Berrien County Commissioners host Feb. 8 meeting

Published 7:14 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

ST. JOSEPH — Thursday’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting featured an honorary resolution for a historic Niles church as well as a discussion of 2024 county board night meetings.

Commissioners approved an honorary resolution for Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Niles on their 175th anniversary. The resolution noted the history of the church including the fact that it is the oldest African American Baptist Church in Southwest Michigan and has been honored with a Michigan Historical Marker placed at the church.

“It is appropriate to acknowledge and honor Mount Calvary Baptist Church for the work that they do not only for their congregation but for the community overall,” the resolution stated. “The County Board of Commissioners congratulates and honors Reverend Byrant L. Bacon, Sr. and the congregation of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church for their 175th anniversary.”

Mount Calvary has served the Niles area since the congregation first formed in 1849 as the Second Baptist Church. It has been located at the corner of Sixth and Ferry Streets since 1851, first on the southeast corner of that intersection and later on the northeast corner where it currently stands.

Four church buildings have housed the congregation, the first two being log buildings, the third church constructed in 1950-51 and a new sanctuary constructed in 1971. The church’s name changed to Mount Calvary in 1951.

The night meeting schedule was discussed at the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting earlier Thursday morning. The county board has been holding four or five night meetings at locations around the county in the spring and summer months for several years.

County Administrator Executive Assistant Annette Christie told commissioners that she put together a tentative schedule having night meetings in May, June, July and August and asked for their input. Commissioners gave their opinions and Christie said she would make changes and bring it back for their approval.

Her tentative schedule has the May 2 meeting at the Berrien County Conference Center on Napier Avenue, June 6 at the Niles District Library, the July 11 meeting at the Royalton Township Hall and the Aug. 1 meeting at the Hagar Township Hall.

Commissioners didn’t have any problem with the June, July and August meetings but suggested adding a night meeting in early September as well as having one night meeting at the MSU Extension Service offices on Hillandale and one night meeting in Three Oaks. Those changes would suggest the May 2 meeting would be in a different location.

“We need to reach out to MSU, we have a connection there,” Commissioner Jon Hinkelman said.

County Board Chairman McKinley Elliott suggested adding a meeting in Three Oaks at the Froehlich’s restaurant and event center. He said the May 2 meeting could be there and the board could add a meeting on Sept. 5 at the MSU Extension Service.

The proposed schedule and commissioners’ comments did not address citizen requests both recently and in the past to offer more night meetings at the Administration Center in St. Joseph. People have periodically asked the county board to have additional night meetings in order to allow more county residents to attend their meetings.

In commissioner reports, County Commissioner Jim Curran gave a brief report on the county-owned 500 Circle Drive building in Buchanan. He said that YMCA representatives met with County Administrator Brian Dissette to use adjacent soccer fields.

Curran said the YMCA had used the soccer fields in the past and reached an agreement with Dissette to use them once again.

Commissioners also got a report on Berrien County Road Department activities. Commissioner Julie Wuerfel said the January storm event lasted 13 straight days and had 57 road department workers working 4,200 hours of regular time and 2,800 hours of overtime. The department used almost 14,000 tons of salt and sand to melt the snow and ice.

In routine matters, commissioners approved several Berrien County Trial Court contracts. Four contracts were with the Riverwood Center and one was with the Mosaic organization to operate the court’s community service referral program.

The county board’s next meeting is Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Berrien County Administration Center in St. Joseph. The committee of the whole meeting is at 8:35 a.m. and the regular board meeting is at 10:30 a.m. Meetings can be viewed remotely on the county’s YouTube channel.