THREE OAKS – The search for a new Three Oaks Village Manager began with three finalists interviewed on Wednesday, Jan. 8, with another two interviews scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 15, beginning at 6 p.m.
The candidates were selected from more than 40 who applied to fill the vacancy created when Mike Greene resigned to take a position in Saline, Mich.
The first candidate answering the round of questions from village trustees was James Toth, most recently city administrator in Walsenburg, Colo. He described Three Oaks as a “jewel of a village … with a vibrant and active downtown,” and said he is “slightly” familiar with sewer ponds, could “hit the ground running” and has experience with writing ordinances for medical and recreational marijuana.
Next was Patricia Rayl, most recently village manager in Colon, Mich., who said Three Oaks is very fortunate to have a grocery, hardware store, bakery and butcher and many historic gems in its downtown. She said she is familiar with sewer lagoons and would get the appropriate licenses. On the marijuana issue, she said it is “tricky and complex” and “needs a lot of debate and thought.”
The third candidate was Kevin Gillette, most recently a substitute teacher but formerly the village manager in Cassopolis, Mich. He said he is very familiar with three Oaks, having attended many Flag Day celebrations and other events in the village. Gillette said he had experience with lagoon ponds in communities he served. Although personally against the use of marijuana, he said he would follow the decision of the council.
The two candidates scheduled for the Jan. 15 interviews are Rita Archer, most recently president of Four Points Center for Successful Aging, and Jack Ardaugh, an attorney from Manhattan, Ill.
Village President David Grosse raised the option of employing a retired village/city manager he has identified on a part time basis at $25 per hour who would also conduct a search for a full time village manager.
In another Jan. 8 matter, Grosse reported there was a pre-construction meeting for the upgrades to Chamberlain Path, located off Elm Street next to the Village Hall. The project calls for new benches, picnic table, bike racks, lighting and an ADA compliant path.
Work will begin as soon as weather permits and is expected to be completed by May. The project is largely being funded by a $79,000 a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and is being overseen by Abonmarche Consultants working with the Downtown Development Authority.
The council unanimously approved the new Master Plan, including a new map showing future land use options.
Trustee Colleen Newquist, council liaison to the Planning Commission, said the new plan and map is more specific in describing land use options and includes a new separate designation for the Enterprise Park, which can be either industrial or developed as a planned unit development.
Planning Commission Chair Gene Svebakken said the plan was the result of two years’ work and a lot of community input.
Grosse said the Enterprise Park can now be considered for anything “other than big box stores.” He stressed, however, that every detail from trees to building design would first have to be approved by the Planning Commission.
In conjunction with village’s office lease renewal last month with the Berrien County, the council renewed the five-year lease of its former office space on Maple Street to the School of American Music for $1 per year and cost of utilities for five years.
“They do a terrific job for the town,” Grosse said, referring to the list of the school’s accomplishments that includes music instruction, recitals and scholarship program, the Harbor Country Singers, young children’s programs in both music and drumming, a monthly senior music program, Sunday free concerts, annual outdoor Festival of American Music and the Local Music Development Fund to pay for local artists to record at its studio.
Newly elected members of the Planning Commission include Svebakken as chair, Darlene Heemstra as vice chair and Rob Woerdehoff as secretary. Other members included Jose Hernandez, Jim Wisner, Richard Smith and Newquist as council liaison.
New Downtown Development Officers are Suzanna Bierwirth as chair, Janet Schuttler, vice chair, Garth Taylor as secretary. Other members include Angela Reichert, Karrie Lintner, Colleen Froehlich, Carolyn Drier and Grosse as council liaison.
The Parks Committee includes Joan Brown as chair, and members Marlene Kramer, Larry Shawver, Tyler Ream, Georgianna Carroll, Debbie Schutt and Becky Thomas as council liaison.
Grosse announced that marijuana sales within the village will be discussed at the regular March council meeting on Wednesday, March 11.