Sewer Work Site

A view of the sewer project in downtown Union Pier as of June 12. It is expected to continue until approximately June 22.

HARBERT — Supervisor David Bunte reported that the sewer project in downtown Union Pier is “taking a little bit longer than we expected” during the Chikaming Township Board’s June 11 regular meeting.

“Unfortunately we’ve run into a couple of different issues, one being the spaghetti mess of sewer lines and gas lines and water lines and all kinds of things that shouldn’t be there.”

He said there also were a couple of issues with the water main and the movement on that line on Greenwood.

“They’re now looking at a June 22nd approximate (completion) of the sewer project on Townline and Greenwood, and then hopefully have Red Arrow Highway open with a lane in each direction as of June 25th and also a lane of traffic available on Townline Road at that time as well.”

Updates can be accessed at www.preinnewhof.com/construction_projects/grsd-sewer-auth-union-pier/.

Bunte said it’s pretty amazing what they’re doing in Union Pier and encouraged everyone to go there and see while supporting the businesses that are still open.

Bunte said the Red Arrow Highway road work set to begin later this summer was set to be let out for bid on June 10.

The https://gowightman.com/project-updates/red-arrow-highway-union-pier-corridor-improvements-project website reported on May 28 that road construction is currently planned to start in late July, three weeks later than originally anticipated.

Police Chief Todd Taylor presented life saving awards to Chikaming Police Sgt. Brandon Jones and Rick Cooper “for their heroic actions which saved a life on May 27th 2020” during the June 11 Township Board meeting.

Taylor said Jones received a medical call in which a 46-year-old male subject was in full cardiac arrest. Upon his arrival he found Cooper preforming CPR on his son (who was present when the awards were presented).

Through continued CPR with the assistance of an AED operated by Jones they were able reestablish an effective heart rhythm and the man became responsive.

“Because of Mr. Rick Cooper’s and Sgt. Jones’ exceptional performance, Ian is with us today,” Taylor said.

Also, Officer Alec Carpp was officially sworn into the Chikaming Township Police Department during the meeting. Taylor said he is from the Bridgman area and received a bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University and recently passed the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Exam.

Bunte said the erosion at Cherry Beach has caused so much damage that the staircase can’t be used or rebuilt this year (although a participant in the later public comment portion of the meeting said people are still traversing down the unstable slope to reach the shoreline).

Bunte said the stairway platform has been taken down and he visited the site earlier on June 11 to see of there is any way to provide access.

“Unfortunately that is just not do-able,” he said, adding that the best hope seems to be waiting for lake levels to recede.

The Chikaming Township Beach Access Ad Hoc Committee released the following on June 10: “Please stop sliding down the dunes at Harbert and Cherry Beaches. This just makes the situation much worse and is dangerous. There are other beaches: Berrien Street, Miller, McKinley and Townline but there is limited or no parking at these community beaches. Warren Dunes, Weko Beach, New Buffalo City Beach and even Silver Beach in St. Joseph are options.”

The Township Board also discussed (and took a series of public comments) on the potential processes of reviewing the installation of protective revetments along the lakeshore with an eye toward forming a subcommittee with members from the ZBA, the Planning Commission and the Township Board to review and make recommendations on each proposal brought to the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (which shares them with the township and allows it to weigh in and/or object to such proposals).

Bunte said the township could use the engineering firm (Edgewater Resources) it hired at the May meeting to research impacts on township property to look at proposed projects that aren’t adjacent to those sites and assess how they could affect neighboring properties.

There were several comments regarding the issue, with board member Rich Sullivan saying just north of the end of Harbert Road the beach is blocked in front of two properties by boulders in one case and “gigantic sand bags” in another. He said people have raised concerns that they can’t walk the beach due to these installations. Sullivan later said there area areas where so much clay has been exposed by erosion that it’s difficult to walk the beach.

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer for any of us, and for the public. There’s not a one-size-fits-all,” he added.

Bunte said he’s also had concerns about being able to walk the lakefront raised to him.

“We want to, on the one hand, do whatever we can for our property owners and residents to save as much of their property as possible. But is that physical property of our residents their deck, their beach house, their stairs, or is it the permanent residents’ actual house? And what can we do … is there a line that needs to be drawn or is it a case-by-case basis that we need to look at?”

Lakefront property owner Michael Sobczak said he has seen 10 to 15 feet of his bluff erode over the last month, especially during a Memorial Day weekend rainstorm.

“I am super-concerned about the beach, not only for myself, but for everybody else,” he said, adding that his neighbor to the south has a fault line under his porch.

“I am really concerned about my house falling into the lake,” Sobczak added.

Phila Broich asked township officials to provide some kind of guidelines to homeowners and associations who are trying to ascertain when is the right time (if at all) to put something up on the beachfront to protect the property.

She said there are differing opinions in the association she’s a part of.

In other June 11 business the Chikaming Township Board:

• Agreed to waive permit fees for the expansion of outdoor dining areas at township restaurants (which have been expedited through October by the state Liquor Control Commission) and assign an additional township inspector for such applications.

• Bunte said Township offices re-opened June 15 — in a significantly different manner involving COVID-19 precautions such as a buzzer/intercom system at the door.

The board approved new policies for the office during the June 10 meeting.

• Were told by Bunte that anonymous letters and a couple of calls were received stating that the Riverside Cemetery wasn’t mowed and trimmed up to the normal standards for Memorial Day weekend. “I’ll take personal responsibility for it, not going down there personally and checking on it.”

• Bunte reported that the Harbor Country Vacation Rental Association sent a letter to the township listing the techniques, procedures and guidelines they were utilizing “since they’re now back in business.”

• Approved changing the status of assessor Toni Swisher from full-time to contract.

• Set a public hearing on overriding the Headlee tax rollback law for 6:45 p.m. July 9 to maintain current millages and keep the township from losing about $90,000 in revenues.

• Approved the transfer of a 2016 Ford Explorer from the police department to the township for use by the building department and to purchase $3,500 worth of equipment for a Chevy Tahoe police vehicle.

• Were informed by Bunte that the existing three-year contract with local libraries (Bridgman, Three Oaks and New Buffalo) automatically renews until all parties can reach a new agreement.

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