HARBERT – After discussing the matter during their May 9 meeting, and following the recommendation of Clerk Paula Dudiak, the Chikaming Township Board voted unanimously to approve a motion to contract the services of Pontem Software to provide the township with a digitalized Cemetery Records Management program for its Riverside and Lakeside cemeteries.

The initial cost to implement the software program is $2,625, with an annual maintenance fee of $420.

Features of the program, among other things, will include giving the township and its residents the capability of quickly accessing information online such as which gravesites are occupied, sold or available; as well as the names of the decedents, owners, grave types and more.

Dudiak said that a grid system would be used to pinpoint where all the graves are, as well as where all the currently unused gravesites at the cemeteries are located.

“Through my inquiries I’ve been told that Pontem is very user friendly and our best option,” Dudiak commented. “This will be a forever thing once we get all of our cemetery information digitalized.”

She added that although members of the public would be able to access all the cemetery information online once the program is installed and operating, they would still have to go through the township if they were interested in purchasing or selling gravesites.

It was noted that cemetery sexton Kirk Schrader had previously done all the cemetery mapping duties as well as maintenance work, but he currently is unable to do the mowing at those two sites, and a motion to contract with TDK Lawn Service to perform that work on an “as needed” basis received unanimous support.

In other business, after a Power Point presentation on the subject there was unanimous consent to adopt a resolution supporting a “Master Trails Plan for Berrien County.”

Supervisor David Bunte said that an integral part of the plan was to receive the endorsement of all 36 municipalities in Berrien County to develop an interconnected web of trails of hiking and biking trails throughout the area.

Bunte noted that, among other things, having access to such trails garners economic enhancements as well as contributing to the health and welfare of local residents who would use them.

“The plan promotes the ‘connectivity’ of trail systems throughout the county, and this would include a trail system around the perimeter of the county as well as a diagonal one that would go up to the Coloma area,” Bunte said. “These trails provide much safer spaces for activities such as biking, walking and running than on the shoulders of roadways, and the long-term vision is to have a system of interconnected trails going from Chicago all the way up to the Mackinac Bridge.

Trustee Rich Sullivan noted that many of the trails throughout other parts of the state had been developed on abandoned railroad lines, and those were in scarcity in this corner of Michigan.

Trustee Bill Marske said he was a snowmobiler who enjoyed traversing the snowmobile trails throughout the area during the winter months and thought similar trail systems for warmer weather enjoyment would be a good idea.

Bunte said he felt the trail system could be used for activities such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months.

He also noted that Chikaming’s endorsement of the plan did not come with any financial commitment from the township.

Also on the agenda, Sullivan said that the Zoning Ordinance Committee he is a member of expects to have their work done on the language of a new zoning ordinance and ready for presentation to the township board in about seven weeks.

It was announced that due to erosion from storms and higher water levels in the lake the Pier Street lake access will have to remain closed indefinitely.

Bunte said that he would notify the county that no properties on the township’s foreclosure list were candidates for demolition.

At Bunte’s recommendation, a motion to add a “Discussion Topic” agenda item to monthly meetings beginning in June was approved unanimously.

Bunte said the new agenda item would give the members of the board a good opportunity get feedback from residents on relevant topics, and after July the members of the public would be welcome to recommend topics for a discussion period of 10 to 15 minutes.

Finally, an indication that summer is on the horizon came with the annual unanimous approval on a motion to grant the Chikaming Country Club a permit to conduct their fireworks display on July 5.

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