Hagar Township Board sees possible income from pending new legislation; Coloma Curbside Christmas; S

Coloma Curbside Christmas

Coloma Cubside Christmas was a huge success Monday night, December 21 in the downtown business district. 240 Cars lined up downtown all the way out to past Roma Pizzeria waiting for their chance to order from the participating businesses and enjoy the Christmas music by Freshwater Band and wave “Hi” to Santa. (TCR Photo by Amy Loshbough)

ORDER UP….and delivered. The Coloma Curbside Christmas ran like a well oiled machine! Customers lined up all the way out Red Arrow Highway by Roma’s Pizzeria and turning right by Baker Park to order, while receiving a vehicle number. Proceeding to the businesses participating and collecting their order.

BEARING GIFTS… Mr. Coloma 2020 Ian Ishmael and Miss Teen Co-loma 2020 Ariana Price were handing out goodie bags at the Coloma’s Curbside Christmas drive-thru event held Monday night, Dec. 21, 2020. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)

Hagar Township Board sees possible income from pending new legislation to fund township parks’ costs

By Anna Layer

On Monday, Dec. 14, the Hagar Township Board approved a resolution to support the recreational fund House Bill 6161.

HB 6161 was introduced to Michigan legislature on Sept. 2, 2020 by representatives Wendzel and Marino. It would “permit local units of government to impose and collect an excise tax on persons engaged in the business of providing rooms for dwelling, lodging, or sleeping purposes to transient guests; to provide for the disposition of the proceeds of the excise tax; and to prescribe penalties.” Currently, HB 6161 has been referred to the Committee for Government Operations, and if eventually passed, doesn’t change anything officially just yet.

HB 6161 would give Hagar Township the ability to collect excise taxes on transactions such as AirBnb rentals, and then use the fees collected for improvements on recreational trails, parks, and other public areas.

Hagar Township Clerk Sarah Rodriguez offered information on the potential impacts for residents and property owners in Hagar Township, “While we don’t have any hotels, I do believe this would affect some of the small business owners in our community. We have a number of AirBnbs, and more and more every summer, and after reading the House Bill, they would have to levy this tax. And then I wonder too about the campground, they may have to too, but I do think it’s a good idea, because those people are coming here because our beaches are beautiful and a huge draw. Our parks are nice, they use our roads, and if we can recoup a little bit of money in the form of a tax, I think that’s fine.”

Hagar Township Trustee Andy Ulleg agreed, “I’m not always for taxes, don’t get me wrong, but maybe something to offset the costs. We have numerous parks and nice parks, and to keep them that way I think the costs are only going to keep rising in the future.”

If passed, HB 6161 would likely provide dispersal of these funds through the state or the county. The potential range for the fee is one to five percent of the transaction total.

Road improvements, Board of Review & online tax payments

The Hagar Township Board also agreed to 2021 road improvement projects for sections of West Bundy Road, Central Avenue, Pier Road, Tamarack Drive, Springbrook Drive, Central Avenue, and Harrison Road. The total for all of these improvements is $158,358.

Additionally, the Board agreed to reappoint the existing Board of Review, effective January 2021. The approved Hagar Township Board of Review consists of Deb Frank, Owen Daily, Lee LaBay, and alternate Susan Franklin.

The Hagar Township Board is exploring the possibility of collecting tax payments online, which property owners have requested. Concerns about collecting payments online include potential fees to payers, as well as the cost to the township. There would be a $500 set up fee, as well as other monthly fees. The goal would be to have a plan in place by this time next year.

The next regular Hagar Township Board meeting will be held on Jan. 11, 2021. For more information, visit www.hagartownship.org.

Closed session at WFD zoom meeting ends with termination of Chief Dan Jones

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet Joint Fire Board held a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 to address a personnel issue. The meeting notice gave a hint that a closed session may be in order and just after calling the meeting to order, the board did just that, went into closed session. It was not stated publicly whether the person who was being discussed requested that closed session or not. In a time where virtual meetings have become the norm, the board went into a separate breakout room while the rest of the attendees waited.

While it was never announced what the personnel matter was, it was noted that Dan Jones was in the meeting and he did leave the waiting area to join the breakout session. Jones has been on administrative leave from the Watervliet Fire Department since September, following a series of events that were being investigated. At the end of the closed session the board re-convened and board member Melanie Marvin made the motion to terminate Dan Jones from the position of Fire Chief effective immediately. With support of the motion by board member Joe Stepich, roll call was taken and the vote was unanimous.

There was no further discussion and nothing else was on the agenda. Communication with Chairperson Deane Fizzell following the meeting confirmed that Captain Billy Whitney Jr. would remain as the Officer in Charge for the time being. Fizzell confirmed that no further details regarding the termination of Jones would be discussed.

This action follows a series of events dating back to late August.

Chief Dan Jones had been placed on paid administrative leave following a special meeting of the Fire Board on August 27, 2020. In addition to Jones, 2nd Lt. Justin Scheetz was also placed on paid administrative leave. As the two each had a closed session with the Fire Board, the details of what may have occurred with the two or between the two were unknown; however, the minutes of that meeting reflect that it was a personnel matter.

At the Fire Board’s next meeting held on September 15, 2020, both individuals were re-instated following the announcement that a written warning would be placed in each of their personnel files. This did not come without dissent. At one point in that meeting, Fire Board member Melanie Marvin (representing the City of Watervliet), made a motion that as the Fire Board continues to review policies, the handbook, employment agreements and the agreement that ties the Fire Board together, that Jones should remain on administrative leave. Watervliet City Mayor Dave Brinker supported the motion; however, it failed, as Watervliet Charter Township representatives Joe Stepich and Patt Bambrick and at-large member Deane Fizzell voted no.

It appeared that on goings within the department had given the Fire Board cause to believe that it is time to visit all of those governing documents and update and revise them as needed including payroll and administrative processes for the department.

Following that meeting, a special meeting of the Fire Board was called on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. While there was further discussion about the Chief’s status and some firefighters expressed some concerns during public comments, no action was taken by the Fire Board.

Fourteen members of the Watervliet Joint Fire Department took their concerns to the Watervliet Charter Township Board at their Sept. 21, 2020 meeting, in the form of communication. Through the letter, the authors stated that it was a letter of official notice to inform them that a majority vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the Chief was taken. They stated that recent actions with the Chief have left them with no other ethical recourse.

They alluded to an alleged physical altercation with an employee involving Jones, several alleged verbal altercations in recent months with residents and complaints about his behavior, including from neighboring departments’ personnel. Another instance referenced in the letter referred to a recent Fire Board meeting where an employee spoke up but was later allegedly threatened by the Chief.

The firefighters noted that things are getting progressively worse the longer he is left in charge and closed the letter stating that “in a profession where every call can be life and death for us or our citizens, you have to be able to rely on the people and equipment you work with. Honor and integrity are the back­bone of the fire service and when the trust has been broken in so many ways it cannot be repaired. Chief Jones has lost the ability to lead this department.”

At a Fire Board meeting held on Sept. 29, 2020, the board went into a discussion about a timeline for processing complaints regarding the Fire Chief. Following a closed session to receive legal counsel, the board authorized the Chair to work with legal counsel to present a separation term as discussed with legal counsel.

No action had been taken prior to the meeting held on Monday of this week, or at least none publicly. At the close of the meeting Fizzell mentioned the next meeting would be the regular board meeting in January.

UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP… The Coloma Watervliet Area Chamber of Commerce was pleased to do a formal ribbon cutting with Jordan Hurst the new owner of the Watervliet Subway located at 8279 Arnt Blvd. in Watervliet Township. It was almost exactly a year ago that the Chamber celebrated with Jordan when he took over the management of the Coloma Subway. Jordan has strived for great customer service and a well-stocked restaurant which is much appreciated by his customers and he has succeeded. The Chamber wishes Jordan and his staff much success at this second location. They encourage everyone’s support of a local restau-rant during these challenging times. The Watervliet Subway can be reached at 269-463-8895. Attending the ceremony were (from the left): Community Development Coordinator Chana Kniebes, Cham-ber President Tom Gear, Rodney Lynch, owner Jordan Hurst, manag-er Brittany Schelling, Watervliet Township Supervisor Joe Stepich, Watervliet Township Clerk Patt Bambrick, Laurie Roggow, Chamber Vice President Dave Scheuer and Coloma City Mayor Marsha Hammond.

Schools reopened, restaurants still shuttered under COVID-19 pause changes

On Friday, Dec. 18, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced modifications to the COVID-19 pause allowing Michigan high schools to reopen on Dec. 21, which for most statewide school districts was to be the first day of Christmas break. The date also allows student-athletes to return to practice per the Michigan High School Athletic Association, with remaining semi-finals and state championships for fall sports to be held in January (see Press Box on Pages 8 & 9 for more details).

The ban on dine-in restaurant service is extended through at least Jan. 15, causing even more concern among restaurant owners. A recent poll of Michigan Restaurant Association members predicts one third of Michigan restaurant operators say it is unlikely they will still be in business in six months. Only those establishments with strong equity positions and/or an ongoing takeout model are likely to be left by next fall, says the MRA. Theaters and bowling alleys are also permitted to reopen, subject to special COVID-19 occupancy limits and may not offer food or beverages.

Capitol Hill finalizes second relief bill

A compromise was reached Sunday morning on a second $900 billion COVID Relief bill said to include a $300 enhancement to the federal unemployment insurance benefit, extending eviction moratoriums for renters, and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans. Congress ultimately approved this newest round of relief funding on Monday evening, Dec. 21, 2020.

Also included is a package of subsidies for businesses and funding for schools, health care providers, $20 billion to small business grants and $15 billion to live event venues. The measure increased funding for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing. It also provided $13 billion in increased benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Moderna vaccine receives Emergency Approval

The Federal Food and Drug Administration has now granted Emergency Approval for the Moderna COVID vaccine. Michigan will receive over 170 million doses of the vaccine, which like the Pfizer product approved and mobilized last week requires a second injection within 30 days after the initial inoculation. The Moderna product does not require the extreme refrigeration required for the Pfizer vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only six adverse reactions among some 500 recipients of the Pfizer rollout.

Local health departments report lower than average cases of the traditional flu this year, recognizing that extra sanitation protocols have served to lessen the typical seasonal surge.

Health officials remind that standard time-proven immunizations including influenza, shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia are readily available, safe and even more important during the pandemic. See your pharmacist or family physician.

Health and governmental officials across the country join the CDC in asking families not to travel for Christmas this year as they did for Thanksgiving. Please continue to follow the CDC, Dr. Fauci and Health Department officials’ best practices of the “3 Ws”. Wash your hands, Watch your distance, and Wear a mask.


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