Fellows wins Miss Southwest Michigan; local Mason receives 70 year membership award; Hartford man ki

ELISABETH FELLOWS… a former Miss Watervliet, leans down to receive the 2017 Miss Southwest Michigan crown. She will go on to compete in the Miss Michigan Pageant in June 2017, with her eye on Miss America. The 20 year-old is a junior at Grand Valley State University.

ELISABETH FELLOWS… a former Miss Watervliet, leans down to receive the 2017 Miss Southwest Michigan crown. She will go on to compete in the Miss Michigan Pageant in June 2017, with her eye on Miss America. The 20 year-old is a junior at Grand Valley State University.

Elisabeth Fellows adds another title; Miss Southwest Michigan 2017

By Annette Christie

Elisabeth Fellows, former Miss Watervliet 2014 was crowned Miss Southwest Michigan 2017.  She will go on to compete for the Miss Michigan title in June of 2017, and if she wins that she would move forward to the Miss America Pageant.     Elisabeth, 20, is a graduate of Watervliet High School. She is currently a junior at Grand Valley State University and is studying medical laboratory technology. She is the daughter of Steve and Lerita Fellows.   Elisabeth took part in the competition held this past Sunday at the St. Joseph High School auditorium.  Components of the contest included interview, bathing suit, talent, dance, and formal presentation.  For her talent, she performed a musical interpretation with American Sign Language to the song Amazing Grace.  She has selected “Finding Beauty in Building Strength” as her platform.  For an on stage question, Elisabeth was asked if she thought women in the armed forces should serve in combat, why or why not.  She answered flawlessly that absolutely they should if they can reach up to the expectations, they can have their brother’s or sister’s back in the field, and fulfill the physical requirements. In the competition with six other area women, she won a $1,000 scholarship with her title and also received a prize package.  While in high school, she was involved in Leadership Council, Dance Team, was on the Honor Roll and a member of the National Honor Society.  Receiving the title of first runner-up to Elisabeth was Grace Hasse from Berrien Springs.  She is a former Miss Berrien Springs.  Also receiving a title on Sunday was Miss Sunset Coast.  This title was open to all young women from across the State of Michigan.  Emily Smith, 21, is a senior at Western Michigan University majoring in Political Science.  Her platform is Mental Health Matters.  She is also the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship and a prize package.   If any area schools or organizations would like the newly crowned royalty to present their platform or perform their talent, they should contact the Blossomtime Office at office@blossomtimefestival.org or by phone at (269) 982-8016.

Local Mason receives 70 Year membership award

FRED HONORED...Fred Munchow, center, was honored for his 70 years as a Mason. As Fred's wife Edith looks on, Grand Master Bill Finnkel recognizes him for the rare achievement

FRED HONORED…Fred Munchow, center, was honored for his 70 years as a Mason. As Fred’s wife Edith looks on, Grand Master Bill Finkel recognizes him for the rare achievement

Frederick A. Munchow of Coloma received special recognition on August 4, 2016 for his 70-year membership in the Coloma Masonic Lodge. William Finkel, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan made the presentation. Fred and his wife, Edith, attended a dinner in his honor prior to the presentation. Members of several local lodges and statewide lodges were present for the ceremony.  Grand Master Finkel stated that it is a rare occasion when a 70-year membership award is presented because the recipient must be at least 91 year of age. Fred joined Coloma Masonic Lodge in 1946. He served as Worshipful Master of the lodge in 1966; one year after the lodge celebrated its 100th Anniversary. The Masonic lodge has now been a fixture in the city of Coloma for 151 years.  Fred stated that he spent most of his year prior to being Worshipful Master digging through newspapers, files and minutes of the lodge to compile a booklet outlining the history of the Coloma Masonic Lodge. Thanks to members like Fred, the Coloma Masonic Lodge has a proud history of service to the community.  For information about the Coloma Masonic Lodge contact the lodge secretary, W. Don Baugher, at 269-468-4051.

Hartford man killed in accident at Watervliet Industrial Park

By Annette Christie

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department was called to an industrial accident in Watervliet Township at the Red Arrow Industrial Park, 8901 Industrial Park Dr. on August 16 at approximately 6:42 p.m.  Officers arriving at the scene found that scaffolding and ladders had collapsed and found two victims from the fall.  Carl Lee Stone from Hartford was pronounced deceased at the scene and the second victim, Joshua Stone, was transported to Lakeland Hospital for treatment.  This case is still under investigation at this time.

Berrien County Courts offer amnesty program

  The Berrien County Trial Court has announced a bench warrant amnesty program for the criminal division of the Court. The Court will allow individuals with outstanding bench warrants for failing to appear and failing to comply and with financial obligations on past criminal cases to appear without fear of being arrested. A list of eligible individuals may be viewed on the Court’s web site at www.berriencounty.org.  Individuals wishing to participate must appear at one of the Berrien County Courthouses between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. between the dates of Tuesday, September 6 and Friday, September 16 and must be able to make final payment in full on any outstanding balances.  The Court will also waive any late fees during the amnesty period.   The Court will recall the warrant and dismiss any future contempt dates or charges for those cases when final payment is received. Following the payment, individuals will be free to go.   The program is available for both felony and misdemeanor case types in Berrien County and is for criminal cases only.  Payment of outstanding fees may be paid by cash, credit card, cashier’s check, or money order.  For questions regarding this program or outstanding balances, contact (269) 983-7111, ext. 8820.    If an individual has outstanding warrants or criminal charges in another county or state or for another matter in Berrien County, he or she may be taken into custody as a result. For information regarding outstanding child support or Friend of the Court balances, contact (269) 983-7111, ext. 8575.

Michigan State Police warns of flooding issues

 With some parts of Michigan receiving large amounts of heavy rain this week, the Michigan State Police encouraged residents and visitors to prepare for possible flooding.  The National Weather Service forecast called for one to four inches of heavy rain for Monday and Tuesday, with some parts getting as much as five inches.  Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security stated that flash flooding has the ability to be life threatening and damaging.  “To be prepared and safe, residents should protect their property against any flooding hazards and double-check to ensure they are covered by insurance.  If you must travel, please be careful and do not drive through any flooded road,” Kelenske said.  While flooding is most prevalent near low-lying areas and bodies of water, it can occur almost anywhere, including near small streams, creeks, and even basements.  Flash floods are the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  In addition to flooding preparedness, residents are encouraged to purchase flood insurance.  Homeowners’ and property owners’ insurance does not typically cover flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program estimates that 90 percent of all natural disasters involve flooding.  An inch of water can require a property owner to replace carpet, drywall, floor boards, moldings, doors and other belongings.  Additionally, clean-up of mud and residue can be costly, as can repairing any mold and mildew damage that may occur.

Watervliet Board of Education held informative meeting

By Kristy Noack

The Watervliet Board of Education held a very informative meeting on Monday, August 15. An update was provided by personnel from Miller-Davis, the school’s construction contractor; two retirements were accepted; and two probationary teaching contracts were approved.Construction update: a “Trane”-wreck  John Van Stratt of Miller-Davis was on hand to update the board as to the progress of Phase 2 construction at the high and middle schools. Van Stratt stated, “School will open on time,” to the relief of those in attendance but quickly followed that statement with, “The cafeteria and main entry on the west side of the building will not be ready.”  Phase 2 works faced an aggressive timeline from the get-go, with projects scheduled to begin in late May and be completed by early September. Van Stratt shared the numerous reasons that construction will not be finished on time. During the demolition phase of the ceiling, the crews found “a lot of piping, water lines, and gas lines that instead of being under the roof joists as they were expected to be, they were run through the roof joists. So, we could not raise the roof; raise those joists, without moving all that piping out of the way.”  Additionally, the work crews were not able to begin construction in the media center in May as originally planned due to student testing that required the room. Once demolition in the media center began and the floor was cut away, it was discovered that conduit containing electrical lines was buried in the floor.  Van Stratt advised that although Miller- Davis has discovered “poor building practices” from the original build date of the school, “You are going to have a much higher infrastructure  in place” after construction is complete.  Another delay in completion of Phase 2 work is the lack of mechanical equipment supplied by Trane. Van Stratt advised that the company was referred to as “Trane”-wreck in Miller-Davis’s meeting on Monday.  Trane is running behind nationally and no delivery date has been confirmed by the heating and air-conditioning equipment company.  The heating and cooling units were ordered on time over 16 weeks ago.  As for the cost implication of construction delays, Van Stratt stated, “(costs) are still being tallied.” The project had a 10% contingency budget in place for construction overages, and $600,000 remains. “We will be within that 10%,” Van Stratt stated.  Miller-Davis has had 30 to 40 workers on site at the schools Monday through Friday. Personnel numbers decrease on the weekends.  Currently, the target opening date for the new cafeteria and entry will be the end of September.  With the increase in workers and project scope, it is interesting to note that there have been no lost time accidents at the site throughout the project.

North and South Elementary buildings and WAY program set Open House date and time

 North Elementary, South Elementary, and the WAY program at Watervliet High School announced their open houses to welcome new students and parents.  All three locations will be open Wednesday, August 31 from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Parents and students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the teachers and administrators at each location before school starts on Tuesday, September 6.  As Carole Fetke stated, “We’re raring to go!”

Farac and Moker retire; Staffen and Arbut join the teaching ranks

  The Board accepted the retirement notices from two Watervliet Schools’ staff members. Peg Farac, a Special Education teacher at the high school, retired effective immediately. Farac began teaching in the Watervliet school district in 1984. Watervliet High School Principal Brad Coon said, “(Farac) is all heart.”  Dianne Moker, Finance Coordinator, also tendered her notice of retirement. Her last day with the district will be September 30.  Moker has spent 32 years in various school districts, including Holland and Zeeland, before calling Watervliet home for 10 years.  Both Farac and Moker will be sorely missed by the board, Superintendent Kevin Schooley, and the students.  Two new probationary teaching contracts were extended during Monday’s meeting. Winifred Staffen, who previously taught in the Lawrence school district, will replace Farac as a Special Education teacher at the high school.  Bryan Arbut was also approved to receive a probationary teaching contract.  Originally, Arbut obtained a degree in Accounting from Michigan State University. However, he returned to college and earned teaching credentials. He will teach English at the high school.

Additional approvals given

 The board approved a resolution advising that the district would continue to collect 100% of the non-homestead tax in the summer. This resolution is reviewed each year and is unchanged. Prior to 2010, the school collected taxes in both summer and winter, with a 50/50 split.  General Fund expenses for July amounted to $1,686,759.38. Of that, $283,715.98 was attributed to payroll expenses. Another $1,304,190.33 was paid to Miller-Davis for Phase 2 construction fees. Miller-Davis uses the funds to pay subcontractors and suppliers for ongoing work at the school.  Two buses required repair, totaling $3,799.17, and the school paid $5,600.70 to the City of Watervliet for its quarterly water service.  The Board of Education established goals for itself on Monday. The list of goals will be posted on the district web site and include the directive to make Watervliet “one of the top five schools in Berrien County.”

Bullying Policy 8260 approved for first reading

 The board approved the first reading of policy 8260 on bullying. The approval of the policy after the second reading will bring the school into compliance with state requirements on bullying.  The new language added to the policy references cyber bullying, which is bullying of others through the use of technology, most notably through social media web sites.