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Buchanan hires new treasurer

BUCHANAN – The city of Buchanan has a new treasurer, but the appointment did not come easy. Two finalists were interviewed last Friday. One was selected Monday, and then the second one hired Wednesday when the first person selected could not take the job right away.

City Manager William Marx reported Thursday that city commissioners hired Traci McGrath to be the new treasurer after Corazon Schimanski could not start the job until late August. McGrath plans to start her new duties in the next couple of weeks. She succeeds Juli O’Bryant who retired a month ago.

Although McGrath was not the person a majority of commissioners selected Monday night, everyone had only words of praise for her at that time. Suggestions in fact were made Monday to encourage McGrath to apply for other open positions in the city up to and including the city manager post.

Marx announced last fall that he plans to retire in coming months. Commissioners are currently in the middle of a search process for a new city manager. So far, at least eight candidates have applied for the position ahead of the July 12 application deadline.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Sean Denison voted to hire Schimanski but had only words of praise for McGrath.

“To me, Traci came across someone who is very sure of herself and able to interact with the public and other staff,” he said.

Commissioner Dale Toerne also voted Monday to hire Schimanski, but said it was very close call. He suggested considering McGrath for another city position and mentioned her grant writing abilities. In addition to Marx retiring, zoning administrator Debra Patzer has retired from the city and is doing those duties on a six-month contract.

“She is extremely talented,” Marx said of McGrath. “Her capabilities are a little broader than just financial.”

Marx said McGrath is a Baroda native and currently lives in Benton Harbor where she has her own business doing financial work for several companies. She worked previously at Whirpool before taking jobs in Georgia and Nevada before returning to this area. Her salary will be $64,000.

Also Monday, commissioners had the first reading of an ordinance amendment changing the number of adult use marijuana retail establishments from five to six. A public hearing on the ordinance amendment is set for 7:15 p.m. July 13 with adoption action later in that meeting.

Marx said the change does not really reflect an expansion but the correction of an overlooked issue. The original ordinance allowed businesses with medical marijuana permits to enter the adult use marijuana market if they wished to do so.

He noted that it was discovered recently that although Redbud Roots had announced plans for both medical and adult use marijuana retail businesses for their site at 448 Post Road, the existing ordinance did not reflect that fact.

“Both the planning commission and the city commission approved Redbud Roots for an adult use marijuana business on Post Road, but we didn’t adjust the ordinance,” Marx said. “We discovered we needed one more permit.”

That oversight would have kept SwinnHutch, now called KISA, from expanding into the adult use marijuana business under the existing ordinance. He said SwinnHutch plans to open a marijuana retail business on East Front Street in the downtown, just a few doors down from the Zen Leaf dispensary which he said has been so busy as create traffic problems.

Commissioners approved a rezoning request from Cesar Garcia doing business as Two Thousand Oaks so he can open a marijuana growing facility at 509 Rynearson St. It had been zoned residential although the use of the building had never been residential. The brick building is located between the Hoven funeral home and the Smoke Vision Clinic complex.

Also this week, commissioners approved a new agreement with Berrien County to manage the city’s Dial-A-Ride public transportation system. The agreement was also approved Thursday by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

The county board approved taking over some functions of Transportation Management Incorporated earlier in June after the company announced that it is shutting down at the end of June. The company has faced financial problems in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which reduced their ridership and revenue.

TMI operated both Berrien Bus and the Buchanan Dial-A-Ride.

Marx said the TMI decision to go out of business left the city in the lurch and scrambling for a solution in order for public transportation services to continue.

“Berrien County agreed to step up,” he said.

County community development representative Evan Smith said the county decided to bring the TMI operations in house and hire the TMI employees as county employees.

“That includes those working in Buchanan,” he said. “In the long run, I hope we don’t see any dip in services. The only difference you’ll see is a different name on the invoices.”

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