HARBERT — The Chikaming Township Board on Dec. 9 approved a motion to make the Bridgman Public Library the one accessible at no charge to township residents.
The vote came after trustees Bill Marske and Rich Sullivan provided input on their meetings with representatives from the three libraries that had been offering their services to Chikaming residents under a contract with the township – Bridgman, the New Buffalo Township Public Library, and the Three Oaks Township Library. That agreement contained provisions for each of the three libraries to receive $10,300 annually from the township in addition to penal fines.
Under the terms of the new annual contract the Bridgman Public Library will now be the recipient of all penal fines plus additional funding if deemed necessary.
Marske and Sullivan noted that Bridgman Library Director Dennis Kreps has been a regular attendee at the monthly township meetings where he has kept the community well informed about the activities and special events there.
Sullivan also said that Bridgman had a reciprocal agreement with the Lincoln Township Public Library in Stevensville, so Chikaming patrons would also be welcome to use that facility at no cost.
He also noted that Chikaming residents would still be able to take books out of New Buffalo and Three Oaks libraries by purchasing library cards at an annual cost of $50.
“To put things in perspective,” Sullivan said, “both my wife and I have gotten New Buffalo Library cards.”
There was also further discussion on the search process to find a replacement for longtime Fire Chief Mike Davidson who submitted a letter announcing his retirement effective next March 31.
A motion to appoint Sullivan, Public Safety Commission member Greg Bunch, and Lincoln Township Fire Chief Brandon Chiarello as the ad hoc committee to undertake that task received unanimous support.
Sullivan sang the praises of Chiarello, noting that he was very familiar with the township, and that his department had about the same number of firefighters as Chikaming.
“We’ll be covering all of our bases, and we’re excited about the process,” Sullivan commented.
Supervisor David Bunte said that the goal of the township was to get as many qualified candidates as possible.
Also on Dec. 9, after a presentation by Sgt. Brandon Jones outlining the need for the police department office space to be remodeled, a motion to proceed with that project at a cost not to exceed $50,000 received unanimous support.
Among other things, Jones noted that updating the office space would help the township retain its current team of officers and make it easier to attract new recruits.
Sullivan said that he was confident that some costs could be cut by Chikaming residents volunteering to undertake some of the demolition and construction work when the project proceeds.
Also on the agenda, following a meeting attended by residents and business owners on the road work scheduled for Sawyer Road in 2022, it was reported that the attendees discussed the desire to proceed with pre-planning for streetscape improvements along that roadway, similar to the planning and execution done in Union Pier and Harbert.
To that end, a motion to approve the proposal from the Antero Group to do the initial design work for the Sawyer Road project was unanimously approved.
Bunte said that the Berrien County Road Department would be undertaking the curb to curb work on that project, and the scope of the rest of the improvements would be up to the township. It is anticipated that the work will include five-foot wide shoulders on Sawyer Road from Red Arrow Highway to Arlington Drive.
After discussion on the matter, there was unanimous support to adopt a resolution stating that the township strongly endorses and supports the ultimate building of a rail connection in New Buffalo that would link the Pere Marquette and the Wolverine/Blue Water services. That support is contingent on an environmental and engineering study being done prior to any work on the rail connection being done.
A letter stating the township’s support as well as a $2,000 pledge to help fund the project was being sent to the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
The discussion topic near the conclusion of the meeting pertained to a Housing Study compiled by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
Bunte reviewed some of the data contained in the study and encouraged everyone to access the document under the “County News” heading on the chikamingtownship.org website.
“Among the biggest housing concerns in our township are short term rentals and the fact that we don’t have affordable housing available for the people in our workforce,” he commented.
Finally, Bunte announced that the township is looking for public input on improvements to Berrien Street, and to that end a meeting on that subject has been scheduled to convene on Wednesday, Jan. 12, starting at 6 p.m. in the Chikaming Township Center.