Local News

Hastings man dies in one car crash on icy Richland Township road

UPDATE:  The victim of the car crash that occurred Tuesday near Richland has been identified at 56 year old Thomas Kelly Barton of Hastings.



ORIGINAL STORY:  The identity of a 56-year old Hastings man, the victim of a single car crash in Richland Township today, is not being released, a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office media release said.


The Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority dispatched sheriff’s deputies to the 10000 block of North 32nd Street in Richland Township at noon where they found the vehicle overturned onto its roof in the icy roadway.


The Hastings man, the lone occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash, which is still under investigation. Richland Fire Department and Pride Ambulance assisted deputies at the scene of the crash.


Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office or Silent Observer.


State grant will encourage outreach, communication, education on medical marijuana

The Barry Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) will administer a $16, 413 grant to Barry County from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for communication, education and outreach on medical marijuana.


Health department Health Officer Colette Scrimger (left) Tuesday gave Barry County Commissioners details of the grant on medical marijuana, which the health department will use to focus on reduction of marijuana use by youth in the community.

Specifically, the health department is expected to educate medical marijuana patients and others about safe storage and the dangers of driving while impaired; increase perception of risk for adolescent marijuana use and measure the self-reported use of medical marijuana.

The funds cannot be used for law enforcement.


The BEDHD will collaborate wth Eaton and Ingham counties in hosting focus groups to learn about misconceptions of medical marijuana in Barry County and use the information in a public education campaign using various media, she said.


A youth summit will be held with educational sessions on current marijuana laws, vaping and parent/youth communication targeting youth-serving organizations like schools, churches, prevention providers and others. A September media survey will evaluate the public education campaign.


Liz Lenz, community preventionist with Barry County Substance Abuse, who was in the audience, said she heard about the grant, but the wording was vague and was not clear that it was about education and prevention, did not fit their mission, so she did not pursue it.


She said she would have liked to have worked with the health department “to coordinate efforts with Colette.”  The Substance Abuse Task Force has 35 to 40 willing people at any time and since they study data and behaviors in the community, they could share resources, she said.


“I do wish I had been talked to about the grant…I would like assurances from Colette and her staff that they will not do our work…duplicate our effort or duplicate our message…”

She said they would still support the effort.//


The grant amount each county gets is based on the number of medical marijuana cards issued in that county. Barry County gets $16,413 (878 total patient cards issued and renewed). The grants range from the lowest at $589 in Keweenaw County (32 patient cards) to the highest at $496,046 to Wayne County (26,535 patient cards). The total in grants is $3 million.


In other business, the commissioners recommended approval of Drug Lab & Disposal, Inc., for a three-year contract for Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Disposal for “.89 cents a pound; collections costs vary in the range of $20,000.”

Frank Fiala, from the Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee, recommended DLD, saying they can meet the planned 2019 dates, do not charge a setup fee, has successfully provided the services for many years, provided good customer service and is responsive to requests to improve collection and traffic flow.



Changes in drain district boundaries and in percentages in cost sharing told

The Little Thornapple River Drain District and the Coldwater River Drain District boundaries have been updated using the latest in technology. Previously drawn along property lines, the lines are now based on topography.. The last time the outlines were drawn on the Little Thornapple District was in 1916; the Coldwater District in 1898.


The new technology, LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging, uses pulsed laser light to measure distances to the earth. The difference in return times and wavelengths of the laser are used to make digital 3-D pictures of the targets. Airplanes with LiDAR fly over an area and gather information that is backed up by field work.


Paul Forton, project manager for the Spicer Group, brought the updated information and maps to the Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drainage Board Monday.

There will be some surprises for residents in the newly defined drain districts which will change the amount some are assessed for drain repair and maintenance, Forton said. It’s possible that part of a property will be assessed and other parts of the same property may not be in the drain district and will not be assessed, he said.


The percentage of the amount residents in each county pay in special assessments for repair and maintenance of drains has also changed.


Barry County residents, who had been paying 85 percent of the costs in the Little Thornapple River Drain District,  will in the future pay 63.48 percent; Ionia County residents were paying 15 percent will now be responsible for 36.31 percent; Kent County formerly paid nothing, will now pay 0.37 percent of the assessments. Eaton County, at 0.4 was dropped from the roles because the cost of collecting the assessment was more than the total collected.


The Coldwater River Drain boundaries and cost percentages also changed. Barry County residents were paying eight percent; that will go to 36.06 percent; Ionia County residents were responsible for 27 percent; they will now pay 46.92 percent; Kent County residents did pay 65 percent, they will see that drop to 17 percent.

Again, Eaton County was dropped from the assessment roll because the cost of collecting it was more than its 0.2 percentage


In Barry County, Deputy Drain Commissioner Tammy Berdecia and tri-county board Attorney Stacy Hissong will determine the total cost of the work on the Little Thornapple River Drain this year.

The drain commissioner in each county, using a number of factors, sets the individual assessments for the assessment roll that is subject to public review.


May 7, 8 and 9 are set aside for the public to inspect the assessment rolls, make comments and corrections if needed. If a person disputes an assessment, they can file an appeal with the probate court within 10 days of the review.


Barry County residents are scheduled for the review meeting on the 8th, Ionia County residents on the 7th and Kent County, the 9th. Everyone affected will be notified by letter of the dates, meeting place and times. The final special assessments will be levied on the 2019 winter tax bill.

No assessments were levied last year for the Little Thornapple River Drain.






Barry County Transit director to apply for grants, gives update on expansion plans

The Barry County Commissioner Tuesday recommended approval of a resolution of intent to apply for state and federal funds for expenses for Barry County Transit for the next year, an annual request from Transit Director Bill Voigt.


The resolution also appoints him transit coordinator with authorization to provide information and sign agreements. Voigt estimated income of $314,567 in federal funds, $665,261 in state funds and $794,925 locally from fare box and other local funds, with expenses estimated at $1,742,594.


Almost all of the 16 vehicles in the fleet qualify for replacement according to state guidelines, he said. The state will look at usage, number of aging buses and may authorize more buses.

“That’s up to the state, we won’t know until next year,” he said. Last year was the second highest in ridership for the transit, he added.


In an update on the planned expansion and renovation of the facility, Voigt said there will be a walk-through with contractors Jan. 22, bid opening on Jan. 31 with ground breaking anticipated in early spring.


The plans call for adding 2,950 square feet to the south side of the facility for bus storage and maintenance, adding 1,160 square feet to the dispatch center and renovation of the existing office space at a cost of $1.50 to $1.75 a square foot. The projected $1.1 to 1.3 million total cost will come from transit funds.//


In other business, commissioners recommended buying new furniture for the county probation department at a cost not to exceed $6,600 to replace the furniture in one probation office, the reception area and add an overhead storage unit.


Michelle Newton, adult probation/parole supervisor, said the furniture is pre-computer; some 20 years old, some more than 25 years old and of poor quality. Funds will come from the Capital Improvement Fund. The commissioners are expected to act on the recommendations at their Jan. 22 meeting.





Barry County recommends staffing for indigent defense in Public Defender's Office

Attorney Kerri Selleck, Barry County Chief Public Defender, is building a staff for a new indigent defense program in the county’s Public Defender’s Office.


The Board of Commissioners Tuesday recommended approval of her request to hire local attorneys she selected to represent indigents in court. They are Jackie Baker Sturgis, Carol Dwyer, Shane Henry, Kristen Hoel, James Kinney, Gordon Shane McNeill, Ronald Pierce, Kathryn Russell, Steven Storrs and Kimberly Young.


The 10 attorneys, a number determined by the size of the county’s case load, will represent indigents in cases of felonies, misdemeanors, probation violation hearing in both circuit and district courts, Friend of the Court show-cause hearings and personal protection order violations.


Selleck sent an e-mail to each member of the Barry County Bar Association, inviting interested attorneys to apply for a place on the contract list; 11 attorneys responded.


After a thorough review, she said it was her opinion that they “are the most capable of complying with the new legislation and the new requirements from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission in terms of indigent defense representation.”


The attorney’s contracts call for each receiving a share of a state grant of $350,000, based on experience and longevity of appointment. Payment for arraignment and initial interview with a client is billed by the attorney at $55 an hour.


Selleck will divide cases among attorneys on a roughly equal basis, using a table of points assigned to various cases. For example, a murder case is assigned 30 points; a type A felony, punishable by less than five years in prison, is four points.


Barry County has been preparing for months to implement the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission’s new compliance plan that has the first set of standards for indigent defense systems across the state covering training and education for assigned counsel, initial interviews, use of experts and investigators and counsel at first appearance and all critical stages of the proceedings.


The commission will act on the recommendation at its next meeting.










32-year-old Otsego woman's death appears accidental, police say

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office report a woman found unresponsive near a church just outside of Otsego apparently died an accidental death. Emergency personel responded Monday at 1:30 p.m. on a call of an individual with an unknown medical emergency. 


EMS and fire personnel arrived to find an unresponsive Otsego woman, 32- year-old Stacey Lynn Ongiyo. It appeared that she had been there for some time; she could not be resuscitated.

Sheriff’s deputies and Otsego Police Department officers arrived to secure the scene and investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. 


After an in-depth investigation and numerous interviews into the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th, no signs of foul play could be identified. This was confirmed by initial autopsy findings, however, toxicology test are still being completed.  All indications at this time lead investigators to believe that this is an accidental death.


Otsego Police Department, Otsego Fire Department, Michigan State Police and Plainwell EMS assisted Allegan County deputies.




Cancellations due to weather:

Delton Kellogg is dismissing school at 1:50pm and cancelling evening activities

Barry County Christian All Evening Activities cancelled

Hastings Area Schools Evening Activities cancelled

Lakewood Area Schools Evening Activities cancelled

St Rose of Lima School Evening Activities cancelled..

Thornapple Kellogg All evening Activities cancelled.

Family Promise of Barry County Community meeting rescheduled for 1/22/19 at 7pm


Check the Little School Bus on our webpage for more cancellations of area schools.


Hastings mayor says 2018 was good for city, 2019 looks promising

Hastings Mayor David Tossava gave a “State of the City” address Monday, saying 2018 was a good year for the city and he expected 2019 to be just as good.


Tossava pointed to several popular events that drew thousands and thousands of residents and visitors to the downtown; the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race the largest of three bicycle races, bringing more than 3,000 racers to Hastings.


The 2018 Jazz Festival, the city and Thornapple Arts Council bringing more than 50 entertainers to perform free shows during the summer and the Gus Macker 3 on 3 basketball tournament, all contribute to make Hastings a destination city.


“All of these events take a lot of planning and coordinating between agencies and departments.  I would like to thank all those who are involved,” Tossava said.


In May of 2018, they started the first step in updating the City of Hastings Master Plan, and in 2019 will start the second step with completion by summer of 2019, he said.

 The five-year Parks and Recreation Plan will be also be completed this year. In 2018, the Hastings Police Department hired and trained five new police officers.


In the spring of 2018, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said he was going to retire in June of 2019. After a short internal search and interview, the council made Jerry Czarnecki the sole candidate for the post. A new clerk/treasurer was hired to replace Czarnecki and he was appointed Deputy City Manager to train under Mansfield for the remainder of his tenure.


The City of Hastings had almost 70 new addresses created in 2018, and leads the county in new home starts. Tossava pledged to continue the work on expanding and improving the wastewater treatment plant, develop a plan to improve city streets and infrastructure, and continue to improve relationships with neighboring jurisdictions.


Tossava asked everyone to do a little exercise.

Look into your car’s rear view mirror; that represents 2018, the past, he said.

“Keep 2018 in your rear view, remember it, refer back to it and learn from it.”


Then look ahead and see a wide-open clear windshield; that represents 2019, the future, he continued.

“The further we go, the clearer things get. 2019 looks very promising for the City of Hastings, and I would like to report that the State of the City is good!”


Photo: Hastings Mayor David Tossava looks down at his notes during his "State of the City" address Monday.








Hastings City Council agrees with the concept of Spectrum Health Pennock's expansion

The Hasting City Council approved the concept of an agreement with Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital (SHPH) as they plan to build a new surgery/ endoscopy center in its west parking lot.

Spectrum Health Pennock President Angela Ditmar and Sean Easter, manager of planning and design for Spectrum Health, discussed the plan with the council Monday.


City staff will negotiate with SHPH on several issues. “It’s all negotiable,” Easter said.


The hospital asked the council for a 20-year lease of 75 of the 200 parking spaces at Fish Hatchery Park for its staff. Spectrum offers to mill and resurface the entire parking lot and make a number of improvements to the asphalt, lighting and pathways and maintain it for the life of the lease.

They will also improve and extend a sidewalk to the hospital from the park and install a sidewalk along the drive from the parking lot to Green Street so pedestrians don’t share space with cars.


Council members had several questions about possible traffic problems with hospital staff coming and going at the same time; denying the public the use of the parking lot, the length of the lease, safety concerns, and how the parking would be enforced, but overall, were receptive to the idea, saying it was a win-win for both the city and the hospital.


Easter said the addition of the center will displace about 65 parking spaces now used by patients, visitors and staff.  Spectrum would use the parking spaces from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, leaving the full lot available to the public evenings and weekends when the park experiences peak use.


During the design phase, SHPH found the hospital’s west visitor’s parking lot was encroaching on city property. Easter said they needed to make the space two lanes to allow families to drive around to the back of the new center and park and asked the city to sell or lease the “sliver” of land to them. The council consensus was selling them the land was the best option. 


City Manager Jeff Mansfield checked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who originally donated the Fish Hatchery Park to the city, and learned there are no restrictions on the city’s use or sale of the property.


Hospital officials plan to present its site plan for the project at the Feb. 4 Hastings City Planning Commission meeting. Easter said they hope to start construction this April or May.

“This may well provide an opportunity for a partnership where both entities benefit,” Mansfield said, echoing what several others on the council said.




Rep. Calley to hold office hours Jan. 28 in Lake Odessa, Hastings

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley will hold local office hours and give legislative updates in Hastings and Lake Odessa on Monday, Jan. 28.  If residents have individual concerns, she will take one-on-one meetings.


Calley will meet with constituents from 11 a.m. to noon at Lake Odessa Page Memorial Building, 839 4th Avenue in Lake Odessa and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Hastings City Hall Council Chambers, 201 East State Street. Hastings.


“I am grateful to the many individuals who shared their time and insight with me over the last two years,” said Calley. “I look forward to continuing conversation.” No appointment is necessary.


Residents unable to attend office hours may send their questions and ideas to Calley at or 517-373-0842.



Hastings takes care of business that lets it do business

The Hastings City Council held its organizational meeting Monday, taking care of the various things to do with conducting city business.

The first order of business was swearing in four council members who were elected or re-elected in the November election and welcome Jim Carey as the newest council member for the 4th Ward. He replaces Bill Cusack, who did not run for re-election.


The council approved using Roberts Rules of Order and set meeting dates for the second and fourth Mondays of the month, except for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, when the meetings move to the next day.


The council approved Jeff Mansfield’s employment contract which covers salary and benefits and expires on June 30 when he leaves the service to the city.

According to the contract, he will be paid for “his services rendered hereto the equivalent of an annual (fifty two week) base salary of Ninety Five Thousand and Nine Hundred and Thirty Seven Dollars ($95,937.00) for the period January 14, 2019 through June 30, 2019 (i.e. the current 2018 salary prorated for the next six months.)”


Council annual salaries will be as follows: Mayor, $7,800; Mayor Pro-tem $2,500; council members; $2,300, and Board of Review members, $115 per meeting, the same as it has been for many years.


City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes with the Varnum law firm will receive an annual retainer of $14,500, billed at a rate of $1,208.33 a month, an hourly rate of $200 an hour for general legal services and $250 an hour for labor negotiations, tax tribunal matters, and general municipal financial services. That is the same amount for the same services as last year.


City officials remain the same with three exceptions; clerk/treasurer Jerry Czarnecki is now deputy city manager and moves to city manager/zoning administrator when Mansfield retires; Jane Saurman moves from assistant city clerk/treasurer/ finance director to hold the title as Czarnecki moves into the deputy city manager position, and Dan Kirwin, as temporary city assessor.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department will continue as the city’s Health Officer in 2020.


The city will deposit its funds at a dozen banking institutions that are eligible depositories.  Security broker/dealers to advise and assist the city’s treasurer are Comerica Securities, Detroit, Michigan Huntington Investment Company, Grand Rapids and Michigan Vining Sparks, Memphis, Tennessee.



In other business, the council:

*approved a revised joint Hastings Public Library Board agreement. The board will have representatives from the city and Rutland Township.

Hastings Township voters turned down a recent millage request for library services; if they pass a millage in the future, the agreement provides for township representatives on the board.


*heard John McCann of Viridis present the draft five year Parks and Recreation Master Plan update and set a public hearing for public comment on the Plan for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. The draft plan is available for review through a link on the meeting agenda on the city website.


*accepted the budget calendar and set a workshop for Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. to discuss the city goals and policies dealing with next year’s budget.


*approved the list of members of various boards and commissions being reappointed or filled, as well meeting dates and times of the boards. The information can be viewed on the city’s website.


Photos: (upper left) Hastings newest city Councilman Jim Cary.


Hastings City Council members being sworn Monday are (from left) Brenda McNabb-Stange, reelected to the 2nd Ward; Therese Maupin-Moore, reelected to the 1st Ward; and Jim Cary, elected to the 4th Ward. Don Smith, reelected to the 3rd Ward, was absent.


Garage Fire

The Hastings Fire Department was called to a garage fire Saturday morning at 512 Gaskill Road in Carlton Township..

The fire was contained to the garage that was attached to the house.  Inside the garage was a 2008 Chevy Impala. No reported injuries.


Short term solution for Crooked Lake flooding still being sought

In the works for a short term solution to the flooding at Crooked Lake is a plan that would have the Barry County Drain Commission purchase property owned by Daryl Jones on the north side of Delton Road, dig a retention pond area there and pump water from Crooked Lake under the road into the new pond.


“This isn’t new,” Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said, “We’ve been working on it for a couple of months.”


A buy/sell agreement between Jones and the drain commission has been in a 90-day hold while soil tests and title work are being done to determine, “if this will work for us,” Dull said. Soil borings have been done, with the results expected shortly.


“(Engineer) Brian Cenci said it looks promising, and he’ll talk to the DEQ this week about a permit,” Dull said. The hold on the agreement, which ended Friday,  may have to be extended, depending what the DEQ says, but it is possible they can go ahead.


If they can relieve the flooding in the short term, they will work on a long term fix: installing an underground drain tile from the retention pond to gravity feed the water to the Delton Drain on Pine Lake Road. Dull is talking with two property holders about an easement alongside their property for the tile that will send water to the Delton Drain.


The flooding has defied a solution since last spring, causing hardships for lake residents and frustration for county officials. Several ideas were proposed and discarded for various reasons. The County Board of Commissioners approved $500,000 in funding for the emergency in July of last year.




BEDH releases assessment and plan to improve health in tri-county area

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department has announced the release of Healthy! Capital Counties 2018, an assessment and prioritization of community-wide health compiled to encourage collaborative, data-driven decision-making and policies in the tri-counties.


The first component in the report is an assessment of the current state of community health in Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties. The second identifies regional community health priorities found by health and human service organizations and community members from the region after the assessment.


The priorities will guide local community health efforts over the next three years.

 The assessment’s health priorities for 2019-2021 are Behavioral Health, Health Care Access and Quality, Obesity, Financial Stability and Economic Mobility and Chronic Disease.


“The Healthy! Capital Counties project gathers community feedback through a variety of mechanisms to ensure that the process is community-driven,” said Susan Peters, health analyst for the Barry-Eaton District Health Department. “As the project moves forward on addressing the identified health priorities, we will continue to partner with community organizations and stakeholders to improve health for people in Eaton County and the greater tri-county area.”


To access the report, visit






Online undercover operation nabs man suspected of child pornography

An online undercover operation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office in November, 2018 resulted in an undercover officer chatting online with a man who expressed interest in sexual contact with an underage child, according to a sheriff’s media release.


Philip Paauwe, 32, of Grandville, a teacher in the Grand Rapids School District, was identified by investigators as the person they were chatting with.


Paauwe was arrested Jan. 8 after the investigation revealed he was in possession of child pornography. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday charged Paauwe with possession of child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit a crime.


He is being held at the Kent County Correctional Facility on a $5,000 bond.

The investigation is ongoing; persons with information related to the case should contact Detective Joel Siemens at 616-233-0234.


The investigating detective is with the sheriff’s office and assigned to the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force. The Michigan State Police Sixth District Computer Crimes Unit assisted with the investigation.



More aggressive enforcement promised for motorists passing buses with red lights flashing

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office is letting motorists and visitors in the county know the office is now using more aggressive enforcement in ticketing drivers who pass a school bus with flashing red lights activated



“Our bus drivers are frustrated by people passing them when their flashing red lights are on,” Sheriff Dar Leaf said. “It’s a county wide concern; there are also specific areas that will be getting more attention.”


Flashing amber lights on the bus tells motorists to slow down because the red lights will be activated next. Cars approaching or passing a bus on an undivided highway must come to a complete stop at least 20 feet from a bus until the red lights are off, according to state law.

A better safe distance to wait is 50 feet, Leaf said.


Failure to stop for a bus with flashing red lights on an undivided highway will result in a $250 fine. If a motorist hits and injures a child, they could be charged with a moving violation causing injury; if they hit and cause the death of a child, they could be charged with a moving violation in a school bus zone causing death, a 15-year felony.



Equipment being brought to Irving spillway, repairs to wait for the weather (amended)

To passersby, residents and others along the Thornapple River, seeing water levels rising and hearing repairs will soon be made to a spillway is good news after nearly a year of watching it become a thin steam of water after flooding damaged the spillway on McCann Road.


The spillway leading to the hydroelectric plant in Irving Township is almost ready to be repaired. Equipment and materials being brought in this week will be ready to go when tempatures are above freezing and contractors can go to work, hopefully in the next week or so, said Scott Goodwin, owner of Commonwealth Power of California. 


Given good weather, the repairs can be done in about three days, he said. "It looks like we may have a window of oportunity early next week, if the forecasts are right."


When a section of the earthen part of the spillway was breached by the rising river late last February, it gave way, flooding homes in the area.The backwater in front of the Irving Dam drained away, leaving dead grass and weeds and a small stream wending its way to the dam and the spillway.


People stopped to take photos of the shrinking river and some were seen walking with their children up the middle of what was the river a short time before. Traffic of canoes and kayaks at the popular landing spot on the river at McCann Road near the dam dwindled and stopped.


After repairs, the level of the river will rise naturally, Goodwin said. "A good sized storm would make a big difference."

With the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michgan Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permiting and approvals in hand, "We're very grateful to be where we are," Goodwin said.

Goodwin also owns the dam in Middleville and the LaBarge Dam in Caledonia Township.


(left) The area to be repaired is the spillway leading to the Commonwealth Power Company hydroelectric plant on Irving Road.









The Irving Dam, to the left in the photo, didn’t have water to hold back during the summer of 2018.











A photo taken where the river’s edge was in the late winter, shows the river’s size in the summer; it's the dark line on the left of the photo.











Under the roadway are three huge holes that can’t handle all the water in the rising river last February.









The backwater near the Irving Dam is starting to fill in the boat landing area in front of the spillway.


"Handle With Care" is now standard practice in Barry County schools

If any child in Barry County Schools suffers a traumatic event where a policeman, fireman or emergency medical technician is involved, that child’s school will get a “Handle With Care” notice by a secure e-mail the next school day.


All county law enforcement agencies, fire departments and ambulance services are part of the program, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said. The emergency service involved will send the e-mail to let the school officials know that the child may be upset and to watch for unusual behavior.


“This just opens up another line of communication,” Leaf said. It can be any kind of trauma, a sudden death in the family, a domestic situation with parents getting a divorce, or any other situation involving emergency service units.


The teacher is not told the particulars of an incident and the child isn’t aware they have a “Handle With Care” notice. “This gives teachers a heads up to watch for changes in behavior or a child acting out,” Leaf said.


Delton School Superintendent Kyle Corlett said the notices will go to the principal and counselor in the child’s building, who will notify the teacher of the student.

Delton has had just one notification that was a death in the family.


“We have a counselor in every building; they know our children pretty well; they will determine if a child needs any extra care. I think it depends on the situation,” Corlett said.


The schools has an excellent liaison officer from the sheriff’s office in Deputy Marti Horrmann and Barry Township Police Chief Mark Doster, “pops in from time to time and helps us a lot,” he said.

The five school districts in the county, Hastings, Thornapple Kellogg, Delton Kellogg, Maple Valley and Lakewood all participate.


State police believe there may be more indecent exposures than reported

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Wayland Post are investigating multiple incidents of aggravated indecent exposure. The known incidents occurred in Allegan County and southern Kent County.


The suspect is in custody, but investigators believe there may be additional incidents that have not been reported. In each incident the suspect was in a blue 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer and exposed himself to the victims while he remained in the vehicle.


Anyone with information relevant to the case is asked to contact Trooper Blaine Bachman at 269-509-2106 or the Wayland State Police Post at 269-792-2213




Remote door opener for K9 will increase safety for Allegan County deputy

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office K9 handler will be able to release his K9 remotely with a special door opener thanks to a $1,000 donation from Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K, a sheriff’s media release said.

The sheriff’s office will purchase and install K9 door openers to the remaining K9 cruisers on the car door the dog uses to get in and out of his rear seat kennel and allows the handler to release his partner remotely with the press of a button he will wear.


The quick release will allow his K9 to help him in a situation that arises suddenly when he might otherwise not be able to release the dog. The door opener greatly improves officer safety by eliminating the time it would take the officer to get to his partner or possibly needing his partner and not being able to get to him.


Undersheriff Michael Larsen, Sheriff Frank Baker, Deputy Ben Haas and his K9 partner Medo accepted the check from Carrie Penny from the Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K group.


For more about the Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K, visit their Facebook page or website,


United Bank's "Blanket the Community" drive nets 1,200 new blankets

"Forty percent of Michigan families struggle to afford the basic needs of housing, including energy for heat. There are many in our community who struggle to stay warm.  From young children to senior citizens, the need is real," according to a United Bank news release.

That’s why United Bank held its second blanket drive this year, taking donations of new blankets to distribute in each local bank’s area, Chief Marketing Officer for United Bank Connie Hook said.


United Bank’s 12 branches in five counties all participated.  The collected blankets were delivered to fire departments, veteran’s facilities and homeless shelters that deal with families with children, such as Family Promise in Grand Rapids.


“It’s a real solution for someone in need. In reality, it’s so much more than a blanket. It’s a way to remind our neighbors they are not alone and we care about them. It’s warm hearts making a real difference,” Hook said.


Last year, 550 blankets were donated during the first drive. This year they met their goal of doubling the number, collecting 1,200, she said.

Everyone was excited about the large undertaking. “It was all hands on deck. They all helped; it’s really wonderful the way the communities came together.”


The Gun Lake branch on Patterson Road donated a dozen blankets to the Wayland Yankee Springs Fire Department. “We appreciate the blankets,” Deputy Chief Dan Miller said. “We can bundle them up before the ambulance gets to the scene; we’ll put them in all of our units.”


Donors who preferred to shop online sent the gift of a blanket from Amazon, which sent the blankets to Family Promise, a non-profit that partners with families with children who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, by helping them get back on their feet so they can create a stable lifestyle for their children. Their donations went to several surrounding counties.


United Bank will “absolutely” hold a third drive next year, Hook said.





**Hastings Community Development Department can help, and does

**“Collaboration, imagination, enthusiasm,” that’s Dan King’s three word description of the City of Hastings Community Development program, which he directs.

If you are one of those who has enjoyed an event, benefitted from commercial or residential development, or just about any event or experience in Hastings, you probably realize it takes a lot of people working together hard  to make it look easy.


Behind the scenes, the Community Development office is working with all of those groups to help make projects run smoothly. Collaboration, defined as “working with someone to produce or create something,”  is the key for successful community development, King said.


That brings the three people on the staff into many different areas. King, director for one year this week, collaborates with individuals and groups from the city, county and state level. There are literally too many to name, and if he tried, he would leave someone out, he said.

When an idea is brought forward, from any direction, community development provides liaison, background information and quotes.


The staff goes to city council meetings, seminars and conferences and is always seeking ideas. “The more input you can get, the better,” King said. Some of the best ideas for the city have come from people visiting other communities and bringing ideas back to Hastings. The Spray Plaza idea came from the late David Jasperse who saw one in North Carolina.


Individuals with plans or questions can call community development and will be directed to the place they need go to move ahead with their ideas. “We encourage everyone to use community development as their first contact, King said. We can help you go in the right direction. We find solutions; that’s a big part of our jobs.”


King’s favorite activity is working with commercial developers, with financing and brownfield concerns and more. “It probably comes from my background in banking; I like to see it happen from the ground up.” Right now, he’s working on development of the former Moose property on Michigan Street, the Royal Coach building, a 40-unit housing development on Woodlawn Avenue, and more.


Volunteers and sponsors are critical to their efforts, and strong collaboration ties it all together, King said. “We’re a team, we’re all going in the same direction…the team effort helps the groups present events that draw thousands to the city.”


The groups who bring events to Hastings come back again and again and give generous praise to the city because they are made to feel welcome and by the work of the entire city staff, including community development.


Community Development Specialist Sandra Ponsetto handles public relations, marketing, news releases and grant writing. She also designs and programs the digital welcoming sign at the State Street entrance to the city. On the DDA marketing committee, she says there is constant brainstorming on how to best get the word out, including TV coverage promoting the city, billboards and print media.


Arts Events Coordinator Maiya Merrick is responsible for entertainment and is working on scheduling programs for the summer series of music events at Thornapple Plaza, Spray Plaza, Fridays at the Fountain and Summerfest. She talks to at least 100 contacts a year, setting up performance dates and conditions.


“If I hear about a group, I will reach out to them or they contact me.” She can recommend whatever the entertainers are looking for while in town.

“If they drive four hours, get here at 4 p.m. and won’t leave until 9 p.m., they’re looking for something to eat. I can help with that. They can focus on their show and I can help with any other things they may need.”


Ponsetto and Merrick always welcome ideas too.

“We always return phone calls,” Merrick said. Or, Ponsetto can be reached by e-mail at Merrick is at







Photo: Arts Events Coordinator Maiya Merrick, Community Development Director Dan King and Community Development Specialist Sandra Ponsetto pose for a photo at Hastings City Hall




Michigan specialized juvenile mental health courts now law

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley’s plan to create specialized juvenile mental health courts in Michigan has been signed into law, according to a Calley news release. Calley, of Portland, said Michigan’s current mental health courts successfully help struggling adults overcome their challenges through court-based treatment programs, reducing recidivism across the state.


Her plan expands the opportunity to young people who run into trouble with the law.

“If our local courts have the choice to offer treatment to adults, then our young people deserve the same prospect,” Calley said.


“Juvenile mental health courts will give young people the tools and support they need to grow up to lead healthy, successful lives.”

Michigan’s current procedures for mental health courts were established with the adult court system in mind, Calley said.


The juvenile system uses different terms, involves different entities and expects different results than the adult system. The plan uses the well-established adult mental health court system as a framework, with modifications to address the needs of Michigan juveniles.  


“These programs will focus on teaching troubled kids and their families to address the root cause of their challenges in a productive manner,” Calley said. “Helping and guiding kids through their troubles will give them brighter futures and reduce the chances of them repeating the same mistakes.”



State offers grants to counties for education, outreach on medical marijuana program

The State of Michigan is offering a total of $3 million in grants to counties to educate the communities on the state’s medical marijuana program, Barry County Administrator Michael Brown told commisioners on Wednesday.


The grants, through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) were offered the late last November, giving county leaders little time to write a grant request and submit it before the Jan.1 deadline.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department has written a proposal that meets the requirements of the grant that would be used to conduct education related to the medical marijuana program, Brown said.


Brown called LARA to ask if there could be an extension on the deadline, and was told there would be no extension. To make sure the funds did not lapse and meet the Jan. 1 deadline, he submitted the grant on Dec. 28. He said no action was required Wednesday, “I just wanted to get it out to the board and the public.”


The topic will be on the committee of the whole agenda Jan. 15, with health department officials on hand to answer questions and request formal approval of the grant. The funds would go to education and outreach, but not law enforcement, he said.


The amount of the grants to individual counties depends on the number of medical marijuana cards issued in that county. Barry County is scheduled to get $16,413 (878 total patient cards issued and renewed).The grants range from $589 in Keweenaw County (32 patient cards) to $496,046 to Wayne County (26,535 patient cards).


Former Lakewood Superintendent dies unexpectedly

Mike O’Mara, 62, died unexpectedly at his Lake Odessa home on Dec. 27. O’Mara was superintendent of Lakewood Schools, retiring in 2015.


O’Mara and Paige Brown married in 1979. She survives, as do his children Branden (Kristin) O’Mara, Gabriel (Megan) O’Mara, Wade (Liz) O’Mara, and Hannah O’Mara; mother Ruth O’Mara and grandchildren Grant, Maeve and Brenna O’Mara.


Also surviving are his siblings Patricia (Bob) Ironside, Dennis (Kim) O’Mara, Teresa (Mel) Kelly, Ed (Kristi) O’Mara, Shawn (Kathy) O’Mara and Melissa (Shawn) O’Gorman, many aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins.


O’Mara was an avid hunter an outdoorsman who enjoyed camping and traveling.  He loved athletics and sports, especially the Lakewood Vikings and MSU Spartans. Spending time with his family and friends was the most important part of his life, a Koops Funeral Chapel obituary said.


A lifetime resident and area educator, O'Mara earned a bachelor’s degree from Olivet College and a master’s degree from Michigan State University, according to

Funeral Mass was held Jan. 3 at St. Edwards Catholic Church, with burial at Lakeside Cemetery.


Memorials in his name may be given to the Lakewood Education Foundation, St. Edwards Catholic Church or Lakewood Athletic Association. Online condolences can be left at











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