11-23-2017 Christmas comes early to Hartford Schools 4% plus enrollment increase, employee raises &#

Christmas comes early to Hartford Schools 4% plus enrollment increase, employee raises & new Business Manager

By Jon Bisnett

Superintendent Andy Hubbard was pleased to communicate, during the regular monthly meeting on Nov. 16, his official hiring committee recommendation to the Hartford Board of Education to hire Miss Rebecca Drake for the position of District Business Manager.

With similar roots as her predecessor, Rebecca was a Top Ten Graduate and Foundation Scholarship Recipient as a member of the Hartford High School Class of 2012. After attaining her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Alma College, she then went to work for the Lansing firm of Maner Costerisan; specialists in educational and municipal audits, with an impressive client list including the Kent County Intermediate School District and the Michigan Association of School Boards. She’ll share the chair with retiring business manager Mike Hallgren through the holidays and formally take the reins following the Christmas break.

4.5% enrollment increase equals pay raise

When Superintendent Hubbard negotiated the most recent teachers’ contract he built in provision for a 1% retroactive pay raise should the district meet a total enrollment goal of 1,287. Hubbard spoke with great excitement in informing the board the goal of 1,287 was far surpassed by more than 70 students and recommended the 1% be further extended to all other school employees not covered by the HEA contract, (with the only exception being the superintendent himself.) The across the board 1% increase will be paid retroactive to the first day of the new school year, putting a bit of holiday cheer in the stocking of each and every member of the hard working team that services the district in a variety of disciplines. The measure received not only unanimous approval but kudos as well from the board for the achievement of another step of the district’s long range plan.

Employee retirement

Superintendent Hubbard informed the board of the retirement of 23-year veteran food service worker Janet Wehmann from Redwood Elementary. The board recognizes Wehmann for her dedication over the years serving literally tens of thousands of lunches to their elementary students.

New staffer at Redwood

Redwood Elementary Principal Ed Dickinson introduced the newest member of his staff. Trish Pletcher joins the Redwood team as the new Special Education teacher. Pletcher comes from a 17-year stint with the Edwardsburg Public School system. A graduate of Indiana University-South Bend, she then completed her graduate work at Grand Canyon University with an emphasis on Reading Instruction. She is also well versed in Response to Intervention, Restraint, and Autism Support. She brings the knowledge of a successful Peer to Peer program she initiated at her prior post.

County Board Meeting

Redwood Elementary will host the Van Buren County Association of School Boards’ November meeting on November 28. Board members around the county are anxious to see the new elementary building.

Superintendents Report

Superintendent Andy Hubbard reported Kingscott Architects and construction manager Miller-Davis are in the process of developing a permanent fix for flooding at the southeast end of the new Redwood lot.

Hubbard also reminded that a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the first of three days that needed to be added to the school year schedule to offset the late school opening. “We won’t be going in July like some parents worried,” joked Hubbard. “Remember it’s a combination of both hours and days by state law. We just need this extra half day and two full days in the final week of school to be compliant.”

Hubbard also set the date for the January organizational meeting as Thursday, January 11.

Student representative

Senior Olivia Ziemer reported on student happenings at HHS including an upcoming Michigan Blood Drive, a Holiday Food Drive and a Jail & Bail which raises funds for the National Honor Society project to take a student of need Christmas shopping for his family. Ziemer promptly produced and presented “kangaroo court citations” to all board members and administrators pending their incarceration for the cause.

Having no further business President Chambers wished all a Happy Thanksgiving as he adjourned the meeting. The board meets next for its monthly work study on December 7.

Chloe Williams crowned 2018 Miss Teen Coloma

 The new 2018 Miss Teen Coloma is 14-year-old Chloe Williams. Chloe is the daughter of Scott and Jennifer Williams. She has a brother – Devin.  She attends Coloma Jr. High School.

Chloe was crowned Saturday, November 18.

Her extracurricular activities include: volleyball, recreational and travel softball, basketball and exercising with her mom.

When asked which person inspired her the most, she stated her mom because she gives her the best advice no matter the situation and pushes her to do her best. She also stated her friend Haiden because even with a diagnosis of Leukemia, she fights hard with a smile on her face.

She stated that her favorite past time is the tradition of decorating their Christmas tree with handmade ornaments that her and her brother have made since they were little. She also loves when her brother is home from college and their family is all together.

Lilly Trapp was crowned first runner-up. She is the daughter of Mike and Danielle Trapp. She has a sister – Molly.

The 15-year-old attends Coloma High School. She is involved in Yearbook, Choir and Varsity Singers.

When asked which person inspires her the most, she stated her grandmother, because she believes she is the most giving and caring person that she knows and she always puts her family first.

For the past two years, the contestants have picked an individual for Miss Teen Sweetie. This year Miss Teen Sweetie will be included with the court of honor. She will get to be involved in all of the court activities throughout the year.

Allie Pleyer was chosen 2018’s Miss Teen Sweetie. She is the daughter of John and Ashley Pleyer. She has a sister Mariah and brother Jacob.

The 13-year-old also attends Coloma Jr. High School.

She is involved in dance and she also teaches dance, babysits and participates in numerous church events.

When asked which person inspires her the most, she stated her dad; because he shows her nothing is impossible and encourages her to chase her dreams.

This year’s theme was “Miss Teen Coloma Goes Wild in the Jungle.”

The Mistress of Ceremonies was Rochelle Ulleg. Judges were Kyle Green, Pamela Kublick and Ardale Clark.

Lainey Meader performed the National Anthem to open the contest featuring not only the 12 contestants but also the 2018 Miss Coloma Contestants and the 2017 Coloma Court of Honor.

The contestant that sold the most photo buttons, happy ads and tickets was Kylie Prisk. Kylie Prisk also received the Entrepreneur award.

Teen photogenic awards, chosen by the judges, went to Madison McQuillan, Chloe and Allie.

The other contestants were Kayla Walter, Rachael Arnold, Kimberly Spaulding, Isabella Greenman, Kayla Smith, Madison McQuillan, Shannon Baum, Marisa Pullins and Kylie Prisk.

Watervliet Township rejects sales proposal and plans to keep parks as parks

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet Township Board set into motion a future policy forever forbidding the sale and use of township owned property for anything other than public use at their Monday, November 20 meeting.

The board voted to reject the sales proposal by James Denney to purchase Pomona Park.  Denney had plans to buy the adjacent property to Pomona Park and wanted to build a home that would require some of the property of the park. The township board received an overwhelming objection to selling the park for anything other than public use at a special meeting held last week and based on their actions, they heard those objections loud and clear.

The township received the piece of property being discussed and four others as a donation back in the twenties for the purposes of public use.  Treasurer Tom Scheid said that it was pretty obvious from the public that he had spoken to that they want it kept as a public park for the public’s use.  Trustee Joe Stepich made the motion to keep the park as it exists in perpetuity, with support. The motion carried however, Trustee Bob Wallace abstained.  Wallace said following the meeting that he abstained because he lives very close to one of the other parks that the township owns.

Patrick Hennelly of 8576 Elm Dr. said he lives south of Pomona Park and he is OK with it being a park. “I benefit from it greatly,” Hennelly said, adding, “Having a decision made on that helps me decide about some improvements I’m interested in making to my home.”  Hennelly told the board that he has been maintaining and cleaning up the park and said he wanted to make them aware of that.  He said he would continue to do that as long as the township board didn’t mind and that he would call them if ever there was a situation like debris or damage that needed addressing.  Supervisor Dan Hutchins told him that would be fine.

County Commissioner Dave Vollrath asked about the legal opinion on whether it could be sold or not.  Hutchins said that they shouldn’t sell it for non-public use but they could, based on their attorney. Stepich added that the property was to be dedicated to the public.

Hutchins said in his opinion and for another day, the board should get some legal options and work on keeping the other parks open for public use.  “I don’t care to have this as an issue again.” Hutchins suggested that the land should have some kind of wording in the deed that can’t be litigated or touched by anyone including future boards.

Ambulance service

Hutchins provided a background of the ambulance service that the township receives.  Watervliet Township joined Medic 1 several years ago along with Hartford Township and the City of Hartford.  For about a year now, the City of Hartford and Hartford Township have been meeting about their dissatisfaction with the service they were receiving.

The City of Hartford voted in August to leave Medic 1.  This forced the Medic 1 Board to offer the two remaining townships an option of either changing the City of Hartford’s mind or making up the difference they would be losing from the City of Hartford.

At a special meeting last week, the Watervliet Township Board agreed that they were not willing to pay additional for ambulance service and they authorized Hutchins to enter discussions with the Medic 1 Board.    Hutchins and Stepich went to the Board of Directors meeting held last Thursday and their board said that the township could leave without any penalties, including having no issues over the building lease, until March 1, 2018.  Medic 1 leases the public services building next door to Watervliet Township to house their north county vehicle.  Hutchins said he agreed that Medic 1 can use that building until that time as long as they pay the rent.

Pride Care Ambulance Service provided a presentation last week to the township board. With the information provided in that presentation Hutchins told the board, “From my perspective I think the township board should make a decision tonight on this, no later than the December meeting.”

Hutchins reminded them that no matter what, Medic 1 is leaving this area as of March 1.  “It wasn’t something that any of the township board created. We didn’t look to start this fight. We didn’t take sides on this with Hartford City and Township, we let it play out and this is how it played out,” Hutchins said.

Stepich stated that financially right now Watervliet Township pays roughly $22,000 a year. “If we were to stay and Hartford Township was to stay to, our portion would be costing us about $80,000 for ambulance. That would be a hit to our budget,” Stepich said. He said the presentation from Pride Care was that the township would pay nothing for their service. In addition, they have a program for residents to pay $40 a year and the resident would pay nothing additional for ambulance service. “Financially, it looks like it is the best deal,” Stepich said.  Stepich said the other issue was the quality of service and he said in his opinion there is very little difference in the quality of ambulance service we would get either way.

With that Stepich made the motion to contract with Pride Care to provide ambulance service for the residents of Watervliet Township effective March 1, 2018. The motion carried unanimously.

Leaf pickup

Hutchins said the leaf pickup is going well. It is planned to go into the end of November.  If it is necessary to go into December, the township will go out again.  “I can’t imagine we are not going to be done,” Hutchins said.

Hutchins did say that if for some reason they miss a resident, they should just call the township hall and a leaf pickup will be arranged.

Police contract

Hutchins informed the board that the cost of the police services contract will no longer include an OPEB (Other Post Employee Benefits) charge as originally proposed.  “For this year, it will not be included in the cost of the contract,” Hutchins said.  Watervliet Township contracts with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office for police services.  The cost of the contract is typically what it costs the county to employ the deputy and any other directly associated costs with the township police coverage.  All county departments were being charged with the OPEB cost in next year’s preliminary budget figures, and that included the police contracts for all municipalities.

Vollrath said that they have it removed for this year but he could only be sure of fiscal year 2018 as of right now.  The township has not received the revised budget for the services so a decision was not made on this at this meeting.

In other business Hutchins announced that the township board needs someone to represent Watervliet Township on the North Berrien Historical Board. They meet once a month.

For both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Review they are seeking to fill two alternate spots.

Any township resident may apply for the board appointments by calling the Township Hall. They hope to complete the appointments at the December 18 meeting.

The Township Hall will be closed on Thursday, November 23, Friday, November 24, Friday, December 22, Monday, December 25 and Monday, January 1 for holidays.

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