HARBERT — Thanks to community benefactors Bev and Jerry Kohn, it was announced at the July 8 meeting of the Chikaming Township Board that the site of the old Sawyer Fire Station in downtown Sawyer and an additional lot to its east will become a green space.
The Kohns will cover the $150,000 cost of the property plus the cost of demolishing the old building that had most recently been a retail space.
Trustee Rich Sullivan was effusive in his praise for the Kohns, noting that while they were not attending the meeting for recognition they definitely deserved some.
“They have been so helpful to our community and so involved over many years,” Sullivan said. “This donation they are making ties into the whole future vision of Sawyer.”
Supervisor David Bunte added, “This property has been discussed as a possible green space for a long time, and I have offered naming rights to the Kohns.”
A motion to approve the sale and demolition work received unanimous support.
Also on July 8, following a presentation by Park Board Chairperson Arthur Anderson on a redesign proposal for Harbert Community Park, a motion for the township to match a $50,000 grant for the project from the Michiana Arts Foundation was approved unanimously.
The discussion also included an option for the Park Board to come back to the Township Board to request additional funding if cost overruns were incurred.
Sullivan also said that he felt much of the demolition work could be done by volunteers to keep costs down.
Anderson said that the first phase of the project would include the development of a performance stage area and an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant concrete walkway.
“We hope to begin the first phase of our plan this fall and have it completed next spring,” Anderson said.
In another July 8 matter, there was a lengthy discussion on a proposed draft ordinance on non-discrimination that was also an agenda item at the June 10 meeting.
Rev. Dr. Sid Mohn, convenor for the Interfaith Action Southwest Michigan Michigan Peace & Justice Collaborative, spoke in favor of the township adopting an ordinance and said that the State of Michigan did not have adequate legislation protecting issues related to sexual identification and gender identity.
“We continue to work with local municipalities and congregations with a focus on non-discrimination ordinances,” Mohn commented. “There’s also a lack of federal protection.”
Sullivan asked, “Could this be an end run around to get what you couldn’t get from the state? An end run to get the state to enact legislation?
“There would be legwork necessary on our part,” he continued. “Someone would have to enforce this, and it seems like this would be putting a lot on the township. My gut feeling is that we do not need an ordinance at this point. When we create an ordinance we need people to enforce it.”
Bunte said he thought it would be a good idea to have a public hearing on the proposed ordinance to get input from members of the community.
A motion to not move forward with the non-discrimination draft ordinance was approved 4-1 with Bunte casting the lone dissenting vote.
An additional motion to enact a non-discrimination policy rather than an ordinance that would be based on state and federal laws was approved 4-1, with Bunte once again voting not to approve.
Bunte reported that all the related documents pertaining to the Cherry Beach Project had been submitted and accepted.
“It’s been a three-year project, and the tentative closing date will be Aug. 18,” he said.
Bunte also reported that the Union Pier/Red Arrow Highway Project was now 95 percent complete, and that there has been great usage of the new non-motorized path.
Recently placed banners were made possible by a William Deputy Foundation grant.
After discussion on a funding request from the Friends of Berrien County Trails organization to help fund the development of a Master Plan, a motion to provide $2,000 to support that effort received unanimous support.
An update on the Lakefront Resiliency Project included information that a very extensive planning guide was now accessible on the township’s chikamingtownship.org website.
Treasurer Liz Rettig said that the recently formed Waste Management Services Committee held an initial meeting on June 29.
“We had 10 people in attendance, and we were able to get input from people who live in different neighborhoods in the community,” she said. “There will be more meetings to come.”
Finally, Bunte reminded patrons to local businesses to be patient and understanding with those who staff those places.
“Lack of adequate staffing for our businesses continues to be a problem, so please remember that the service staff members who are there may feel a bit overwhelmed at times,” he said.