Hartford, Decatur, South Haven, and more local government reports

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Decatur Village Manager Aaron Mitchell goes into great detail to explain the village’s accomplishments during the past year in this week’s Decatur Republican (Feb. 8, 2018) and he gives credit to the entire team, Council and employees, for “hitting the streets every day” to get the job done. Decatur Department of Public Works new additions include a Kubota tractor with a snow blower attachment, a Ford F-250, and a secure fence plus locking gate for the DPW barn. The Police Department restructuring and hiring of Police Chief VanDerWoude, “brought a level of professionalism to the department that has been noticed throughout Decatur,” Mitchell writes. Other 2017 accomplishments Mitchell notes include Red Woolfe Park improvements, a Storm and Waste Water Asset Management Plan, an Employee Compensation Assessment, and Fund Balance increases. “Being stewards of your money is a duty we take very seriously here,” Mitchell concludes.


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The City of Hartford is delaying bids for the demolition of the former Huffman’s Home Furnishings building at 1 East Main, reports Jon Bisnett in the Tri-City Record, Feb. 8, 2018 issue. Although the City of Hartford received five bids, only two of the potential contractors attended a recent building walk-through. Questions remain concerning asbestos handling and several adjoining street and sidewalk issues. In another matter Bisnett reports that Hartford’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was the subject of a plan of action presentation by Wightman and Associates to get it running within specifications. Additionally a proposed medical marijuana dispensary is under review by the Planning Commission.


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Arlington Township and Lawrence Township are at odds over the cost of fire protection, says Paul Garrod, writing in the Courier-Leader (Feb. 9, 2018). At a recent joint meeting of the two township boards, the 13-year-old agreement under which Lawrence Township provides fire and medical coverage to parts of Arlington Township costs Arlington Township residents too much, Garrod reports Arlington Township Treasurer Phil Pitts as saying. Russ Reynnells, Lawrence Township Board Member, said the annual charge of $32,000 hasn’t increased during all the 13 years despite labor, insurance, and equipment cost increases, Garrod further reports. Their talks will continue.


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At the Lawton Village Council’s Jan. 9, 2018 meeting, the Lawton Free Reader Feb., 2018 issue reports community concerns were raised over empty commercial buildings in the Village. The Downtown Development Authority also discussed commercial blight along with talk about banners, a Splash Pad project, and Summerfest.


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South Haven City Council gives its approval to a new evening music festival this July 20 and 21, 2018 at Riverfront Park, according to WSJM radio, writing at their website wsjm.com (Feb. 7, 2018). The event, Rhythm on the River, includes a beer garden and will open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. both nights. It joins other events the council approved including Steelheaders Fishing Tournament in May, Art Fair in June, and Blueberry Festival in August. Also, WSJM reports, “Council members last night raved about the success of this past weekend’s Ice Breaker Festival.”


WHAT DO YOU THINK? FUD? Or worth the effort?
What happened with you at the local government offices?
Is Decatur really a better place? Does Hartford need a marijuana dispensary? Will you really go to South Haven’s new music festival, Rhythm on the River?

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Industrial park project moves forward

— A new industrial park is coming to Van Buren County.

In its January meetings the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners approved a way forward for a new county industrial park.

Citing a need to increase employment, promote commerce, and strengthen the county’s economy, the Board announced an industrial park project plan will proceed. The Economic Development Corporation of the County of Van Buren will assist in financing construction and equipping the industrial park for a maximum loan amount of $136,500. The industrial park will be owned and operated by Martin Teresko and Douglas Teresko. The Economic Development Corporation made the loan request.

A public hearing was called by the Economic Development Corporation for the Teresko Study but no public comments were offered.

In a related action, Zach Morris and Jeff Hannan of Kinexus were each appointed to the Economic Development Corporation Board for six year terms expiring February 13, 2024. Two vacancies needed to be filled and the Board of Commissioners deemed Morris and Hannan necessary due to their affiliation with the Economic Development Corporation. Kinexus is a non-profit business development and employment service with an office in Paw Paw and the Economic Development Corporation promotes economic health and a sound standard of living in the county.

 


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County news January 2018

Van Buren County Board of Commissioners met on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23, 2018 and made the following determinations:

Van Buren County Road Commissioner Chester Ray has stepped down from his duties due to scheduled surgeries and the prospect of an extended recovery time and has been replaced by Steven Brown of Gobles. Brown will complete Ray’s term which expires at the end of 2022.

The County’s Equalization Department is understaffed and the Board of Commissioners is transitioning to an outside service. Equalization is concerned with fair property assessments. CSZ Services LLC of St. Johns and Quality Equalization Services LLC of Westland both presented their qualifications in bids to win the county contract. CSZ Services was approved by the Board which recommended they be contracted to perform all equalization services for the county for one year at a cost of $178,000.

Rose Street Advisors of Kalamazoo presented their proposal to renew the 2018-2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance Policy. No action on the proposal was noted.

The Foster Swift invoice payment for the New Covert case was discussed. Administrator John Faul presented an update of costs for the New Covert Generating Case and the breakdown for the Cost Sharing Group. The original estimate of one million dollars will be exceeded due to an additional law suit. The current invoice for Foster Swift is $34,352.06. Motion to approve the payment of $34,352.06 to Foster Swift for the New Covert Generating Case and subject to the cost sharing agreement. A motion was made by Commissioner Mike Toth and seconded by Commissioner Kurt Doroh after which it carried.

The Mental Health Authority Board has a vacancy which their Board of Directors recommends Molly Peterson fill.

Kirk Kruithof was appointed to a position on the Public Transit Local Advisory Council.

Van Buren County has been requested to provide $500 to the Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study as its share of a Federal Planning Grant. Motion to approve by resolution at the next regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners was made and carried.

A Resource Officer position for Mattawan Consolidated Schools has been made. Sheriff Abbott explained that Mattawan Schools will pay the officer’s wages for nine months and the Sheriff’s Office will pay the other three months. During the three month period this deputy will work in the jail and this will enable another deputy to go on Marine Patrol.

The Board of Commissioners renewed the hospice lease with Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. The facility has reduced the space needed for their operations and changes were made to the lease amount. The renewal lease is for 36 months at a rate of $14,400 annually and is backdated to December 1, 2017.

Dr. Vincent Cabras will continue in his position at the Van Buren Public Health Board. Dr. Cabras’ appointment expired at the beginning of 2018 and he expressed interest in continuing his work there. The Board of Commissioners, in their consent agenda, approved the re-appointment of Dr. Cabras for three years.

Is it wrong for ex-felons to get a decent job?

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They’re sorry, they did everything they were told, they served their time. What more do people want?
Ex-felons find it almost impossible to get decent work because of their past. Now MI State House Bill 4065 is trying to remedy this problem.
Gov. Rick Snyder said, “This bill calls for the creation of a framework to connect these individuals with employment and skills that will help them become contributing members of Michigan’s workforce and economy.”
You can help this effort too simply by supporting jobs for qualified ex-offenders at your workplace.

Is crime on your mind?

Have you heard about the Citizens Police Academy? 205 S. Kalamazoo St. in Paw Paw

Crime scene investigations, medical examiner duties, officer force, emergency response, underwater recovery and even jail time are all topics taught this year at the Citizens Police Academy at the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office in Paw Paw. Sheriff deputies teach policing methods here with the goal of improved communication between law enforcement officers and county citizens. Eleven sessions, each on Wednesday evenings beginning mid-January, 2018, have been designed specifically to provide you with an insider’s look at law enforcement.

Sheriff Dan Abott, at the county website, said, “I feel this is a very valuable experience we can give to the citizens. In today’s world, it is very important to be transparent and allow the public to look at the world of law enforcement from behind the scenes.”

The Prosecutor’s Office, an FBI Special Agent, a Drug Recognition Expert, and Police K9 Unit personnel are all scheduled to teach as well. In fact the Citizens Police Academy course is just packed with great information — much more than I can list here. See for yourself! Seating is limited however and applications are being accepted now so deliver or mail their form to the County Sheriff, 205 S. Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, MI 49079 to reserve your seat.


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County Public Defender?

A new joint Allegan/Van Buren County public defender is on the horizon. Van Buren County Commissioners voted their approval to a development plan for the new position at their July 11, 2017 meeting.

Will a public defender — an attorney representing poor residents in trouble with the law — step into the courtroom sometime soon?

A Herald Palladium report from 2016 explains how the county may be forced to create, or share with neighboring counties, the public defender’s office.

About $700,000 of county money goes to defending poor clients every year according to the article. Will that figure increase or decrease when this new position is introduced?

by Chuck Williams

May 2017 millage proposal to fund county building construction fails

Your Comments
UPDATE: The millage proposal failed big time.

Van Buren County offered public tours of its courthouse and jail in Paw Paw in March and April, 2017 to no avail.

courthouse
With these tours the county wanted to increase the public’s awareness of what these facilities need to continue to be useful.

Richard Godfrey, Chairman of the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners, told me, “Basically all of the structures are old and they are outdated and they need major renovation.”

The May, 2017 election included a jail and court millage proposal that, county commissioners agree, will bring these facilities up to today’s standards. The millage proposal can be read online at webapps.sos.state.mi.us/MVIC/PublicBallot.aspx.
At the website, select Van Buren County followed by your community and precinct.

It proposed to increase property taxes up to .7 mills for a court upgrade addition and the renovation of the jail and of the administration building. See the Courier-Leader to read more.

The construction project discussion isn’t new. A Courier-Leader story from December, 2016 provides some background. In the article, past-Commissioner John Henry says too that the facility is outdated.

Godfrey also pointed to a problem in the county court house design that needs to be fixed. “The historic court house, you know, it was fine when it was built in 1902 and served the population well at that time,” Godfrey said,” but we have ten times as many people and the times have changed so that we don’t like to co-mingle our population with the prisoners as they go into the court room and situations like that need to be remedied so that we don’t have any potential problems — any disasters, actually — occur when we have prisoners and the public intersecting in our hallways.”

When will Road Commission get its fair share?

What gives? The new transportation tax that kicked in Jan. 1, 2017 will add $460 million to the state bank account this year.

“Yet the state transportation budget will only have $160 million more this year for road repairs, not $460 million. That is because the Legislature shifted funds out of the transportation budget just as new tax revenues were coming into it,” reports Michigan Capitol Confidential.

According to their online article, Michigan moves money back and forth between funds, like in this example, all the time.

So is the practice OK as long as the Van Buren Road Commission get their money … sooner or later? Or is it a bad habit that deserves more attention than it currently gets?

See www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/where-the-money-from-higher-transportation-taxes-goes to learn more about this problem.

by Chuck Williams