Ordinance updates on tap for Keeler Township Board
By Annette Christie
At the November 7 meeting, the Keeler Township Board discussed several ordinance updates needed to keep their township in compliance and to allow them to enforce them in the most inexpensive way.
First was the Anti-Blight Ordinance. Currently the ordinance is not set up so that a violation of the Anti-Blight Ordinance is a municipal civil infraction. The township’s attorney has asked that the township do so to be in line with all of the other similar ordinance violators. This makes the process of serving someone a ticket much easier and less expensive through the legal process. The township discussed one property that would be treated so under the Anti-Blight Ordinance once it goes into effect (30 days from publication of the adoption).
The board also discussed the Sign Ordinance. With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding sign restrictions related to content, the township will need to have their ordinance updated to assure that it is in compliance. Supervisor Bill Kays said they also have had inquiries with regard to establishing a solar farm in the township; however, the township does not have an ordinance in place that deals with that area. The township was referred to the company Williams and Works who is familiar with these types of ordinances and the appropriate language. The board approved spending up to $2,150 for both subjects to be addressed.
Clerk Carl Davis assured the board that there was some funding in the budget for ordinance updates but would ask for an amendment if necessary as the billing progresses. Kays commented that every municipality is facing the same thing with these ordinances. Once Williams and Works is done updating the ordinances they will go to the Planning Commission.
Van Buren County Road Commission report
Rick Boze with the Van Buren County Road Commission was on hand to give an update. He said that they are currently busy cutting down trees and grading roads. A member of the public asked what can be done about the area on Territorial Road, which is between two farmlands, and has had some recent flooding issues. Boze explained that they have installed some tubing in the area but that the farmer who owns the property never installed the retention ponds that were supposed to accompany the drainage tube. Boze said that the Road Commission is unable to force the farmer to do so because that area is private property even though the farmland landscape is causing a flooding issue on a public road.
The board and Boze did discuss the need for residents to get a permit from the Road Commission if they are going to be doing any changes to or installing new construction for driveways. Recently, there have been some residents that are getting communication from the Road Commission finding them in violation of not getting a permit and in some cases having to change the work that they had done with the area of the driveway that meets the public road. This is required for anyone who is obtaining a building permit and should be obtained prior to the building permit being issued. Kays said that they will pay closer attention when issuing a building permit, when a driveway change or new construction is involved.
Fire activity in the township
A discussion was held with Fire Chief Don Bogart regarding two structure fires in the township caused by arson. Kays brought up the Cost Recovery Ordinance and said this is an example of where they should be billing under this ordinance. He asked Bogart to provide the cost of equipment and manpower associated with those two fires, one on CR681 and one on 77th St.
The Keeler Township Fire Department responded to 16 calls in October nine being EMS calls and all of the rest were structure fire or fire related. Bogart noted that there seems to be an outbreak of fires, not just in Keeler Township but for the neighboring communities as well.
Kays told the board that he is working with the Van Buren County Sheriff to try and get police coverage for the township. The township has an agreement with the county for police coverage; however, the officer assigned is out on medical leave until February. Kays relayed that the County is a little light on man power right now and so he is not able to put one person in the township to cover this specific area. They will continue to work out the details of obtaining police coverage in the absence of our deputy.
Twp. approves collecting unpaid sewer bills on tax bills
The board authorized tacking on unpaid sewer charges to tax bills following the unpaid charges in the amount of $19,508.30 to the Sister Lakes Sewer Authority. Kays said every year they accumulate uncollected maintenance fees, both Keeler Township and Silver Creek Township who share the system. The verbiage in the system’s governance allows for the townships to put it directly on the tax bills if it goes unpaid. The board took action to put its portion on the tax bills of the property owners who did not pay it.
In other business, the board authorized some tree work at the township cemetery and at township hall. Kays said there are two pine trees half dead and a tree with a very large split limb at the cemetery. There is also a dead tree at township hall. The board approved $1,950 to remove the trees and grind the stumps.
During public comments, the President of the Keeler Lake Property Owners Association, Bob Steinmetz, addressed the board and those in attendance. The subject of his comments, which were prepared in written form, was the runoff in Keeler Lake due to a neighboring farm property that doesn’t have any berms or drains to prevent the problem.
The recent excessive rainfall, especially during the weekend of October 14 and 15, has caused a significant runoff into the lake. While there may have been little property damage done, the chemicals involved in the runoff from this neighboring farm will cause damage to the lake and its condition.
Steinmetz said that the lake owners have spent more than $20,000 trying to improve the quality of Keeler Lake, most recently a bacteria blast that provided a crystal clear lake. However, following the runoff from the neighboring farm, the lake is now murky and filled with sediment and chemicals.
Of utmost concern was the way that the farmer has graded his farms near the northern side of Keeler Lake. While there had been a plan between the Department of Environmental Quality and the farmer to divert the water, it did not occur. Steinmetz said the lack of a remedy coupled with the quantity of rain that was received, caused a washout that seriously threatened three homes and even the lives of some residents. “The field at this point has no berm and no ditch, and is sloped to run across the road directly into the homes,” Steinmetz said. While Steinmetz realizes that the township has no authority he asked for their support in the matter.
Kays responded that one of the issues was the township board had no standing on this. Kays suggested that establishing a Drainage District might be the best way to go. “That would be a permanent solution,” Kays said. He suggested that either the residents or the board could petition for that as well.
Steinmetz said that one of the members of the lake association was going to try and work with the farmer over the winter and hopes to reach a solution. Kays said to keep them informed of the status.
It’s a Home Town Christmas in Watervliet
Please join us Sunday, December 3, 2017 to celebrate the holiday magic! There are some great events planned.
The celebration begins at 4:00 p.m. with the crowning ceremony for the Snow Prince & Snow Princess. The crowning takes place this year at the Watervliet Fire Station for contestants in 6th through 8th grades. Voting has started and goes until 6:00 p.m. Friday, December 1 at B&B Outlet, Arclight Brewery, Cool Tan/ Watervliet Laundry and Watervliet Wesco. Votes are $1 with proceeds going to the Home Town Christmas Celebration. A donation of half the proceeds for this year will be made to Haiden Edelberg Striking out Leukemia.
Events taking place at Arclight Brewery, 544 N. Main St. on December 3 include a chili cook-off from 4-8 p.m. All entries must be set up by 4:00 p.m.; entry forms and information are available at the brewery. The winner will be announced at 7:30 p.m.
There will be a parade downtown starting at 5:30 p.m. from the Watervliet Fire Department. Mr. Mattson and his Watervliet Elementary Choir will lead the parade and joining them will be Miss Watervliet and court along with Mr. & Miss Firecracker. Santa will end the parade at Arclight Brewery, arriving in a fire truck. Anyone wanting to participate in the parade must meet at the fire department by 5:00 p.m.
Live reindeer will be at the brewery from 4-8 p.m. for anyone wanting to take photos. Photographer Shawn Mead will be there to take pictures with Santa for purchase. The cost is $5 for digital download, $6 for printed 5×7 or $8 for both. The line to see Santa and get pictures with him will enter through the back of the brewery.
Hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Anyone that wishes to donate cookies please drop them off at Arclight on Sunday between noon and 3:30 p.m. Panthers Grill food services will be available for celebration attendees to purchase food during the event.
Colored hair pieces and colored hair spray will be available at Arclight during the celebration.
Other events include: citywide house lighting/ decorating contest; business window decorating contest; and Toys for Tots drop box at Arclight Brewery.
Also, there will be a Home Town Co-Ed Snowball Softball Tournament on Saturday, December 2. For sign-up information, please contact Erica Kinzler (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Julie Querfurth (email@example.com
Tree of Love lighting at Lakeland Hospital Watervliet
Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet Auxiliary will host the annual Lighting of The Tree of Love Thursday, Nov. 16 at noon in the Hospital Lobby. Order forms for Ornaments and Angels may be picked up at the hospital.
The hospital is located at 400 Medical Park Drive in Watervliet.
A baby boy was born at 6:08 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 to Jenna and Ryan Runge of Hartford. He weighed 8 lbs. 9 oz.
Holiday fashion show & luncheon this Saturday
The annual holiday fashion show hosted by the Coloma Lioness is this Saturday at West Street Station Event Hall, 210 N. West Street in Coloma. The title for this year’s show is “A Candy Cane Kind of Christmas.”
Doors open at 11:30 a.m. with a light luncheon served at noon and fashions begin at 1:00 p.m. Mimosas and wine will be available for $5 a glass.
There will be fashions from stores all around Southwest Michigan, lots of wonderful raffles and door prizes galore!
Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased in advance by calling Beth (269-252-1843) or Rochelle (269-876-8592), or see any Coloma Lioness member.
Proceeds go back to the community in a wide variety of ways.
Hartford’s Holiday Bazaar is golden
By Jon Bisnett
From its meager beginnings way back in 1967, the Annual Hartford Holiday Bazaar turns 50 when it opens the doors to the public on Saturday, November 11 firming the claim as Southwest Michigan Oldest Continuously Operating Holiday Marketplace!
For 47 years the bazaar stood as a major fundraising venture for the Hartford United Methodist Church Women’s Group. From concept to completion, the ladies of the HUMC developed the event creating the template for the day, much of which is still the same some five decades later. From all the mailings to taping the show floor and cooking up those magical sloppy joes and home-baked pies, the gals from HUMC built the November event to stand as a sure sign of the coming holiday season.
In 2015 the ladies of the HUMC, faced with the challenge of a declining membership, passed the torch to the Hartford Public Schools Foundation for Quality Education to preserve the grand tradition. The savvy marketing team of the Hartford Foundation went to work immediately seeking additional new vendors while also adding their own flair to the event.
“We didn’t have any intention of making any radical changes,” says Foundation spokesperson and Floor Manager Becky Traver. “We’d like to think we simply enhanced the show by leveraging a relationship with A&A Sports Photography to offer holiday portraits and photos with Santa. Kids can visit with Santa at no charge. We also connected with the Hartford High School National Honor Society for a crew of top students to help vendors tote their wares and work in the totally revised Holiday Café. Most of the model remains the same. Some vendors are relatively new, while many have been coming for well over 20 years,” Traver added.
“We did make one major change…” says VP of Projects Jon Bisnett, “…in that we made the business decision to move the event one week later in the season to separate our show from a large competing Berrien County event that came along in the last 10 years. The move was a happy accident in now landing on Veterans Day weekend. This year, our Holiday Café will provide free breakfast to all veterans throughout the morning.”
The Holiday Café features a wide selection of breakfast and lunch items and, rumor has it, a special 50th Anniversary (secret recipe) Sloppy Joe will be back on the menu this year! Dine in or take-out available.
Over 80 specialty vendors, great food and a visit with Santa… It all happens at the 50th Annual Hartford Holiday Bazaar – this Saturday, November 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Hartford Middle School.