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12-26-2019 City of Hartford annual audit receives high marks; HOPE Resources in Coloma awarded $20,

HAPPY TO HELP Hartford High School Student Council members teamed up with the Hartford Lions to pack 150 holiday food boxes to be delivered to families throughout the community of Hartford. The Lions began the annual HELP campaign in 1946 as their very first local service project. They mark over seven decades of spreading holiday cheer to those in need. Each box contains a turkey, milk, bread, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, apples and of course, the cranberry sauce, and some Christmas candy for an extra treat. Once the boxes are ready to go they are delivered by members of the Hartford Fire Department, Hartford Police Reserves, and Boy Scouts.

City of Hartford annual audit receives high marks

By Jon Bisnett

At the combined Hartford City Commission workshop and business session on Monday, Dec. 16, the commissioners received and approved a report from Ryan Marschke of Hungerford Nichols as he summarized the findings in the annual audit of city financials. Marschke noted an unqualified opinion with a 9-month operational cash reserve.


City Hall will be closed on December 31 and January 1 in celebration of the New Year.

Van Buren County Commission report

County Commissioner Mike Chappell reported on three countywide millage requests that will be on the March 2020 ballot. (1) A Road Commission Renewal for .9769 mills. The current millage expires in 2019 and will fund ongoing maintenance, repair and reconstruction of public roads for four years. (2) A renewal of Public Transit funding in the amount of .2471 mills. Current millage expires also in 2019. The renewal would extend funding through 2023. (3) A new request in the amount of .10 mills over four years for Veterans Services, providing dedicated services to honorably discharged veterans in Van Buren County.

Commissioners accepted a grant from the State Court Administrative Office for $716,795 to service the Specialty Courts of the county including, Drug Treatment Court, Family Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Sobriety Courts and Recovery Courts for both youth and adults.

Proposed property annexation for provisioning center

Property owner Lori Cross visited the council for the second time to pursue the possibility of the city annexing the family parcel located in the township just south of I-94. Cross has been approached by the Green Door provisioning center in Bangor in regard to developing a medical marijuana provisioning and grow facility on the property. After being rebuffed by the township, Cross is hoping the city may consider annexation, since the city has already approved the required ordinance to permit such an operation.

Commissioner John Miller spoke to clearly express his thoughts that he would under no circumstances endorse a provisioning center at the location Cross proposes. “It is our job as a council to promote and develop the City of Hartford. It would serve no purpose for the city to annex property just to put a retail business at the exit which would not encourage visitors to come downtown and patronize other local business, restaurants and the like.” Miller did go on to say that a grow operation would not have that same effect, since it is not a direct retail business and would consider that type of operation acceptable, should other factors of annexation be favorable. Mayor Hall said the council will further review the matter.

Minutes & Reports archived

Departmental reports and minutes from November, including November 18 Business Meeting were approved and archived.

Police Report

Chief Tressa Beltran presented a written report detailing activity of 720 duty hours with 10 foot-patrol hours which included 94 complaints for the month of November, resulting in seven arrests including five felonies.

Ordinance Officer Report

A written report from Ordinance Officer Jim Coleman noted six property inspections for the month of November. Blight postings for the month totaled 32 violations resulting in 32 follow-ups.

Fire Report

Chief Rob Harting was on hand to report the department responded to 61 calls in the month of November, including 17 Rescue/ Medical calls and one chimney fire in the city with another 33 calls in the township and one mutual aid.

Calls currently number 640 year-to-date and will easily surpass the prior annual total of 552 calls.

Harting also announced a free smoke alarm distribution program slated to begin after the first of the year. A grant from the American Red Cross will fund the program available to all Hartford residents.

Ambulance Report

Pride Care Ambulance forwarded a written report of eight Priority I calls at 7:42, seven Priority II at 9:38, and six Priority III runs at 14:51 for an overall average response time of 10:23.

Public Works

Superintendent Dan Staunton’s written report noting general maintenance tasks with leaf pickup complete. Salt and snow plowing equipment is ready to go. Two water turn-offs, one turn-on and three meter repairs took place for the month. The city pumped 5.162 million gallons for November.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Plant Operator Tom Strand filed a written report indicating that all State of Michigan reports for the month have been filed along with routine maintenance tasks. Average flow was reported at .216 million gallons per day.

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Pam Shultz presented a written report for the month of November in the amount of $132,954.47.

City Manager’s Report

City Manager Yemi Akinwale began by reporting property previously condemned at 40 Marion Avenue has been sold to a contractor and that rehab is underway.

Application for a medical marijuana provisioning center located at 325 West Main by Bloomhill LLC has now passed legal review and expected to come before the council next month.

Lake Grow Organics has requested an extension to present a purchase proposal for the city-owned parcel on Marion Avenue. The offer is expected to come to the council at the January Workshop meeting.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be offering infrastructure grants. The city is looking at concerns identified during the recent SAW Grant work and will plan to apply.

Old business

Med+Leaf owner Doug VonKoenig presented several talking points in regard to his wishes to expand his license to include recreational sales. The State of Michigan began issuing Over-21 Recreational Sales licenses on December 1 to established medical provisioning centers who apply within a municipality who has not opted out of recreational sales.

VonKoenig explained recreational purchases will see a 10% excise tax, 15% of that tax goes into a statewide pool that will be divided equally among participating municipalities.

VonKoenig summarized by explaining that this is a rapidly evolving business. He further rationalizes that companies that had previously expressed interest in coming to Hartford, will in all likelihood look elsewhere where both Medical and Recreational facilities are welcomed. Running the math on the 10% excise tax, VonKoenig illustrated the significant economic potential for the city.

As Mayor Hall questioned talking points with VonKoenig, Commissioner Terry Tibbs cautioned the Mayor contending the information VonKoenig was presenting may be slanted and the city should get answers from a different source.

Hartford voters approved Proposal 1, (Over-21 Recreational Marijuana Sales,) in November of 2018 by a margin of 368 Yes to 245 No. The measure also was approved by Township voters, by a narrower margin 474-420. The statewide margin was 60% in favor, with Van Buren County supporting the proposal 15,898 to 13,195.

The council will continue to review the recreational question with any potential action coming in the first quarter of 2020 at the soonest.

New business

Bloomhill LLC has temporarily withdrawn their application for a Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center at the former Hokezema Ford site.

Mayor Hall offered the concept to permanently go to a single council meeting on a regular monthly basis, citing it is already done in November and December each year. Hall proposes to meet the last Monday of the month. The matter will be reviewed and voted at the January meeting.

Ordinances & Resolutions

The council will move to close all PNC Bank accounts over a period of months, moving funds to Honor Credit Union.

Having no further business, Mayor Hall wished all a Happy Holiday, adjourning the meeting at 8:37 p.m.

HARITABLE GRANT AWARDED… Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation awarded $20,000 B.E.S.T. grant to HOPE Resources in Coloma. Pictured (from the left) are HOPE Resources Board members Pastor Dani Veenstra, Carole Sternaman and Pam Quinn, Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation Board Members, Walt Wheeler, Mark Manning, Craig Maison and Howard Crumit; Back row – Coloma Lodge Masons, Travis Schultz and W. Don Baugher. Also present, but not in the photo were HOPE Resources Board members Bill Ott, Susan Cheek, Kathy Jackson, Sandy Pritchett and Sherry Meyer.

HOPE Resources in Coloma awarded $20,000 grant from Michigan Masons

Hope Resources, a non-profit resource center and food pantry located in Coloma that assists residents in Coloma, Watervliet, and Riverside and Hagar Shore received a $20,000 B.E.S.T. grant from the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation. Hope Resources Board members, including Board Chair Pam Quinn and Executive Director Carole Sternaman were on hand to receive the grant during the annual installation of officers at Coloma Masonic Lodge. The grant was presented by Walt Wheeler, Executive Director of the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, and members of the MMCF Board of Trustees, including the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Michigan, Mark A. Manning, Deputy Grand Master Craig Maison and President Howard Crumit Jr. Through the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, Michigan Masons are acting as a powerful charitable partner to Build, Enrich, Strengthen and Transform (B.E.S.T.) Michigan communities. The grant request for HOPE Resources was written by Pastor Dani Veenstra of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Watervliet. “Out of all of the applications received, HOPE Resources is one of seven grants that the Board approved for this period,” said Wheeler. “HOPE Resources’ mission of providing relief to those in need aligns very well with that of Freemasonry.” HOPE Resources, formerly located in the Coloma United Methodist Church, will occupy its own offices located at 262 N. Paw Paw Street in downtown Coloma in early January. With the grant and the new location, Sternaman said that HOPE Resources will be able to provide services beyond food relief, such as life skill classes and workshops to help people. In addition to the grant, the Coloma Masonic Lodge presented Sternaman, with the Edgar A. Guest Community Service Award. The award, named for poet laureate Edgar Albert Guest, a Freemason renowned for his philanthropic work in the Detroit area, is presented to non-Masons in Michigan Communities who have demonstrated distinguished service to the community. Coloma Lodge #162, Free and Accepted Masons, was chartered on January 12, 1865 by the Grand Lodge of Michigan. Freemasonry is an institution that has been a major part of community life in America for over 250 years. It is America’s largest and oldest fraternity, and one that continues to be an important part of the personal growth and development of men from all walks of life.

County bus service making its way to North Berrien County

By Annette Christie Berrien County officials and staff are finalizing the details of a pilot County-wide Bus Service program that will have service in the northern part of the county. Transportation & Planning Coordinator Evan Smith provided an update on the plan at the Board of Commissioners’ Thursday meeting held December 19. As various entities have been talking about having a countywide Berrien County bus service, the county currently has four separate public transportation providers. In 2016, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners authorized the creation of a Transportation Authority that will allow representatives at each of those providers to have a seat at the table. It is the most efficient and effective way to provide transportation to the County as a whole. The two-year pilot program starts in 2020. Berrien County will appropriate $100,000 annually. While the schedule is still being finalized, it looks like Monday and Wednesday are the planned flex routes with services to the Coloma and Watervliet area. Watervliet City Manager Tyler Dotson is on the Transportation Advisory Committee, representing the northeast rural service zone. To advertise, the planning officials will be utilizing MyWayThere, and social media outlets. They will coordinate with the Strategic Leadership and Community Meetings and make presentations to various organizations and they will partake in a marketing and advertising campaign. In addition, they will open up their monthly meetings to stakeholders such as senior centers and human service agencies. Improvements over the pilot period include upgrading radios in the vehicles; security, vehicle locator systems, and a full-van purchase are scheduled.

Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm closing

By Annette Christie

As we face the end of the year of 2019, so have we witnessed the end of an era. Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm owners, the Teichman family, have announced that their operations will cease at the end of the year.

A post made Sunday on their Facebook page stated the following: “The Teichman Family wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We would also like to extend a huge “Thank you” to all our customers who came by for the first time this year or may be following a family tradition with an annual visit to Tree-Mendus Fruit. Thank you for sharing your family traditions and fun in the sun with us.

Lasting three generations, we were fortunate enough to raise our own children on this beautiful farm and have generated many memories and traditions of our own.

Having said that, the years of dedicated hard work with the wonderful reward of delicious home-grown fruit, it is time to say good-bye. Tree-Mendus Fruit will be closing for good on December 31, 2019. At this time, we are unsure of what the future will bring for our family farm as we are putting up most of the rolling hills and fruit orchards for sale. Thank you for your continued support, we will miss you! Have a Tree-Mendus Holiday Season, signed Bill, Monica, and the extended Teichman and Tree-Mendus Fruit Family.”

On August 16, Bill Teichman who ran the Tree Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire suddenly took ill. He was hospitalized with what is now known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Teichman has been battling the virus ever since.

A GoFundMe account was set up to assist the family with the mounting medical bills. Organizer Irene (Monica’s sister) writes:

“Bill Teichman is a lifelong, 3rd generation fruit farmer and the heartbeat of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan. He and his wife, Monica, have dedicated their heart and soul to continuing the tradition of bringing families from far and wide to come enjoy a day of U-pick, waffle boats, picnics and the annual International Cherry Pit Spit. Bill is one of the most hardworking, genuine, intelligent, quirky, kind and strong individuals around. He is a loving husband, father and friend who inspires his children every day.

On Friday, August 16, 2019, Bill was admitted to the hospital with what is now known to be Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito-borne virus that causes brain swelling. After being admitted to the hospital, his symptoms quickly worsened, and two days later he was urgently transferred to Neurology ICU in Grand Rapids. While he was able to return to home for continued medical care, medical costs have accumulated and created quite the financial burden for this beloved family.”

She has provided a few updates on his condition, the latest which states that Bill was discharged and will continue to work on rehabilitation at home. Changes have had to be made to the family home to accommodate the now wheelchair-bound Teichman. The GoFundMe effort has raised $73,227 of the $95,000 goal. To donate, visit

In September of this year, the Berrien County Health Department released information recommending protective actions against the virus. At that time, they noted the increase in the number of cases throughout the state.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare virus that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The illness is extremely rare despite the elevated numbers of cases in the state. Multiple people have died from the disease.

Besides Bill’s fight with EEE, the year of 2019 also saw the passing away of family patriarch Herb Teichman in January. It was Herb’s father that began the agricultural empire that exists today.

It all began in the 1920s at the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. An enterprising young man sold some of his carload of fresh apples to a young lady with sparkling eyes. When William and Leone Teichman married two years later, they planted their dreams of growing sweet, juicy fruit atop a high ridge in Eau Claire, Michigan on 160 acres they named “Skyline Orchards.” Because their romance sparked over a basket of Jonathan apples, William’s first planting was 15 acres of Jonathans. It was unheard of at that time to plant so much of one variety.

Two rows of those Jonathan apples still exist on the family farm today and can be seen while touring the grounds. Once settled on Skyline Orchards, farm and family soon flourished. Today, Skyline Orchards has evolved to encompass over 450 acres known as Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, and a family four generations strong.

William and Leone’s son Herb and his wife Liz purchased the farm from his parents in 1969, it was their goal to have enough land to operate a recreational and “pick your own” farm. That goal was reached in 1972 and today their children and grandchildren continue the family tradition of growing the finest apples, cherries, peaches, and so much more.

Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm has been host to many family activities for over 45 years, among the most unique and fascinating is the International Cherry Pit Spitting Competition which is recognized in the Guiness Book of World Records. The loss of this Southwest Michigan staple will leave a certain void that will be felt by those near and far

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