South Haven Tribune
308 Kalamazoo St.
South Haven, MI 49090
Covert's first female, black supervisor reflects on the past 8 years
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
COVERT — This week Barbara Rose will close one chapter of her life and begin a new one.
For the past eight years, Rose, 68, has served as supervisor of Covert Township. But this week, former township clerk Dennis Palgen, who defeated Rose in the August primary and ran unopposed in the November general election, will take over.
For Rose the loss is somewhat bittersweet.
“I would have preferred he (Palgen) not run, but he was exercising his right to do so,” Rose said. “My priority as supervisor was to help Covert. I've been able to do that. I can walk away with m head up.”
Rose made local history in 2008 when voters elected her supervisor. Not only did she become the first female leader of the township, but the first black one.
“I ran (for supervisor) because I wanted to give back to my community,” said Rose, who has been involved in politics for more than four decades.
In 1966, she became a Democratic precinct delegate and went on to serve as a delegate for the presidential conventions of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
She spent a decade serving the Michigan Department of Commerce as a liaison to the White House and was a lobbyist for Western Michigan University for 10 years.
But by 2008, she wanted to reside full time in Covert and give back to her own community.
“Covert's my hometown. I went to school here. If it weren't for the people in Covert, I wouldn't have had the career I had,” she said.
Prior to being elected to her first four-year term as township supervisor, Rose pledged to survey residents to see what concerns they had. True to her word, she surveyed voters as well as students attending Covert High School.
“I thought it would be something good to do,” she said. “You have to get input.”
Through her surveys she found that residents were concerned about Covert's economic appeal.
She and township board members set to work revising the township's blight laws, specifically provisions dealing with tearing down condemned structures.
“We set up a dangerous buildings program and since then took down 15 homes. If they weren't torn down they were fixed up which has added value to Covert,” Rose said.
The township also undertook the task of sealcoating 10 miles of roadways each year and clearing roadside ditches on a regular cycle.
She and her husband Geoffrey even helped address blight concerns downtown when they purchased a home that had become known as a hangout for alleged drug dealers.
The home is in the process of being restored and the Roses plan to lease some or all of it for commercial office space.
Other improvements that Rose played a role in Covert include resurfacing of M-140 Highway and County Road 378; helping to coordinate construction of the new Covert Township Library; making improvements to Covert Township Park and the Covert Historical Museum; lowering property taxes for three consecutive years; and helping to attract Dollar General and West Michigan Flocking Co. to locate in Covert. Currently, West Michigan Flocking is located in South Haven but plans to build a facility on County Road 378 West.
“One of the best compliments I received was from someone who said, 'you do more behind the scenes to help people than people will ever know,'” Rose said.
But she admits Covert faces a number of challenges. The legal question of whether the township and school district will have to reimburse New Covert Generating Plant millions of dollars due to a state decision to lower the company's taxes is still being argued in the courts. There's also concern about whether Palisades Nuclear Plant — one of the county's largest employers — will survive into the future as a deregulated plant that is forced to compete with cheaper fuel offered by natural gas plants and renewable energy sources.
She said she hopes the future will be good for her hometown.
In the meantime, she's contemplating her next move.
“My husband and I are working to see what will happen. I'll stay in this area,” she said. “I need to look at my options and make a decision. Sometimes you need to be still, but for me it won't be for long.”
County board seeks millage for jail,courthouse upgrades
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners are officially placing a millage request on the May 2017 ballot to fund a proposed building expansion program at the courthouse and jail complex, and an adjacent county building, all located in Paw Paw.
The millage request of 0.7-mill is for 20 years. For a property with a taxable value of $40,000, the annual levy would be $28. Overall, the millage is expected to generate $2,216,200 the first year.
"It (the building program) does include four projects," County Administrator Douglas Cultra told commissioners at their meeting earlier this month.
The money is to be used to pay back $32 million in bonds the board intends to sell for the project which includes a 60,000-square-foot court addition, an addition and renovation of the jail, remodeling the Annex Building and renovating the Administration and Land Services Building.
The entire project is expected to take two years.
The jail portion calls for a north annex for booking, housing, a day room, medical rooms, offices and storage. An east addition would be for a receiving building and kitchen.
Bid openings are set for December with the construction contract to be awarded in January. The construction is expected to take the remainder of the year. Inmates are scheduled to be transferred into the new facility by Nov. 13, 2017.
The court addition will be built onto the west side of the Annex, which is south of the main courthouse. Renovations to the Annex Building itself would start after the court facility is completed.
Renovations to the Administration and Land Management Building, across the street to the north of the courthouse, will begin after the other three projects are completed.
One of the hurdles to construction is getting permission from the Village of Paw Paw to build on St. Joseph Street. The process is called street vacation. Commissioner Richard Freestone said he was concerned about the millage locking in the county if the road isn't vacated.
But Commissioner John "Mike" Henry didn't see that as a lock-in. Assuming the millage is passed "the board is not obligated the levy the millage at all," Henry said.
Cultra said because the election is not until May, there is "more than adequate time" for the county to decide to move forward.
Henry called the ballot issue "a very significant public safety millage."
He said the way that prisoners get moved from jail to court "stinks." The court facility was designed in the late 1890s and built in 1901.
"I think they did a great job to design a great facility that's stood a hundred-plus years of use," Henry said. "But these are different days."
In other matters, commissioners ratified a three-year contract with the Police Officers Labor Council, which represents about 30 command and corrections officers.
The officers will receive 2 percent raises each year plus receive $250 per semester for career enhancement classes approved by the sheriff.
Cultra called the $250 minimal. "They put their life on the line every day to protect us as citizens," Cultra said.
Commissioners also approved $50,085 for equipment to enhance courthouse security. The expenditure will pay for a magnetometer for the Friend of the Court office, the purchase and repair of X-ray equipment, as well as signs and cameras with card readers.
New roof to be installed at Baseline Middle School
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven Public Schools Board of Education has given the green light for $2.4 million in bond-funded construction projects at several schools.
About $2 million of the work is scheduled to take place at Baseline Middle School and at Lincoln Elementary School.
Work at Baseline will include roofing, mechanical, plumbing upgrades, and a new, secure entrance, said Kevin Dee, district director of non-instructional services. Work at that school will cost about $1.1 million.
The $939,000 work at Lincoln will include mechanical and plumbing work, new windows and the addition of a secure entrance vestibule.
Lincoln is now the oldest school in the district, with its oldest sections dating to 1953 and 1956, Dee said. As a result, there will also be $65,000 spent on asbestos removal and monitoring at the school.
Work approved this past week also includes upgrades to Ratcliffe Field lighting; a dust collector for the new shop area at the high school; and a small amount of work at North Shore Elementary School.
“The goal is to have all work (at all locations) done by the fall of 2017, so it will mostly be summer work,” Dee said.
In other matters, Superintendent Bob Herrera presented the Student of the Month Award to Danny Riston, a seventh-grader at Baseline Middle School.
The monthly district Pride Award was given to Maple Grove Elementary first-grade Teacher Allison Dubbink.
The superintendent also gave a Golden Keyboard Award to high school World History Teacher Cory Salyer, for his use of technology in the classroom.
South Haven veteran in line for Medal of Honor
A U.S. Army veteran who helped save the lives of 10 wounded men while serving as a medic during the Vietnam War is in line to receive the nation's highest military honor — if three legislators have anything to say about it.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton are working on legislation to make James C. McCloughan eligible for the Medal of Honor for his acts of heroism and valor during the Vietnam War. If the legislation is approved and he receives it, it will mark the third time a South Haven veteran has received the Medal of Honor. The other two recipients were Civil War veteran William Wilcox and Korean War veteran Duane Dewey.
All three legislators feel McCloughan is very deserving for the nation's highest military honor.
Then-Private First Class McCloughan, a native and current resident of South Haven, served as a medic and saved the lives of 10 members of his platoon who were wounded during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill on May 13-15, 1969. When discharged from the service he rose to the rank of Specialist (SP5).
“Nearly 50 years ago, Private First Class James McCloughan acted heroically to save the lives of his fellow service members, and it’s time that he finally receives the recognition he deserves,” said Senator Stabenow. “We are deeply grateful for his heroism and service to our country.”
"Private First Class James McCloughan acted without regard to his own safety to treat and rescue his fellow servicemembers in the heat of battle,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. "His heroism and dedication are deserving of our nation’s highest military honor, and I thank him for his service and sacrifice.”
"Private First Class James McCloughan is an American hero - there is no doubt about that," said Congressman Upton. "And after 50 years, it's time he finally receives the highest recognition for the deeds that made him a hero. Private First Class McCloughan is one of my constituents here in Southwest Michigan, and I'm honored to be joining the fight with our Senators to get this done for him and his family."
Medal of Honor recipients must be honored within five years of the act of heroism justifying the award. However, The Department of Defense recently recommended that James McCloughan receive this honor. The legislation proposed by the three Michigan legislator would waive the five-year requirement and when signed into law, will make it possible for the President to award the Medal of Honor to McCloughan.
Private First Class McCloughan was highly decorated receiving the Combat Medical Badge, two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars with “V” device for valor, The U. S. Army Valorous Unit Citation, The National Defense Medal, The Good Conduct Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal with three battle stars, The Vietnam Campaign Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palms and one oak leaf cluster and the M16 Expert Rifle Badge.
PHOTOS, Top photo shows Jim McCloughan. The photo below that shows when he served in the Vietnam War.
The digital divide
Lack of high-quality internet broadband service makes rural residents feel left behind
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Earlier this year, Sarah Rydecki got fed up with slow internet service at her home in rural Geneva Township.
“We have wi-fi that we pay $80 a month for 10 gigabytes of high-speed internet. But we burn through that in less than a week,” she said. “It's not equitable at all,” she said referring to neighboring South Haven and Bangor cities, which have access to less expensive and more reliable internet services offered through Comcast and Frontier Communications.
So Rydecki decided to go on a mission.
Armed with a pad of paper and pencil she began to survey her neighbors to see if they wanted better internet service and if they would be willing to pay for Comcast high-speed internet.
Rydecki thought if she could get enough signatures perhaps Comcast would agree to extend service to the neighborhood, which lies along a one-mile stretch of County Road 384 between M-43 Highway and 68th Street.
The neighbors were more than willing to pay for better internet service.
“We really have nothing here,” said neighbor Jeanne Gerling.
“I'm tired of the satellite service,” said Mark Caponigro.
Jim Bentel agreed. “We have four TVs and a computer and pay $89 (a month) but it's intermittent,” he said regarding internet quality.
But even though Comcast's cable lines exist along M-43 and in a nearby subdivision on 68th Street, the company told Rydecki that there weren't enough residents in the one-mile stretch of CR 384 to justify the expense of extending cable wires. Only 25 homes are located in that vicinity.
“They won't go down roads with less than 40 houses,” Rydecki said.
Rydecki and her neighborhood's concern about the quality of their internet service isn't lost on Geneva Township Supervisor Nancy Whaley.
“The only place we have high speed is in subdivisions on the northwest part (of the township),” she said. “That's about 10-12 percent of the township.”
Whaley said she has discussed with other governmental officials how to obtain better internet service in her township, but to no little avail. “The rural areas have little to no access for good internet service. It appears that we will be waiting a long time for such service to our rural areas.”
It's a dilemma that frustrates Douglas Cultra, Van Buren County administrator.
“More than half of the county lacks access to reliable high-speed internet,” he said. “It's critical (to have high-speed internet) if you want to run any type of business, especially a small business.”
High-speed internet is tied to the county's overall economic development, Cultra went on to say.
“Good businesses realize that attracting good people makes them profitable. Every person under 40 is tied to the internet,” he said. “If we don't have high-speed internet for everyone in Van Buren County, how are we going to attract people businesses want?”
And it's not just businesses that suffer from lack of high-speed internet throughout the county, rural school systems and children who live in rural areas suffer as well, according to Deb Paquette, superintendent of Bloomingdale Public Schools.
Several years ago Bloomingdale took pride in providing netBooks for all of its students to use, but once many students got home to do homework, they couldn't because they lacked access to high-speed internet.
“It was a disaster,” Paquette said recently to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters at a town hall meeting at Bloomingdale Communications. “In today's online learning environment, my students don't have the same opportunities as others. We have the (computer) devices, but when students go online, the learning stops.”
Peters arranged for the town hall meeting in September to gather input about lack of rural high-speed internet in rural areas, such as Van Buren County.
“No matter who you are or where you live you have to have access to the internet,” said Peters, who is a strong proponent of rural broadband access nationwide.
Earlier this yer, the Senate's Commerce Committee approved Peters' amendment to update the National Broadband Map by requiring the Federal Communications Commission to report on existing data collection practices for fixed and mobile broadband coverage and offer recommendations for improvements.
He also recently joined 26 of other senators in urging the FCC to update the Universal Service Fund’s Mobility Fund to prioritize new mobile broadband services in rural and underserved areas.
Closer to home, State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton has introduced a bill that would provide a 10-year personal property tax exemption to companies that expand fiber-optic and other broadband services that reach a minimum speed of 50 megabits per second.
“It's the No. 1. impediment into rural areas,” he said referring to the cost companies encounter in trying to expand high-speed internet service to locations that have fewer customers than ones residing in cities or suburbs.
The high cost of internet service expansion definitely plays a role in Comcast's decision to expand its cable broadband — with its enviable speeds of up to 2 Gigabits per second — into rural areas, according to a company spokesperson.
“Comcast has invested millions in Michigan both in expansion and maintenance of its existing network,” said Rob Ponto, a senior manager of public relations for Comcast. “The potential for future growth, demand and distance from an existing plant are all factors we take into consideration when going to a new area.”
Comcast often uses customer feedback for expansion plans, but Ponto, said, fiber and coaxial cable are very expensive to install. When told about Rydecki's survey of homeowners along the one-mile stretch of CR 384, Ponto said Comcast would take a second look to consider whether it could install cable lines there, but whether the company will change its mind has not yet been determined.
But Comcast isn't the only company that has the ability to offer high-quality internet to rural areas such as Geneva Township. Two smaller independent firms are trying hard to bridge the digital divide.
Bloomingdale Communications and Midwest Energy Cooperative have served rural areas of Van Buren County for a number of years. Bloomingdale originally offered phone service, while Midwest focused on providing electric service to its customers.
But in the past decade, the two companies have begun delving into providing internet services.
“We've tried several things because we've hard so much from our members who are desperate for viable internet options,” said Patti Nowlin, director of communications and community relations for Midwest. The folks in rural spaces have been underserved forever. Rural America only got power because rural America made it happen themselves. Here we are again. The digital divide is similar to the electric divide we had in the 1930s.”
So several years ago, Midwest began investing in creating a two-way fiber communications system that it is building over its electric distribution system.
“We're leveraging that to offer phone and internet service,” Nowlin said.
The company has 23 electrical zones in Southwest Michigan. Over the next five years it plans to extend high-quality internet service to its customers, depending on demand.
“It's a grassroots effort,” Nowlin said. “Eleven (zones) will be in the process (of having service) by the end of this year. We've come up with packages and plans that are very affordable to what the competition is offering and at greater speeds. The other big piece is that it doesn't have data limits.”
One of the zones where Midwest plans to offer its high-speed internet service is in Keeler Township.
A customer there, John Muehlhausen helped spur customer demand for the service.
“He operates a business out of his home and single-handedly started his own grassroots effort,” Nowlin said. “He reached out to people. For him, (high-speed internet) is a business necessity.”
Bloomingdale Communications has also been at work in the past decade, upgrading its internet services.
“We've offered DSL to all of our customers since 2004, said Dan Key, facilities manager of Bloomingdale Communications. “But fiber (hard-wired internet) is the way to go. The company currently offers fiber-optic internet services to 2,000 of its 3,500 customers, but it would like to extend it to its entire service area. However, cost stands in the way.
Key and other company officials hope that working with legislators, such as Peters and Nesbitt, will help to leverage more government support to end the digital divide between urban and rural residents in Van Buren County.
PHOTO: Sarah Rydecki of Geneva Township is shown looking at her internet bill.
Trump victory surprises many
South Haven area residents wonder what the future holds for America
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
The pollsters who predicted Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would defeat Republic Donald Trump in Tuesday's general election got it wrong.
Even though Clinton captured the popular vote by a slim margin, Trump emerged the victor after narrowly winning the electoral college.
His victory stunned people including members of Trump's own party who considered him too brash with his agenda of doing away with Obamacare, erecting a wall to keep illegal Mexican aliens from entering America's southern borders, and turning the Supreme Court in a conservative direction, according to Julie Pace, AP White House correspondent.
But, a day after the historic election, Republicans, who firmly grabbed the majority of House and Senate seats, gathered to support Trump, prompting many Americans, including ones in the South Haven area to wonder what the future holds for the country.
Robert Scott posted on the Tribune's Facebook page that he was "completely suprised" at the election's outcome and "overwhelmed at the thought of what's to come.
"Thank God there is a House and Senate to keep an eye on him," he continued to say. "Hoping they can work together."
Pat Ingalls of Geneva Township said he's also worried about Trump as the nation's 45th president.
“I hope we don't end up in a war,” he said. “My wife Kim and I heard Hillary Clinton at GVSU a day before the election. The speech was very uplifting, and then it all went downhill Tuesday. It was sad.”
Concerns expressed by Scott and Ingalls were amplified across the country, Wednesday and Thursday when protestors took to the streets in at least 10 major cities across America chanting phrases, “Not my president” and “Trump must go,” according to CNN.
To win the election, Trump needed to capture at least 270 electoral votes, and did so, 279-228, according to CNN..
Voters in 19 states, including California, Illinois and New York, cast their votes for Clinton, but Trump was able to hold on in key battleground states, including Michigan and Florida.
Michigan's results illustrated how hard both candidates fought to win. With 99 percent of precincts reporting by Wednesday morning, Trump was declared the winner, capturing 48 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton's 47 percent, according to the Associated Press.
Eight counties, including Kalamazoo Kent, Wayne and Genesee counties went for Clinton, while the remainder, including Van Buren County, cast the majority of their votes for Trump.
It was voters in Great Lakes states and America's Heartland who helped propel Trump to victory, but Trump even managed to capture states that normally vote Democrat, including Pennsylvania.
So how did the pollsters, who predicted two days before the election that Clinton would win, get it wrong?
According to an article in USA Today, pollsters overestimated Clinton's support among minorities and underestimated Trump's support among white voters. Pollsters also predicted more people would vote in this election than in the 2012 presidential election. But that didn't happen either.
The election's outcome didn't surprise some South Haven area residents.
“I knew it was going to be close," said Dicky Brewer. "I wouldn't have been surprised if Clinton had won either. It could have gone either way."
Mark Jackson of Bloomingdale expressed similar thoughts.
"I'm more relieved than surprised," he said. "With all the blue collar, non-college voters coming out in droves, it kinda proved the fact that middle class America is ready for a change. I'm sure we're all going to survive."
Yet, anger over the election's outcome and Trump's controversial comments about women, minorities and escalating the war on terrorism in the Middle East, concern area residents.
"I am sorry and so depressed that a slight majority of my country has voted for a person who has demonstrated unbridled hubris, meanness, relentless sexism and bigotry. I don't see the leadership," Casco Township resident Julie Cowie posted on Facebook. "This vote isn't about making our country better; it is about power and control."
“He doesn't respect women, Muslims, migrants, handicapped folks, LGBTQ. . . Any one who is 'other' than him,” said Rebecca Linstrom of South Haven. “Democracy will be tested. Faith in humanity will be tested.”
Renee Goff of Pullman is remaining positive about the country's future under Trump.
"I know a lot of people are worried, upset, scared, or whatever else emotion they have going on but just know it's going to be OK. Put it in God's hands,” she posted on Facebook. “Don't let this election ruin friendships. Don't let it worry you. Don't hurt others' feelings. Pray for our leaders.”
Larry Weniger said the prospect of either Clinton or Trump as president disappointed him. But, he thinks Trump will do fine, "if he can keep his mouth shut."
Accessing a haven
Barrier-free walkway to Lake Michigan part of improvements planned for Pilgrim Haven nature area
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
If any governmental unit in the South Haven area tried to purchase 27 acres of land along Lake Michigan to create a park for nature lovers, they'd go broke.
But, when organizations and government work together, big things can happen.
Such is the case with Pilgrim Haven Natural Area.
Situated between 77th Street and Lake Michigan, Pilgrim Haven was donated to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in 2011 by Suzanne Upjohn Delano Parish as part of her estate.
With its trails that meander through hard wood trees and dunes that lead to Lake Michigan the property has always been viewed as a haven for people who enjoy being one with nature.
But access to the nature area and lakeshore has remained limited.
Those limitations, however, will become a thing of the past thanks to a capital improvement project being funded by South Haven Township, the nature conservancy, and South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA), which is comprised of representatives from the City of South Haven, South Haven Township and South Haven Public Schools..
The project, which began in October, includes a new 50-vehicle gravel parking lot, signage, lighting, a barrier-free concrete walk to the beach and a universally accessible non-slip mat that will provide access for all people, including those in wheelchairs, to safely make their way all the way down to the water's edge.
When the project is completed in the spring of 2017, Pilgrim Haven will be one of the largest remaining natural areas along the Southwest Michigan shoreline that provides barrier-free public access to Lake Michigan.
“It will be a special place our community can be proud of, and it is an example of the great things that can be accomplished when governments and non-profit organizations work together,” said South Haven Township Supervisor and SHARA Chair Ross Stein.
The prospect of making improvements to Pilgrim Haven came about this past month when the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy signed an agreement to lease Pilgrim Haven to the South Haven Area Recreation Authority for $1 for 20 years As part of the agreement SHARA is agreeing to provide liability insurance and to oversee and manage the property and its improvements. The lease can be renewed afterwards for $1 for 20 years if SHARA complies with terms of the lease.
“There's no way we could buy this land by ourselves,” said South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette. “We have North and South beaches, but we've never been able to offer something as unique as this (natural area). We believe it will be a huge asset to the South Haven community.”
The project's cost has been pegged at $226,000 and is being funded through a combination of sources, including private donations from land conservancy members, South Haven Township's recreation millage SHARA and a $50,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“This project will create new community access to the lakeshore, which is one of the greatest benefits that the land conservancy can provide in fulfilling our mission,” said Peter Ter Louw, the conservancy's president and executive director.
The Pilgrim Haven Natural Area includes almost 800 linear feet of beach along Lake Michigan. The property served the community as a camp for over 70 years and is well-known by many Michigan residents who enjoyed the property as campers or as visitors over the years.
“The great opportunity, which excited our Board and staff, is that Pilgrim Haven is an ideal site where we can create barrier-free access to Lake Michigan in concert with the natural elements of the property,” Ter Louw said.
Retaining Pilgrim Haven as a natural area is paramount to the land conservancy's mission.
“Extensive community input defined the site’s design, however, with the recent rise in lake levels which has significantly altered the Lake Michigan waterfront, we were challenged to create public access that will survive all lake changes and also allow us to restore and stabilize the dune,” said Ter Louw. “Our partnership believes that we identified a solution that successfully addresses this challenge.”
The solution involves regrading part of the upland area, and reshaping a portion of the dune to create the slope necessary for the barrier-free walkway to the beach. The walkway will not only provide safer, and more universal access to the beach for visitors, but will also help to address the erosion caused by foot-traffic over the dune and the dune grasses. The dune will be restored and replanted with native grasses that will increase erosion resistance, and also help to restore the native habitat.
Suspect faces murder charge for death of South Haven man in July
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
A South Haven man has been charged in connection with the July slaying of another South Haven man.
Acting South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson Thursday said a warrant was issued by the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office for Josph Calgaro, 48.
Calgaro is accused of killing Matthew Morin, 39, in Barry County.
Morin was reported missing on July 9 and his body was found in Barry County three days later.
Calgaro became a prime suspect in the case early in the investigation.
On July 11, a day before Morin’s body was found, police stopped Calgaro in South Haven driving Morin’s car in a traffic stop. Calgaro has been held since then in the Van Buren County Jail in Paw Paw on a parole violation.
As of Thursday night, Calgaro was still lodged in the Van Buren County Jail, but will have to be brought to Barry County at some point to face the charge, said South Haven Police Sgt. Chris Mersman.
Thompson said South Haven police worked closely with authorities in Barry County the past few months on the investigation.
Morin’s body was found 50 yards off a rural road near Delton, Mich. south of Hastings.
Police used fingerprints to identify Morin.
They searched Morin’s Briar Hills apartment and found paperwork that helped them move forward with their investigation, police said earlier.
Gratitude: A survivor's story
Hospice director vowed to enjoy every day during cancer battle
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Nov. 13, 2013.
It is a date forever etched in the mind of Melinda Graham-Gruber of South Haven.
It is the date doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer.
“It was a strange year,” said Gruber, who was 43 at the time. “I had a false positive result on a breast exam. They did a biopsy and said I was fine.”
However, in September of 2013 she found a lump on her breast.
“I thought, well, it's probably nothing.”
But just the same, she told her daughter about it.
“She said you need to get that checked out.”
At that point, her physician, Dr. Susan Heinrich of South Haven Family Physicians, told her the bad news that Gruber dreaded.
“She said, 'you need to get a biopsy,'” Gruber said. “The biopsy physician said, 'this doesn't look good.' That scared me, but it gave me time to prepare.”
Gruber, who was then chief operating officer of Hospice at Home, a Lakeland Health System Affiliate, prepared for the worst.
The bad news occurred Nov. 13.
“Dr. Heinrich called me at work in the morning and let me know,” Gruber said.
Gruber called her husband, Clark, and he drove her home.
Thus began Gruber's journey in dealing with her diagnosis and ensuing treatments that lasted a year.
Because she worked at Hospice and personally dealt with people dealing with end-of-life issues, she felt compelled to be particularly strong, not only for herself and her family, but also for Hospice, and the people she served there.
“I saw people die of cancer,” she said. “I knew I needed to enjoy every day. That's the philosophy of Hospice.”
Gruber underwent the grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
With the support of her family she got through it.
“My husband, parents and kids were very helpful,” she said.
So were her friends.
They arranged to make meals for the family – while Gruber continued to work.
Hospice staff were supportive as well.
“I just plowed through because I had such good support,” she said.
But it wasn't easy.
Because she was the chief operating officer at Hospice, she was worried staff members wouldn't think she would be well enough to do her job. She also was worried about hair loss from the chemotherapy treatments.
What would Hospice staff think?
“I dreaded going back to work after my hair fell out,” she said.
Gruber was wearing a wig but she didn't like it. So she wore hats until the chemo treatments ended and her hair began to grow again.
But instead of the long, thick blond hair that she once grew, her hair came in short, curly and dark. She continued to wear a hat, until she talked to her hair dresser.
“I didn't like my hair. I said, 'can you do anything with this?'” Gruber recalled.
The hairdresser, Peter Leffel of Kerry Mark Salon, told her not to worry.
“He said, 'rock that hair, and let go of the hat.'”
She did. Gruber took to Facebook and showed her new 'do', and friends provided encouragement. When she had to address a large staff meeting at work, she decided to make the plunge, took off her hat, and addressed them.
“I got through it.”
Her hair is longer now, very similar to the way she once wore it, but it's still reddish brown. But that's OK with Gruber.
Now, three years later, her cancer is in remission. She has been promoted to chief executive officer of Hospice, but she still is haunted by the memories of feeling sick after chemo treatments and wondering if the disease will come back.
“I have to have mammograms or breast MRI's every six months,” Gruber said. She also takes medication to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
She also checks for lumps on her breasts – often.
And she deals with wondering how she got breast cancer to begin with, a disease that often is linked to heredity.
“What is ironic, is before I was diagnosed I remember talking to my mom about cancer and we reflected on how nobody had cancer in our family,” Gruber said.
But she doesn't dwell on that.
Instead, she retains a positive outlook on life.
“My personal outlook is one of just gratitude,” she said. “My breast cancer story could have been so much worse. What I think is, 'this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.'”
Vacationers help make $10,000 donation to youth program possible
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A program that provides after-school and summer activities for area youth has received a substantial gift from an unusual source.
As part of Youth Development Company's 20th anniversary celebration earlier this month, Beachwalk Properties presented a $10,000 donation to the organization that serves youth in South Haven, Bangor and Covert.
Although it's not unusual for businesses to donate funds for Youth Development Company's (YDC) activities, Beachwalk's contribution came from what some may consider an unlikely source — vacation home owners and their rental clients.
“What a blessing YDC is for our community,” said Gerald Webb, who along with his wife, Terri, operates Beachwalk Properties, a South Haven company that markets vacation home rentals.
Rosalie Plechaty, president of YDC's board of directors was very appreciative of the donation.
“We have private and long time donors that have made larger donations, however this is one of the largest from a group and/or business,” Plechaty said. “When I was invited to speak with the Webbs, I felt like the stars aligned for a moment in that these donor dollars would be a good fit and benefit our own South Haven children...a true gift from Beachwalk and our summer visitors."
Earlier this year, the Webbs decided to ask vacation home owners and renters if they would be willing to make a 1 percent donation of their rental fees to benefit local youth programs.
Most of them agreed to do so.
One of the largest contribution came from vacation home owner Linda Lamb and her guests, who provided $2,000 of the $10,000 gift to YDC.
“Allowing guests of our community to share our amazing town while allowing some of those proceeds to benefit our youth seemed very fitting to us,”Gerald Webb said.
The Webbs chose YDC as the recipient of the $10,000 donation partly because of their daughter, Brittlyn Tyler, who served as a YDC mentor for two years.
“She really enjoyed being a mentor,” Terri Webb said.
Plechaty said the funds donated by Beachwalk Properties will be allocated to both after-school programs and the summer program, which provides activities for children on a daily basis.
“The funds will go to materials, field trips, tee shirts for the kids and other special items we can't always do because of our tight budget,” she said. “It takes some of the pressure off our fundraising efforts.”
The Webbs said they intend to continue donating funds each year for youth programs.
“Beachwalk now has a mission to make this type of donation annually to the youth of South Haven,” Gerald Webb said.
Will voters be apathetic or anxious Nov. 8?
Polls: Electors worried about outcome of presidential election; Local experts not so sure
By RALPH HEIBUTZKI
For the Tribune
To hear the pollsters tell it, Americans have never felt more anxious about a presidential race and the nominees it produced, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
One measurement of that anxiety comes from a Bloomberg News poll, posted earlier this month, in which 59 percent of Clinton’s supporters said that they’ll be “panicked” if Trump wins. Forty-two percent of Trump’s supporters chose the same word to describe a Clinton presidency.
Thirty-five percent of Clinton’s supporters said they’ll feel “unhappy” if Trump wins. Fifty-three percent of Trump’s supporters feel likewise about a Clinton presidential win.
How seriously you should take such snapshots – or how much weight to give them emotionally – is really a matter of perspective, said Dr. Glenn Chapman, a counselor at Centered on Wellness in Benton Harbor.
“One thing I’m telling myself is this,” Chapman said. “‘I’m 70 years old, so I have lived through at least 12 presidents. Some, I have liked, and some, I haven’t liked. But I’ve always been able to live the life I would have lived.’” Those sentiments aren’t too far removed from the advice dished out in the Kinks’ 1978 song, “Live Life: “Don’t get depressed, when you read in the press/About world revolution, and social events/Trynot to panic when you switch on the news/And see crooked politicians and the unemployment queues/It’s only life, it’s really fine/Don’t always believe what you read in the headlines.”
But if it’s really so simple to brush off the latest pronouncements of a 24-hour news cycle, why do so many polls seem to suggest the opposite?
Lake Michigan College political science instructor Tiffany Bohm questions what the constant polling actually shows because she hasn’t seen any electoral angst among her students.
“Actually, it’s very opposite. The younger generations are projecting more voter apathy. I think some of it is not being covered in the media. I’d like to see the evidence” of Clinton-Trump angst, she said.
Although LMC students are definitely engaged, and keeping tabs on the election, she said “they don’t appear to be full of fear. If anything, they’re more frustrated.”
Bohm came to that conclusion after reviewing a week of headlines to see if she could find any major patterns. One stood out more than others.
According to Bohm, the volume of campaign donations and spending has “slowed down significantly” from the 2008 and 2012 elections.
“People are not contributing, which suggests they’re tuning out,” she said.
Bohm and Chapman agree the barrage of negativity from both candidates – like Trump’s references to “Crooked Hillary” or her dismissal of him as unfit for the presidency – makes this election a far more downbeat one than usual.
Both candidates have traded many hyperbolic statements, such as Trump’s suggestion last week to 15,000 supporters at an Ocala, Fla., rally that Clinton’s election would mean “the almost total destruction of our country as we know it.”
Such statements remind Chapman of a dynamic that he’s often seen in marriage counseling.
“We talk about a communication pattern called ‘blame and defend’ – does that sound familiar? It obviously never resolves anything, never clarifies anything, and just escalates whatever the issue might be,” he said.
Among his colleagues, “the farmer’s market consensus was these are two candidates that obviously elicit strong negative feelings,” Chapman said. “No one used the word ‘toxic,’ but it’s been a very toxic campaign, very little talk about issues.”
Those feelings are reflected in polls like Bloomberg’s, where 62 percent view Trump unfavorably, and 52 percent view him “very unfavorably” – or a September Pew Research Center poll, in which 55 percent of its respondents felt “very disgusted” with the election.
Chapman said neither he nor his colleagues have heard clients expressing any election year angst, but they are encountering it more in their own social circles.
“In the past, if people were disaffected, they just tuned out, and left it alone. Now, people can’t seem to do that. They stay connected, even in a very unhappy way,” he said.
Bohm draws a different conclusion from Clinton’s and Trump’s negative exchanges.
“We are so divided, and the nation is so partisan right now,” Bohm said. “Both national candidates appear to be appealing to issues that elicit an emotional response – charges of sexual assault and harassment, coming from Clinton towards Trump, and her mishandling of classified information, from Trump” to Clinton.
Where’s the underdog?
Historically, candidates have often used anger and frustration to turn out their base, and try to pick up independent voters along the way, Bohm said.
“The problem is that we have two candidates who are doing that very effectively, for different issues. And, potentially, it might result in low voter turnout, rather than mobilizing enough voters,” she said.
One other complicating factor this year is the lack of an “underdog” for voters to identify with, Bohm said.
Instead, the outcome is focused on which Republican or Democratic “team” is winning, “rather than which candidate presents the best options for future American success,” she said.
“Now you have all these (other) supporters, who are sort of lost,” she said.
Faced with all those negative variables, it’s not surprising that potential voters take them personally – and feel ready to tune out, Chapman agrees.
“There’s a lot of projection going on. These people, at one point, carried our hopes, but now, they’ve dashed our hopes with their flaws – so there’s this hurt and angry response,” he said.
Even so, those who do turn out often expect bigger results – particularly on the economic front – than reality bears out, Bohm said.
“If you look historically – at the stock market, how the economy goes – you can go all the way back to the 1850 (presidential) election. We expect a ‘change’ election, where it appears that lots is at stake,” Bohm said. “If you look at the economics based on inflation, and the policies that come out, it’s fairly stable. There’s no bleep.”
If older voters are concerned “that one candidate over the other is going to drive the economy into the ruins, there is no historical evidence for this,” she said.
Caring for the community
We Care volunteers take part in service projects
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Rainy, damp weather didn't stop 60 volunteers from taking part in community service projects in South Haven this past Sunday.
Volunteers spruced up Lakeview Cemetery, sang for senior citizens, and cleaned out part of the basement at South Haven City Hall as part of We Care In the Name of Christ's Day of Caring.
“It went really well considering the weather,” said Linda Olsen, executive director of We Care, a human service ministry that helps people in need in the South Haven, Bangor and Covert areas.
“We moved all of the Festival of Trees stuff from city hall, raked and picked up sticks at the cemetery and we also had a group that went out to sing for residents at RiverRidge Retirement Center.” In addition, another group raked and cleaned up a yard at an elderly couple's home, Olsen went on to say.
We Care originally planned six community service projects, but two of the events — planting shrubs in a traffic island at Phillips and LaGrange streets and building a handicap accessible ramp for a homeowner in Grand Junction — were postponed due to rain.
“We could not do the planter nor the ramp,” Olsen said. The traffic island project was expected to be completed Tuesday, while South Haven Area Senior Services and other volunteers will build the ramp.
We Care's Day of Caring not only included community projects in South Haven but ones in Bangor and Covert, as well.
The projects in those two towns took place, Saturday, under better weather conditions.
While volunteers helped several residents in Bangor with housecleaning chores, others in Covert spent time planing flowers at Covert Cemetery and spruced up the grounds at Van Buren Civic Organization's senior center.
“There were 36 volunteers for the Covert projects,” Olsen said.
In Bangor, 15 volunteers from three churches washed windows and did yardwork for two families in need.
We Care planned the Day of Caring as part of its annual We Care Week, a time when the human service ministry thanks its volunteers and donors for their contributions.
Carrying out the theme, “Caring and Community,” We Care's member churches decided to undertake nearly a dozen service projects.
Churches whose members participated in Day of Caring follow: St. Basil Catholic Church, First Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church, Peace Lutheran Church, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, all in South Haven; Lily of the Valley Church and First Congregational Church, both in Covert; and Church of Christ, First Baptist Church and New Jerusalem Baptist Church, all in Bangor.
PHOTO: Mike and Joe Nelson of First Congreational Church rake leaves at Lakevie wCemetery as part of We Care's Day of Caring, Sunday, Oct. 16. (Photo by Becky Kark)
SH schools takes proactive approach to testing water for lead
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
Every sink, faucet and other water fixtures in South Haven schools will soon be tested for lead.
If it’s ever been done before, it’s been a long, long time, said district Non-instructional Services Director Kevin Dee.
Dee outlined the upcoming water testing project to the board Wednesday night.
He said Villa Environmental Consultants Inc. of Benton Harbor will test every water fixture in all school buildings – and test them a second time if elevated lead levels are found.
The cost is $8,400 if only one round of testing is needed, and another $6,000 if follow-up testing is needed. The work will be done on a Saturday.
The testing is not required, however, board members wanted the work done in light of the lead levels found in the Flint water system, Dee said.
In other matters, the board heard a presentation on the district’s 2015-16 fiscal year audit and then approved it.
The district was able to add $273,000 to the general fund reserve during the fiscal year, bringing it to $2.934 million, said auditor Jeff Staley of Maner Costerisan of Lansing.
Based on an annual general fund budget of about $19.77 million, the fund reserve is equal to about 14.7 percent of the budget, Staley said.
Superintendent Bob Herrera presented the Student of the Month Award to Serenity Scully, a third-grader at Maple Grove Elementary School. He presented the monthly Pride Award to the eight staff members at North Shore Elementary School who developed the new “positive behavior intervention and supports” program at the school.
Anne Gossman, technology liaison at Lincoln Elementary School, was given a Golden Keyboard Award for her work with technology at the school.
Paving the way for the past century
Van Buren County Road Commission celebrates its 100 anniversary
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
LAWRENCE — A century ago, Van Buren County's road system consisted mainly of rutted wagon paths, but that changed with the formation of the County Road Commission, which plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in November.
The celebration will take place from 3-7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3 at the road commission's storage-maintenance facility in Lawrence.
There, visitors will be able to tour equipment displays and demonstrations, view historic photos and participate in a “touch-the-truck” activity where they can paint a 100th anniversary plow with their hand print. Hot dogs, chips and cake will also be served during the celebration.
Van Buren County Road Commission is one of several throughout the state marking its 100th year, according to Greg Pardike, board secretary and accountant for the county road commission.
“There's a couple throughout the state that are celebrating this year,” he said.
Road commissions in Michigan have come a long way from 100 years ago.
Van Buren's commission oversees a $16 million budget that pays for 33 road employees who use 39 trucks, 5 loaders, 2 grade-alls, 3 graders, 7 tractors , 37 pickup trucks and other support equipment to maintain 1,330 miles or roads.
Its beginnings were humble.
During the mid 1850s, townships in Van Buren County established and maintained major wagon trails, with help coming from farmers and property owners who had to work several days a year to improve roads, or risk being taxed. This practice persisted throughout the rest of the 19th century.
“I can remember my mom telling the story that her grandfather worked to help clear the roads (between Bloomingdale and Glendale) with his horses,” Pardike said. “It was a matter of having the manpower and everyone pitching in.”
Ironically, it took a movement by bicycle clubs in the late 1800s to improve Michigan's road system, according to a History of Roads, written in 1997 by Dorothy G. Pohl, managing director of the Ionia County Road Commission and Norman E. Brown, a retired Michigan Department of Transportation administrator.
“In Michigan and elsewhere in the United States, there was a bicycle craze during the 1880s and
1890s. Clubs were formed, and besides riding in towns and cities, men and women made long trips... The bicycle rider was the most persistent of those pioneers who were going about the country demanding better roads,” they wrote.
The bicycle movement for better roads helped pave the way for passage of the County Road Act of 1893, which allowed counties in Michigan to establish a road commission and levy road taxes.
By 1905, only 18 of Michigan's 83 counties set up road commissions, but by 1916, 59 counties, including Van Buren, established road commissions.
Legislation during the early to mid 20th century also created what has become the Michigan Department of Transportation and the establishment of gasoline taxes to help pay for road improvements. Federal funds are also now available for large road improvement projects.
One of the biggest responsibilities of road commissions in Michigan is to provide snow-plowing services. But, that wasn't always the case. It wasn't until World War I when it became necessary for all-weather roads to transport war-time products from factories to their point of destination.
This year, Van Buren County Road Commission plans to budget $1.8 million for snow removal, according to Pardike.
“It (snow removal) is a big amount of our routine maintenance budget,” he said.
PHOTO: Graders are shown during the 1950s spreading gravel on a road in Van Buren County.
SH city council OK's off-road vehicles on streets
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
Off-road vehicles will be allowed to continue operating on city streets.
The City Council last week voted unanimously to approve the measure, which follows a one-year trial period.
There are some stipulations related to the operation of ORVs, however. The ORVs must have functioning lights, brakes and turn signals, in addition to seat belts and rollbars, City Manager Brian Dissette said.
During the initial one-year trial period, the city only issued one citation for a violation, he added.
The council soon will take up the matter of whether to continue allowing golf carts to operate on city streets. That one-year trial period also recently ended.
In other matters, the council last week voted to approve the transfer of $35,000 in city funds to the regional Recreation Authority, for the creation of future public sports fields.
The money was raised through private donations, and also from the proceeds of farm leases on property in Casco Township that had originally been the proposed site of a future sports complex.
The Casco Township site is no longer being considered. The recreation authority is now looking at a site on 14th Avenue in South Haven Township.
Also last week, Mayor Bob Burr read proclamations honoring two members of the Historical Association of South Haven who led efforts to restore the historic South Haven lighthouse on Lake Michigan and along with the Historical Association's Lighthouse Fundraising Committee, raised over $300,000 to restore the beacon this year. They are Ed Appleyard and Jim Ollgaard.
Both men are founding members of the historical association, which owns the lighthouse. Appleyard, an association board member, has been in charge of the lighthouse restoration project. Ollgaard is the association’s vice president and secretary.
Program pairs young students with older adults
By KIM INGALLS
For the Tribune
Things are usually pretty quiet at River Ridge Retirement Village, but a new program that pairs students with residents is causing quite a commotion.
"Get ready," joked one River Ridge caregiver to the 15 seniors waiting quietly, this past Wednesday, at tables in the Memory Center community room. "You're about to hear some noise."
As close to 50 St. Basil school students burst through the double doors, the entire room erupted in excited chatter and huge smiles.
It even woke up one elderly man who was dozing in his wheelchair.
Tonya Austin, River Ridge staff member, is the force behind "Adopt a Grandparent," a new inter-generational program that pairs St. Basil students with River Ridge residents. The Paint a Pumpkin Party in the community room this past Wednesday was the program's second event.
"I wanted to start this program because I knew that whenever our staff brought in their children, these guys would just light up," Austin said.
"This is super cool," said St. Basil principal Jeanne Arbanas as she watched her students paint pumpkins with their new grandparents. "It helps the kids with communication skills, and it teaches them to give back especially to someone who might be lonely."
The students aren't the only ones reaping benefits.
"I've seen residents who couldn't remember what they ate for dinner, yet, they remember their buddy's name," Austin said.
The plan is for students to visit every other Monday afternoon. Once there, they will have an activity to do, socialize with the seniors and share a snack.
"Next time they come, weather permitting, we're going to go out and collect leaves for a fall project," Austin said.
Residents Don and Dormah Woodhams have a little added bonus - their great grandson Roy Patterson IV, 6, is a St. Basil student.
"He's pretty sharp," Don Woodhams proudly said as he and Roy painted a pumpkin together.
PHOTO: A new program called "Adopt A Grandparent" at River Ridge Retirement Village pairs St. Basil elementary school students with elderly residents. The kids visit their adopted "grandparents" twice a month for fun activities like last week's Paint a Pumpkin Party. Resident Don Woodhams' great-grandson Roy, who attends St. Basil's, gets an added bonus of visiting his great-grandparents. (Photo by Kim Ingalls)
Crowded ballot faces SH school board voters
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven Public Schools voters will settle two separate contested races in the Nov. 8 election.
Vying for the three four-year terms are board members Joe DeGrandchamp and Doug Ransom, and challengers Kilby Brandt, John Frost, Loren Patterson and Donna Rummel.
For the one partial, two-year term, board member Stuart Price faces a challenge from Crystal Davis.
Longtime board member Annie Brown is not seeking a new term.
Here’s a closer look at the six candidates seeking the full terms, in alphabetical order:
Kilby Brandt, 74, is a retired hospital administrator.
“I feel I have an interesting combination of skills, in leadership and decision-making,” she said. “I understand educational matters. I miss being part of something that’s really important. I do have the time and I don’t have an agenda of any kind. I’m able to keep an open mind.”
Joe DeGrandchamp, 59, is board treasurer. He’s been on the board since 2007. He’s co-owner of DeGrandchamp Blueberry Farms.
“I’m a big proponent of kids having the right tools for success in their future,” he said. “I’m objective and unbiased. I do more listening than I do speaking, and come to conclusions after taking in everything. I know how to work in committees. I know how to work with other people.”
John Frost, 42, has a South Haven law practice. He also serves on the city Planning Commission.
“I’ve served on other commissions and boards. I know how to work well with other board members,” he said. “I have four children in the district. I have a vested interest in making sure all the children in the district have the ability to succeed.”
Loren Patterson, 31, is a brand marketing manager with Whirlpool Corp.
“Volunteering and making my community better is what I want to do,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of mentoring and tutoring. I’m just passionate about helping people learn and grow. I’m a people person, and I’d like to leverage my communication and collaboration skills.”
Doug Ransom, 43, was appointed to the board in May. He is a project manager for Communications by Design, in Ada.
“I’m willing to serve and I want to help,” he said. “So far, it’s been a really good experience. The people on the board are great to work with. For over 20 years I’ve worked with schools almost exclusively. It offers a unique perspective.”
Donna Rummel, 41, is an integrated English instructor with the Van Buren County Intermediate School District, and former South Haven high school English teacher and secondary instructional specialist.
“I have a deep knowledge of what’s happening. I’ve worked with administration. I’ve also worked as a teacher,” she said. “I love to work collaboratively and in teams. My goal has been and always will be to have a positive influence on education.”
For the partial term, candidate Crystal Davis, 34, is a paralegal with Frost Law, South Haven and a former school secretary and paraprofessional.
“I have children in the public school system. I also have a pretty good understanding of the inner workings of the schools,” she said. “I think there needs to be some changes with the school board. It needs more input from people with kids in the district, with a little different perspective.”
The other candidate seeking the partial term is Stuart Price, who was appointed to the school board for the second time in January. He previously served on the board in 2013. He is the district Band Boosters president. He is a project manager and estimator for Titan Interiors, Grand Rapids.
“I’m a good team player, and a good listener,” he said. “I just kind of like the direction we’re going and I’d like to keep the group together and keep things moving forward.”
Van Buren County lands grants to stabilize dune
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — Thanks to two $50,000 grants — one which came as a surprise to Van Buren County commissioners — work to stabilize the sand dune straddling the North Point Land Preserve and Syndicate Park subdivision may begin next spring.
Commissioners, Tuesday, empowered County Administrator Douglas Cultra to sign a grant agreement with the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program for $50,000.
"It's going to preserve a pristine dune," Cultra said.
The state grant was based on a $56,000 match from the county of in-kind services.
But that changed, Cultra told commissioners. The Van Buren County Conservation District is giving the county another $50,000 toward the project. "They tell me we're not going to have to contribute anything," Cultra said, although he figured the county may still have to chip in $4,000 to $8,000.
He credited A.J. Brucks, the conservation district's executive director, and Marcy Hamilton, senior planner of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
The money will be used to restore the vegetation on the sides of the dune along with building a path from Syndicate Park to Lake Michigan. It will also pay for fencing to control sand movement.
"One of the grandest features of Van Buren County is Lake Michigan," Cultra said.
Cultra said work should begin in April or May.
The North Point Land Preserve is on the north side of Van Buren State Park. Syndicate Park is a subdivision bordering the land preserve on the preserve's northern boundary. The sand dune is threatening to crush some homes there.
In other matters, the board gave permission to the Paw Paw Area Chamber of Commerce to hold it annual Paw Paw Days event next summer on July 22 and 23. Both the county-owned downtown park and the courthouse parking lot will be used.
A highlight of the event is a classic car show.
Bridging a gap
New City of Love Apartments provide low-income housing for older adults
By KIM INGALLS
For the Tribune
COVERT — Months ago, a small group of Lily of the Valley Church members sat down and discussed the dream of creating low-income housing for older adults.
That dream became a reality this month as the church's City of Love opened its doors.
"There is still some finishing touches to do on the outside," said Lily of the Valley senior pastor Darryl Williams. "We hope everyone can move in by the next two weeks."
City of Love used to be a church at one time Located on the east side of M-140 Highway, just before Covert, the brick building still looks like a church on the outside, but inside, it's entirely different.
Six modern, one-room apartments - completely furnished - line both sides of a hallway that runs from the front of the building to the back.
Inside each apartment there is a small kitchen with brand new appliances, table, chairs and dishes, a living area and a bedroom/bath.
New towels, dishes, couch, bedding and a flat screen television are also included.
"There is a laundry room at the end of the hall with two washers and two dryers too," Williams said.
Built in the 1960s, the construction of the former First Baptist Church was oversaw by the late Rev. Sherman McClain.
His legacy was often mentioned during the grand opening ceremony, Tuesday, which featured Covert Township officials, Covert Public Schools administrators and many of those who helped with the project.
"Beginning with what we see now, this has been quite an amazing undertaking," church member Eddie Polk told those at the ceremony. "We are quite proud of this."
Polk said Williams has been involved in the project since day one.
The church received the structure along with four other homes in Covert as a gift from Chemical Bank several years ago. In a state of disrepair, the buildings still had potential, church members felt, and set about turning the four houses into affordable rental dwellings.
After that was done, the Lily of the Valley focused on the former church.
Raising close to a half million dollars, church members worked closely with Pine Creek Construction on renovating a building that some might have thought was hopeless.
"Rev. Williams didn't look at the glass as half empty, " Covert Township Clerk Dennis Palgen said during the ceremony. "He saw it as half full. A ton of blood, sweat and tears was put into this effort."
PHOTO: A grand opening ceemony was held this past week at City of Love apartments in Covert. The low-income senior housing complex was converted from a former church into six apartments. Lily of the Valley Church undertook the project a year ago. Rev. Darryl Williams, his wife Michelle and other local officials took part in the ceremony. Photo by Kim Ingalls
'Clowning' around on Facebook leads to teens' arrest
Two 15-year-old South Haven boys face felony charges after being arrested this past week for allegedly making serious threats using a "clown" Facebook account. The charges are expected to be filed through Van Buren County Juvenile Court.
Police from South Haven and Covert, and the commander of the state police post in Paw Paw attended the South Haven City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3 to discuss their joint investigation into the threats.
The threats were initially made to two South Haven students on Friday, Sept. 30, who in turn reported them to school resource officer Shawn Olney.
The threats were allegedly made by the suspects to the South Haven students after making “friend requests” to the victims, said Acting South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson.
Then, on Saturday, Oct. 1, Covert Township police learned that a student received a Facebook threat stating Covert schools would be “attacked” on Monday, Covert Township Police Chief Jay Allen said.
“At the time, we didn’t know it was an empty threat,” Allen said.
Through the investigation, search warrants for the suspects’ computers and smart phones were obtained, and the two boys were arrested Monday afternoon, Thompson said. The boys confessed to making the Facebook threats, she added.
Berrien and Van Buren County sheriff’s offices also helped in the joint investigation.
The boys “thought it was a joke, or a prank - but it had a profound effect” that panicked parents, she said.
First Lt. Dale Hinz of the state police said: “We take things like this very seriously.”
The police reports will be forwarded to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration of the criminal charges.
Councilwoman Vickiy Kozlik Wall urged parents to teach their children about using common sense while using Facebook and other popular social media sites.
“The consequences can ruin their lives,” she said.
The suspects allegedly used recent national media attention on a string of social media hoaxes tied to alleged clown sightings in making their threats, Thompson said.
“They created a fake clown chat group profile,” she said.
There was no evidence to indicate the boys had any intention of carrying out their threats of violence, police added.
In other city matters, the council last week voted to allow the continued use of off-road vehicles on city streets. Action came after a one-year trial period.
Holiday festival shelved
Ministry wants to focus on its main mission of serving people in need
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
After eight years, South Haven's annual Festival of Trees holiday celebration will become a thing of the past.
However, two of the festival's popular events — the holiday parade and restaurant tasting event — will continue.
“We have enjoyed very much offering the Festival of Trees for the South Haven community each year, but we want to concentrate on our mission of providing services to people in need,” said Linda Olsen, executive director of We Care in the Name of Christ, the organizer of the week-long event.
We Care started the Festival of Trees in 2008 as both a fundraiser and as a holiday event that people throughout the South Haven area could attend. Many of the events were free of charge or only charged a nominal fee. It also was organized as an attraction to bring people downtown during the holiday season.
The festival included a display and silent auction of 140 trees, wreaths and gift baskets, decorated and donated by businesses, organizations and individuals. Other events included visits with Santa, a Lego challenge, and musical performances.
Although We Care raised $5,000 to $10,000 from the silent auction each year, organizing the week-long event involved a lot of resources.
“The festival comes at a time when we also are putting together our Thanksgiving and Christmas meal baskets, toy drive and heating assistance program,” Olsen said. “The festival is very labor intensive and so are these other ministries.”
So, after a lot of consideration, the We Care Board of Directors decided the festival didn't meet the organization's main objective of helping low-income adults and families in need.
But, We Care still wants to provide the community with a holiday parade and the Hometown Taste.
Jon Braun, owner of Eclectic cafe, is organizing the parade.
“We hope to provide hot chocolate and an opportunity for children to have their pictures taken with Santa at the end of the parade,” Olsen said.
The parade and Hometown Taste are scheduled later in November. The Taste will be a fundraiser for We Care. Approximately a dozen local restaurants will serve up their favorite cuisine for people to sample.
We Care started in 1980 when a group of local churches formed the organization as a way of coordinating services they had been providing to their members and the community.
The organization now oversees a $155,000 annual budget, operates three offices in South Haven, Bangor and Pullman, and has 36 partner churches, as well as business partners that help provide food, clothing, furniture, medical, transportation and heat assistance to people in need.
We Care also helps the community in other ways.
This past year, for instance, the organization launched “We Care to Work,” an employment services ministry that helps unemployed or underemployed people obtain jobs.
South Haven High School renovation project sticking to budget and time schedule
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
The bond-funded high school construction project seems to be on track, both financially and timewise, the school board learned last week.
Kevin Dee, director of non-instructional services,
updated the board on how much has been spent and how much is left in the project contingency. The 1961 high school building is being extensively renovated and expanded.
To date, 43 percent of the $24.28 million project funds have been spent, he said. The district has used 12.7 percent of the $1.87 million contingency fund, he added.
“Overall, we feel very good” about how the project is progressing, Dee said.
“It sounds like you’re off to a good start,” Board President Bryan Lewis told Dee.
As part of the bond work, the board voted to authorize the district to spend up to $350,000 on what is called the Fab Lab.
The Fab Lab is a modern upgrade to a traditional wood shop, but will also allow for fabrication of metal and plastic parts and objects ,Dee explained.
It will include some customary wood shop tools and equipment, but will also include a 3-D printer, laser engravers and vinyl cutters. Bids for the Fab Lab are due in a couple of weeks, he said.
In other matters, new North Shore Elementary Principal Carey Frost gave a presentation on school goals and plans for the school year.
She said fourth- and fifth-grade teachers are trying out a new math curriculum called Eureka this semester. Those teachers, and the school instructional team, will decide in January whether to recommend adoption of the curriculum for the second semester.
Another school focus this school year is enhancing the English arts curriculum. Staff will be evaluating possible new curriculum to be implemented in the fall of 2017, she said.
Cold storage facility still in the works for 2nd Avenue
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Plans change, and that appears to be the case with the development of a cold storage facility and transportation hub in South Haven.
Hanson Logistics had hoped to build its development on 2nd Avenue in time for the 2017 fruit growing season, but realistically, the completion date probably won't occur until the spring of 2018, according to a company official.
Blake Larkin, vice president of business development for Hanson Logistics, made a presentation to the South Haven Rotary Club, Tuesday, to discuss the company's development plans for the 2nd Avenue site.
“Can it happen by 2017, maybe, but realistically it will probably be 2018,” Larkin said.
Hanson envisions building a $20-$30 million facility on 25 acres of property and has been negotiating with two key players to locate their operations there too. City officials said earlier that Hanson has been negotiating with Dole and MBG Marketing, which does business as Naturipe. Larkin said Tuesday that Hanson has been in contact with other fruit processing companies as well. “There are even more that are interested,” he said.
But, he added, “as we talk with parties, economics becomes an issue.”
Hanson, based in St. Joseph, owns cold storage facilities in Hart, Hartford, Riverside, Decatur and Benton Harbor, as well as facilities in Hobart, Logansport and Lafayette, Ind.
Its Hobart facility is by far the largest and the company envisions a similar size plant in South Haven.
However, a state-of-the-art facility, such as the one in Hobart, has to be cost effective for both Hanson and any other company that locates its operations on the site and utilizes transportation and cold storage services.
Larkin explained that several of its other facilities in Michigan are older so the cost of doing business isn't as expensive for customers and businesses it partners with. And unlike the Hobart plant, whose clients are retailers, such as Walmart, the cold storage plants in Michigan often operate on a seasonal basis.
But even if Hanson doesn't firm up agreements with other businesses to locate on the 2nd Avenue site, the company is making a commitment to locate in South Haven, according to Larkin.
“We're confident with or without other parties, Hanson will definitely have a facility here,” he said.
When the facility is complete, employment is estimated to range from 50-135 workers or more, depending on the season.
South Haven city officials have been working hard with Hanson to make the development a reality.
This past month, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted in favor of granting a variance to allow the warehouse to be 60 feet higher, 20 feet higher than the city zoning ordinance allows.
The ZBA also voted unanimously to grant a variance to allow loading areas to be located in the front of the building, fronting 2nd Avenue. The zoning ordinance requires loading areas to be either in a rear or side yard.
Hanson President Andy Janson explained earlier why the company wants the warehouse to be 60 feet high.
"It is partly for economic reasons," Janson said. "These buildings are extremely costly to build and operate. It's more about cubic footage than square footage. This will use ammonia refrigeration. The taller we can go, the more efficient and cost-effective we can be to make the project make sense."
On July 13, the city Construction Board of Appeals voted to exempt the company from having a sprinkler system for the cold storage area of the facility. The rest of the building will have a sprinkler system, however.
The city has specifically targeted the agricultural industry in its economic development recruitment efforts. In anticipation of such a development, the city has been investing heavily in its electric system. An additional transformer was recently installed at the 2nd Avenue substation.
Time to update
Company hired to help South Haven dvelop a master land-use plan
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
A company north of Grand Rapids will help South Haven develop a new master land use plan over the next year.
The City Council last week voted to hire Main Street Planning Co. to oversee the work for $47,000, plus expenses. The company was one of three interviewed for the job, City Manager Brian Dissette said.
“They will work with the Planning Commission and the entire community to develop an updated, comprehensive master plan. There will be several input meetings, along with surveys and direct mailings,” he said.
The master land use plan assists city officials, including the zoning administrator and Planning Commission, when making zoning-related decisions. It identifies areas in the city targeted for various future land uses, by zoning categories, but is only used as an advisory guide and is subject to change.
Earlier this year, the city adopted a short-term rental registration ordinance hoping to use that registration data to help craft the new master land use plan. Main Street Planning Company will be using that information as it studies changes to the plan, Dissette said.
Community meetings to gather input for the new plan could start as early as this fall, he added.
In other matters, the council last week voted to increase fines for those who violate the city’s fireworks regulations.
The city uses the fireworks regulations set by the state, which only allow for fireworks to be ignited the day before, of and after the dozen or so holidays recognized by the state. It also bans fireworks from being ignited between 1 and 8 a.m. on those days when fireworks are allowed.
Fines for first offenses will go from $50 to $100, while second-offense fines will go from $100 to $250. The fines for third and subsequent offenses will go from $250 to $500.
The council also voted to approve an ordinance making it illegal to keep animals in vehicles if heat, cold or other conditions may cause potential harm or death to the animals.
The proposed ordinance would allow police to rescue animals in such cases, and fine their owners. The ordinance sets forth fines of $100 or $500, depending on the severity of the incident.
Honor Credit Union plans to build new branch office in South Haven
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Members of Honor Credit Union in South Haven will be able to do their banking at a new location, when the credit union builds a branch office on Phoenix Road.
Honor has announced it plans to build a new branch facility at 72133 Phoenix Road and plans to open it in the fall of 2017.
“South Haven members can soon look forward to a more accessible branch with upgrades that have not been possible at the existing branch location, including drive-thru lanes, a drive-up ATM and a night drop,” said Kaylee Williams, public relations manager for Honor Credit Union, which is based in St. Joseph.
Honor has purchased property that was once home to the Church of the Nazarene, which is located across the street from Sherman Dairy Bar and next to Hannapel Home Center.
Honor plans to tear down the building to make way for its new branch office, according to Williams.
“Site approvals from South Haven Township are the next step and we are looking forward to collaborating with the township to create the best space for the South Haven community,” Williams said.
In addition to a more convenient location to conduct financial business, the new branch will be able to provide Honor Credit Union members with Saturday drive-thru hours.
Honor has operated in South Haven at a small branch facility at 749 Phillips St. Because of the limitations of the lot, the credit union was not able to offer members drive-thru lanes.
The existing branch building will remain open until the Phoenix Road facility is completed.
Covert history weaves its way to Smithsonian
Community's long history of integration on display at new African American museum
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
When Betty Colombel stepped foot, Saturday, into the Smithsonian's new Museum of African American History and Culture, she not only viewed images of famous blacks who helped shape the nation, but ones who helped build her small hometown of Covert.
Colombel was one of the lucky few who got a sneak preview of the museum a week before its official opening, Sept. 24. Three days before she left, she said she couldn't wait to get there.
“It's a beautiful building,” she said, referring to photographs she had seen of the building, which is located next to the Washington Monument, in Washington D.C.
But Colombel wasn't going to the museum just because of its unique architecture or even because she's of African American descent. She wanted to see the third floor of the museum where the Community Galleries are housed.
Titled, “Making a Way Out of No Way, the Community Galleries focus on strategies African Americans utilized over the years to overcome slavery and racism and to ultimately succeed.
Covert earned a display in the galleries because of its long history as an integrated community of whites and blacks.
“Covert is a fascinating story of African Americans and whites settling in an area and living and working together,” said Michele Gates Moresi, of the Smithsonian, who came to Covert several years ago to begin collecting artifacts for the display.
The community's uniqueness as an integrated town in the 19th century — a time when Midwestern states were discouraging integration — came to light several years ago when author and researcher Anna-Lisa Cox penned “A Stronger Kinship.” The book not only portrays Covert as a town where blacks and whites went to school and church together, it also shows that blacks were not held back from holding public office or owning a business.
When Cox became a research associate for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, her book intrigued other researchers, who traveled to Covert Historical Museum to talk with longtime residents whose black and white ancestors helped settle the town.
One of those residents was Colombel, who is related to two early black families — The Pompeys and the Conners.
“My families settled in Covert in the 1800s,” she said.
Frank Conner came to Covert in 1866 where he became a successful, wealthy farmer. He also held several political positions in Covert, including Justice of the Peace – the first black man in Michigan to hold such a position.
Dawson Pompey came to Covert the same year with his two sons, Napoleon and Washington. Dawson became the first black man elected to political office in Covert. His nephew, Allen, grew up to own and operate Covert's only livery.
“I'm anxious to see the display about Covert and what they will have in it,” Colombel said this past week in an interview.
Several items it will definitely have on display are ones donated by the Covert Historical Museum. Those items include schoolbooks from the late 1800s, old panoramic photographs taken of Covert school classes and an old schoolhouse globe.
Other items have been donated by families of early Covert settlers, such as the Packards and the Roods.
Covert's long history as an integrated community may fascinate people who go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, but longtime Covert residents take it in stride.
“Everybody got along well,” said Covert Historical Museum Director Cathy Green, recalling her days as a student of West Brick School, one of several one-room schools located in Covert during the 19th and 20th centuries. “We were all like one big family.”
La Donna Golden, a Covert High School graduate who went on to teach, agreed, but noted that when she attended sports events at predominantly white schools, the Covert fans sometimes felt uncomfortable.
“Sometimes we weren't welcomed,” she said.
“We always welcomed other schools,” said Colombel, who also graduated from Covert and went on to teach there. “It's something we just did.”
PHOTO: Betty Colombel of Covert points to the display of Pompey family photos at the Covert Historical Museum. Colombel is a descendent of the Pompeys who helped settle Covert during the 1860s.
Candidates line up for South Haven forums
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
As the November election looms, South Haven area voters will get the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of national, state and local candidates when a local organization sponsors three forums in October.
The South Haven chapter of the American Association of University Women will host the three forums Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 18 at Listiak Auditorium at South Haven High School, 600 Elkenburg St.
Twenty-two political candidates, ranging from ones running for Congress to those seeking a seat on the local school board, are planning to attend the forums, which will be moderated by Janice Varney, retired executive dean of Lake Michigan College in South Haven.
“There's so much interest in this election,” said AAUW member Robin McAlear, regarding the organization's decision to schedule three forums. “A huge amount of work went into planning them.”
During each of the forums, Varney plans to ask a series of specific questions of each candidates. Questions also will be taken from the audience. Candidates will be available to meet participants before and after each forum.
The dates for the forum and the list of candidates that are scheduled to attend follow:
Thursday, Oct. 6 — National and state candidate forum, 7-9 p.m. U.S. House of Representative 6th District race — incumbent Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and challengers Paul Clements, Democrat, and Lorence Wenke, Libertarian. Michigan House of Representatives 66th District race — Annie Brown, Democrat, and Beth Griffin, Republican. Michigan House of Representatives 80th District race — incumbent Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and challenger Arnis Davidson, Libertarian. Democrat opponent John Andrysiak will not be present.
Thursday, Oct. 13 — Van Buren County candidate forum, 7-9 p.m. Seventh District Court Judge race — Cirilo Martinez and Michael McKay; Sheriff —Daniel Abbott, Republican, and Robert Overheul, Democrat. County Clerk — Aaron Mitchell, Independent, and Suzie Roehm, Republican; Van Buren County Commissioner District 1 — Gail Patterson-Gladney, Democrat. Opponent, Mel Jessup, Republican, will not be present.
Tuesday, Oct. 18 — South Haven Board of Education candidate forum, 7-8:30 p.m. Six candidates are seeking election to three full-term seats. They are incumbents Joe DeGrandchamp and Doug Ransom, and challengers Kilby Brandt, Loren Patterson, John Frost and Donna Rummel. Incumbent Stuart Price and challenger Crystal Davis are seeking a partial term.
South Haven school board OKs two labor contracts
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven school board members approved new three-year contracts with food service workers and paraprofessionals last week.
Both groups are represented by the Service Employees International Union. The union serves 38 district paraprofessionals and 20 district food service workers.
The contracts give the employees a 1 percent base pay rate in the third year.
In the first and second years, most of the employees get automatic “step increases” built into the contracts, but no base pay increase. Those already already in the top pay tier will get a half-percent base pay raise, however.
In year two, food service workers with more than 20 years of service will also get a 10-cents-per-hour “longevity pay” increase.
In the third year of both contracts, there will be automatic step pay increases in addition to the 1 percent base pay rate increase.
In other matters, the board last week approved the hiring of seven new teachers.
They are Sally Raasch, middle school special education; Jessica Klaver, elementary special education; Nicole Gutowski, high school math; Michael Noguera, high school Spanish; Kathie Marshall, high school special education; Dale Beeney, high school Project Lead The Way teacher; and Kelly Ludwig, high school math.
Superintendent Robert Herrera took some time to recognize some staff members during the board meeting.
New North Shore Elementary Principal Carey Frost, previously the district’s director of instruction, was recognized for working to ensure compliance with state and federal program regulations over the past few years. She was also honored for helping the district land an $80,000 early literacy grant.
Lead High School Custodian John Merritt and the entire district custodial and maintenance staff was honored for helping with the intensive work related to the bond-funded high school renovation project.
“Their hard work and commitment during the renovations are a big part of the reason why we had a smooth and successful first day back to school,” Herrera said.
Libraries band together for Van Buren Reads program
Award-winning 'Garden for the Blind' chosen for this year's book
By KIM INGALLS
For the Tribune
A tragic accident, a teenager left to the care of household staff and a crime are all part of the tale of this year's Van Buren Reads book "Garden for the Blind."
Named by the Library of Michigan as a 2016 Notable Book, “Garden for the Blind” a series of stories, was written by Michigan author Kelly Fordon. Set in Detroit, the book tells the story of a young girl, Alice, who witnesses an accident during her parent's lavish party. The book follows the lives of Alice and Mike, who form an intense and at times destructive relationship. United by loneliness and wealth, they make a decision that both come to regret deeply, according to an excerpt from Kirkus Reviews.
"It (the book) was not based on anyone I knew," said Fordon." My initial idea was to write about a privileged girl who does something horrendous and never has to pay the consequences. The first story I wrote about Alice ended up as the third story 'Lucky.' In 'Lucky,' Alice is in high school. She’s rich, defiant and shameless. She shows no remorse when she pins a drug deal on a scholarship student and gets him kicked out of school. Everyone who read that story hated her, including me."
Thanks to the collaborative effort between South Haven, Van Buren District, Paw Paw, Hartford and Lawton libraries, Fordon will appear at the Van Buren Conference Center in Lawrence Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. for a book discussion and signing.
"I will be reading a short selection, talking about the writing process and answering any questions the audience might have," said Fordon. "I’m also thrilled to be able to visit and talk about the book with readers in Van Buren."
Since 2013, Van Buren County libraries have chosen a book that residents throughout the county can read. Discussed in book clubs and used as a focal point for community activities, the selection is patterned after the statewide One Book One County program.
Often the books that are chosen come from the annual Michigan Notable Book list, which features 20 books published the previous calendar year. The books are about or set in Michigan or the Great Lakes region, or are written by a Michigan author. Selections include nonfiction and fiction books that appeal to a variety of audiences and cover various topics and issues close to the hearts of Michigan residents.
"This is actually a program that is unique to Van Buren County," said Jim France, South Haven Memorial Library director. "We started this three years ago as a way to do a collaborative program involving all the libraries in the county. Other communities do similar programs, but they are usually oriented around a specific city, as opposed to an entire county."
Choosing a book this year took a bit of time and effort.
"There were a number of factors that went into choosing the book, but being on the Michigan Notable Book list was not a requirement," France said. "The last two years we did non-fiction books, and decided that we would do a work of fiction this time around. We were looking for a book that would enable us to incorporate an author visit, and that had something to do with Michigan. We started with a list of books suggested by the involved libraries, and then paired them down based on a popular vote. Once we had a smaller number of books to work with, author availability for our chosen date became a very important factor."
Luckily, Fordon was available for the author visit.
"I was absolutely thrilled," Fordon recalled when told about her book being chosen. "I worked on the stories in this novel for many years, and I’m no spring chicken, so it made me very happy to think that it was a county-wide read."
Copies of the book are available for checkout at participating libraries. Book discussions are scheduled at the Bangor Branch Library Monday, Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m. and the South Haven library on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Copies will also be available during the author visit at the conference center.
PHOTO: Author Kelly Fordon reads from her book, 'Garden for the Blind' (contributed photo)
Downtown merchants pleased with summer season
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Those are words several South Haven merchants used to sum up this year's summer tourism season.
“The sales were great, the town is great. I'm really happy,” said Carla Ruppert, owner of Oh My Darlings upscale children's clothing and toy store. “Every year it gets a little better after the decline,” she went on to say, referring to America's Great Recession of 2008-10.
Across the street from Oh My Darlings, Decadent Dogs owner Roxanne Leder experienced a good summer, too.
“I think summer was great,” she said. “Nice weather, town was busy, people were happy. Sales steady.”
And even though Labor Day marked the “unofficial” end of summer, shoppers still could be seen downtown this past week going in and out of downtown shops and restaurants.
“Things used to slow down right after Labor Day. But the day after Labor Day we were packed even with all that heat,” said one merchant regarding Tuesday's hot, sticky 90-degree temperatures.
Warmer temperatures this year, compared to the cool, rainy summer of 2015, may have been one of the main ingredients for higher traffic volume downtown.
“I think the hotter temperatures helped,” said Chris Campbell, owner of SoHa Surf Shop.
Warm weather certainly helped Campbell's business.
“We beat all of last year's sales at the beginning of August,” he said. “We have 72.3 percent higher sales this year compared to last year. And people are spending an average of $20 more per sale this year compared to last year.”
The addition of kayak and paddleboard rentals this summer also contributed to increased revenues for SoHa Surf Shop, enabling Campbell to expand the number of employees from 13 to 20.
Throughout Michigan, retailers' three-month fall forecast remains solidly positive, according to the latest quarterly report from the Michigan Retailers Association.
Looking forward, 59 percent of retailers expect sales during September–November to increase over the same period last year, while 22 percent project a decrease and 19 percent no change.
Jan Haglund, owner of Janny's Beach House in South Haven is one merchants who looks forward to the fall months each year.
“We had a lot of traffic this summer,” she said, “but our August to the end of the year is actually where we do more business. I think we're doing great this year going into the fall season.”
Police key in on missing text messages at Bogseth murder trial
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — Usually text messages are used as evidence in murder trials, if they support the prosecution or defense strategies.
But in the ongoing murder trial of Brent Bogseth, the prosecution is using a suspicious absence of text messages between Bogseth and his wife Kim as evidence.
Bogseth is accused of killing his wife, 32, last September after he discovered she was having an affair with a neighbor.
The trial started last week in Van Buren Circuit Court in Paw Paw, and will continue Tuesday.
Kim Bogeth’s naked body was found near the couple’s Grand Junction area house in a wooded area on Sept. 9, 2015. Her body was covered with black plastic bags and some ferns and branches. She sustained head trauma and a skull fracture, possibly from a hammer blow.
Police Friday testified that a string of 61 text messages between Brent and Kim Bogseth exchanged the last morning she was seen alive had been manually deleted from both their phones before police analyzed the phones.
Brent Bogseth said the last time he saw his wife was the morning of Sept. 1, 2015, when he drove her to work at the Admiral Tobacco store in South Haven and dropped her off a couple of blocks from the store. He told police he dropped her off shortly before 11 a.m. that morning.
State Police Detective Sgt. Paul Gonyeau, a computer and cell phone analysis expert, testified in Van Buren Circuit Court Friday that the missing text messages were exchanged between the couple between 6:36 and 9:24 a.m. that morning.
Analysis from the cell phone company confirmed the phone texting activity, but the content could not be retrieved from the phones because they had been manually deleted from both phones, Gonyeau said.
Police seized both phones on Sept. 7 as part of what was then simply a missing person investigation. Police took Brent Bogseth’s phone as part of the search warrant at the couple’s home, and found Kim Bogseth’s dismantled phone in the back of her husband’s Ford Explorer.
Meanwhile, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Detective Ben Ludwig testified that Kim Bogseth had been a heavy cell phone user, sending texts or making outgoing phone calls an average of 154 times a day the week before she went missing.
But that activity suddenly ceased after Sept. 1, 2015, he said.
Van Buren County Chief Medical Examiner Freda Osborne said no signs of a struggle, nor pooling blood, was found where the body was found. That indicates the body was moved there after the slaying, she said.
A forensic entomologist with Michigan State University, Ryan Kimbirauskas, testified that he used fly maggots from the decomposing body to estimate that the body could have been at the location where it was found as early as Sept. 3.
In other testimony Friday, police discussed their forensic comparison between the black garbage bags covering the body and additional bags found at two other sites - at the Bogseth house and at a housing development near South Haven where Brent Bogseth worked as a maintenance man. All bags were determined to be identical.
An alleged suicide note, an overnight mental evaluation and a strange request from Brent Bogseth to an acquaintance were also all part of last week’s testimony.
Police testified they talked the neighbor man who had the affair with Kim Bogseth and he said he had told Kim Bogseth on Sept. 1 that he was ending the affair.
John and Jody Evans lived with the Bogseths. They testified last week about what had happened in the days leading up to the discovery of the body.
On Sept. 7, Jody Evans said Brent Bogeth wrote a legal-type letter authorizing her to take temporary custody of the Bogeths’ 19-month-old son “in case someone got arrested.” That note was taken to a Grand Junction business and was notarized that evening.
Later that night, Bogseth said he needed to go to a nearby lake and “scream underwater,” and drove off, John Evans testified. After he left, Evans and his young son saw someone matching Bogseth’s description running across their back yard.
Bogseth drove back home about 15-20 minutes later. Shortly after that, he was in the driveway and quietly told his landlord he had just seen his wife’s purse in the front yard of the neighbor who had the affair with his wife. Police were called and recovered the purse, which was soaking wet.
The next day, Bogeth drove his son to his parent’s house in Chicago. On the way back, he called the landlord - a close family friend - and said he had found a “suicide note he had not remembered writing,” John Evans testified.
The note was later flushed down the toilet, he added.
Due to concerns that Bogseth could be suicidal, Evans and the landlord took Bogseth to Paw Paw and had him admitted to Bronson Lakeview Hospital for a mental evaluation. Bogseth was released the next day.
Bogseth had filed for divorce and custody of his son that same week, before Kim Bogseth’s body was found.
Also last week, Wednesday Verity testified that Brent Bogseth - a regular customer in the South Haven coffee shop where she worked - came in that first weekend of September and asked for a strange favor.
He asked her to call police and pose as Kim Bogseth, and to say she’s OK, she testified. She refused and told police about the request after the body was found.
South Haven officials plan to get tough on fireworks scofflaws
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
South Haven plans to increase fines for people who don’t follow the rules regarding fireworks.
The city uses the fireworks regulations set by the state, which only allow for fireworks to be ignited the day before, of and after the dozen holidays recognized by the state. It also bans fireworks from being ignited between 1 and 8 a.m. on those days when fireworks are allowed.
As a way to discourage fireworks law-breaking, the city plans to increase the first-offense fine from $50 to $100. Second-offense fines will go from $100 to $250, and fines for third and subsequent offenses will go from $250 to $500.
The City Council on Tuesday night took the first of two required steps to approve the increased fines. Final action is expected at the council’s Sept. 19 meeting, City Manager Brian Dissette said. The council voted for a resolution urging state legislators to repeal the current fireworks regulations to which the city must adhere.
The resolution asks that if the current regulations are not repealed, small cities such as South Haven should at least be given more control over local fireworks regulations. In other matters, the council voted to introduce an ordinance that would make it illegal to keep animals in vehicles if heat, cold or other conditions may cause potential harm or death to the animals.
The proposed ordinance would allow police to rescue animals in such cases, and fine their owners. Dissette said the city had an incident earlier this year in which a dog had to get veterinary treatment after being found in a hot van. The ordinance would allow for fines of $100 or $500, depending on the severity of the incident. Final action on the ordinance is expected at the Sept. 19 meeting.
Household hazardous waste collection scheduled
South Haven area residents can get rid of old paint cans, pesticides and tires during the Household Chemical, Latex Paint, Pesticide and Passenger Tire Recycling Collection, Saturday, Sept. 17.
The collection will be from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the South Haven Public Works Building, 1199 8th Ave.
“Household chemicals, pesticides and tires are some of the most important materials to recycle properly as throwing them out or dumping them irresponsibility may contaminate our air, soil and fresh water,” said A.J. Brucks, director for the Van Buren Conservation District, which is sponsoring the drive.
Household chemicals can be dropped off for a fee of $1.10 per pound. The chemical drop-off will be free for residents living in municipalities that have agreed to help pay for the disposal of the items. Pesticides can be dropped off free of charge. Latex Paint disposal will cost $2 per gallon, $1 per quart, and $5 for a five-gallon bucket. Passenger tires can be dropped off free of charge. However there is a limit of 10 passenger tires per resident address. Space is limited, so people should make reservations to drop off tires by calling 269-657-4030, ext. 5. No businesses are allowed to drop off tires. No large tractor or equipment tires will be accepted.
Other items that can be dropped off for free include hearing aids, eye glasses, walking canes and American flags, which will be donated to the local Lions Club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
For more information, visit www.VanBurenCD.org/recycling.
Senator pushes for improved rural broadband internet access
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
BLOOMINGDALE — If you head over to Pullman Elementary School anytime when school is out you'll find kids sitting outside with laptops and similar devices.
That's because the school is the only source of broadband Internet in the area aside from satellite service.
An experiment with providing kids with netbooks "failed miserably," according to Deb Paquette, the Bloomingdale Public Schools superintendent, because students couldn't use them at home. Pullman is part of the Bloomingdale district.
Paquette said she wants to see a level playing field when her graduates go to college. "My students don't have the same opportunities that other students have," Paquette said.
Paquette was directing her remarks to U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills) who was holding a town meeting at the main office of Bloomingdale Communications in downtown Bloomingdale, Sept. 1. Although Peters had said he had no prepared speech and was willing to take questions of any kind, the only topic was the Internet.
That actually started earlier with the meet-and-greet and a tour of the Bloomingdale Communications facility, which provides telephone, DSL, video and fiber optic services. Bloomingdale's fiber connects all the schools in Van Buren County. It also provides residential and business service in the Paw Paw, Bloomingdale and Mattawan areas. In South Haven it provides business service only.
Van Buren County Administrator Douglas Cultra told Peters the area could use a Tennessee Valley Authority approach to rural broadband. The federal government created the TVA during the Great Depression to provide electricity, navigation, flood control, fertilizer manufacturing and other economic development with a series of dams to a severely depressed area.
Peters told the audience of around 30 people, mostly local officials and Bloomingdale Communications employees, that he has been working on Internet issues since the 1990s when he was in the state legislature. He visited a computer lab in a juvenile detention facility and found a young woman who was excitedly learning things through the computer. He asked her if she could use computers at her school. She said no. There was no computer lab.
"Something's really messed up about that," Peters recalled thinking. After that he began working on getting computers for the Pontiac school district.
"We're well beyond that now," Peters said. The current issue is getting speedy Internet service to everyone. Peters said there should be a government component since the Internet is infrastructure, like bridges and roads, which the government already handles. It's needed for economic development and security.
"That's why it's critical we make these investments," Peters said.
On a related topic, Peters said the country's most significant threat is cyber. "We used to worry about hackers in their basement," Peters said. Now the worry is sophisticated state actors, such as Russia.
Russian hackers, he said, opened a dam in the Ukraine and caused a lot of damage.
"Even our top-tier institutions are extremely vulnerable to this stuff," Peters said.
Contractors finish first two phases of SH high school renovation project in time for new school year
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven High School's $27 million renovation project isn't spit and polished yet, but the school is now open today for students' first day of school.
No, the new interactive learning center isn't quite complete, nor is the engineering learning area, but when students return to their classrooms they will get a glimpse into what will be a state-of-the-art facility when contractors finish the project.
Gone are the dark, narrow hallways on the east end of the building. Hallways are now wider. Ceilings taller and walls painted white with purple and gold accents, to match the school colors. Digital screens and printer kiosks can now be found for students to use between classes.. Underneath the flooring, plumbing and drainage tiles have been replaced. Above the ceilings, technicians have strung new wiring for the school's increased use of computer and internet services.
Once students enter their classrooms they will sit in new desks and chairs. Smart projectors have been mounted on walls for teachers to use along with computerized touch boards. Sixty percent of the classrooms have been enlarged from 800 feet to 1,200 feet. Several of the classrooms also contain glass-enclosed bump out areas for small group projects.
“There's still a lot to do but we're proud of the direction it's taking,” said District Superintendent Robert Herrera. An open house is scheduled from 4:30-6 p.m., Sept. 28, for the general public.
Contractors and school custodians spent last week putting the finishing touches on phases one and two of the five-phase renovation project.
“I'd say we've had 80-90 contractors each day, 15 custodial/maintenance workers and then 30 teachers and staff members here getting everything ready,” said Kevin Dee, the district's director of non-instructional services.
Dee has been overseeing the extensive project from the get-go.
“I can't tell you how much time Kevin has put into the details,” Herrera said. “There's nothing you can see with this project that didn't have Kevin's input.”
“We visited a lot of buildings before this project started,” Dee said. “We wanted our building to be designed around the students and their needs.”
And the new student learning center, which should be fully operational by the spring of 2017, is the heart and soul of the project.
When finished, the student center will be somewhat similar to what people see at colleges.
One section will be for students working on group project; another section for individualized learning.
Toward the back there is a production studio where students can produce their own videos.
“Projects will revolve around the 4 Cs — content, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity,” Herrera said.
The new commons area is also in the process of being completed. Once done it will have comfortable seating, a coffee bar and cafeteria. Nearby, students can meet with guidance counselors to go over class schedules or other needs.
“We want to create an environment where kids like coming to school and are motivated,” Herrera said.
The learning center and commons area are expected to be completed by spring, along with art rooms and the Project Lead the Way engineering area. While work is continuing, student will be isolated from construction areas by temporary walls that have been installed to protect them and reduce noise.
School district officials have developed a page on the district's website that highlights the scope of the bond issue project, according to Tara Wilkinson, the district's marketing coordinator. The page details the construction timeline and allows people to sign up for monthly email updates. Area residents can also access the information on their smart phones with the district's new mobile app.
Owen-Ames-Kimball Co., based in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, has been contracted to oversee construction. They plan to complete the renovations by December 2017.
A timeline for the remainder of the project follows:
PHOTO: South Haven Public Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera stands in a portion of the new Student Learning Lab, which will be completed by spring break.
One hundred years old!
South Haven Public Schools celebrates Ratcliffe Field centennial at football home opener
By TRIBUNE STAFF
As South Haven High School's varsity football team gets ready for its first home football game, school officials are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the field the Rams call home.
The Ratcliffe Field Centennial Celebration is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 9, prior to the Rams game against Plainwell.
“Ratcliffe Field means a lot to our alumni and the whole community,” said Tara Wilkinson, marketing coordinator for South Haven Public Schools. “So many people in South Haven have great memories of playing and attending sports, performing in the marching band, and graduating high school on this field, and now their children and grandchildren are making those memories too. It’s going to be a fun, nostalgic evening for Rams of all ages.”
The celebration will begin with a tailgate party and carnival at the field. The first 100 spectators through the entrances will receive a commemorative gift.
The tailgate will include pizza from Brix Corner Oven and other treats from the school district's Food Service Department. The free carnival will be run by various athletic teams and organizations. Commemorative T-shirts and programs will also be available for purchase throughout the evening – T-shirts are $10 and programs are $5.
People who want to learn about the history of the field can do so that evening by going to the Historical Association of South Haven, which is housed in the former Hartman School building, next to Ratcliffe Field. There, the museum will unveil a historical display of Ratcliffe Field.
Other events at the field follow:
• The Memorial Room in the Arkins Fieldhouse, dedicated to all South Haven residents who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Services, will be open for viewing.
• Alumni, who furthered their athletic careers after graduating from South Haven, will be highlighted.
• Fun facts and trivia about Ratcliffe Field will be announced throughout the evening.
The football game will begin at 7 p.m. against the Trojans. All former athletic staff members, band directors, and Ram alumni are encouraged to attend for special recognition prior to the start of the game. The Purple Pride Marching Band will be joined by alumni band members for the pre-game show, and at half-time the Purple Pride will debut its season’s theme – Dragons. There will also be a special half-time performance by the cheerleading team.
Ratcliffe Field History
The person who made Ratcliffe Field a reality was the late William A. Ratcliffe.
A banker in South Haven during the early 1900s, Ratcliffe was a strong promoter of high school athletics in South Haven. School athletes at the time referred to him affectionately as “Pa Ratcliffe,” according to a tribute made to him in the South Haven High School's 1916 yearbook.
Envisioning a sports field specifically for the school district's use, Ratcliffe worked out an agreement in 1916 with Ella and Anna Ware, who owned property where Ratcliffe Field now stands. They agreed to lease it to him for 10 years. Ratcliffe in turn let the school district use the field free of charge.
The first contest played at Ratcliffe was actually a baseball game between South Haven and Gobles (then called Gobleville) in April 1916. The first football game at the field occurred in October 1916 when the Rams faced Benton Harbor. South Haven's team then was coached by a young L.C. Mohr, who went on to become the school district's superintendent for several decades, and for whom the high school is now named.
In 1926, Ratcliffe purchased the athletic field property from the two sisters and transferred its ownership to South Haven Public Schools for $1, according to a South Haven Tribune article published in July 1926.
Up to that point, the field was basically just an outdoor playing area used for baseball, football and track events. By taking ownership of the land, the school district pledged to make improvements to the field and in 1930 a dedication ceremony took place prior to a football game against St. Joseph to commemorate the renovations. The Class of 1929 donated the existing gate columns and fencing for the entire field, raising more than $3,500 for the project.
In 1976, the district remodeled the facilities again. The cinder track was replaced with an all-weather track. The baseball diamond was relocated to Ben Suhr Field next to the high school, and the bleachers were replaced. The press box was moved to the west side of the field, and storage was built beneath the bleachers.
In 1999, the facilities were updated to a modern outdoor stadium for football, soccer, and track. Improvements included underground sprinkling, resurfacing of the track, construction of a Wall of Tradition and the Ram Plaza, remodeling of Arkins Fieldhouse, and additional landscaping. To complete the stadium improvements, a new press box and remodeled bleachers were installed in 2000. The 1999-2000 renovations were made possible by The Friends of Ratcliffe Field, a community group that raised $500,000 for the project.
Currently, South Haven’s football, soccer, track, and cheerleading teams and the Purple Pride Marching Band all use Ratcliffe Field.
PHOTOS: South Haven High School students (top photo) are shown near the entrance of Ratcliffe Field. In the other photo, William Ratcliffe is shown standing on the field during the 1920s.