OUTSTANDING SERVICE… Corky Openneer (left) was presented a plaque by Ken Dietz, Watervliet Public Schools Athletic Director at the beginning of the Watervliet Varsity Football game on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. The plaque acknowledges Outstanding Service to the Watervliet Panthers and states that since 1986 Openneer has dedicated his Friday nights to Panther Football, representing the Watervliet VFW Post, by raising the flag for our national anthem. The Watervliet Panther Athletic Department admires and appreciates his service and commitment to the school and community.
Halloween fun in Coloma a grand success Haunted bus, pumpkin cars, trunks full of candy, and a turtle (yes, a turtle!)
By Nancy Albright
Despite the cold and rainy weather, lots of fun was had by all in Coloma at the city’s annual Halloween in the Park celebration.
During the Coloma City Commission meeting on Monday, Oct. 28, Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha Hammond thanked all those involved for the hard work that went into making the event a success. “We are grateful that our volunteers braved the weather and stayed all afternoon to help.” Community members, students, teachers, sponsors, police, fire, Public Works, the Lions, Freshwater Church and many others worked together to shovel popcorn, grill up a thousand hot dogs, hand out candy, and organize games to make Halloween fun for the kids.
HALLOWEEN IN THE PARK… Youngsters and their guardians braved the rain Saturday for the annual Halloween in the Park in downtown Coloma.
Coloma Community Schools’ Resource Officer Dan Stuglik worked with students to create a haunted school bus and the Lions organized the Pumpkin Derby. Both were big hits. There were 20 derby entries and according to Hammond, all 20 were awesome. “They’re like soap box derby cars made with pumpkins. The kid who won Best in Show made a turtle car out of a long gourd laid between two pumpkins, and he used the tail of a pumpkin to represent the tail of the turtle. When I asked him about it he told me the painted turtle is the official reptile of the State of Michigan.”
“Even though people may not have stayed all afternoon because of the rain, we had a better turnout than we thought we would. People came out for popcorn, hot dogs, Trunk-or-Treat, the pumpkin derby and good music provided by Tom Gear,” said Hammond. “I had no idea there are so many songs about rain that could fill two hours!
PUNKIN’ CARVIN’ TIME! The Hartford High School National Honor Society Chapter makes its annual visit to the Van Buren County Intermediate School District’s Bert Goens Learning Center in Lawrence to carve pumpkins with the students. Senior David Fernandez marks the design to start the carving process. The HHS NHS has been making the fall trip for several years working with students at Van Buren County’s flagship special education facility.
“We had a darn good crowd. Thanks to North Berrien Community Development and the Coloma Township Police Department for organizing the event, and most of all we thank all our little goblins and ghouls for braving the weather and coming out to have fun with us again this year.”
The commission approved a request made by Hammond that the city erects a sign near the Coloma City Limits to recognize the accomplishments of the Coloma High School Machine Tool & Welding Program led by Chuck Luchies. The team was state champs in 2014–2016 and will compete again this year.
The students in the metal works program made the new benches for Randall Park and Hammond said they did a great job and that she loved working with them. “They called every month or so to give me an update on the progress of the benches and they are a wonderful bunch of kids. They work hard and the program may lead to a career path for some of them.” Commissioner Julie Smith agreed and commented that the program allows the students to focus on something constructive that can help them later in life.
The commission also agreed to erect a sign at the request of Commissioner Fred Reeves to recognize the 2019 State Champion Coloma High School Girls Bowling team.
New Baker Street sidewalk a go
Commissioner Reeves reported that the Downtown Development Authority has agreed to fund the planned sidewalk on Baker Street connecting Federal Court to Paw Paw Street in order to improve access to 15 downtown parking spaces. The DDA will pay for construction of the sidewalk, as well as lighting and drainage.
To sweeten the deal, the commissioners approved Reeves’ request that the city pay for an additional walk situated in front of the parking spaces that will connect to the new Baker Street sidewalk. The frontage walk will cost the city $3,640. Linda Sink and Sharon Kreitner own the property where the frontage walk will be laid and have agreed to allow the city to use it to improve safety, especially during the winter months. The Department of Public Works will maintain the two sidewalks throughout the year.
Coloma finances healthy
The city’s auditing firm Plante Moran reported that the City of Coloma 2019 Audit is clean, and Coloma sits in a healthy financial position. Net position is just shy of $5.8 million and unrestricted net is $1.4 million. The total fund balance for the city was $575,000 and the general fund increased by $36,000. Total expenditures for 2019 were $807,000 which were more than covered.
In other news
Commission members approved a formal request to allow AT&T to dig on city property to repair lines, and the city agreed to contact Michigan Gas Utilities at the request of Coloma resident Sieg Freitag to ask that workers take more care when digging to repair gas lines in residential neighborhoods and restore damage to private property when work is complete.
The city agreed that funds authorized to purchase a new trailer for use by North Berrien Fire Rescue will now be put toward the purchase of a boat for use in emergencies that may occur on the Coloma section of the Paw Paw River Water Trail.
Reeves reported that there has a been a rash of vehicle break-ins in Berrien County and warned residents to remove all personal belongings from their vehicles and keep them locked, even when parked in driveways.
The next city commission meeting will be held on Monday, November 11, 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 119 N. Paw Paw St.
UNITED IN CAUSE… The 3rd annual Dig Pink volleyball match up between Watervliet and Hartford schools on Friday, Oct. 25 raised $1,700.55 for the Marie Yeager Cancer Center & Spectrum Health Lakeland Foundation & “HOPE GROWS,” which provides services, particularly preventative services, to patients with any type of cancer. Both schools are responsible for making this event so successful. Watervliet High School hosted Dig Pink for 2019. See game results in Press Box Page 12.
KAYAK PARK OPEN… Riverside Kayak Park is now ready to receive visitors says Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio. Located on Coloma Road just east of Exit 4 off I-196, what once was a landfill is now the latest addition to the Hagar Parks collective. The bi-level site includes a paved roadway to the 90-foot lower elevation accessing the river wetlands and floating dock. DiMaggio adds, “It’s important to know that no local general fund taxpayer dollars were expended in the project.” The $500,000 project was led by design work from Abonmarche Consultants and took over three years to come to fruition. Funded jointly with a major grant from the Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Downtown Development Authority, the 7-acre park is fully ADA Compliant from top to bottom, including ample parking with a few elongated spots for kayak trailers, a picnic pavilion, restrooms and a combination fishing dock with kayak launch to be the newest access point along the Paw Paw River Water Trail. (TCR photos by Jon Bisnett)