12-15-2016 Long time Coloma School Board member resigns due to incompatible offices ; New supervisor

Long time Coloma School Board member resigns due to incompatible offices 

By Annette Christie

Coloma School Board member Dave Vollrath announced at the close of the school board meeting on Monday, December 12, that he would be resigning at the end of the year from the school board.  Vollrath was elected as a Berrien County Commissioner in November of this year.  “This will be my last meeting,” Vollrath said.

In a recent new commissioner training that Vollrath attended, it was noted in the materials that the position of school board member and county commissioner are incompatible offices.  Vollrath has served as a school board member for 18-1/2 years.  “I’ve enjoyed it,” Vollrath said.

With the position becoming vacant at the end of the year, school administration will begin the process of filling the position.  Superintendent Peter Bush hopes to have a plan laid out next week.  The next meeting on the Coloma School Board is January 9, 2017.  Bush said he is unsure whether they will have it filled by that date.

In other business, the board approved a temporary borrowing until the school aid comes in from the state.  Bush said that with the departure of the business manager in September, the district’s audit was delayed and the state will not pay out the annual aid until the audit is complete and filed.  The auditors are working in the district this week and should be finished very soon.

In a standard, yearly requirement the board heard the results on the counts for individual educational plans (IEP) for students with disabilities.  Required by Berrien RESA, the district must review the numbers of plans for students and make sure that they are being assessed annually.  If they are not then they are considered an untimely IEP.  For 2015-2016, the Coloma School District had 170 IEP’s with only one untimely.  Darla England, Intermediate Principal and Special Education Supervisor noted that the numbers of untimely IEP’s have gone down.  She also pointed out to the board that there are some factors with regard to untimely IEP’s that the district has no control over.  Bush gave an example of when a new student comes to the district but the parents do not disclose that the student has an IEP from a previous district and therefore, the follow up review is not done in the required timeframe. IEP’s go with a student when they change districts.

Elementary Principal Krista Bethke had good results from the first annual literacy night that was held recently.  In an effort to increase parent engagement, specific themed nights are planned throughout the year.  Bethke said through this event, families participated in different activities that focused on reading around the house and showed that kids can practice reading in every room in the home.  The event held on December 1 drew about 50 people.

The board approved the purchase of a new scrubber that will help speed up and increase efficiency with the cleaning of the floors in the high school.  The district will be able to use some remaining bond funds for the purchase. The other three that the district has are between eight and nine years old and parts to fix them are not readily available.

The board also approved to allow Berrien Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) to use excess funds from a special education millage to be used for facility upgrades to Blossomland Learning Center.  Per the millage verbiage, when there is excess in the funds raised, the money is to be returned to all the schools in RESA.  They are reaching out however to all school districts and asking for permission to hold back some of the excess funds for the much needed improvements to the school which provides services for special education students. The anticipated costs of improvements will be $1.2 million.  Even with RESA using the funds for the center, Coloma School District will still get back about $253,000.  Berrien RESA provides special education support to 3,033 students.

New supervisor Bill Hodge takes Bainbridge Supervisor seat with ease

By Angela Stair

The Bainbridge Township Board of Trustees held their monthly meeting on Monday, December 12.  This was the first meeting led by the new Supervisor William “Bill” Hodge.

Supervisor Hodge introduced himself to the audience, and explained a few changes he had made to the agenda format and why.  He called the meeting to order and then to signify his first meeting, he rang the school house bell seven times, which is a meeting tradition.

The Supervisor gave his monthly reports on the progress of the assessor; he assessed 250 properties last month and is inputting the information to the computer program now.  Fire reports were received from Sister Lakes; they answered three calls in the month of November.  Benton Township Fire Department reported that from January 15 to November 15 they had a total of 15 calls in Bainbridge Township and of those, three were structure fires.  Pride Care Ambulance service reported four calls total with an average arrival time of 9.25 minutes.

Supervisor Hodge gave an update of the work being done on Territorial Road.  He said the Berrien County Road Commission will open for bids on the work to be done on February 6, 2017.  The Commission is willing to have an informational open house the second week in February if it is wanted.  They just need a location to hold the meeting.

Board of review appointments; re-zone request; drain reapportionments

Three Board of Review members’ terms were due to expire and Supervisor Hodge got their approval and suggested the Board re-appoint them for another term.   The Board agreed and renewed their term for two more years.  They are A. Scherer, J. Morlock, and L. Smith.

Resident R. Conner of Modern Light Metals requested the re-zoning of 20 acres of his 46 acres of property.  After discussing it for some time the board noted he asked for a split off of 20 acres, but had not yet recorded it, so they would not set a hearing date until it has been recorded.  A motion was approved to send it on to the planning commission.

Supervisor Hodge spoke about the upcoming drain re-apportionments.  He held a sheaf of pages and said that all the drains in the Township will be re-apportioned, but it would not be a huge amount for the Township to pay, probably between $3,000 and $4,000 in extra drain assessments.  The County is redesigning the drain system.

The one drain – York-Stoffer Drain – is one to be concerned about.  He said it looks to be an extensive and complicated project.  What worried him the most was that it states Bainbridge Township is at large which means they are liable for the cost, but usually it says that Berrien County is at large also, but does not on the letter.

Supervisor Hodge said he would make a trip down to talk to the County about the cost, if it was a typing mistake that did not add the County at large, etc.  The Board agreed it was an excellent idea.

Mechanical contract and plumbing contract; other business; police report

Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter said there were two changes that were made to the contracts of R. Wilder for Mechanical Contractor and K. Benjamin for Plumbing Contractor.  The Township found they did have a clause in their insurance policy that covers both positions and so that change was made.

The other change was that they wanted to be paid on a monthly basis for the permits they handle and that had to be changed in the contract.

Supervisor Hodges asked if that was not the way it was handled before.  The clerk said yes it was, but not quite the same.  This contract will pay monthly only the permits for the projects that have been completed.  Before it did not and they find now these men have to do some of the work that was already paid for.  So now that will have to be straightened out.    The Board approved the new contracts.

The computer that was approved for the Supervisor last month was purchased for $925.00.  Another license was required to use all the Townships software at $600.00.  The Board approved the payment of November bills in the amount of $17,190.48, payroll at $9,998.32, payroll taxes of $1,776.98 and mid month bills of $29,289.13 for a total of $58,254.91.

The Board reviewed the County Animal Ordinance farther.  Trustee Don Baiers said the Planning Commission had taken a look at the Berrien County ordinance and the ordinances the Township had and they did not seem that far off from each other.

Supervisor Hodge said that is true, but there are a few things that have to be looked into more.  He said the Township needs to have the number of cats or dogs one person is allowed to own for one thing.  Another is the barking, that needs to be looked at for down the road we may need it.

Baiers agreed and said he would take it back to the commission and look at it more closely.

The Board approved the paying of the election workers for their eight hours of time recounting the election ballots.  They will be paid $14.25 per hour, but will not be paid mileage.

Deputy Johnathon Duthler of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department delivered the activities for their department for October.  There were 37 complaints worked in the Township, 12 tickets were issued and there were three arrests made in the Township.  Among the 37 complaints, there was one suicide – including attempts, two larcenies, and three burglary – forced entries.

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