GOLDEN SHOVELS… Hartford Library Board of Directors (from the left) Vice-President Faith Dowd, President James Jonatzke, Trustees Anne Burch and Susan Hall along with President of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society Joyce Beedie and Board Secretary Linda Hadley turn soil to mark the official start of the new library and community center project.
Watervliet Twp. OKs special use permit for first medical marijuana related business; a second application for a provisioning center rejected
By Annette Christie The Watervliet Township Board approved the special land use permit for their first medical marijuana related business at their October 21, 2019 meeting. This follows a recommendation from the Planning Commission which stated, “the application was complete, accurate and met all the requirements for zoning and those of the Township’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Ordinance.” The Planning Commission held their October 1 meeting and conducted two public hearings to discuss applications. One of the special land use permits was for a medical marijuana provisioning center at 3801 M-140. This is currently Mill Creek Charlie’s, formerly the Waffle House. The company interested in the property and the future provisioning center is BRT Capital. The other application for a provisioning center at 8277 Arnt Blvd did not meet criteria. The site plan for the center showed that the ordinance mandated distance from the closest side of the structure to the nearest property line with a residential structure was 93’ 3”, under the requirement of at least 100 feet. The township is seeking additional counsel on this matter and it is expected to be re-visited at the next Planning Commission meeting. Following the vote, Trustee Bob Wallace commented, “I would rather see a restaurant go in there, but what are you gonna do.” The vote was unanimous with Matt Clay and Joe Matthews absent. Another application is facing township officials and will be heard on November 5 at a Planning Commission meeting and public hearing. MJA Enterprises has applied for a special land use permit for property at 3626 M-140 for a provisioning center. Articles of Incorporation approved for wastewater treatment plant The board also approved the new Articles of Incorporation for the Paw Paw Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant. Joe Stepich explained that the current contract with the four municipalities is 50 years old and expires in 2020. “It needs to renewed, amended, or replaced,” Stepich said. The Plant Board is recommending that the Board become an Authority. Stepich explained that 50 years ago when the plant originally started up, the option of being an authority didn’t exist because there was no revenue stream. The Articles of Incorporation make that change into an authority; then they are able to borrow money on their own. It still does not give the authority the power to tax, however, they will still continue to have rate setting power. With Watervliet Township officials approving the Articles of Incorporation they join officials at the City of Coloma and Coloma Township who have already approved it. The City of Watervliet is expected to approve it at their next meeting.
School safety lights In a group project to improve safety around Watervliet High School, the City, the schools, and the township had to consider two solar powered rectangular rapid flashing beacons near the high school street crossing on Red Arrow Highway. The lights are stand-alone units and will include flashing lights, wireless radios, LED pedestrian push buttons as well as additional signage at the current cross walk areas. The request was made with the support of the schools, Watervliet Police Chief Tim Sutherland, Transportation/ Maintenance Director Mark Isbrecht, and School Resource Officer Toby Thornsbury. A financial partnership was presented to the township. Clerk Patt Bambrick said the schools have pledged $4,786.15, $2,786.16 was requested of the township, and the city pledged $2,000 plus the labor to install, equipment monitoring, and ongoing maintenance. The board approved the motion with the exception of Wallace, who felt there was already enough signage and caution provided at the turn. County report Berrien County Commissioner Dave Vollrath said that the 2020 Berrien County budget is nearing completion, targeted for the beginning of next month. Vollrath said that with the Governor slashing funding, it could cost the county money in several departments including the Sheriff’s Office and Health Department. Vollrath said that though there have been some discussions about some additional parks millage money at the county level, it will probably not happen this year. If the county were to raise the mill one more mill, $400,000 is the estimated additional revenue at a cost of just about $9 annually per resident.
Other business The board approved bills in the amount of $177,949.50 which included $22,958.81 in payroll. Chief Dan Jones talked about the recent ISO score the Watervliet Fire Department received. With a little history, Jones said about ten years ago, homes covered by the Watervliet Fire Department had a score of 7 and the department was able to get it dropped to about a 5. Last summer, the department was able to get it reduced to a 3. Jones said that this score is significant in that the department is one of the top 75 fire departments in the State of Michigan, and in the top 3,500 in the country. Jones said there is no other department in the County that has a 3 or better. He thanked the Watervliet Township Board and said without their and the City’s support, this couldn’t have happened. Chana Kniebes with the North Berrien Community Development reminded the township board about the upcoming business recognition event on December 12. She hopes to tell them at their November meeting, which business will be honored. She informed the board that there will be a big promotion regarding National Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It is an American shopping holiday and it was held first in November 2010, counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The initiative has been observed in Watervliet through efforts of the WBA the past few years. Kniebes said she is working with both the community of Watervliet and Coloma to promote them together. Township officials announced that township-wide leaf pickup starts on November 4 and will continue throughout the month. Their next meeting is Monday, November 18, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. Township Hall will be closed on November 28 and 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Hartford’s Vanderlyn Community Center – Public Library breaks ground
By Jon Bisnett
An enthusiastic crowd braved the blustery weather to celebrate the groundbreaking of Hartford’s Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center/ Hartford Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the construction site on N. Main Street.
The guest of honor Bonna Vanderlyn arrived with both a police escort and that of Hartford Fire Department’s ladder truck the “Miss Bonna.”
GROUNDBREAKING… Bonna Vanderlyn turns the first shovel of soil assisted by nephew Scott Smith during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Arthur & Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center – Hartford Public Library as Library Director Stephanie Daniel looks on. (TCR photos by Jon Bisnett)
In a brief presentation Library Director Stephanie Daniels welcomed all while extending a most sincere thanks to Bonna Vanderlyn for her financial support for not only the current project, but a history of decades of philanthropy in the community. For over 50 years the Vanderlyn’s Hartford Harding’s Market has served the community as a retail icon while contributing countless resources back to the town that the late Art Vanderlyn loved and appreciated. Bonna is proud to fund this legacy project in her beloved Art’s memory.
Daniels further recognized Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Andy Hubbard who served as liaison with the Board of Education in working through the protracted real estate and legal process to transfer the former elementary school site for repurposing into the new community center.
A long list of dignitaries attended the event, also recognized by Director Daniels, including attorney for the Vanderlyn Trust James Beck, Harding’s former corporate chief Bryan Hettinghouse, and Hartford Manager Tim Hildebrand with Assistant Manager Erin Goodson. Library Board members present were President James Jonatzke, Vice President Faith Dowd, Secretary Linda Hadley, Treasurer Ellen Friday, along with Trustees Anne Burch and Suzanne Hall. City of Hartford Mayor Rick Hall and manager Yemi Akinwale, Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik, CPM Construction officials Christopher Miller, Paul Babayon and Justin Hensel; Architects Gregory Kil and Dan VonBergen of Kil Architecture; along with Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society President Joyce Beedie and County Commissioner Mike Chappell with Josh Przygocki, District Director for State Senator Aric Nesbit completed the list of dignitaries present.
The project repurposes the idled Red Arrow Elementary School site on Red Arrow Highway into a new multi-purpose facility which will house both the Hartford Public Library and the Van Buren Genealogical Society under the umbrella of the Art & Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center.
In addition to the standard fiction and reference offerings, the new library is planned to include a genealogy reference room, computer lab, teen room, children’s room, media center and a maker space. The Community Center rooms will offer the public available space for multipurpose and multimedia use for anything from a wedding shower to a conference room capable of special exhibits and public meetings.
Planned to be equipped with kitchenette facilities in addition to SMART Board Interactive Displays, LCD screens and audio system, the proposed community center has already attracted the attention of the City of Hartford, seeking a move of its polling location to better serve voters.
A $1.3 million philanthropic contribution from the Art & Bonna Vanderlyn Trust served as the catalyst for the project which will provide not only a permanent community access facility, but also address the library’s desperate need for additional space since their success in increasing utilization has well exceeded the existing available square feet at the current location on Franklin several years ago. The library has been at the Franklin property, once a large private residence, since 1925. Saddled with limited parking and a land-locked location, the library board has struggled for years in search of a viable expansion solution.
Most recently Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society President Joyce Beedie announced an anonymous donation of $100,000 to expand and furnish the genealogy room while the Pokagon Fund has also come on board with a significant contribution to fund the children’s room which will be named for them.
The new building is planned for a total of 8,000 square feet with 1,200 square feet of that space dedicated to the Community Center and the lion’s share occupied by the library. With easy access via Red Arrow Highway, visitors will welcome the ample parking and with the new building occupying less than a third of the parcel, the city lot lends itself to the possibility of additional outdoor activities not to mention ample space for future expansion for generations to come.
“So much more than just a library…” says Project Director/ Library Director Stephanie Daniels, “But best described as a 21st century community humanities center; with dedicated sections for literacy, teen involvement, a greatly expanded children’s area and a maker’s space lab.” Wi-Fi access is promised to “the fastest internet access in southwest Michigan” according to Daniels.
The former elementary school property was transferred from the Hartford Public Schools for the selling price of just one dollar. Superintendent Andy Hubbard speaking on behalf of the Board of Education said, “We couldn’t be more pleased to see the property be repurposed into a facility that will benefit the entire community.”
Construction is already well under way. CPM Construction officials hopes to pour footings yet this month with a goal of getting the building under roof by November to facilitate interior work during foul weather, aimed at a completion date at the end of June 2020.
Daniels was also quite clear in explaining that the funds currently committed are expected to be adequate to cover property acquisition, demolition and building construction, but additional funding needs to be acquired to totally outfit and complete the facility’s interior needs such as internet, shelves, furniture, maker space lab, etc. All private and corporate donations will be formally acknowledged on a donor wall in the new entry hall. Those wishing to provide the necessary support may do so by calling the library directly at (269) 621-3408 or contribute online by visiting www.hartfordpl.michlibrary.org.