Seeking New Leaders in South Haven


With a scarcity of candidates in the November election, the South Haven City Council began the 2015 shorthanded by one member.  Gene Edwards presided over the meeting as the new mayor after former Mayor John Lemke decided not to seek re-election. Having served on the council as mayor in the past, he wasn’t unfamiliar with the duties, but admitted that he had some adjusting to do. “I’m a little rusty. It’s been 10 years,” he said.

Also departing from last year’s council were Kandice Voigt and Annette Gunnerson. Neither sought re-election, but Dave Kothe accepted a two-year appointment after the election in which he had the most write-in votes. That left one open seat that Edwards was determined to fill, and he secured the candidate he wanted during the meeting when Amy Ellestad was sworn in.

“I stopped by tonight and told her we really needed somebody, and she really seemed enthusiastic about it,” said Edwards, explaining to the rest of the council that he had tried to contact Ellestad unsuccessfully by phone for some time before that. “So she came down and seems very enthused about serving the city.” Ellestad has lived in South Haven for 10 years. Referring to discussion earlier in the evening about frozen water lines, the former Hawaii resident said she saw the council opening as a good opportunity.

“I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about cold weather and stuff like that, being from Hawaii, but I’m learning and I’d like to be a part of the community in a positive way,” she said. “I think this is a good way to do it.”

A specter of winter past reared its head during the meeting when a citizen requested that the council consider allowing residents to turn on a trickle of water from their faucets to prevent water line freeze-ups without extra charges on their water bills. Area cities took that measure last winter when frost sank seven feet below ground and froze numerous lines, and the resident said she hoped action could be taken proactively to prevent freezes this year. She added that the water coming from her faucet is at 38 degrees. “I’m not asking for it to be effective tonight, but I want the council to address this before things start freezing up again,” she said.

Public works employee Dan Dawson said the frost depth is not significant yet, and that frost only drives deeper when warm weather alternates with cold.  “If it becomes a concern for Dan he’ll let us know, but at the present moment I don’t think there’s a problem,” said councilor Norm Bodeker.  The council did not take any action on the matter. “Last year was a unique situation because we weren’t watching for it either,” said City Clerk Carol Banken. “It’s the only time (lines have frozen) in my 19 years.”

As an added precaution Dawson said he has reduced the water tower to about two-thirds of its capacity to allow more frequent water cycling and the option of raising the water level with warmer water to prevent tower freeze-ups. A full tower of 40,000 gallons, he said, provides about four days of water. There is currently 25,000 to 30,000 gallons in the tower, a fact he said should be communicated to the fire department for general awareness.