Archive for January, 2010

Free tax preparation available for low- to moderate-income taxpayers in Van Buren County
January 25, 2010

Certified tax preparers will be available at seven sites in Van Buren County to file tax forms free of charge for low to moderate income taxpayers, especially those who may not be required to file tax returns. By submitting a shortened form, renters, seniors receiving Social Security, veterans, and those on disability and unemployment can take advantage of Michigan tax credits that may result in refunds to these filers. The free service is offered by the Van Buren Tax Coalition. The following tax sites have been established:

• Lake Michigan College, South Haven campus, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays, Feb. 6, 13 and 20, March 13, 20 and 27, and April 10; 

• Department of Human Services, Hartford, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through April 15 (Spanish translation available at this site from Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.);

• VBISD Tech Center, Lawrence, call Ron Bishop, 269-539-5279, to schedule an appointment after Feb. 22; 

• Bangor City Hall, 3-7 p.m. on Thursday, March 4 and Wednesday, March 10; 

• Covert Community Center, 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, Feb 17 and March 3; 

• His Place, Hartford, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays, Feb. 27, March 6, and April 3;

• Van Buren County United Way office, 181 W. Michigan Ave., Paw Paw, 3-6 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first and second Saturday of each month through April 10.

“Significant numbers of dollars are being lost by local residents when tax credits are missed,” said Vera E. Tanier, executive director of Van Buren County United Way, which is part of the Tax Coalition. “Keeping money in local pockets will help individuals and help stimulate our own local economy.”

Residents should begin collecting their tax documents and information now. Documents to have on hand include: a valid photo ID (such as a driver’s license or state ID), a copy of last year’s tax return, Social Security card for those listed on the return and/or taxpayer identification numbers, W-2 and 1099 forms, interest statements, mortgage company statements or total rent paid (with name and address or landlord), property tax receipts for 2009, IRS notices or letters received, heating bills for 2009, routing and account numbers for your bank account or a safe address for receipt of refund, annual Department of Human Service statement, unemployment information, child care receipts, and proof of new home or new car purchase. 

For more information, contact Van Buren County United Way at 269-657-2410. Information is also posted on the Van Buren County United Way website at www.vbcuw.org.

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Historic South Haven newspapers to be made available in digital format at South Haven library
January 25, 2010

By KIM INGALLS

Tribune staff writer

Thanks to the South Haven Community Foundation, it will soon be easier for people to research through 65 years of local newspaper records at South Haven Memorial Library.

The library is the recipient of a grant for  $2,200 that will pay for conversion of some of its historic microfilm newspapers to digital format.

“I’m excited about this,” Debra Jones,  library director said. “This is a huge step forward for us.”

The new system is expected to be in place by the end of January. Using Optical Character Recognition software, 50 rolls of microfilm from 1847 to 1913 will be scanned and saved in the new format. The images will be placed on an external hard drive that is hooked to a computer installed with special software. Users will then be able to do something they have never been able to do before – search, email, fax or store old newspaper articles. And they’ll be able to search by word, rather than by issue date, only

“Who would have ever thought we would be able to search?” says Jones. “Not only that, some of the film from the 1800’s are not that good, and with the new system, it might be able to enhance the papers including photos – depending on the condition of the paper when it was photographed for the microfilm.”

Jones would like to see the entire 170 years of local newspaper microfilm placed on the OCR system. However, the library will need additional funds to do that. In the meantime she plans to network the library’s computers and have a link on the library’s web site so that the OCR system can be used by internet users.

Despite the easy access of digital formats for people, microfilm still remains one ofthe most viable formats for retaining records, such as newspapers. For one, microfilm has a lifespan of about 500 years. It also cannot be altered or corrupted, and is not limited to specific computer operating systems. Jones says the library needs  both mediums to provide valuable research tools for users.

“You’d be surprised the number of people, especially out-of-staters, who come in and research their family trees, especially obits,” she says.

Lakeshore Document Services of Muskegon has been contracted to do the conversion which includes issues of the South Haven Sentinel (1867-1882, 1882-1885, 1891-1897), South Haven Messenger (1881-1884, 1895-1897, 1900-1903), South Haven Tribune (May 12, 1899- May 25, 1899, 1907-1908, 1910-1913),  and the Weekly Review, Covert (July 1901 – Nov. 1901).

NRC cites Palisades nuclear power plant for a “low to moderate safety” violation
January 25, 2010

By ANDREW LERSTEN

For the Tribune

COVERT – The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has cited the Palisades nuclear plant in Covert Township for a spent fuel pool violation it considered to be a “low to moderate” safety threat.

Specifically, the NRC cited the Entergy-owned plant for having an inadequate amount of boron carbide, which acts as a neutron absorber, in the spent fuel racks in the spent fuel pool, between July 2008 and February 2009.

A Jan. 20 letter from the NRC to Entergy said the spent fuel pool issue was a “white” level violation, which is the second lowest of four possible violation levels. A “white” violation equates to a “low to moderate” safety threat, explained Viktoria Mitlyng of the NRC Region 3 office in Lisle, Ill.

A spent fuel pool has two things designed to prevent the spent fuel rods from creating a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, Mitlyng said. First, the racks holding the spent fuel rods have the boron carbide plates that act as neutron absorbers. The second element is soluble boron in the pool, she said.

In this case, NRC on-site inspectors were informed by Palisades employees that some of the spent fuel racks were bulging, and it was later determined that the boron carbide plates had degraded to the point where their specified protection levels dropped to a point where it was considered a violation, Mitlyng said.

“The NRC inspectors saw it, and encouraged the utility to look further and do more testing,” she said. Since February 2009, Entergy has taken several additional steps to correct the issue, including a reconfiguration of the spent fuel pool racks and increasing the amount of soluble boron in the spent fuel pool, she said.

“They have taken compensatory actions,” she said. The NRC will not fine Entergy for the violation.

Covert Schools recall effort moves ahead: Recall issue may go to voters on May 4
January 25, 2010

By ANDREW LERSTEN

For the Tribune

COVERT – A recall election for two Covert school board members may be headed to district voters in the May 4 election.

The Van Buren County Elections Commission has approved wording on the recall petitions targeting the two senior members of the board – Board President Frieda Brown and long-time board member Clarence Lauderdale Sr. – county Clerk Tina Leary said.

The recall organizers would have to collect valid signatures from 168 district voters by Jan. 29 for the issue to be on the May 4 ballot, Leary explained.

Organizer Cheryl McCray said she does not think it will be difficult to obtain the needed signatures on petitions by the Jan. 29 deadline for the May election.

“We have no problems getting the names,” McCray said last week. “We have people coming to us and calling us.”

The recall effort is the result of some district residents’ anger and frustration over the district’s current budget crisis and resulting budget cuts. A primary example of what McCray called unnecessary spending was the recent school remodeling and expansion project.

Here is the approved wording for both recall petitions: “(Brown and Lauderdale) voted yes for unnecessary addition (sic) to school, class room, high school office and gym. This will make a third gym added to the school and there are close to 700 students in the entire school district. Then (they) laid off several teachers. Now there are several empty classrooms and some rooms being used for storage. The community was told this was built from a grant. Then found out at a board meeting where the community was furthering questioning (sic), the community found out the building was not being built from a grant but a loan.”

The latest wording was approved Jan. 15. It was the second time proposed wording was submitted. The original wording had been rejected by the county elections commission earlier, because it was not deemed to be clear enough to voters.

South Haven planners will study zoning issues related to proposed ethanol production in old Bohn plant
January 25, 2010

By ANDREW LERSTEN

For the Tribune

South Haven’s planning commission will study zoning issues related to a proposed sugar-based ethanol plant in the former Bohn Piston plant in the city.

DeAnza Fuel Group of Grand Rapids wants to buy 80,000 square feet of the facility, including the shipping and receiving area, for its ethanol venture, according to Steve Larsen, managing member for South Haven Redevelopment LLC, which owns the plant at 220 Aylworth Ave.

This past week the city council voted  to refer the zoning issue to the planning commission to ultimately make a recommendation on whether the city zoning ordinance should be revised to accommodate the proposed ethanol plant.

DeAnza plans to invest an estimated $2 to $6 million in the equipment, and the business could employ anywhere from 15 to 60 people, Larsen said. Liquid ethanol products would be the primary product line for the plant, but there would be secondary products that could include fertilizer and animal feed, he said.

The property is zoned I-1B industrial.

Voting to refer the issue to the planning commission were Mayor Bob Burr and Council members Andy Klavins, Sally Newton, Suzie Fitzgibbon and Vickiy Kozlik Wall.

Council members Don Bemis and Gail Patterson voted against the motion. They were against the procedure used in bringing the issue to the council.

Typically, a rezoning application will go through city staff and then directly to the planning commission, and there is a $400 filing fee to cover city administrative costs, City Manager Brian Dissette said. But by going directly to the city council, Larsen does not have to pay the $400 fee, he said.

“There is a normal process” not used in this case, Dissette said.

“We are essentially asking the taxpayers to cover the $400, and I am not comfortable with that,” Bemis said. “I really prefer that things go through the channels.”

But city zoning administrator Bill Spaeth defended the process.

He said that while it is true a rezoning requests have a $400 filing fee, in this case a rezoning is not being sought. Larsen is seeking a possible text amendment to the zoning ordinance.

“The correct way is exactly the way it was done,” Spaeth said. “It was not done wrong.”

In other matters, the council last week voted to approve a plan to be filed with the state that gives the city three more years to raise private funds to pay off the $80,000 balance on the city’s pavilion in the Huron Street parking lot.

The pavilion cost $474,000 and about $394,000 in donations have been raised privately so far. 

Anyone who enjoys the pavilion and is interested in helping the city pay it off is encouraged to send a donation to the City of South Haven at 539 Phoenix St., South Haven MI, 49090, with the memo “pavilion donation” on the check.