11-16-2017 Watervliet Township Board wants public property to stay public; Watervliet Township Board

LANDED… Jennifer Tohtz of Hagar Shores lands a punch and kick against her Hungarian counterpart Betty Kovacs at the WAKO World Championship in Budapest Wednesday, No-vember 8. Tohtz won a bronze medal in the competition. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Watervliet Township Board wants public property to stay public

By Annette Christie

Following a special meeting held on Wednesday, November 15 to discuss the possible sale of a public park, the Watervliet Township Board seemed pretty determined that the public parks of the township should remain available for public use.

This is a continuation of a discussion that began at their regular October meeting when the board was presented with an unsolicited sales proposal for a piece of property off Elm Dr. which is owned by the township and is a township park.  James and Deb Denney had offered $15,000 to purchase the mostly unbuildable piece of property as they are in negotiations to purchase the adjacent property. The Denney’s, who have been owners in the area for over 30 years, are hoping to build their forever home in the township.

Supervisor Dan Hutchins said the township was gifted the piece of property in 1922 along with four other pieces of property. No matter what the offer was, Hutchins said that the legality of whether the property could even be sold would have to be investigated.

The township did hold a special meeting on October 25 about the subject. At that meeting, the board received written comments from one individual and heard from two others.  Following discussion the board decided to seek legal opinion on the status of Pomono Park as a buildable lot. They had set the 2nd meeting on the subject for Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

The subject was highlighted by two different groups on the social media platform of Facebook.  Some individuals, unknown whether they were residents of the township or not, seemed disturbed that the township would even consider selling a piece of property that was deemed public while other questioned the purchase offer of $15,000. Dee Hauf encouraged people to attend the meeting to voice their opinion.  Allen Reed wrote, “If you think public access is more important than another big house, and you don’t think public land should be sold for a mere fraction of its value, then please attend the meeting and voice your concern.”

Approximately 30 people attended the Wednesday morning meeting and all but the property owners who were selling the adjacent property and the buyers spoke in favor of selling the park.  All of the other attendees that spoke were against it.

While the township board did not take a vote the consensus of the six members present was that public land should remain public.  The board will seek assistance from their legal representation on how to secure the land so that it would remain forever public.

Watervliet Township Board discusses Medic 1 ultimatum

By Annette Christie

At a special meeting held on Wednesday, November 15, the Watervliet Township Board discussed the ultimatum they are being presented with from their ambulance provider and also received a proposal from another provider in the area.

The Medic 1 Board had given notice to Hartford Township and Watervliet Township that their ambulance service from Medic 1 will be discontinued effective July 31, 2018 unless something changes. Medic 1 was responding because the City of Hartford and the two townships joined the municipally owned ambulance service together, and the City of Hartford is discontinuing its service from Medic 1.

Medic 1 Board Chairman Pete Sinclair said that the two townships could either talk Hartford City officials into staying or come up with an additional $114,000 to fund what Medic 1 will be lacking from the loss of Hartford City.  If neither of those will work, then they can search for another provider. The three municipalities joined Medic 1 in 1988.  Currently, Watervliet Township pays approximately $22,000 annually out of its general fund.

While the board did not take official action, they did authorize Supervisor Dan Hutchins to attend the Medic 1 Board Meeting being held Thursday to inform them that Watervliet Township is not willing to pay an additional amount for ambulance service.  If that means that they will have to discontinue Medic 1 because the ambulance service will no longer service them for the same amount, Hutchins was authorized to begin the process of leaving their service.

A representative from Pride Care was on hand to present a proposal to the Watervliet Township Board.  Pride Care would offer ambulance coverage to the township at no charge to the township.  They will charge the resident when their services are utilized.

Still up for discussion is the building that Medic 1 leases from the township next door to the Township Hall.  Medic 1 had signed a 15-year lease which just expired in August 2017.  Hutchins said the two parties have not discussed the lease and that Medic 1 was still continuing to make the monthly payment at this time.  The neighboring communities of Watervliet City, Coloma City, and Coloma Township do not use Medic 1 as their ambulance provider.  Without Hartford Township and Watervliet Township, the northern part of Berrien County and into Van Buren County would not be serviced by Medic 1.

Watervliet City Commission discusses infrastructure with drain project looming

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission discussed the South Watervliet Drainage District at their Tuesday, November 14 meeting.  City Engineer Alan Smaka of Wightman and Associates brought the Commission up to speed on the project that was petitioned by the City Commission in September 2016.

Smaka said that in June of this year, a value workshop was held to discuss the problem areas of Lucinda Lane, Summit Avenue, and Silver Terrace.  They have found that a portion of the drainage system in place in those areas is the original 1920s drainage concept.  While some were replaced in the 90s and another part was replaced in 2000, there is a large portion that remains original.  The project would improve the storm sewer network within the drainage district including the resizing and replacement of existing storm sewer and storm structures along Division Street, Lucinda Land, Park Street, and Pleasant Street. He told the City Commission that what they need to consider is the improvement of the city system of water and sewer, and roads that are within that drainage district.

While this project is underway, the City could consider the benefits of improving their streets and water in that area at the same time and can save money if they did so.  Smaka noted that now is the time for feedback.  They need feedback to determine what the City Commission wants to do and what they can afford to do.

At the same time, Smaka suggested that the city began the work associated with their SAW Grant such as an asset management plan.

City Manager Michael Uskiewicz asked the City Commission to consider hiring H.J. Umbaugh & Associates for an asset management financial plan.  The fee for the service is $16,000; however, the city only has to pay $1,600 as the balance is covered by the SAW Grant.  With this the historical operating expense will be reviewed, the customer base is examined, and forecasts are made for the future. Uskiewicz said that if the plan was approved, the city would be ahead of the curve on this type of planning.  “We know we have needs but we need to address them comfortably without affecting our citizens,” Uskiewicz said.  The City Commission voted unanimously to approve hiring Umbaugh for those services.

Bid to replace heating/cooling unit at City Hall approved

In other business the City Commission approved a quote to replace the heating/cooling unit in City Hall.  It was discussed at their last meeting; however, they only had one bid at the time of $4,915.71 from Able Electric.  With the disclosure of that quote, it tainted a bid process, however it was determined that the cost was fair and the company has done work previously for the city with no problems.  “The company is known for their good service,” Uskiewicz said.  The City Commission approved the bid.

Upcoming holiday events and crowdfunding initiative update

Some exciting things are coming up in and around Watervliet that were noted during the meeting.  The City of Watervliet is holding on Open House this weekend and merchants will have extended hours with lots of specials to help out residents with their holiday shopping.  Merchants will be open Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Also coming up is the Hometown Christmas Celebration on Sunday, December 3.  Special activities are being planned including the Snow Prince and Princess Contest, chili cook-off, Santa comes to town, a parade, live reindeer, carriage rides and a benefit softball game.   More details will be made available as plans develop.

The Save the Sidetrack campaign, a crowdfunding initiative in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, began on October 17.  To date $12,000 of the $20,000 goal has been reached.  The campaign runs until December 8.  “It is rewarding to see the community rally around a facility of cultural and historic significance in the City of Watervliet,” Uskiewicz said.  All funds raised will go into making the necessary improvements to the structure to allow the facility to continue to be an anchor to the downtown business district. To contribute to this cause, visit www.patronicity.com (Save the Sidetrack).  Donations are tax deductible.