMaggio encouraged residents to stop by the site and take a look around as workers complete the final stages of construction. Slated for a grand opening in the spring, the site is getting close to completion. Clerk’s Report Clerk Sarah Rodriguez again reminds residents election rules changes from the State of Michigan have now gone into effect. Anyone with questions should contact the clerk directly. Area Director Steve Lauder of Pride Care Ambulance was on hand to report activity for the prior month with five Priority I calls at 11:55 and 11 Priority II runs averaging 14:00. A total of 16 calls were run in the township during the month of September with an average response of 13:21. Trustee Andy Ulleg pointed out a recent trend in slightly increased response times. Lauder blamed some issues on road construction closures, and promised to further research the issue as well.
Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Marlene Davis presented expenses for the month in the amount of $51,802.16, with nothing remarkable. Davis requested the board conduct a Special Meeting for the purpose of updating policy for her office. That meeting is scheduled for November 4, 6:30 p.m. Davis further reported the new township website is in process as well as the GIS mapping of the township cemeteries. Fire Report Supervisor DiMaggio reported the North Berrien Fire Rescue Department responded to just 16 calls during the month of September with eight runs in Hagar Township, four in Coloma Charter Township, three in the City of Coloma and two mutual aid structure fires. DiMaggio added that the department is now formally budgeted to acquire a $6,000 watercraft to affect water rescues in light of the recent expanded recreational activity along the Paw Paw River. Building Inspector Butch Kelley was absent on the evening. Supervisor DiMaggio reported the issuance of only three building permits in September for a total of $34,000. Parks Parks Director Beth Raiser reports the parks are slowing down with porta-pottis slated for seasonal removal on November 1. Lake levels are still extremely high and not expected to normalize until 2020. Raiser went on to say fencing to be installed at Roadside Park is not yet completed, pending survey work from Whitman. Director Raiser reminds the public that all Hagar Parks are not available for private rental. Utilization of the parks is encouraged for all types of gatherings, but no option is offered for exclusive private-use rentals. Old business Bids were awarded for budgeted items as follows: $25,550 to R&J Electric for a backup generator at the hall; $8,000 to Fischer Construction for tuck-pointing and brickwork at the hall. Regarding the issue of Recreational Marijuana, the board voted to opt out for the time being and then passed a follow-up motion to direct the Planning Commission to bring a draft ordinance on the subject within 90 days.
New business The regular November Business Meeting moves to Tuesday the 12th due to a conflict with Veterans Day. Having no further business, Supervisor DiMaggio adjourned the regular business meeting at 7:49 p.m.
Coloma students have representative on school board
By Annette Christie
The Coloma School Board started off their Monday, October 14, 2019 meeting by introducing a new student liaison to the board. Tyler Strew, attending his first official school board meeting, was introduced as the representative of the student body.
Strew, 17, is a senior. He is the president of the Student Council. Aside from Student Council, he is a member of the National Honor Society and is on the tennis and golf teams at Coloma High School. While not necessarily interested in this kind of role in the future, Strew said that it is a good experience and he found his first meeting to be very interesting.
Strew will have an opportunity each month to update the board on happenings at the school. At this, his first meeting, he reported that the Student Council just finished hosting the homecoming activities and reported that they tried some new things and all went well.
Summer reading program successful
Elementary Principal John Klein announced that the summer reading program was a huge success. The program which is grant funded provides nine books to each student in their grade level, for the summer. Klein said they had 1,392 books read in total and that 100 students read all nine books. The numbers were up in most of the grade levels.
Preliminary student count
Superintendent Dave Ehlers reported that the preliminary student count numbers were in and they are good thus far. The final count should be approximately 1,290. The district budgeted for 1,263 students.
Ehlers emphasized that the final count can fluctuate based on certain factors, which is why it may be different as a final number. “We only budgeted for 1,263 so we are up on that. It is good to have this kind of problem,” Ehlers said.
Sinking Funds projects list up for discussion
The Building & Grounds Committee met and has selected more projects to be completed with the sinking funds. Parking lot upgrades and lighting, consolidated parking for the buses as well as the installation of electrical plugs for buses that require that, new steps to the junior high, curbs on the north end to help direct traffic in the flowing loop that is intended, improved signage, and roof work at various buildings all made the discussion list.
During the business portion of the meeting, the board approved invoices for the following: Hoekstra Roofing Company, for high school roof core samples, $2,500; Arnt Asphalt Sealing, for track repair, $2,440; and HEI Wireless, for radio boosters in the amount of $29,804.50.
At last month’s meeting the board approved just over $87,000 from its sinking fund, established for the purposes of keeping up with maintaining the facilities in the district. Voters in the district approved a sinking fund millage in May of 2018, at 1.25 mills for up to 10 years. Ehlers said there is a link on the website that provides the details for the public to show how the funding is being spent.
Ehlers announced that the district received a Mental Health Title 31n Grant in the amount of $63,119. With a new social worker on staff, the district will be able to use that funding directly for the students and their needs.
The board approved the agreement for the Michigan College Access Network Advisor. This is a position that is shared with the Watervliet School District. Ehlers said that with the work load that the counselors at both Coloma and Watervliet already have, this allows a person to come in to specifically focus on college readiness and college information for the students. “This is someone who can reach kids who may not even think about going to college,” Ehlers said adding, “He touched base with every kid in high school.”
The district received the results of their annual audit. The representative from Yeo & Yeo reported that the district got an unmodified opinion, otherwise known as the best you can get.
The board also renewed its snow plowing contract in the amount of $14,000, same as last year.
The board approved an 8th grade field trip for a play and visit to Notre Dame’s campus and a 4th grade field trip for an orchestra performance, both of them going to South Bend, Indiana. In addition, they approved the 8th grade trip to Mackinac Island in June of 2020.
To finish up the meeting School Resource Officer Dan Stuglik provided the first of many monthly reports. He has been making the rounds to all of the schools, attending extra-curricular activities, and has hijacked art classes for some hands on with students. He has also been attending community events, lunch hours, and counseled 97 students. School Board President Heidi Ishmael told Stuglik she was glad he was there and said she looks forward to his monthly updates. “We have been hearing great things,” Ishmael said.
Brews 2 Me to teach craft beer brewing, opens in Watervliet
By Teresa Smithers Have you ever wanted to brew your own beer, but found yourself intimidated by the process and equipment? Your fears can now be laid to rest. Located in downtown Watervliet, right across from Dollar Tree, “Brews 2 Me” is a nano-brewery and a craft house where you can brew your own beer. A nano-brewery brews small batches of beer. Working closely with the ATTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau), owner Luke Strunk takes a craft brewery to the next level. Not only can you buy the ingredients on site, but Brews 2 Me will walk you through the process right there in-house. This is something new, but something ATTB thinks should be worked out and is working with Strunk to do that. Luke Strunk has a vision of everyone learning the craft of brewing for themselves so he is installing work stations where individuals, couples, brew clubs, even wedding parties can craft up to five gallons of their chosen beer. (Saving the yeast to add in at home makes it perfectly legal to transport.) The 4-hour class will teach you everything you need to know about brewing your first all-grain craft beer. How does it work? Stations can be rented for just $10/hour up to five hours (if your beer takes longer, there is no charge). If he knows when a group is coming in, Strunk will have everything set-up and all supplies ready to make the brewing process as efficient as possible. He will have the pots warm, your choice of water ready and your choice of grains soaked. Whether you want to purchase a 1-gallon starter kit or you want to bring in your own equipment, Strunk will walk you through the process, for his vision is not just to serve craft beer, but to train others to brew. All it will cost you is rental for the space and supplies you may purchase. He will show you the shortest, most efficient methods of brewing. He will even share his own recipes with you. And after brewing for 15 years, Strunk has a lot of recipes, including: Oktoberfest (a traditional marzen), Old Yeller (Hefweizen), Lutheran Lemonade (summer wheat), Hoppy Ta Meet Ya! (dry-hop pilsner), Good Karma (Kolsch), Bent Axle Amber (amber ale), Bettern than Brown (brown ale), ‘O De Do’ (porter), and Midnight Runner (chocolate stout). Many of these beers will be available to sample in-house, in case you are unsure what you would like to brew. Brew kits for each style are available for purchase in the store. Mug club memberships are available for the tasting room. Other area brewers have also been open to coming in leading a class in making their own signature beer. Brews 2 Me offers a selection of everything Strunk has found to be most valuable in brewing: brew pots, work chillers, and grains, to name a few. He carries a full line of malts, hops, and yeast. He buys his hops locally at Hop Head Farms in Baroda and his grains from Proximity Malts in Wisconsin. He is currently brewing with artesian water from the well south of Watervliet, because he has found it to make the best beer. However, if he knows the type of water (tap or filtered) you want to use, he will have it on hand and at the ready. Brews 2 Me will have its grand opening the week before Thanksgiving. Until then, stop in and shop the supplies and schedule your first brewing session. He also plans to have gift certificates available for the holidays. As the saying goes, “Life is too short to drink bad beer.” Make your own good beer with friends and enjoy your life!
Lakeland financial advocates offer free open enrollment events in Watervliet and Coloma
Spectrum Health Lakeland financial advocates will offer two local events to assist community members with enrolling in the marketplace and selecting a health insurance plan that is customized to fit their needs. During a free, 15-minute session a financial advocate will review a participant’s situation and walk them through the enrollment process step-by-step. Sessions will be held Saturday, Nov. 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet in Classroom C and on Tuesday, Nov. 12 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the Coloma Public Library Community Room. “We encourage patients with no insurance or those looking to change insurance to meet with one of our financial advocates who can discuss coverage options as many times patients don’t know what’s available to them or what type of assistance they may qualify for,” said Jenna Howard, manager admitting and registration, Spectrum Health Lakeland. For a full financial screening, participants will need to bring paycheck stubs, ID, tax return, and latest bank statement. To schedule a 15-minute time slot, call 844-408-4103 ext.1.