11-29-18 Watervliet City receives great audit report; Coloma plans to upgrade City Hall, seeks state

Watervliet City receives great audit report

By Annette Christie The Watervliet City Commission received an unmodified opinion for their audit at their workshop held Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the highest rating they could receive. Aaron Stephens of Stephens, Kirinovic & Tucker presented the audit report.

WINNING ENTRY… Honor Credit Union’s Coloma Branch Manager, Dave Scheuer, stopped by Brittany Brethauer (left) and her assistant Kathy Smith’s Pre-K Special Education class at Coloma Elementary to present them with a $100 check. According to Brittany Brethauer’s submission on Honorcu.com in the Credit Union’s annual teacher’s awards, she plans to buy learning materials to help her students sort, measure and count and to provide ample appropriate materials in order to help her students catch up to peers their age.

City leaders have secured 40% in their fund balance which is excellent according to Stephens. The recommended amount is to have 17% in their fund balance or “rainy day fund”. City revenues and expenditures have both gone up this past year; however, Stevens said that they have added to their fund balance in each of the last four years. He noted that the largest source of the city’s revenue is through property taxes collected. Their largest use of funds is general government, followed by public safety. Stephens said that while there are comments and recommendations, City Manager Tyler Dotson has already prepared corrective actions. Stephens thanked the city employees for their courtesy, cooperation and assistance with the process. Dotson asked Stephens if there was anything else that needs some attention that perhaps was not listed. Stephens suggested that city leaders may want to consider hiring a service to the do the accounting. They did perform some extra journal entries to clear things up, something that is not part of the regular audit process. Stephens said they do offer an accounting service but they would not be able to do the audit also. Dotson commented that due to the changeover with staff and him coming on with only two weeks left in the fiscal year, there were some issues with the internal controls for which he has provided corrective action. “I’m confident that we will address these and get better on these moving forward,” Dotson said. “Our financial position is in good shape. We need to keep this up and potentially add to that.” Dotson has already met with staff to discuss what needs to occur to correct whatever deficiencies there may have been and he said the staff is very receptive to that. With time he said new processes will naturally fix these issues and reporting will show whether this is being done or not. “We are putting mechanisms in place, corrective actions in place, and checks and balances. When we come back next year at the audit, we will see improvement,” Dotson said. Social Media discussion A Social Media Policy was also on the agenda, however, prior to the meeting Dotson learned that there were some other policies in place within City Hall that may provide for that. He has established social media accounts but at this time they are not live. He said he is looking at case studies, previous judicial verdicts, etc., and understands that prior to going live with the sites the policies need to be in place to protect employees and the city. Learning that there may be policies available, Dotson will continue to streamline them to provide the tool needed to move forward. City leaders continued the discussion on the subject of the city’s website Dotson had previously presented to the City Commission that perhaps funds may need to be spent to either replace or tweak the site in its previous state. Dotson told the commission that it would cost approximately $5,000 to replace the website and start over. He also offered that there are opportunities for someone to come in and clean it up and get it where they would like it to be. With it not being in the budget, Dotson told the commission he was looking for direction. He posed the question as whether the commission wanted him to put a request for proposal together or to obtain quotes to contract with someone to do it. City Hall Staffer Melanie Marvin who used to have a seat at the Commission table said that when they obtained the website, it was to be the “Online face of City Hall”. She hinted that perhaps the website program offers a lot of features that they are not utilizing. Dotson said he will obtain more information and will present it to them at their December meeting. Other business During the Commissioner discussion portion of the meeting Commissioner Whitney said he would still like administration to look into fair and equal wages for the city’s employees, something that would take into account all the hours they are working but not being compensated for. There was some discussion about salaried employees vs. hourly employees, as well as what the Public Works employee labor agreement states. The discussion should also continue at the December meet. Brinker thanked Commissioner Deah Muth for her work on the Hometown Christmas event coming up this weekend.

Coloma plans to upgrade City Hall, seeks state grant By Nancy Albright The Coloma City Council made a motion at the November 26 meeting to approve a resolution that will allow Commissioner Marsha Hammond to apply for a grant from the Michigan Township Participating Plan in the amount of $5,000 to upgrade security at City Hall. The funds will be used specifically to construct an entrance at the back of the building leading directly into the office from the parking lot, and to build a wall across from the door to allow office workers to conduct business in a more secure environment. The side entrance to the building will be closed. December City Council meetings will be held on the 10th and the 17th to accommodate the holidays, and a reminder to Coloma residents that City Hall will be open from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on December 31, and closed December 24–25 and January 1.

TRI-CITIES GETS CLOBBERED with first real serious snow accumulation of the season causing Downtown Watervliet to be among some 20,000 plus Indiana & Michigan Electric customers who awoke Monday the 26th without power. Kudos to I & M who had the town back up and running around 11:00 am. Students got an extra Thanksgiving vacation day with area schools closed as were hundreds across the state reaching from the state line, north to the bridge and as far as the Detroit suburbs. The 4-6 inches of heavy, wet snow strained trees and power lines in addition to causing dozens of slide-offs as drivers had a crash course in becoming reacquainted with winter driving skills. Despite the initial chaos of the white stuff’s sudden arrival, this coming’s weekend temperatures should provide a reprieve and are predicted to be in the low 40s with rain rather than snow in the immediate forecast.

Great Lakes Heart and Vascular joins Spectrum Health Lakeland Great Lakes Heart and Vascular Institute, the largest cardiology practice in Southwest Michigan, has joined Spectrum Health Lakeland. The practice, with office locations in St. Joseph and Coloma, is comprised of a team of four physicians, Dilip Arora, MD; Y. Christopher Chiu, MD; Jerome Kuhnlein, MD; and Thomas Pow, MD and three physician assistants, Brett Hoseth, PA; Dave Chalupa, PA; and Scott Mihalik, PA. Great Lakes physicians have earned national recognition for their pioneering work in peripheral vascular intervention and also offer access to an accredited nuclear medicine facility. Together, the care team diagnoses and treats conditions involving the cardiac system including heart failure, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease, among others. “The cardiovascular specialists at Great Lakes have played a vital role in providing quality, state-of-the-art care for heart patients in Southwest Michigan for a number of years and we are pleased to have them join Lakeland as we continue this important work,” said Lowell Hamel, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Spectrum Health Lakeland. For more information about the practice and services offered, or to schedule an appointment, call (269) 985-1000 or visit www.greatlakesheart.com.

Hagar Township exemplary in annual audit report; 

captures Bundy Road grant

By Jon Bisnett Gabridge Company representatives were on hand Monday, November 12 at the monthly Hagar Township Board meeting to present their recently completed annual audit for the Township with findings resulting in an “unmodified opinion” which is the equivalent of an A+ in the world of accounting nomenclature. Touching on many positive aspects of the township finances the audit report notes the absence of any long-term debt and an increased net position of a 232% equity balance which equates to roughly 24 months of operating capital in reserve. Both General Fund and overall net position has increased since the prior year’s audit.

Sheriff’s Department Report In a report delivered by Lieutenant Campbell of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Hagar Township experienced a total of 55 complaints for the month of September, with eight tickets issued and eight arrests. The officer was wearing a new body camera which he explained are now in use by all BCSD officers. He further commented the equipment is the latest generation of the device, free from the limited view of prior dashcams, featuring improved image stability and higher quality audio. IP addressable, the cameras may be accessed remotely by command. Guests County Commissioner Dave Vollrath visited thanking voters for their support for his successful bid in the November 6 election. Vollrath reported the county budget complete as of two weeks ago and was a balanced budget with no projected expenditures in excess of receipts. Supervisor DiMaggio also noted Dave recently joining the team of reporters for the Tri-City Record in the role of sportswriter for Coloma athletics. Supervisors Report Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio reported receipt of a disaster relief grant in access of $89,000 for flooding damage on Bundy Road. The repairs do not require matching participation and will come in at a zero cost to the township. DiMaggio did mention a couple of constituents asked him what the township planned to do in regard to the passing of Proposal 1 and the sale of recreational marijuana. According to DiMaggio, Michigan Townships Association is working on a blanket ordinance on the subject the board may want to look at. Clerk Rodriguez was quick to point out that the township voters clearly expressed their approval of Proposal 1 by a 56% margin, cautioning the board to consider the will of the voters before invoking any local limitations. DiMaggio also noted a new all-vegan restaurant has occupied the former Club 33 site with a planned soft opening of Black Friday.

Clerk’s Report Clerk Sarah Rodriguez applauded the township poll workers efforts during the November 6 election with a 55% turnout of just short of 1,500 voters. Supervisor DiMaggio commented that he felt an increase in compensation for election workers was perhaps in order, to be considered in the coming budget. The clerk had not received the prior month’s ambulance report.

Treasurer’s Report Treasurer Marlene Davis presented expenses for the prior month in the amount of $34,743.81 with nothing remarkable.

Parks and Recreation Beth Raiser finds the township’s parks winding down for the year with the last porta-pottis being pulled this week. She reports the sign at Hagar Park went down in a recent wind storm and should be replaced along with similar needs at Roadside and the ballpark. DiMaggio added he received both a letter and a phone call praising the new dedicated dog park area at the ballpark. Fire Report DiMaggio reported the North Berrien Joint Fire Department responded to 21 calls during the month of October with 14 fire runs in Hagar Township. The annual audit shows the NBJFD to be debt free with an equity position equivalent to 6 months of operational expense. Building Inspectors Report DiMaggio gave a short report in the absence of Inspector Butch Kelley with nine new building permits totaling $318,000 for October, including one new home start. Old business Marlene Davis reports that quotes are coming in for a revision of the township website. Ongoing work on Momany Road is expected to take another three weeks with continued limited access until completed. New business The township has been contacted by the Berrien County Treasurer’s Office in regard to a property that failed to sell at the recent county auction. A no-buildable land-locked parcel located at 5482 Hickory Street, described as “wetlands” by an adjacent property owner, has been offered to the township. DiMaggio entertained a motion to notify the county that the township had no interest in acquiring the parcel which was unanimously approved. Trustee Ulleg made mention that the Planning Commission would soon be looking at a rather unique plan for a new residence to be built almost entirely of repurposed railway containers. Having no other business Supervisor DiMaggio adjourned the meeting at 8:46 p.m. The Board meets next at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 10.

Rep. Griffin appointed to panel developing House Action Plan State Rep. Beth Griffin, of Mattawan, has been appointed to help determine the policy priorities of Michigan House Republicans for the upcoming 2019-20 session. Griffin was appointed to serve on the Policy Action Plan Committee by Speaker-elect Lee Chatfield. The temporary panel will help collect policy ideas to build the House Republican action plan for the next two years. “I’m proud to help continue House Republicans’ track record of strong, successful and transparent policy plans,” Griffin said. “The 2019-20 Legislature will continue to tackle Michigan’s biggest challenges and press for lasting improvements to our state.” Griffin was recently re-elected to a second term representing Van Buren County and part of Kalamazoo County.

Rep.-elect Wendzel appointed to House Committee on Committees State Rep.-elect Pauline Wendzel today announced Speaker-elect Lee Chatfield has named her as one of the freshmen legislators to sit on the House Committee on Committees for the 2019-2020 legislative term. The Committee on Committees chooses chairs and members of the standing Michigan House committees. “It’s truly an honor to have been chosen as one of the few first-term legislators to receive this privilege,” Wendzel said. “I want to thank Speaker-elect Chatfield for his faith in me, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we have a seamless transition so we can continue Michigan’s comeback.” Members of the House Committee on Committees are responsible for nominating representatives to committee membership and committee leadership positions. Wendzel was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives earlier this month. She is a longtime Watervliet resident raised on a fourth-generation family farm in Bainbridge Township. Prior to her election to the Michigan House, Wendzel served as Marketing Director at Coloma Frozen Foods Inc. Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore-elect Rep. Jim Lilly will chair the committee. Also named to the committee were state Reps. Ben Frederick, Shane Hernandez, Pam Hornberger, Brandt Iden, James Lower, Jason Wentworth, and Mary Whiteford, and Reps.-elect Lynn Afendoulis and Mark Huizenga.


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