New Vicksburg Village Hall to be built on same site

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg’s new municipal complex will remain on North Kalamazoo Avenue.

Village council members heard an update on the matter at an April 25 meeting from Mike Frederick of Frederick Construction, and Curt Penny, from the architecture and engineering firm of Eckert Wordell, then committed to putting a new building on the existing site.

Penny said a survey was completed by 27 of 28 village employees. The questionnaire asked which one of four options would be preferred: Purchase and renovate an existing building in the village; purchase a new site and construct a new building; renovate and expand the existing building; or use the existing site, construct a new building and demolish the existing one.

After explaining the pros and cons of each of the four options, Penny said the most-popular response was constructing new on the current municipal complex site and demolishing the existing structure.

“That gave us some data to move forward with as we looked at these opportunities,” he said. “As part of our evaluation, it was important that the building is visible to the public, be in a walkable location and adjacent to other amenities such as parking.”

Penny said consideration was also given to a location in the village’s industrial park on West Prairie Street and the fire station on East Washington Street. He said both options had their share of shortcomings and didn’t come close to the benefits of keeping the current village hall location.

The current site would allow for a building between 6,500 and 7,000 square feet, Penny said. Key points he noted include the need for a meeting space to accommodate up to 25 people, a small conference room, offices for various village employees and storage.

The proposed development would also include the village’s police department. Penny said a separate entrance for the police department would be critical. It would also include locker rooms, a shower, an evidence room, interview room and storage.

Frederick said the village council will have three different exterior appearances and three different floor plans to select from once such drawings are created. Council member Gail Reisterer said she would like to see a design that reflects the village’s Victorian architecture.

A timeframe provided by Penny shows site plan and building concepts being chosen in May, cost estimates provided in June, approval and establishment of a building committee in July, bids let in January and construction beginning in April 2023.

The council in a unanimous vote approved a motion to commit to the site plan and advance the process to the next step. Village Manager Jim Mallery said the vote simply continues the process.

Oswalt Park nearing completion

After a lot of hard work, Oswalt Park is taking shape.

By Jef Rietsma

The makeover of Oswalt Park, which Vicksburg officials expect to be the centerpiece of the village’s downtown district, is progressing on schedule.

Once complete, the park on the northwest corner of North Main Street and West Prairie Street will feature a number of inviting amenities.

“Our goal was to make it the central, local, cool, chill-vibe hangout area of downtown Vicksburg, and that’s the direction we gave to the designer,” Village Manager Jim Mallery said. “It is meant to fit with the social district.”

The revived Oswalt Park will complement a new-look downtown district emerging from a year-long infrastructure project that saw the heart of the village in disarray for much of 2021.

Mallery said expectations are at an all-time high regarding Vicksburg’s appeal as a destination community.

“We knew we had invested in a complete, new streetscape for downtown,” he said. “We doubled the sidewalks, made it a more walkable area, added all the benches, charging stations, pop-outs that will be hang-out areas, then we had a park that was 70 feet by 100 feet, and that was the mission; it had to fit the appearance of the new-look downtown.”

The park’s centerpiece will be a fireplace that was installed in late April. The fireplace includes a heat element, allowing it to be in operation as late into the year as November. Mallery said it’s not a coincidence that the upgraded park falls within the village’s social district. He said pedestrian traffic will likely be attracted to the park.

Mallery said the village made a concerted effort to ensure general-fund dollars from the village’s coffers were not used toward the $250,000 park redevelopment cost.

“A huge shout-out to Dan Oswalt and Oswalt Electric for their donation of labor, which I know is being provided at a considerable cost,” he said. “We also need to recognize the business community for raising $63,000.”

The $63,000 was matched by a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and another $50,000 from the Vicksburg Foundation.

The balance was secured through fundraisers, Mallery said, adding Oswalt Park improvements first appeared on the village’s radar in 2017.

Mallery said a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to commemorate the reopening of downtown will take place at 4 p.m. June 2. By then, Oswalt Park will be 90 percent completed, he said.

“From there, we’ll roll into festival season and Vicksburg will never see festivals like what it will see in 2022,” he said. “Each month, we’re going to use downtown like never before. It’s going to be an economic engine and a great source of optimism.”

Schoolcraft ramps up for summer

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft is ready to get back to normal with a full slate of summer activities.

Fourth of July Festivities

Community volunteer Toni Rafferty reported to the village council that, after a two-year hiatus, organizers are bringing back Fourth of July with a bang.

The day will start with the Lion’s Club pancake breakfast, starting at 7 a.m. at the elementary school.

Patrons will then be able to burn off calories by running the Firecracker Five, a five-mile race that is billed as “one of the fastest, flattest, 4th of July race events in Michigan.” The race kicks off at 8 a.m., and begins and ends at the high school. The Five also includes a 5k walk.

The 25th annual car show will be held at Burch Park starting at 8 a.m. The 95th Schoolcraft Fourth of July Parade kicks off at 11 a.m.

Food will be available in abundance, with several food trucks at the elementary school, BBQ at the American Legion, and BBQ and an ice cream social at the United Methodist Church.

Even the new owners of Bud’s Bar hope to be open for the festivities, and other local favorites may be open as well. Be sure to check their websites and social media before you set your dining plans.

The American Legion will also host a dance from 2-6 p.m.

The fireworks this year will be launched from the north side of the elementary school.

The organizers are seeking sponsors to help defray the estimated $30,000 cost of putting on the event. Those wishing to provide funds or volunteer their time are encouraged to go to the Fourth of July website. A link can be found on the home page of the village site.

Food Truck Rallies Return

Also this summer, Schoolcraft is working with the Experiential Learning Center to hold four food truck rallies. Adding to the experience will be the music of Uncle Charlie’s Band.

Patrons at the rallies will find multiple food trucks, each of which is a chef-driven restaurant on wheels with its own cuisine.

The events will run from 6-8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month: June 15, July 20, and August 17.

New Police Chief

At its April 4 meeting, the Schoolcraft Council welcomed its new police chief, Scott Miller. Miller retired from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and brings decades of experience to the position.

At that same meeting, the council expressed its appreciation for the work of Sergeant Jamie Edwards, a long-time employee of the department who acted as chief while the search for a permanent chief was underway.