Archive for February, 2010

Five Bloomingdale Village Council members face recall
February 22, 2010

By ROD SMITH

For the Tribune

BLOOMINGDALE — The five Bloomingdale Village Council trustees that are subject to a recall election are ready to make a unified statement before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

Former council member Steve Spiece successfully circulated recall petitions against President Tom Rock, President pro tem Tom Barczak and trustees Toni Rankin, Williams Rawlings and Shirley Noble after

they voted last year to fire Police Chief John Josten following his conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence.

The five members had a chance to file justifications for their actions that would have appeared on Tuesday’s ballot, however, none of them did so.

After last week’s village meeting, however, the trustees, minus Barczak, who was absent, agreed to a group interview to address the allegations being made against them.

“The five of us being recalled would make the statement that we have performed in a responsible manner,” said Rock. “We have addressed health, safety and welfare of the village residents. We would not rescind any decisions that we have made and we are proud of what we have done for the village of Bloomingdale.

“There is a lot of untruths to the statements and the allegations,” Rock continued, “that the news media has failed to respond to.”

The petitions allege that the trustees voted against the majority of village residents, who wanted to retain Josten. Spiece also alleged that Rock, Rankin and Rawlings each has an alleged personal bias against Josten. Therefore, they should have abstained from voting.

Rock’s alleged bias resulted “from his arrest and conviction for assault by Chief Josten.” Rankin’s alleged bias stemmed from “the arrest of her grandson by Chief Josten.” Rawlings’ bias was allegedly due to “his arrest for domestic violence by Chief Josten.”

In checking with Seventh District Court records, Rock had been charged with assault and disturbing the peace in 2008. The assault charge was later dropped, and he pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace.

Josten served as the village’s police chief since 1993. The council decided to remove Josten following his arrest and guilty plea to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Allegan County. If he complies with court requirements for a year, the assault and battery charge can be dropped.

After he was fired, Josten brought a lawsuit against the village alleging breach of contract. In the settlement, the village paid him $19,000, of which $10,000 was covered by insurance.

The Village Council has not chosen to replace Josten’s position. Since he was the only person on the police force, the police force has been inactive.

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Cash-strapped South Haven Schools considers selling lakefront Packard Park property
February 22, 2010

By ANDREW LERSTEN

For the Tribune

South Haven’s Packard Park is one of several city’s  beach parks on Lake Michigan, and quite a popular spot in the summer months.

Unlike other city parks, however, Packard is actually owned by South Haven Schools, which is now considering sale of the site as part of a number of ways to reduce its budget. 

Board members last week asked Superintendent Bob Black to look into details related to the possible sale of the site, including discussions with city officials about the idea.

Board Trustee Joe DeGrandchamp brought up the proposal during a lengthy board discussion on possible ways to increase revenues and reduce costs.

“To me (the sale of the park site) is the biggest bang for the buck,” DeGrandchamp said. “Lakefront (property) is one of those properties that, while not immune from the recession, certainly does not take the hit that other properties do.”

Some board members said they had concerns about the sale, due to the long-term lease the city currently has to operate the park.

But Vice President Corey Davis said he wasn’t concerned about that.

“It’s our property. We can sell it,” Davis said. “We are the owner of the property. We don’t have to ask (the city’s) permission.”

Some other properties owned by the district could also be sold, including a site near Maple Grove Elementary and one near Baseline Middle School.

Another major discussion topic for reducing expenses is cutting the athletics budget. The board agreed that Athletic Director Dave Gumpert make recommendations on what to cut from the athletics budget.

Athletic cuts that have been considered include reduced pay for coaches and reducing or eliminating transportation. The board consensus, however, is not to eliminate freshmen sports.

The district is considering budget cuts due to the continued loss of state funding.

Now is the time to study possible future budget cuts, before there is a full-fledged crisis at hand, DeGrandchamp stressed.

“If we don’t make plans in advance, and the shoe falls, we’re going to be scrambling and it’s going to be ugly,” he said.

In other district news, a special board meeting will likely be held next month to interview architect firms for next year’s planned high school bond effort, Black said.

The district received 11 proposals from firms interested in helping the district with the design work related to the proposed high school renovations.

District officials earlier thought that the board would be ready to interview two or three firms last week, but more time for review is needed, the superintendent said.

“We’re still reviewing them,” Black said. “We hope to have our review done by the end of the month. If we can get our short list, we can get them in for interviews before the regular March meeting (on March 17).”

Ideally, a special meeting will be held for that purpose sometime between March 4 and March 16, he said.

Also last week, high school custodian Patty Bales urged the board to carefully consider a possible shift to privatizing custodial services. She said the board should make sure it is comparing “apples to apples” when analyzing possible cost saving and the services to be provided.

Trustee Charlie Dotson has been encouraging more district residents to attend the ongoing School Improvement Committee meetings. The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, in the high school media center.

Anyone interested in buying the 63-acre Sherman Hills property?
February 22, 2010

By ANDREW LERSTEN

For the Tribune

A 63-acre housing subdivision that was the subject of much controversy several years ago is now for sale in South Haven.

The site was originally approved for the 151-house Sherman Hills Condominiums project, but the development fell through due to a web of environmental and legal problems. Only one duplex building was partially built.

Lienholders on the project sued the original developers and a court ruling gave them possession of the property, which already has water and sewer lines in the ground.

Earlier this month, the new owners had “for sale” signs posted, one on the southern boundary of 2nd Avenue and the other on the eastern boundary of 71 1/2 Street.

City zoning administrator Bill Spaeth said the city’s original approval for the Sherman Hills Condominiums, as a residential planned unit development, has expired. A new approval process will be required for any new development plans there, he said.

City Manager Brian Dissette expressed optimism about the future potential of the site.

“I think it (the sale attempt) is a positive step,” Dissette said. “The city staff is actually meeting with the ownership team to try and get a better understanding of the value of the utilities there and to talk about what, if anything, can be done to make them workable.”

While the water and sewer lines were installed on the site by the original developers, a sewer lift station will still be required, Dissette added.

South Haven theater troupe presents musical “SUDS”
February 22, 2010

South Haven High School Drama and Vocal Music Departments will present SUDS – The Musical, at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, in Listiak Auditorium of South Haven High School, 600 Elkenburg St.

“The cast is set and rehearsals are well underway,” said Cole Tyrrell, musical director for the production.

The 1960s rock musical SUDS will be the second full-scale high school production in Listiak Auditorium, Tyrrell went on to say, and the play will include use of the hydraulic orchestra pit.

The musical is based on the story by Brent Peeks and takes place ijn a 1960s Laundromat where the lead character, Cindy is employed.

SUDS has a cast eight members, including the three main characters, Cindy, Marge and Dee Dee. Marge and Dee Dee are guardian angels who arrive at the Laundromat and try to help Cindy through a very trying period in her life.

Cindy will be played by Hillary Spitters, Marge by Jen Kritzberg and Dee Dee by Claire Trapp. The male roles of Announcer, Mr. Postman, Mr. Right and Johnny Angel are filled by Keith Johnson, Eddie Verdonk, Navarre Gaylord and Jared Wall respectively. Eddie Verdonk will also double in the production as Milt Dudman and Jared Wall will also portray the character of Mrs. Halo.

SUDS was first performed in New York City in 1987 and has been revised several times. It was one of the featured show presented by the Hope Repertory Theatre this past summer.

The production is directed by Dave Hughes and costumed by Cheri Stein. Musical direction is by Cole Tyrrell and orchestra preparation by Jeff Bopp. Lighting and set design is by Dave Hughes and sound and appliances for the musical will be handled by Michael Springer.

Tickets are $7 for students and senior citizens and $9 for adults and may be purchased at the high school ticket office or at Wolverine Hardware. All seats are general admission.

Popular elementary art exhibit opens at art center
February 22, 2010

The South Haven Center for the Arts will again be celebrating the budding talents of the young artists in the area. From Feb. 26 to March 27, students from 13 elementary art programs in the surrounding area will join together and fill the walls of the Art Center with their works of art.

“The behind-the-scene heroes of this exhibition are the art teachers that continue to promote the importance of arts in the school curriculum. The expression on a child’s face when they see their work hanging in a gallery for everyone to see is worth all the effort,” said Sarah Hess, program coordinator for the art center.

The opening of the exhibit is planned for 2-4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27. The public is invited to attend. The art center is at 600 Phoenix St., South Haven.