Local News

The City of Hastings leaf pick up continues today

The City of Hastings Department of Public Services is continuing leaf  pickup today Nov. 19 starting at East Mill  and Third  streets, heading east on Mill Street, then continuing north and west.


Barry County Sheriff's Office gives statistics for October

In a report to Barry County Commissioners last week, Sheriff Dar Leaf gave the numbers for October, and some comparisons with activity from  five years ago.


The corrections staff at the Barry County Jail booked and processed 319 persons into jail in the month of October, 86 classified as weekenders, while releasing 224 people back into the community. In October, 2013, 213 people were arrested and 208 released.


Last month, staff transported 139 inmates to court, medical facilities and other counties. Staff administered 67 weekends drug screens for probationers, 94 persons were fingerprinted at the front counter. The kitchen at the jail prepared and served 9,014 meals to the inmate population for $1.51 per meal. Plumbing, HVAC and security repairs totaled $7,293.26. The daily average inmate population was 94.


The uniformed patrol logged 686 complains in October; 59 individuals were arrested on 33 felony and 34 misdemeanor charges. There were six alcohol related arrests and 54 citations issued last month.


Of the 118 accidents handled, one was a fatality and another was under the influence of alcohol. Eighty of the crashes involved deer.

The K-9 unit was called four times, resulting in quantities of drugs recovered and apprehension of individuals in criminal cases. Alcohol arrests numbered six.


The office performed 32 home checks, assisting the Swift and Sure, Sobriety and Drug Court programs. Criminal histories were run for warrant entry or warrant requests 443 times in October; 486 PBT’s were administered by court order.


Working with the DEA’s drug takeback program, the sheriff’s office, Hastings Police Department and Barry County Substance Abuse collected 409 pounds of prescription and non-prescription medicine.


Stats for October, 2013 show 502 incidents handled, 86 accidents handled, with 58 crashes involving deer. Of the 54 arrests in 2013, 25 were felony charges, 11 were misdemeanors. Four were alcohol related arrests.


Lakewood Area's 27th Christmas 'Round the Town is Friday, Saturday

Lakewood Area Christmas ‘Round the Town is this weekend, Friday, Nov.  23 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas ‘Round the Town is a community-wide sale of holiday gifts from a wide selection of handmade crafts, retail  items, baked treats, woodwork, art and much more.


Shoppers can pick up a flyer with all of the locations and a local map at participating businesses or at


“The event will have 27 stops in the Lakewood area and includes private homes as well as local businesses and organizations. There are seven new locations as well as a one that returned after taking some years off,” said Marnie Thomas, executive director of Lakewood Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Grab your friends and enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks at many of the stops. You will find affordable, unique gifts for everyone on your list,” she said. //

For more or to become a vendor in 2019, contact Thomas @ 616-374-0766 or email at There is also an extensive Facebook page with photos, Lakewood Area Christmas ‘Round the Town Craft Show.

































Crooked Lake


Home owners at Delton's crooked lake could see the worst of their lake flooding may be yet to come as winter brings more snow. The lake's levels are around four feet higher than they should be,brought on throughout  the year by heavy rains and snow.


 At the present time the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids said based on the daily reports from the Hastings Climatological  Weather Station the ground is already saturated. The ground temperature right now is 34 degrees and would not take in any more heavy rain or snow. This would impact Crooked lake and the homes already affected by the high lake levels and flooding.   The other concern is the  ground freezing up from the winter cold adding more problems to the Crooked lake home owners.


Hasting congratulates GFWC-Hastings Women's Club on 125th anniversary

Hastings Mayor David Tossava attended a special meeting of the GFWC-Hastings Women’s Club Nov. 1 and presented them with an Official Proclamation from the City of Hastings recognizing the active club for its contributions to the city and area residents in its 125 years in existence.


The GFWC-Hastings Women's Club was founded on October 23, 1893, at the invitation of Frances Wheeler Smith, to further the knowledge and self-improvement of its members and to work for civic improvement.  The club adopted as its main goal the establishment of a library, opened the first library in 1895 and continues to support the library today, Tossava read from the proclamation.


The club initiated the first senior citizens assistance programs, now the Commission on Aging, the first Hastings Camp Fire Girls Association and the first projects to beautify Hastings, he said.


The club supports youth, sponsoring the Hastings High School Senior Girls Tea and the Jump Start Your Future Scholarship for Senior Girls, donates to the YMCA for camp scholarships, and elementary schools with reading programs and donations of hats and gloves.


The group sponsors a scholarship for women in the community returning back to school in the nursing field, and supports Hastings National Night Out, Green Gables Haven, the Family Support Center, Safe Harbor and Women at Risk in Human Trafficking, the local and national food banks, and its sister states of Florida and Texas in rebuilding libraries following Hurricane Harvey, Tossava said.  


The club also supports conservation efforts for clean water and recycling in the city, townships and state and remains steadfastly dedicated to its goal of furthering knowledge and self-improvement, he said.


Scams continue; this one threatens to shut off your power

Barry County citizens should be aware of another scam that attempts to separate them from their money, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said Thursday..


In one of  the lastest reported scams, a caller says they are from Consumers Energy and they are going to shut off your power if you don’t pay them to keep it on.


“They are targeting residential and small business customers, usually in the early morning hours,” Leaf said. “If there is any doubt in your mind, give us a call, or go directly to Consumers Energy.”

There have no reported cases in Barry County so far, but it is happening in other counties, so be aware, he said.


Also, it’s the holiday season and those mailing gift cards are advised not to put them in the mailbox with the flag up, but take them right to their Post Office to mail, Leaf said. Another reminder during the holidays: “When shopping, always put Christmas gifts in your car out of sight.”



UPDATE: Delton area woman identified as victim in fatal Patterson Road crash

UPDATE: The driver who died in a traffic crash on Patterson Road Thursday has been identified by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office as Frances May Engeseth, 77, from the Delton area.


ORIGINAL STORY: Allegan County Sheriff deputies responded to a personal injury crash at Patterson Road, south of 131st Avenue, in Wayland Township late Thursday afternoon, according to a sheriff’s media release.


First Responders determined the single occupant of a Kia pinned in the vehicle was deceased. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle involved, a Cadillac SUV, suffered minor injuries and needed no medical attention, the release said.


According to witnesses, the Kia, traveling south on Patterson Road, lost control, likely due to slippery road conditions, slid into the northbound lane where it was struck on the driver’s side by the northbound Cadillac.

The Cadillac was unable to avoid the impact due to a guardrail on the northbound side and oncoming traffic in the southbound lane, officials said.

The name of the deceased woman, in her 70’s, is being withheld pending notification of family.


Michigan State Police, Wayland EMS, Wayland Fire Department and Barry County Sheriff’s Office assisted Allegan sheriff’s deputies.






Hastings leaf pickup continues Friday

The Hastings Department of Public Services leaf pickup continues Friday, Nov. 16 with crews starting at East Mill and First streets, heading east on Mill Street and then continuing north and west.


Hastings leaf pickup continues Thursday, Nov. 15

On Thursday, Nov. 15, Hastings Department of Public Services crews will be starting at Park and Clinton streets heading north to Mill Street, then moving to the north side of the Thornapple River and starting on First and Mill streets.


Hastings gets good report on drinking water samples for lead and copper

The city’s drinking water supply has been sampled for lead and copper and tested well below levels that woud require action, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said Monday.

State regulations require that the city collect at least 20 samples every three years from homes with lead service lines.


The samples taken from taps in Hastings showed lead was 5 ppb and copper was 820 ppb, well below the limit where action is called for.

Tests for lead must be below 15 parts per billion (ppb) and 1,300 ppb for copper to avoid action.


The sample at one tap exceeded the action level for lead at 26 ppb; a second test found the level at 1 pbb.  Mansfield said the tap is one that was used very infrequently and the sample should not have been taken at that location.  


The way the city treats the water prevents the lead and copper from getting into a solution in the water, then showing up in the testing, he said. “We’d like it to be lower, but it was well within the limits.”


BICRH Fire chief Roger Caris issued a reminder on burning in the city.

Residents need a burning permit that can be obtained by calling 269-205-3208.

There is no burning except for small brush without leaves inside the city, and

all open burning must be out by 9 p.m. Someone must in attendance of the fire at all times, he said.


A permit in not required to have a campfire in the city, but it must be contained in a small ring designed for the purpose, and they do not need to be out by 9 p.m.

“Again, you can only bum twigs and wood that does not have leaves on it and you cannot bum demolition product,” he said.


Also, the council got its first look at the recent recreational use of marijuana initiative passed by Michigan voters. Mansfield said it will be at least 30 days before possession of the drug becomes legal and from one to two years for the state to get the new law clarified.


He said he will do some “homework” and bring back options for the council, including opting out. Meanwhile, he will review internal policy issues to assure that the staff and public are safe. The review will include policies regarding vehicles and firearms, among others.


The city is unlikely to have many marijuana facilities because they are prohibited within 1,000 feet

of schools, playgrounds and other places, and city’s layout would prevent it nearly everywhere, he said.


Hastings files Corrective Action Plan to comply with state requirements

The Hastings City Council Monday approved the city’s PA 202 Corrective Action Plan to do with retiree’s health care benefits.  City Manager Jeff Mansfield said despite changes to the benefits in past years, the city was found to not be in compliance with the state’s recently established limits on the amount of unfunded liability and payments that municipalities are allowed to make related to health care benefits for retirees. 


The city’s conversion to Blue Care Network and Blue Care Network Advantage Plans for eligible retirees will bring the City into compliance with the state’s standards. 


However, Mansfield said that three retirees families moved out of the area and can’t find a primary care physician within a reasonable driving distance who accepts Blue Cross. A viable solution was for those retiree to buy their own coverage, paid for by the “opt out stipend” for coverage recommended by the Municipal Employee’s Retirement System Health Care Exchange, he said.  


“We don’t know the nuances in this, and we need time to figure it out,” he said. “We are confident that we can work with these retirees to resolve this matter – but it may take a few months to do so.”

in the meantime, the council agreed to let those few retirees stay on the older plans for one more year while it gets sorted out. 


In other business, the council approved a request from Rusty Blakely to host the 1st annual Wendy Jo Blakely Je t’amie 5K fund run on May 18, 2019 in Hastings.  Blakely’s wife Wendy died from pancreatic cancer this year; he is raising money for pancreatic cancer research at John Hopkins Hospital. For more, visit


The Jingle & Mingle Committee was granted permission to present its fourth annual Christmas event, "Hastings Jingle & Mingle" Nov. 30 -Dec. 2.


And, a workshop was tentatively set for Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. to receive the 2017/2018 audit report from Rehmann.




Hastings Jingle & Mingle rings in holiday season Nov. 30-Dec. 2

A magical small town Christmas is coming up in Hastings. For the fourth year, residents and visitors are invited to take part in the music and magic of Christmas in downtown Hastings on the weekend of Friday, Nov. 30 - Sunday, Dec. 2.


“Last year the weekend, particularly the parade, had a magical almost modern-day Norman Rockwell feel to it,” said Jingle and Mingle Events Director Tracy Baker. “We’re recreating that happy, joyful atmosphere again this year. Downtown Hastings is a great place any time of year, but during the holidays it is really special.”


New this year is an appearance by country singer Matt Williams during the parade on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. The parade features dozens of entries, a galaxy of twinkling Christmas lights and free jingle sticks for both the young and young at heart.


Another new event to help ring in the holiday season is a two-hour hand bell concert in the community room of the Hastings Public Library during its annual arts and crafts show.

Free carriage and trolley rides, visits with Santa, children’s crafts and activities, reindeer petting zoo, living nativity, tree lighting ceremony, broomball tournament, chili cook-off, and more round out the weekend of festivities.


Everyone is invited to take in the festivities and unique shopping and dining in the small-town atmosphere of downtown Hastings during Jingle & Mingle and throughout the holiday season, Baker said.


For more information, contact Baker at, 269.945.3550, log on to Hastings Jingle & Mingle, or text 2100 for a link to the website.




Tools, diagnostic equipment stolen from Allegan County car dealership

Allegan County Sheriff’s Deputies responded Monday to a report of a break-in at the Betten Baker-Allegan car dealership on Lincoln Road. Numerous tools were taken as well as diagnostic equipment, a sheriff’s media release reports.


The break-in occurred sometime between 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12. 

Anyone with any information about the break-in or who may have been in the area of the dealership during that time and noticed something, is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 269-673-0500, ext. 4286.



Rep. Calley to hold office hours in Nashville and Hastings

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley will hold office hours Monday, Nov. 26 in Nashville and Hastings.


Calley, of Portland, will be at the Nashville Village Offices, 203 North Main Street, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and in the commission chambers in the Barry County Courthouse, 220 West State Street in Hastings, from 1 to 2 p.m.

Calley will give a legislative update and if residents have individual concerns, will talk with them one-on-one.


“Local office hours provide both accessibility and accountability,” Calley said. “I deeply appreciate the time and input from people who attend.”  No appointment is necessary.

Residents may also send questions and ideas to Calley at or contact her at 517-373-0842.





Child predators use video games to solicit children

Here’s another reason to closely monitor your child’s video game playing.

The popular internet games children play with others on the internet on smart phones or computers are also scouting areas for child predators, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf cautioned.


Children are being solicited by sex offenders and others on line, beginning with them befriending a child and playing video games with their targets, while masking their identities.

“Pay close attention when your kids are on the games, be aware of any game they are on,” Leaf said. Kik and Tumblr are two apps that may be used by predators and games like Fort Nite and Mine Trap.


Police nabbed 24 men of various ages and backgrounds in another state who were using the internet and games to find children, Leaf said. If your child seems evasive or uncomfortable when you question him about a game he or she is playing, get a professional who can track where they have been playing games. The police would also like to know if parents have discovered a problem.


“Stop by the sheriff’s office. If there’s something there, we’ll come out and take a look,” Leaf said.

“Experts will tell you that middle and high schools student’s brains are not well-developed enough to handle all of the information on the internet,” he added.


“We tell our children not to talk to strangers in the park; the internet is one gigantic, global park,” he said.





Hastings leaf pick up continues Wednesday, Nov. 14

Hastings Department of Public Services crews will be at State and Washington streets Wednesday morning, headed south, proceeding to Park Street.



"No good, clear answer" on Barry County's election night failure

Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer Tuesday reported to the Barry County Board on the delay on reporting results of the Nov. 6 election.


“Thing did not go as smoothly as we would have like them to go,” she said in understatement.


The good news is the integrity of the system is still in place; the print outs are accurate and the work by county clerk staff, township and city election workers was “flawless,” she said.

The pre-election tests were perfect, but on election night, some cards from precincts uploaded just fine, some uploaded partial information, some none at all, she said.


She  couldn’t call the problem just a programming glitch; "it was a failure."

Palmer, IT Director David Shinavier and Chief Clerk Karen Barnes spent Tuesday night and into Wednesday inputting results manually.


The system’s programmer, with Governmental Business Systems, got a call late Tuesday night. “He’s still scratching his head,” searching for answers, and has been working on it since then. “There is no good clear answer to what went wrong and when,” Palmer said.


The Board of Canvassers is expected to certify the election later today.

“We’re almost done to where we should have been...I just hope this never, ever happens again, to any clerk.”











Photo: Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer speaking to county commissioners.


Barry Commissioners approve employee health plan options

Barry County Commissioners Tuesday approved the Healthcare Cost Containment Committee recommendations for the county’s employee health insurance plans.


Last week, committee members Deputy County Administrator Luella Dennison and Barry Central Dispatch Director Stephanie Lehman recommended continuing with Priority Health for health insurance which means, “a little overall savings.”

Employees will pick from four health plans, with increases of 5.9 percent to 9.6 percent, depending on the plan. The county will pay an additional 1.9 percent, allowed by state law, Dennison said.


Employees will pay the difference in the cost of health premiums they select that exceed the annual state-mandated caps. If the plan they select is lower than the state cap, the difference will be deposited into their account.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offered premiums that were little lower, but premiums on its HSA’s “were considerably higher.”

The renewal date for the insurance is Jan.1, 2019. The county has engaged Priority Health since 2016.


In other business , commissioners approved:

*appointing Cindy Vujea to the Barry County Parks and Recreation Board representing the Barry County Economic Development Alliance for the remainder of a three year term and to reappoint Patti Richardson to the Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board for a one year term representing the Barry County Humane Society.


*a network security audit and vulnerability assessment review by MGT Consulting Group for $24,500, requested by IT director David Shinavier.


*a bid from Environmental Systems Solutions (ESS) in Ada to provide HVAC maintenance services for three years for $25,870 a year. The contract covers the Barry County Courthouse, Annex, Courts and Law Building, Friend of the Court, Tyden Center, Barry Eaton District Health Department, Animal Shelter, COA, Sheriff’s Office/Jail, and Central Dispatch.




Barry County employees receive service awards

Six Barry County employees were recognized Tuesday for their service and dedication to the county by the Barry County Board of Commissioners.


Each as introduced by their department head who credited them for exceptional work for the county. Central Dispatch Director Stephanie Lehman introduced three employees: Jamie Stafford, Catlyn Kellogg and Kristina Nevins.


Stafford has “a lovely electric personality” with a willingness to learn “that is amazing,” Lehman said. Her co-workers said she is creative, organized and dependable. She is a five-year employee of the county.


Kellogg, also a five-year employee of Central Dispatch, rose in the organization as a leader and problem solver. Her work on the public relations committee shows a commitment to excellence; she is creative and trustworthy, Lehman said.


Nevins, also with Central Dispatch for five years, is on the communications training officer’s team where her attention to detail, determination, dependability and thoughtful nature are assets to the county, Lehman said.


Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf introduced Michael Hanger, a five-year employee, former corrections deputy and certified mechanic. He was the natural selection to replace the former fleet mechanic when he retired. Hanger uses his great sense of humor to lighten a situation and is “helpful, adaptable and easy going,” Leaf said.


Leaf also introduced Jean Poll, who has worked 15 years in the sheriff’s office and is administrative assistant at the front counter. Jean is the first person most people meet at the sheriff’s office. Reliable, courteous and caring, she is invaluable in helping the public who have business at the jail, Leaf said.


Court Administrator Ines Straub introduced court Chief Clerk/Magistrate Cynthia White, a 20-year county employee. White quickly helps where help is needed, bringing her skills and positive attitude to day to day tasks, Straub said. Coworkers say White is a professional and friendly leader.

Photo: Barry County employees recognized for their contributions to the county are (from left) Michael Hanger, Cynthia White, Jean Poll, Kristina Nevins, Catlyn Kellogg and Jamie Stafford.




Kellogg's headquarters in Battle Creek announced the company is selling off their cookie and fruit-snack business Keebler, and Famous Amos and will focuses on its morning foods and frozen food brands in a re-organizational plan.

The company said about 30 workers in Battle Creek could be let go, leaving many Kellogg's workers uncertain about their future.. The Company employs more than 2,000 in Battle Creek.


Authorities say church fire appears to have been intentionally set

The Kent County Sheriff's Office reports it is currently investigating a suspicious fire at the Northview Community Church at 4897 Palenque Place, Plainfield Township. The fire appears to have been intentionally set.

Plainfield Township Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at approximately 10:35 a.m. The church sustained considerable damage. Anyone with any information regarding the fire is asked to contact the sheriff's office or Silent Observer.


Hastings leaf pickup pauses on Veterans Day; resumes Tuesday, Nov. 13

Hastings Department of Public Services leaf pickup crews will be in the area of Cass and Clinton streets, moving east toward South Broadway on Tuesday, Nov. 13.


REMINDER: DPS will be closed Monday Nov. 12 in observance of Veterans Day.


Barry County Jail overcrowding emergency declared

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has declared an overcrowding emergency at the county jail. The inmate population, set by the Michigan Department of Corrections at 93, is at 104 today, and has been more than the limit for the last five days, triggering the action.


The declaration is part of the process for notifying Barry County Chief Judge William Doherty, the Prosecutor’s Office and the chair of the Barry County Board of Commissioners. Leaf said he would meet with officials and jail staff to consider what options they have to lower the numbers.


Previously during overcrowding events, officials have reduced bonds for certain inmates and some low level offenders who had served a percentage of their sentences were given early release.

The last time they couldn’t bring the count down through any other means, some inmates were housed in other county jails at the cost of $35 a day per inmate, plus any medical expenses, Leaf said.


Additionally, there are 20 to 24 women in the jail, which is unusually high, Leaf said. “That’s a quarter of the population, with just 13 beds available for them. We usually have seven or eight women.”



Pennock Spectrum Hospital earns an "A" for patient safety

Spectrum Health Pennock was awarded an ‘A’ from the the Leapfrog Groups Fall 2018 Hospital Safety Grade, recognizing Pennock’s efforts to protect patients from harm and meet the highest safety standards in the United States.


The Leapfrog Group is a national organization committed to improving health care quality and safety for consumers and purchasers, assigning an A, B, C, D or F grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms among patients in their care.


“We are honored that Leapfrog Group has recognized our attention to safety,” said Angela Ditmar, president, Spectrum Health Pennock. “Spectrum Health has invested in high reliability tools across all of our hospitals to support our continuous quality improvement initiatives.”


Developed under the guidance of a National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.


“Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grades recognize hospitals like Pennock that focus on advancing patient safety. This ranking provides an important resource for patients, and a benchmark for hospitals, to determine how care at one hospital compares to others in a region,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an A Hospital Safety Grade deserve to be recognized for their efforts in preventing medical harm and errors.”


Spectrum Health Pennock was one of 855 across the United States awarded an A in the Fall 2018 update of grades. To see Pennock’s full grade details, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit and follow the Leapfrog Group on Twitter and Facebook.




Little Thornapple River Drain District boundaries being updated

A redrawing the boundaries of the Little Thornapple River Drain is in progress. Previously drawn along property lines, the drain’s lines will now be based on topography using the latest in technology.


Paul Forton, project manager for the Spicer Group, reported on the project to the Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drain Board last week.

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, Forton said.


The state has completed its work with LiDAR. With the final data, architects will be in the field from now until late spring verifying the lines, working around the firearm deer season. Most of their work can be done from their cars.


The LiDAR method delivers more accurate drain district lines than what officials believe was last done on the Little Thornapple River Drain in the 1930’s, Forton said.

“Now, with excellent, accurate data, we can make sure there no overlap or gaps…amazingly enough, they are not perfect, but the old figures are first class.”


The folks identified as in the newly defined drain district will be assessed for drain work, which will change the status for some, he said. They will also run into places where part of a property will be assessed and other parts of the property may not be in the drain district and will not be assessed.

“We’ll have the latest data and contour information and property information…at the end of the day, it will be accurate and correct.”


In April or May of 2019, there will be a public hearing for the public to inspect the maps; everyone affected will be notified by letter, so they will know when the meeting will be held.

Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker said the process is not unusual, it’s happening all across the state. “When they come across it, they do it as it comes up.”




Hastings crews continue leaf pickup

Hastings Department of Public Service crews will be picking up leaves on Clinton Street and South Broadway moving west  to Ann and David Drive on Friday, Nov.9.


Spectrum Health Pennock's new leader officially steps in as president

Angela Ditmar, RN, MBA, president of Spectrum Health Pennock and southeast regional market leader, officially stepped into the position Monday, Nov. 5.

Her experience and education show she is more than qualified to fill the role, but it doesn’t capture the emotions she feels starting out.


“I’m so excited and truly happy to be here,” she said.  “Everyone has been so nice, welcoming and kind.” She will spend the first 30-to-90 days “really, really listening” to the staff, the people she works with and the community.


Introducing Ditmar as the new president, Nathan Tagg, chair of Spectrum Health Pennock Board of Trustees and co-chair of the selection committee, said her “qualifications, engaging personality and record of success in other roles within Spectrum Health impressed the committee members. I believe those traits will be an asset to the employees and, most importantly, patients of Spectrum Health Pennock.”


Ditmar was instrumental in helping establish the cancer center at Pennock in 2017. “I loved working with the Pennock team…I’m so glad we can bring it to the community, so people won’t have to drive out of town for treatment.”


She follows Sheryl Lewis-Blake, who retired as Pennock’s president Oct. 1.

“She’s staying in the area, I’m happy about that.”  


Would she be calling on Lewis-Blake for advice? “Oh, I’m sure,” she said with a laugh.

She and husband Ron have a blended family of five and plan to relocate to Hastings.


Photo: Angela Ditmar, RN, MBA new president of Spectrum Health Pennock and southeast regional market leader.


Hastings crews begin leaf pickups

Hastings Department of Public Services crews will be on Church and Clinton streets heading south starting leaf pick-up Thursday morning, Nov. 8.


Unofficial Barry County election results for Nov.6, 2018

The mid-term elections were held Tuesday in what was expected to be a near record turnout of voters. Below is a rundown of offices up for election. See related stories on how Barry County voters had their say on all of the offices and issues on the ballot.

The voter’s choices for local, state and federal officials who will represent the citizens of Barry County sometimes matched the state and federal offices, sometimes not.



Governor/ Lt. Governor:

Bill Schuette (R)/Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R)…13,869

Gretchen Whitmer (D)/ Garlin Gilchrist II (D)…9,043


Attorney General:

Dana Nessel (D)…6,796

Tom Leonard (R)…13,855


Secretary of State:

Mary Treder Lang (R)…13,002

Jocelyn Benson (D)…7,891


U.S. State Senator:

John James (R)…14,177

(I)Debbie Stabenow (D)…8,357


3rd Cong. District:

(I) Justin Amash (R)… 15,076

Cathy Albro (D)…7,690


87th District State Rep:

 (I) Julie Calley (R)…15,568

Shawn Winters (D)…7,551


19th State Senate:

John Bizon (R)… 14,362

Jason Noble (D)…8,128


BARRY COUNTY JUDGES: (23 of 25 precincts reporting)

District Judge Michael Schipper…18,310

Probate Judge William Doherty…18,724


PROPOSALS:  (23 of 25 precincts reporting)

Proposal 1: A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers:  yes…11,667   no…11,384

Proposal 2: A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years: yes…11,696  no…10,417


Proposal 3: A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and postelection audits to the Michigan Constitution: yes…13,663  no…9.943





Nov. 6 election, Barry County Commission, City of Hastings, school boards

This is a continuation of the Nov. 6 ballot results with offices for Barry County Commissioners, the City of Hastings and school boards.


BARRY COUNTY COMMISSION: (4 of 5 precincts reporting)

District 1: City of Hastings, part of Hastings Charter Township

(I)Howard “Hoot” Gibson (R)…1,982

Cathy Young Gramze (D)…1,389


District 2: Thornapple Township precincts 1 & 3; Yankee Springs Township, precinct 1

(I)Dan Parker (R)…3,299


District 3: Barry and Hope townships, precinct 1 Rutland Charter Township

(I)David Jackson (R)…2,151

Nicholas Hannar (D)…1,223


District 4: Irving Township, parts of Carlton, Thornapple and Rutland townships

(I)Jon Smelker (R)…2,825

Samantha L. Jones (D)…1,187


District 5: Castleton, Woodland townships, Village of Nashville in Maple Grove Township, and parts of Hastings Charter and Carlton townships. (4 of 5 precincts reporting)

(I)Ben Geiger (R)…1,527

Ben Eastman (D)…858



District 6: Prairieville and Orangeville townships, precinct 2 in Yankee Springs Township (2 of 3 precincts reporting)

(I)Vivian Lee Conner (R)…1,573

Tonya DeVore Foreman (D)…831


District 7: Assyria, Johnstown, Baltimore townships, Maple Grove Township, excluding the Village of Nashville.

(I)Heather Wing (R)…2,849



First Ward:

(I)Theresa Maupin-Moore …686


Second Ward:

(I)Brenda McNabb Stange…290

Terry Stenzelbarton…247


Third Ward:

(I)Don Smith…514


Fourth Ward:

Jim Cary…382

Jordan Brehm…317


Board of Review:

Donald Tubbs…2,257



Delton Schools

Board of Education: four year terms, vote for three

Robert Houtrow…2,330

Sarah Austin…2,832

Rodney Dye…2,427


Hastings Area School System     (15 of 16 precincts reporting)

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Elden Shellenbarger…2,590

Valerie Slaughter…4,725

Louis F. Wierenga, Jr…4,154


Thornapple Kellogg Schools

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Matthew C. Powers…4,416

Sarah Alden…4,747


Maple Valley Public School (4 o5 precincts reporting)

Board of Education: four year terms, vote for four

Mark Rushford…508

Kimberly Wilkes (Brandt)…617

Kristen Miller…775

Robert Franks…431

Jeff H. Zank…430

Christopher Ewing…491

Craig Lackscheide…473

Garry Patrick…400


Lakewood Public School

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Steve St. Laurent…493




Nov. 6 election: villages, township offices and millages

This is a continuation of the Nov. 6 ballot, with offices for villages, townships and township millages.


Prairieville Township:

(1)An increase of .4087 mills for three years to support police protection, which will raise an estimated $55,617 the first year…NA


(2) An increase of .4087 for three years, to hire a third full time police officer for protection in the township, which will raise an estimated $55,617 the first year. ..NA


Woodland Township

(1)A renewal of 2 mills for the period of 2018 through 2021 for road maintenance, raising an estimated $147,000 the first year.  yes…  0   no… 0


Hastings Charter Township:


Timothy B. McNally (R)…1,001


Prairieville Township:

Parks Board:

Judith Risdon…NA


Rutland Township


Matt Spencer…1,448


Thornapple Township:


Curtis Campbell (R)…2.846


Woodland Township:


Gabriel Steward (R)…8

Jerry Engle (D)… 0


Yankee Springs Township:


Larry Knowles (R)…1,870




President, Bill Andrews…144

Clerk, Shawna Hill…143

Trustee, John Raymond…136



President: Charles Pullen…1,055

Trustee: vote for three

Amanda Fisk…762

Ed Schellinger…501

Maria Gustinis…498

Mike Cramer…691




Tanett Hodge, partial term…399

Open partial term…

Hank Felder, full term...338

Ryan Willacker, full term…325

Open full term…



President: Ronald L. Martin…0


Betty Carpenter…89

Galen Kilmer…0

Laurie Duits…0

Lyle Sandbrook, Jr…0



Spectrum Health Pennock invites community to join celebration of National Rural Health Day

Spectrum Health Pennock welcomes the community to visit its Family Medicine rural health clinics for cider and donuts during business hours Thursday, Nov, 15 as they recognize the innovation, quality of care and dedication of rural health care providers. On National Rural Health Day.


On the third Thursday in November each year. the day recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of over 60 million people across the nation. As part of the celebration, Spectrum Health Pennock Family Medicine offices in Hastings, Gun Lake, Lake Odessa, Middleville and Ionia will provide cider and donuts to patients and visitors during regular business hours.     


“Providing access to quality care close to home is a top priority at Spectrum Health Pennock,” said Regional Division Chief Douglas Smendik, MD.

“We continue to recruit physicians and advanced practice providers for family medicine offices throughout Barry County, expand services offered through telehealth program MedNow and streamline services. We are proud to stand alongside our rural health clinic providers and colleagues on November 15 as we celebrate the dedication provided to the communities they serve.” 


West Michigan and the surrounding area have 29 Spectrum Health Rural Health Clinics, including those in greater Barry County, providing 370,800 visits annually, including almost 8,000 mental health visits annually. 


National Rural Health Day provides the opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” and educate others about the challenges while highlighting the innovation and collaboration used by health care provides to improve quality of care.


The public is invited to visit one of the following Spectrum Health clinics during business hours Nov. 15 to join the celebration.

*Family Medicine – Gun Lake

12851 W. M-179 Highway 


*Family, Internal & Pediatric Medicine – Hastings

1108 W. State Street, Suite #3


*Family Medicine – Ionia

2776 S. State Road


*Family Medicine – Lake Odessa

4294 Laurel Drive


*Family Medicine – Middleville

490 Edward Street 


*Obstetrics & Gynecology – Hastings

1009 W. Greet Street, Suite #301








To follow election results, visit

With many precincts not yet reporting the results of yesterday's election, WBCH will post the final unofficial results as soon as they are available.


To follow the results as they come in, visit at this link:




Annual Veteran Day Program

Delton Kellogg High School's Annual Veterans Day Program will take place this Friday November 9th.

The program is to honor all active Military, Veterans and Falling member of the  Armed Forces.The program begins at 1:30 in the high school gymnasium. The public and all active duty and vets are invited to attend.

The high school band will perform several selections they played during the 2017 Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii.

The guest speaker  Is retired Lt.General Richard Burpee  United States Air force and Delton's class  of


Pennock Hospital in Hastings will also  Salute Veterans with a special program on  Monday November 12th at 11:00 am


Barry County IT systems to get independent security audit

The Barry County Board of Commissioners committee of the whole Tuesday recommended a network security audit and vulnerability assessment review by MGT Consulting Group for $24,500, requested by IT director David Shinavier.


The audit will be from the outside in and the inside out, he said. MGT staff will be on site to look at the county policy, bringing their own equipment to scan the county’s equipment looking for openings. They also try to breach the county’s system from their offices.  They will recommend fixes for anything wrong that they find, and a short time later, do a follow up to assure any deficiencies have been fixed, Shinavier said.


The review will cover the edge, (where the county IT system meets the rest of the information network), the county’s network and the system’s security and access management.

The audit is held for two reasons, Shinavier said: To meet the county’s policy of regular independent security audits and compliance with the new Michigan State Office of Child Support Independent Security Audit requirements.


The commission also recommended a bid from Environmental Systems Solutions (ESS) in Ada to provide HVAC maintenance services for three years for $25,870 per year. Tim Neeb, building and grounds supervisor, said ESS was the low bidder of eight bids received.


The contract covers the Barry County Courthouse, Annex, Courts and Law Building, Friend of the Court, Tyden Center, Barry Eaton District Health Department, Animal Shelter, COA, Sheriff’s Office/Jail, and Central Dispatch. Funding comes from the budgets of building and grounds, the sheriff’s office, COA, BEDHD and Central Dispatch.


Two appointments to county boards were recommended: Cindy Vujea to the Barry County Parks and Recreation Board representing the Barry County Economic Development Alliance for the remainder of a three year term and to reappoint Patti Richardson to the Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board for a one year term representing the Barry County Humane Society.

Commissioners are expected to act on the recommendations at its next meeting.


Allegan K9 team gets remote doggie door opener thanks to Holland Kennel Club

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office K9 team has received a charitable donation from Holland Kennel Club of $1,000, an Allegan County Sheriff’s Office a sheriff’s media release said. 

The donation will be used to buy and install a K9 door opener on the police car door for the K9 to get in and out of his rear seat remotely with the press of a button.


The handler will be able to release his partner to assist him in a situation that arises suddenly and the handler might not otherwise be able to access the dog.

The door opener greatly improves officer safety, 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, the release said.


The door opener from the Holland Kennel Club will go on Deputy Mike Martin’s K9 patrol vehicle for his partner, K9Lajki. “K9Lajki was purchased with a generous donation from the Holland Kennel Club in the spring of 2017.  The sheriff’s office is grateful for the Holland Kennel Club’s continued support of the K9 team,” the release said.


Holland Kennel Club Board members with Deputy Mike Martin and K9 Lajki.

(photo courtesy of Ben Haas)



Kent County Drain Commissioner sanctioned for violating county policy

Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker has lost the privilege of taking a county vehicle home for one month when, against county policy, he used it while handing out information on a political issue. Yonker took responsibility for the error. “I misused the county’s vehicle,” he said.


The brakes froze up on his truck, and a volunteer with their group said they would pick him up to pass out the leaflets, he said. “But I said it was okay, grabbed a handful and passed them out. I know better, I was just thinking of getting it done.” 


Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt issued the following statement Oct. 31:

“I spoke with Drain Commissioner Yonker yesterday after receiving the resident compliant and he immediately apologized and took full responsibility of his actions, which he explained were not planned, but spontaneous.


"While this was an error of judgement, the gravity of the situation required a formal response as County policies prohibit employees, including elected officials, from using county resources to influence the outcome of an election.


"Therefore, he received a formal notice from the County that his privileges of taking a county vehicle home would be rescinded for one month, beginning Nov. 1, 2018. Ken understands why the action is being taken and has assured me this would not occur again. As such, we now consider this matter resolved.”


The information on the leaflet was in opposition to Caledonia School’s Nov. 6 ballot request for renewal of the 18 mills non-homestead levy, plus an additional 1.5 mills to restore the Headlee Amendment rollback and possible future rollbacks.





Barry County EDA Summit

The Barry County Economic Development  Alliance will host the Annual Economic Success Summit on Wednesday, November 7th from 1-pm to 4-pm at the Flexfab Training & Conference Center in Hastings.  This year's Summit keynote presentation is a panel discussion featuring individuals who are "moving the needle" on housing development in Ottawa County, utilizing strategies that could be implemented with similar success in Barry County communities.

Travis Alden President Barry County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Alliance stated, "the lack of housing,  ranging from workforce houseing to multi-family apartments to larger executive type residences has begun popping up as barriers to growth when speaking with area employers."



DEQ consent agreement anticipated by Little Thornapple River Drain Board

The Little River Intercounty Drainage Board has approved a proposed consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, covering the remediation work on the Little Thornapple River drain.


The Intercounty Drain Board consists of drain commissioners from three counties; Jim Dull from Barry, Ken Yonker from Kent, Robert Rose from Ionia County and Brady Harrington, chair of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.


Harrington was not enthusiastic about the process of reaching a consent agreement with the DEQ. “We are at the point where it is as final as it’s going to get. It seems like I’ve been talking to them forever. Every time we make a change, it’s another six months…the proposed agreement is good enough for our purposes,” he said.    


The drain board has been working on the remediation that has been underway since 2015, and has about 75 percent of the work completed with the expectation they would get a DEQ consent agreement. Dull said they will submit the agreement to the DEQ, hopefully have it approved, signed and back to the board by its Dec. 11 meeting.


The plan outlines repair of what angry property owners along the drain and trout stream called excessive clearing of trees in 2014 that caused erosion along the river banks and left parts of the 14-mile long inter-county drain looking like a war zone.

Streamside Ecological Service, contracted by the Intercounty Drain Board, developed the remediation plans that were submitted to the DEQ.


Attorney Stacy Hissong advised the board to take several steps; provide a $600,000 bond, ask that Streamside Ecological Service complete all actions by the board to do with the project and approve Streamside hiring Paul Forton, engineer with the Spicer Group, to consult with the Barry County Road Commission on a required road crossing.

The board also agreed that Hissong, Aaron Snell from Streamside, and Harrington will work together to make sure the requirements are done in a timely manner.


In other business, the board began preliminary discussion on consolidating the Little Thornappple River Drain and the Coldwater River Drain. A benefit would be with more property owners in a consolidated district, assessments would be spread over a wider population base and the assessments would be smaller.


Helping with the cost of repairing the East Street Bridge, east of Freeport, damaged by fallen trees blocking the bridge was talked about, with no definite answer given to Freeport resident Russ Yarger.


Yonkers said it would set precedent and they would not be able to deny any other applicant who asked. The other commissioners were unsure if was their responsibility.

Forton has looked at the bridge and said repairs would be fill, fabric and stone, with no work required on pilings.










Turn clocks back Sunday, Nov. 4

Daylight saving time ends Sunday, Nov. 4 so remember to set your clocks back one hour before turning in Saturday night.

Started during WWI to save money in energy costs, experts do not agree if that is the case or not.


Several states have forwarded proposals to stay on daylight saving time year round, but most efforts stalled. Only the states of Arizona and Hawaii, as well as American territories overseas, are on daylight saving time all year. Daylight saving time will return on March 10, 2019.


Former St. Rose Church Priest resigns

Father Richard Altine a former pastor at St. Rose Catholic Church in Hastings resigned as pastor of five southwest michigan churches amid questions about possible misuse of funds.

The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo launched an investigation into suspected financial irregularities at the five churches located in Dowagiac, Decatur,  Berrien Springs, Silver Creek and Buchanan.

Father Altine resigned as pastor and withdrew from public ministry on October 22nd.

In a statement from The Diocese of Kalamazoo, the Diocese said,  "they take very seriously the protection of the financial gifts entrusted to its parishes."


Two men suffer non-life threatening injuries in Gaines Township shooting

The Kent County Sheriff’s Detective Bureau continues to investigate the shooting of two men who sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to a sheriff’s news release.


Deputies were called to Grand Village Mobile Home Park on South Division Ave in Gaines Township at 8:30 p.m. last night to find two men inside the residence who were hit by bullets that were fired from outside of the home.


Anyone who has any information on the incident is encouraged to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at 616- 632-6125 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.


Public input brings lots of ideas for Hastings parks and recreation plan

Hastings officials will have a clear idea of what its citizens want in parks and recreation when they study the results of a public input session held last week.


John McCann, landscape architect with Viridis Design Group, led the session. He gave a short overview on updating the city's five year Parks & Recreation Master Plan. The 20 to 25 participants at the session divided into groups at a half dozen tables and brainstormed ideas in four areas of interest in parks and recreation in the city.


To question one, how the city could improve its parks and recreation system, the first three items listed were trail connections between parks, camping for bicyclists and campers and an awareness campaign. In the 19 responses, they also asked for more playgrounds, way-finding signs, a sports complex and year-round facilities.


Question two, on what new and innovative park amenities the city should add to parks, the top three ideas were restrooms at all parks, lighting and an “adopt a sign” program by local businesses. Other wants in the list of 21 ideas, included universally accessible playground equipment, food forest/community gardens, keep parks open at night and add lighting, and new playground equipment.


Question three asked what cultural/historical based recreational amenities would interest them. The top three of 13 ideas were interpretative signs to tell the history of parks, campground, a Native American Center as well as additional support for Charlton Park, shuffleboard, climbing wall, cross country skiing and food market.


The last question, asking for three long term goals the city could focus on for parks and recreation drew two dozen responses, with the top four, a sports complex, security, lighting and cameras, smart phone apps and design for sensory needs. Also noted were being the center of a regional trail, enhancing Sweezy’s Pond, collaborations with businesses/special interest groups and a community scout team to visit other parks for ideas.


McCann outlined the process to a final Parks & Recreation Plan; evaluate the facilities, set a timetable for capital improvements, set goals and objectives on grants and develop an action plan and capital spending schedule.


A draft plan will then be developed for the council to review, followed by a 30-day period for citizen’s review and comment with a Feb. 1, 2109 deadline for the final document.

The public input meeting was part of information gathering which includes an on-line survey at:


Survey respondents so far have identified the top five needs in recreation as fitness programs, winter sports, fitness classes, arts and dance and summer camps. The five most used recreational activities named in the survey are mostly provided by the YMCA. McCann noted that an updated five year master plan is required to apply for federal and state DNR grants.










Photo: (from left) Dave Tossava, Rick Moore and Lee Hays pick the suggetions they feel are most needed for parks and recreation in Hastings.


New York woman dies in two-car crash in Orange Township

A young New York woman was killed and a St. Johns man injured in a two-car crash at 6:04 a.m. tuesday morning at the intersection of David and Keefer highways in Orange Township, according to an Ionia County Sheriff’s media release.


Preliminary investigation revealed that a 2008 Honda Civic driven by a 20-year-old woman from New York was traveling north bound on Keefer Highway when she disregarded the stop sign at David Highway.


A Dodge Ram 2500 pickup driven by Kevin Coffman, 28, from St. Johns, was westbound on David Highway; his pickup struck the Honda on the passenger side. The 20-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Coffman was transported to Sparrow Ionia Hospital for his injuries.   


The identity of the woman is not being released at this time to allow family to be notified. Seatbelts were in use at the time of the crash; alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor. 

Berlin/Orange Fire Department, Ionia County Central Dispatch, Portland Ambulance, Lehman’s Funeral Home, and Reed and Hoppes Towing assisted sheriff’s deputies on scene.



Committee formed to build ice rink, recreation complex in Hastings

The Hastings Area Recreational Complex Advisory Committee has been formed and continues work started toward an ice skating rink and complex for the community to use for recreation and family and business events at Tyden Park for 365 days a year.


Proposed by Hastings Councilman Bill Redman, he researched permanent roofed ice rinks and has put the wheels in motion for an ice skating rink on the basketball courts at Tyden Park that could also be used in the summer for tennis and basketball, weddings, reunions, birthday parties, business meetings and, “any other group activity the community wants.”

In the winter, any day it’s below 45 degrees, they can make ice for skating. “I’d like to see a hockey team here,” he said.


The total cost is an estimated $6.5 million. Redman has a pledge of $200,000 from an anonymous donor, “when we reach $1 million, there will be another $300, 000,” he said.


“We have a lot of hurdles to go over, we have to be incorporated and get 501c3 status,” Redman said. “When we get them back, we can go full bore. This is for all county residents; we’ll hold meetings for the public to let them know this is a county effort; this is yours, too.”


After the facility is built, there will be moderate fees to pay for expenses. Every city he visited with an ice rink broke even on expenses, he said. He found there were 100 covered ice rinks in Michigan.


The committee will keep the public up on its progress by social media, ads, and the city’s website and public service announcements. Also, they plan on fund raisers and donations. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation may have grants available; if so, those funds will be administered by the City of Hastings. Other funds and donations raised will be administered by the Barry Community Foundation, he said.


Committee members are Redman, president; Julie Fox, secretary; Courtney Stonehouse, treasurer; Carl Schoessel, Mike Moyle, Jon Sporer and Travis Alden.


Hastings Cops vs. Cadets football game cancelled, will be rescheduled

The Hastings Cops vs Cadets flag football game,scheduled for saturday was cancelled due to inclement weather and additional injuries to the cop’s roster, Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.

The game will be rescheduled when the cops are healthy and the weather cooperates a bit more, Pratt said.


Hastings newest police officer part of department's commitment to community

Hastings newest police officer, Julissa Kelly, has three years experience and comes to Hastings from the Kalamazoo Township Police Department. Now in a 14-week training program that is part of a year’s probation, Kelly lives in Middleville with her accountant husband, Tim.


Kelly decided to switch her career path in college when she determined that aerospace engineering was not her calling, that policing better fit her, “personality-wise.” A graduate of the police academy at Kalamazoo Community College, she never re-considered the decision. “I knew what I signed up for. Our class was large, 32 people; only two dropped out.”


Areas Kelly is interested in applying for after probation are working with kids in school liaison, or as an instructor in field training, fire arms, or defensive tactics. “We’ll try to match our needs and her desires," Chief Jeff Pratt said. “She has to fall into a regular schedule of hours and shifts…we’ll find something.”


Kelly already fits in with department’s commitment to community policing. Hastings is more community-oriented than her last position with more activities available, she said. “I like watching people; they’re very interesting…I like the atmosphere here; the city is well run and well maintained. I used to hang out here…and I have family in the area.”


On the job since Oct.10, she has already been recruited to play in the Cops vs. Cadets flag football game this Sunday.


Part of her training will be learning the Hastings Police Department’s ways, Pratt said. “Every police department is different, our systems, procedures, the streets.”

Kelly said she’s ready. “I have a year on probation to learn all I need to know.”


Photo: Hasting’s newest police officer, Julissa Kelly



Barry County Sheriff's Sergeant Stevens to serve Middleville

Thornapple Kellogg High School graduate Sgt. Tim Stevens from the Barry County Sheriff’s Office has been assigned to serve Middleville residents, according to Sheriff Dar Leaf.


“We have a contract with Middleville for police protection, a full time sergeant is part of that,” Leaf said. “We like to keep sergeants there for some time for continuity."


Stevens will be out and about in the community, work with village officials and manage road patrol deputies who work in the village for varying lengths of time. He replaces Sgt. Rob Horrmann who has served the village for two years.




  Sgt. Tim Stevens


RV's, mobile home, vehicles, boat at South Division businesses set on fire

Arson fires set at four locations along South Division this morning started at 7:24 a.m. at 6150 South Division and ended at 8:11 a.m. at 7144 South Division, a Kent County Sheriff’s media release said.


The fires began at Preferred Mobile Homes with a modular home started on fire that did not sustain significant damage before being extinguished.


Then, two vehicles were ignited at Big Ray’s Oil Change and both appear to be complete losses.


Next, a boat was lit on fire at Cutlerville Small Engine Repair at approximately 7:54 a.m. and finally, the back of an RV was burned at Veurink’s RV at 8:11 a.m. that caused significant damage.


An apparent lone suspect described as a white man with short hair wearing a maroon jacket, dark pants, and a blue backpack is a person of interest in the fires.

There were no injuries reported and residents are asked to remain vigilant as the suspect is still outstanding.

Anyone with information is asked to call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.



Assistant clerk/treasurer/director of finance hired in Hastings

Jane Saurman started this week as assistant city clerk/treasurer/director of finance for the City of Hastings.

“I was looking for something more than just a job, I was looking for a team, more than a position…It’s awesome when you get the perfect job and the perfect staff. After the first interview, I was sure I had found it. Personally, I’m a collaborator.”


“I love Hastings. My girls were in Jazz Fest; we’d come to town, wander the streets.  It’s a nice town that needs to more publicity to show it off.” Saurman said she feels welcomed by the Hastings city team; she has connections to City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Police Chief Jeff Pratt and Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki, either through family members, professional contacts or college. She plans to end her career here.


She is friendly, open, smiles often and seems relaxed stepping into a job about as complicated as it gets, clerk/treasurer/director of finance, likely because she has an extensive background in all the facets of her new position.

Not intimidated by the stacks of papers piled high where she is working at Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance Jerry Czarnecki’s desk and overflowing on the tables behind her, she smiles and said she will develop her own style of document management as she goes.


A West Michigan native, Saurman comes from a family where her mother and father directed their children’s education in math and computer skills to possible careers. Father was a teacher; mother a stay-at-home mom who opened her own business when the children went out on their own.


Her husband, Phillip, is a CPA. Four children; two girls, two boys, all college graduates, complete their family.


A governmental auditor for municipalities and schools for 25 years, she said the first task this week is for her, Czarnecki and the staff, to fill out a single-spaced page and a half of questions from the city auditor. The process is easier if you give the auditors complete answers to all of their questions, meaning there will be no follow up questions to be answered, she said.  With her knowledge and confidence with audits, her coming in this week, “diffused any stress for the financial staff,” she said.


Her focus when dealing with taxpayer dollars is simple. “My philosophy is to protect it, it’s their money.  I consider myself to be a good steward of taxpayer’s money; I try to improve office procedures to save money, maximize the dollars… get the biggest bang for the buck.”


She earned degrees in business administration from Grand Rapids Community College and Lake Superior State University. Her first position was as treasurer of the City of Kentwood. For seven years, she was Firm Administrator and Governmental Auditor in her husband’s firm before becoming a Senior Governmental Consultant at Hungerford Nichols CPA & Advisors from 1998 to 2017.


From 2017 to now, she was Chief Financial officer for Kent District Library. A member of several state and local financial associations, she also holds offices in several community organizations.


According to the timetable on a letter of agreement with the city, Saurman will be Assistant Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance until January 14, 2019, when she is expected to become the Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance.


On the same day, Czarnecki, will be appointed Deputy City Manager/Special Project Coordinator and will work with City Manager Jeff Mansfield until his resignation, effective June 30, when Czarnecki will become Hastings City Manager.


Photo: Assistant Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance Jane Saurman


Eastern Equine Encephalitis found in deer in Barry County

Earlier this month, a white-tailed deer with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) was identified and euthanized in Barry County, the second deer found in the state in 2018.  The Barry Eaton District Health Department said the disease is not easily spread between animals or between animals and humans, but humans can get EEE through the bite of an infected mosquito.


Most, 95 to 96 percent of cases of human EEE, do not cause any symptoms, and less than one percent develop serious illness. However, it is potentially serious and symptoms include fever, weakness, and muscle and joint pain. Anyone who experiences the symptoms should seek medical attention and contact a healthcare provider.


More severe illness can cause swelling of the brain and surrounding tissues. Anyone can be affected by EEE, but persons over age 60 and under age 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease.


Those who spend time outdoors can protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long pants and sleeves and using DEET repellent. Remove buckets or other items outside your home that can hold standing water where mosquitoes breed.  Inspect window screens and repair any holes to keep mosquitoes out of the home. Mosquitoes can survive until there is more consistent frost.  


The first infected deer was found in Cass County in September; there has been one human case of EEE in Michigan in 2018, in Allegan County.


For more information, visit Also, domestic horses can be vaccinated by a veterinarian. Anyone who sees a deer exhibiting strange behavior or appears to be sick should avoid handling or consuming the animal and visit to report the observation.


For questions on sick domestic animals such as horses, livestock, or pets, contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture at 517-373-1077.



Look for ghosts and goblins at Charlton Park's All Hallows Eve

Grab your favorite costume and join the staff and volunteers at Historic Charlton Park for an afternoon of family-friendly fun at All Hallows Eve, Saturday, Oct. 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Visitors can enjoy trick or treating in the Historic Village (please bring your own treat bag), an autumn-themed maze on the Village Green, pumpkin painting, balloons, and more. 


Prizes are awarded for best costume in a variety of categories. Take a wagon ride and view the Park in its fall splendor.  Refreshments will be served, including popcorn balls, donuts & cider. 


“During All Hallows Eve, our goal is to provide fabulous fall fun for all ages in a safe environment. If you love Halloween and costumes of all sorts, we hope to see you next Saturday,” Park Director Dan Patton said.  “Community outreach events are one of the park’s strategic initiatives and we look forward to hosting an afternoon of celebration for our local residents.”


The cost is $4 for those 13 and up. Children 12 and younger are free, but must be accompanied by an adult. Plenty of free parking is available.  For more, visit  Historic Charlton Park is located between Hastings and Nashville, north of M-79 at 2545 Charlton Park Road. 















 A winning Halloween costume at an earlier All Hallows Eve.



Barry County Transit starts $1 to $1.3million in renovations, improvements

The Barry County Transit is moving ahead with a major improvement project that includes a 2,950 square foot addition to the bus garage, a 1,160 square foot addition to the dispatch center, renovation of existing office space and expanded parking lot with the total cost of $1 to $1.3 million to come from transit funds.


Transit Manager Bill Voigt said soil borings are scheduled for Oct 31. After that, he plans to look at final design renderings with Bob Van Putten, president of Landmark Design Group. Voigt said the plans are to break ground in early spring of 2019 and complete the project in the fall of the year.


“A lot of these are things we would have to do anyway,” Voigt said, “but, I’m excited to be moving ahead.” Voigt had led the transit into several new areas of service and said he will continue to look for more ways to serve the public. “We’re happy to be part of the Barry County community.”


In May, he sought permission from county commissioners to make the improvements.

However, commissioersn had just started planning for a new county jail and needed an appraisal of the property the transit shares with the jail before they could move ahead, and tabled his request. Commissioners approved moving the project forward last month.




Yard debris pickup starts in Hastings next week (amended)

It’s that time of year again! 

The city crews will start our annual compostable yard debris cleanup on Oct. 29.  Since the leaves are slow to fall this year, we will start by picking up small brush and limbs.  Please place your materials on the grassy area immediately behind the curb.  Please do not place them in the street where they can create a traffic hazard. 


We will begin picking up leaves as soon as the majority of them have fallen from the trees.  We start leaf pickup as early as possible each year to try to get them all collected prior to the first snowfall.  We will make additional passes through town to collect material, if weather permits.  But please get your leaves out by the street as soon as possible.      


There will be an announcement on WBCH radio each weekday morning telling citizens where the work crews are located and the area that will be covered that day, as well as the tentative area crews will cover the next day.


The city's Compostable Materials Site, 1303 West State Road, accepts grass clippings, leaves, flowers, small limbs under 3 inches in diameter, and brush. The materials must come from properties located within the city limits.


Compost Materials Site hours:

Monday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Tuesday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Wednesday: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Thursday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

First and third Saturday: 7 a.m. – 11 a.m.




Barry County Commission: Failure to communicate or communication failure?

A scolding of Barry County Commissioners by a Crooked Lake resident Tuesday may have been unearned. Deb Englehardt  blasted commissioners for ignoring her e-mails asking them to attend a meeting on the flooding on the lake. Englehardt said Commissioner Heather Wing responded, saying she would be unable to attend and Commissioner David Jackson did attend.


“He thought it was important enough to come,” she said. “Shame on you,” she said to the other commissioners. "You didn’t come to a meeting (on what) you called a crisis months ago.”

However, commissioners may have been victims of computer problems. The ones that didn’t respond to her said they didn’t get any e-mails from her to respond to.


With a little research, Commission Chairman Ben Geiger found a likely cause for the problem. “Due to system upgrades, commissioners had limited or no access to official email accounts for a period of time,” he said.


The missing e-mails weren’t the only negative comments the panel heard Tuesday.

Two frequent critics of the commission, Elden Shellenbarger and George Hubka, called the commissioners to task over last week’s meeting where tempers had flared.  Hubka said the meeting topped a reality show and Shellenbarger likened commissioners to spoiled kids in a sand box acting like babies.



UPDATE: Suspect arraigned on charges in July crash that killed newlyweds

A suspect in a July 17 traffic crash that killed a young newlywed couple and injured another man has been arrested and arraigned, according to an Allegan County Sheriff’s media release.


Jacob Scot Damron, 21, (left) with no address listed, was arraigned Tuesday, Oct. 23.The Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office issued charges of operating while intoxicated causing death and reckless driving causing death for Logan Allbaugh, the same charge for Hannah Kwekel and a third charge of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury and reckless driving causing serious injury to Duane McDonald.

Damron is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon.



ORIGINAL STORY: Young newlyweds die in three car crash in Allegan County

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate a three-car traffic crash that caused the death of a young Holland man and his wife of two weeks, according to a sheriff’s new release.


Deputies and Medical First Responders report the newlywed couple, Logan Thunderland Allbaugh 24, from Holland, and his wife, Hannah Mae Kwekel 22, from Zeeland, were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of another car suffered minor injuries, the third driver was uninjured.


Through witness statements and preliminary reconstruction, officials learned that a single occupant vehicle westbound on 128th Avenue failed to yield for the stop sign striking the northbound vehicle with the young couple, sending it into the southbound lane of Lincoln Road, where it was struck by another vehicle. 


The crash occurred Tuesday (July 17) at 3:45 p.m. at the intersection of 128th Avenue and Lincoln Road (M-40) in Heath Township in Allegan County.


Michigan State Police, Hamilton and Saugatuck fire departments, AMR, Ottawa and Eaton County sheriff’s offices and the Holland City Police Department assisted deputies.



Snow is coming, so is Hastings ban on 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. parking

Winter in Michigan features lots of snow and the task of keeping city streets clear for vehicles.

In anticipation of the usual winter weather, the Hastings Police Department will start enforcing the ban on parking on city streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov 9,, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter said today.

“Right now we’re handing out little yellow ‘keys to the city’ on cars. They’re not citations, they’re just a friendly reminder that it’s going to happen,”  Boulter said. “On Nov. 9, the keys will turn into citations.”


Dates to remember for area residents

Lots of things are going on in the next week or two. Here are a few:


Saturday, Oct. 27, the Hastings Police will be at the front door of Walgreens in Hastings for a takeback medicine event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Black out the name and other identifying information on containers of unused or out-of-date medicine and give it to the police who will dispose of it properly. Some medicines are generally not accepted at an event; needles, asthma inhalers, mercury thermometers, illicit drugs (including marijuana) or medications obtained illegally. Check with the officer at Walgreens.


Sunday, Oct. 28, the annual Cops vs Cadets flag football game is set for 1 p.m. at the Hastings High School football stadium.



Tuesday, Oct. 30, public opinion is being sought at 6 p.m. meeting at the Barry County 911 community room on current and future recreational facilities in the county. Officials are looking for ideas and suggestions for the Charlton Park and Barry County Parks & Recreation five year Master Plan. The plan is required by the DNR to qualify for state and federal grants.


Wednesday, Oct. 31 (Halloween) the city will close Green Street again to have a safe and secure place for kids to threaten homeowners with “Trick or Treat!”

The Hastings Police Department will again pass out hot chocolate and other goodies for the kids.


Saturday, Nov. 3, Hastings City Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for those who qualify to apply for absentee ballots so the city has time get them in the mail and to the voters. You may also vote right at city hall, Clerk Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki said.


Sunday, Nov. 4, clocks will be turned back one hour, leading to darkness at about 5:30 p.m. Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt asks drivers to be aware of the earlier nightfall and watch for others who are out and about.


Tuesday, Nov. 6, don’t forget to vote in the mid-term election.


Hastings residents are reminded that burning in the city requires a permit and to call Fire Chief Roger Caris before you burn




Hastings Cops vs Cadets football game is Sunday

This Sunday, Oct. 28, the Cops vs. Cadets flag football game will be played at the Hastings High School Football stadium with kick off at 1 p.m.


Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said it would be a grudge match with some anger issues, probably because the police officers lost to the Hastings Police Cadets last year and would not reveal the results of any prior games.


Sgt. Kris Miller, who has a non-football related rotator cuff injury, won’t play this year, instead will be the officers Mark Dantonio on the sidelines. Pratt speculated they may have lost last year because Miller did not play up to par, but that’s not what Miller says.


For his part, Pratt, who says he probably should be on concussion protocol, will direct the kick off and then take on the huge responsibility of toting the water bucket. The cadets and cops enjoy a friendly rivalry over the game, with the cadets bringing it up several times during the year, Pratt said.

“Over and over and over, they bring it up…But, really, it is fun and we always invite any current or past cadet to play in the game. We’re all looking forward to it.”



Barry County ad hoc committee to look at Barry Eaton District Health department budget

An issue that caused angst, raised voices and criticism of Barry County Commissioners last week (see last week’s story), was unanimously approved this week with just one comment.


At issue was a proposal from Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson to set up an ad hoc committee of three commissioners to look into the finances of the Barry Eaton District Health Department and the feasibility of establishing a separate Barry County Health Department.


The motion was to form the committee with Commissioners Dan Parker, Heather Wing and Jon Smelker to talk to the health department about its budget, allot $6,000 for professional help like a CPA if they needed to, and report back to the board in writing by Dec. 31.


Commissioner Dave Jackson, who spoke against the plan last week, said it would be a good opportunity for the committee to learn about the health department, but wondered if they would have enough time to get answers they needed if they had to hire someone before the end of the year and with the holidays coming up. He suggested they give the committee past the end of the year to continue working.


“We have no authority to appoint any committees; we can only take actions before our terms end (after the Nov. 6 election) Commissioner and chair Ben Geiger said, because sitting commissioners cannot bind future commissions to any actions. “If the committee needs more time, the new commission would have to reappoint the committee.”//


Several volunteers to county committees and boards were approved:

*Joe Sancimino was selected to serve on both the Agriculture Promotion Board as well as the Parks & Recreation Board for partial terms ending Dec. 31, 2019.

*Sarah Nelson, representing the Conservation District, will sit on the Parks & Recreation Board for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

*Jerry Czarnecki, from the City of Hastings, and Steve Essling (reappointed), from the recycling industry, will serve on the Solid Waste Oversight Committee until Oct. 31, 2021.

*Jack Miner will serve on the Planning Commission for a partial term ending March 31, 2021.

Commissioner Vivian Conner objected to not having the candidates vote results in the minutes of last week’s meeting. Commissioners voted with slips of paper on a magnetic board and, “there’s no record saying who got what… it should reflect the vote for the record.” Geiger said it was a consensus of the board and the motion at the end of the appointments was sufficient.


The commission also approved;

*Fiscal Year 2019 grant contracts for the court’s specialty programs; Adult Drug Court, 56B District Sobriety Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Office of Community Corrections and Juvenile Drug Court.


*a Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation (PA 116) request from Boyd and Lydia Endsley for property in Section 18 of Castletown Township.


*the Barry County 2018 Apportionment report with the local tax rates to allow collection of taxes.


*a request from county employee Robert Horrmann to buy one year of service with Michigan Employees  Retirement System foe $25,846 to meet early retirement requirements.




Two hurt in intersection crash in Ionia County

Ionia County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a two-vehicle personal injury accident Monday about 3:51 p.m. on East Tuttle Road at Kelsey Highway, a sheriff’s media release said.

Deputies report a 46-year-old Lansing woman driving a Honda Accord did not stop for the stop sign on East Tuttle Road and proceeded westbound through the intersection.


A 46-year-old Saranac man driving a Chevrolet Silverado northbound on Kelsey Highway struck the Honda as it went through the intersection. The drivers of both vehicles were taken to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries.


The Ionia Department of Public Safety, Life EMS, Reed and Hoppes Towing and Ionia County Central Dispatch assisted deputies.













Photo of damaged vehicle courtesy of Ionia County Sheriff’s Office





Hastings Council deals with zoning, land use issues

The Hastings City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance to rezone five parcels along and near Woodlawn Avenue from AO-Apartment-Office, R-1 and R1A One Family Residential to A-1 Apartment. A request from Ravenna Holdings to the planning commission to rezone a parcel at 600 East Woodlawn Avenue for multi-family development was broadened to reflect land development patterns in the area.


In a land use decision, the council granted a request from Steven and Jeff Storrs for an extension of Country Club Drive and a cul-de-sac at the northern end of the street to provide fire department access. The Storrs agreed to grant a 66 foot right-of-way across the southern part of the property that would allow for city utility work and street extensions.


Storrs brought drawings of the area that showed “the city has owned the ROW since 1988,” but Mansfield said city records don’t show that they own it  and they would like to get it legally cleared up as soon as possible.


The drive is gravel and without city services so property owners would be responsible for upkeep of the road. The Storrs plan to build two houses on the property.


In other business, the council:


*awarded a contract to Pure Fence for $56,643 for fencing and installation as recommended by the Riverside Cemetery Advisory Board. Public Services Director Lee Hays said they reached out to the public for their opinions, and they wanted the fence back, so he recommended the contract.


*awarded a contract to CSZ Services for $6,000 for contracted assessing services as recommended by Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki. With city Assessor Jackie Timmerman unable to come into the office, the city is paying the firm to work with the assistant assessor for November and December and in the interim, will try to figure out what direction they will take after the first of the year.


*went into closed session to consult with an attorney in about litigation to do with the Hastings Dog Park



Hastings Council approves emergency transitional housing

The Hastings City Council Tuesday approved an emergency and transitional group housing ordinance in most zoning districts near the city’s downtown by special use permit. Planning Commision Chairman David Hatfield was at the meeting, as he was at the last meeting, to answer questions.


Originally to permit temporary housing for qualified inmates being released from Barry County Jail, it was broadened by the commission to include other forms of temporary group housing for others facing other needs or emergencies, Hatfield said at the first reading.

With special uses, the commission can establish conditions and controls for each facility and its use.


Hatfield said as they were working on the ordinance since the original request from Judge Amy McDowell about six months ago, they were creating too many specifics, so developed general guidelines.


As a special use, they can look at specifics on any proposal. Each applicant will be specifically judged on the merits of the specifics by the planning commission, he said.

Rebecca Harvey of McKenna provided a memo addressing several of the concerns which came to light for the second reading.


Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange, who questioned  the special use procedures at the first reading, said she appreciated the information provided.”It was just what I wanted.” 


Councilman Don Bowers asked Hatfield said there are all kinds of former inmates and asked if neighbors would be notified if a child molester was moving in. There public hearings as one of the steps by the commission, but safeguards are in place to prevent anyone that would not be compatible with the neighborhood, Hatfield said.


“The commission will look at every proposal … and if they propose a certain population, they can’t change it after they get in” he said. City Manager Jeff Mansfield pointed out there were many other uses and types who might apply, but the commission will put conditions on each one.

Councilwoman Therese Maupin-Moore asked how they would verify compliance; Hatfield responded: “We do whatever we need to; we have several ways to oversee.”


Some of the special use provisions are to maintain the appearance of a one-family dwelling with nothing to identify it as transitional or emergency housing, approval by a building inspector, no activities that would be detrimental to neighbors, the right to review on-site management, the number of people to occupy the dwelling at one time, the size of rooms, and all applications are submitted to the police and fire departments for review and comment.





DEQ to hold public information meeting on Bradford White's withdrawn mixing-zone requests

Bradford White Company, a Middleville based water heater manufacturer, withdrew its requests for calculation of mixing zone-based groundwater-surface water interface criteria, and the DEQ cancelled the formal public comment period, David Wierzbicki, with the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division said in a new release.


However, due to the interest expressed by the public, the DEQ will host a public information meeting regarding the requests on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Thornapple Kellogg High School Auditorium located at 3885 Bender Road, Middleville,” Wierzbicki said.


The meeting agenda includes one-on-one discussions with DEQ staff at 6 p.m. followed by the 6:30 p.m. public information meeting. Also, copies of documents from the DEQ's site will be available to the public at the Thornapple Kellogg Community Library at the High Schooll



Boil Water Advisory lifted in Vermontville

Residents of Vermontville are being notified that the recent boil water notice has been lifted.

It is no longer necessary to use bottled water or boil water before drinking it. 


No coliform bacteria have been detected in follow-up testing of the system’s water. This, in addition to treatment made to the system, indicates that the water is now safe to drink.

This was done as a precautionary measure;  the system did not contain any form of bacteria at any time.


Thank you for your patience as we worked through our system failure and the completion of the repair. Customers with questions or concerns about the water should contact Village of Vermontville Department of Public Works at 517-726-1444.




Barry County Jail, COA projects moving ahead

Earlier this year, the Barry County Board of Commissioners committed to bringing the community together to build a new county jail and COA building, the first step toward replacing the inadequate facilities.


Tower Pinkster Architects/Engineers has been selected by commissioners as consultants to facilitate the building project. The next step is for county Administrator Michael Brown and Tower Pinkster officials to draft a consulting Services Agreement for commissioners to approve.


Tower Pinkster proposes developing a detailed space utilization program to find the needs of the jail and COA for years to come, develop planning documentation, budget information, and engage the community for support of the initiatives through bonding and work with the county through the voting process.


Tower Pinkster developed a Master Facilities Plan for the county in 2015 (see related story), and recommended the county build a new jail and COA. Tower Pinkster’s process is similar to the earlier facilities plan. They will review the information they have on file for the jail and COA before on-site visits.


The county will appoint a steering committee of community leaders. Working with the steering committee, county staff, administration, and with public input, Tower Pinkster plans to develop options for the projects for county officials, “that will show a clear vision forward.”


The firm will gather data, update the assessment report, inspect the facilities and do walk-throughs, and compare the cost of modifications and renovations against the cost of building new.

The steering committee and officials will be involved in meetings, tours of the facilities and visioning sessions.


Tower Pinkster will provide concept site plan options for both facilities; the options will be reviewed and a final concept selected. The firm has outlined an information campaign on a bond plan to fund the projects that includes community forums, use of social media and frequently asked questions.




A look back: Tower Pinkster's jail, COA recommendations in 2015

In 2105, Tower Pinkster was hired by Barry County to develop a Master Facilities Plan for a long term plan for the buildings it owns. The firm studied 12 county buildings and produced a plan and facilities assessment, delivered to the county commission in April, 2015.


The assessments and recommendations taken from the 2015 plans are on the jail and COA building only.


Tower Pinkster said the jail was in poor shape, with systems beyond their useful lives, antiquated security systems and hardware difficult to maintain. The building was sound, but did not allow for modifications or flexibility for any future use.


Work stations were undersized and overall space of staff was undersized for programs, services, kitchen, laundry, warehouse, commissary, maintenance and housekeeping.


Lines of sight for monitoring inmates were compromised in several areas, as was the parking lot from the front desk. Daylight and air quality are inadequate, the 2015 report said.


As for a location for a new jail, the report said the present site’s size and location is an asset for future development; they did not recommend using a county owned piece of property on M-79 and Nashville Road. The premier operational location for the jail is to be attached to the courthouse, the assessment said.


A new jail should have 60,000 sq. ft. for administration, law enforcement and 150 inmate beds, and a 14,500 sq. ft. detached garage. The layout was mindful of energy efficiency, staffing operations and maintenance costs, the largest expenses of a jail. Built as a lock-up in 1970, the facility has had miscellaneous additions.



Tower Pinkster recommended building a new COA building adjacent to its present site. Built for a different purpose, deficiencies, improper drainage and functional obsolescence has led to deterioration to the structure and foundation.


They recommended an increase in adult day care space from one room to three, expanding the dining area to hold 50 people, more room for arts and crafts and the large meeting room and providing a staff break room and workshop area. 

A 20,000 sq. ft. single story COA facility was recommended, using the existing parking and adding more to the north after the present building is demolished.


In 2015, the cost of a new jail was set at $24.95 million; a new COA building, $4.55 million.

Municipal bonding backed by voter approved millage would be required to finance a new jail and COA.


Ionia County Courthouse to close from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 26 for employee training

The Ionia County Courthouse complex will be closed on Friday, Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. for a staff training exercise. The courthouse will be closed to the public during that time.


Those who would like to file their write-in campaign registration may file it at the Ionia City Hall at 114 North Kidd Street. Those with any other emergency matter that needs to come before the court may go to the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office at 133 East Adams Street and they will make contact with the court for them.


“We appreciate your cooperation in allowing this time for our staff to train. The courthouse will re-open at 4 p.m. for public business,” an Ionia County spokesperson said.


Caledonia attorney allegedly forged court documents

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a forgery complaint involving the actions of a Caledonia attorney, according to a media release.


The sheriff’s office received a complaint in September alleging that Attorney Timothy David Vandenberg, from Caledonia, had served several documents that were allegedly forged and presented as authentic court documents to litigants, the release said.


Vandenberg is accused of forging documents relating to parenting time and divorce cases. These documents were then fraudulently presented as legitimate court orders.


The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for Felony Forgery on Vandenberg on Oct. 12.

He has been arrested and arraigned in 63rd District Court and is free on bond. The investigation is ongoing.

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


Barry Commission interview volunteers for committees, hears more about health department

The Barry County Commission committee of the whole recommended several citizens who volunteered to serve on county committees and commissions Tuesday.


Citizen Joe Sancimino was selected to serve on both the Agriculture Promotion Board as well as the Parks & Recreation Board for partial terms ending Dec. 31, 2019.


Sarah Nelson, representing the Conservation District, will sit on the Parks & Recreation Board for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2020.


Jerry Czarnecki, from the City of Hastings, and Steve Essling (reappointed), from the recycling industry, will serve on the Solid Waste Oversight Committee until Oct. 31, 2021. Jack Miner will serve on the Planning Commission for a partial term until March 31, 2021.


In other business, the commission recommended the full board:


*approve the Fiscal Year 2019 grant contracts for the court’s specialty programs; Adult Drug Court, 56B District Sobriety Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Office of Community Corrections and Juvenile Drug Court.


* appprove a Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation (PA 116) application for Boyd and Lydia Endsley for property in section 18 of Castletown Township.

* approve  the Barry County 2018 Apportionment report with the local tax rates, to allow collection of taxes.


In the final public comment time, several spoke on the earlier discussion and action by the commission on the Barry Eaton District Health Department.


Cathy Young-Gramze said a visit to the BEDHD website showed of the last seven events, three were for Eaton Rapids, three were with Lansing-Tri County and one for Barry County, the emergency Hep A inoculation program.


Young-Gramze said 50 years ago, even 20 years ago, Eaton and Barry counties were similar. Eaton County is now a bedroom community for Lansing, Barry is mostly rural.

“The interests of Barry County have diverged from Eaton; we really do need to investigate the feasibility of having our own health department,” she said.


Jim Enrietti said he had heard the insinuation that there were a handful of people “stirring the pot” about the health department. “If you think there are only seven people, get out into the townships.”

Commenting in the previous discussion, he said: “Maybe some of us are glad we haven’t marked our ballots yet.” The health department is not on the front burner yet, but it’s on the back burner and its bubbling, he said.  


Larry Bass said in his experience, it’s like pulling teeth to get information from the department about the department. Freedom of Information Act requests are, “flat out denied,” or have exorbitant fees attached; one that comes to mind is $3,273, he said.


Demographics are vastly different; Eaton is 70 percent urban, and dominated by Delta Township, Barry is 78 percent rural, Bass said. The three Barry County Commissioners were advised to look at it more objectively and stop looking at the department as if it is a “sacred cow.”

“All we want from the health department is answers; we want to get answers, otherwise, it will continue on the front burner.”


Citizen Jack Miner echoed Bass, saying “All we want is good solid answers with number attached.”  He predicted if they get answers, “it will not be on the back burner, it will put it in the back yard.”


Sparks fly, advice given at Barry County Commission meeting

The Barry County Commision meeting Tuesday was routine until the last agenda item; Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson’s request for a study of the Barry Eaton District Health Department to look at its budget and the feasibility of establishing an independent Barry County Health Department.


“When I saw they had $100,000 in mileage, it got my attention. If we had one of our own, it would be half as much," Gibson said.


An ad hoc committee of three commissioners was appointed to look into Gibson’s request, but not before sparks flew and personal comments were made. Commissioners David Jackson and Chair Ben Geiger argued against using staff time and resources to study the proposal when they already have the jail and COA projects on their plates.


Gibson said an ad hoc committee had minimum costs and worked well with the officer’s compensation study.


“it goes against common sense,” that they are qualified on their own to deal with the huge scope of the health department’s unfunded liability, budget, staffing requirements and health department programs, Jackson said.


Jackson said the department is financially stable, its budget increased just $10,000 in the last ten years, yet some commissioners, “continue to hammer away at the health department like it’s failing, that they’re not doing their job…it’s a nationally credited health department.”


Gibson started to say he wasn’t looking forward to spending a million dollars on mileage when Geiger gaveled him silent.

“This issue is emotional,” Geiger said, “and I’m trying to contain my disappointment for using the health department for political reasons.”

He would work with those who wanted to save money, “maybe next spring when the jail thing is behind us...” he said.


Visibly agitated with his voice rising, Geiger continued: “But, those who want use the health department as a political punching bag before November 6, we have more important stuff to do.”


”What I’m not going to do, if I’m sitting in this chair next year, I’m not putting together a kangaroo court  to come up with a political solution to the health department. That’s not what we’re elected to do and I’m not going to go down that road.”


Gibson said “So you're  saying…” to be gaveled into silence again.

“I’m saying I’m talking” Geiger said, “to put this behind us until the staff is in a position where they can do something….”


“There is only one person on this board with political aspirations and we know who it is,” Commissioner Jon Smelker said to Geiger. ”You just remember that.” //


Commissioner Vivian Conner objected to Geiger: “You gaveled Dave and Hoot’s conversation because it is too emotional and then you go on and accuse people of doing it for political purposes before the November 6 election. Then when they tried to talk, you gaveled them again,” she said.


“I was finishing my statement,” Geiger said.

“But, you gaveled them again,” she said.

“I thought the discussion was going off the rails,” he replied.


Conner persisted: “That’s what we do here, we discuss is emotional; we know it’s out there…it’s not a political thing, it’s out there, people are talking about it.”


Commissioner Dan Parker, who sits on the Health Board with Geiger and Jackson, said there might be ways to save taxpayers money.  “But there’s a matter of trust here and it’s because people are not going to the health board and asking direct questions and getting direct answers. “If they are not getting direct answers, then I’d like to get involved with it.”


Conner thanked Parker for the “constructive, kind and fair way,” he gave his views.

She then turned to Jackson and Geiger. “You two are always throwing out little jabs, personal pet peeves; you guys are the leaders; when our constituents come to us and ask us what’s going on, we have the right to do it, it is not micromanagement. You have to be professional too, and not use those little tag lines…”


Commissioner Heather Wing said she hears about the health department at every township meeting she attends. People ask when she is going to look at it, and, “it’s not always hostile.”  The commission should, “not kick the can down the road... we should look at it,” she said.


Geiger agreed to find an independent firm to look into it after Tower Pinkster, the consulting company for the new jail and COA, has a schedule set.


Conner suggested that Geiger, “use the gavel a little more fairly, not just to silence someone who disagrees with you.”

“Okay, this is getting too emotional,” Geiger said. “But we have consensus that we are going to look at what’s best for our taxpayers, but now is not the time.”


Smelker made a motion for three commissioners (Wing, Parker and himself) to look into the health department budget and report back to the commission before the end of the year. The motion passed 6-1, with Jackson dissenting.


Geiger later apologized to Gibson and Conner if he had come on too strong.

“Thank you for that,” Conner said

“I’m used to it,” Gibson said.


UPDATE: Caledonia woman seriously hurt in traffic crash with cement truck

UPDATE: The Kent County Sheriff’s Department has identified those involved in a 1:47 p.m. crash yesterday between a car and a cement-mixing truck. Colleen Koetsier, 51, of Caledonia was driving the Buick; Corey Hunt, 63 from Grand Rapids was the driver of the Advance cement-mixing truck.


ORIGINAL STORY: The Kent County Sheriff Department was dispatched to a serious personal injury accident at 92nd and Kalamazoo Avenue.S.E.  today, according to a sheriff’s news release.

Preliminary investigation showed that a 2002 Buick was westbound on 92nd Street and either stopped or rolled through the stop sign.


A northbound cement-mixing truck swerved in an attempt to avoid the collision, however, it did strike the westbound  car. The driver of the Buick sustained serious injuries and was transported to Metro Health via AMR Ambulance. The cement mixer rolled over and the driver sustained minor injuries.


The sheriff’s department was assisted at the scene by Michigan State Police Motor Carrier, AMR Ambulance, Life EMS, and Dutton and Cutlerville fire departments.


NOTICE: Vermontville residents under a Boil Water Advisory

The Village of Vermontville's water system lost pressure and bacterial contamination may have occurred, so residents are being told to boil their water before using it.


Residents are advised to bring water it to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice, washing dishes or preparing food.  Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.


Residents should continue using boiled or bottled water until further notice, likely several days. The village will inform residents when tests show no bacteria and the water is safe to drink and there will be no need to boil water.


Village officials ask that those who get the notice share the information with other people who drink the water, especially those who may not have received the notice directly; people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses, They also may post the notice in a public place or distribute copies by hand or mail.


Measures are currently being undertaken to correct the situation. The loss of water pressure in the water system was caused by a water tower inspection and two water main breaks on Oct. 15.


Pressure has been restored, and Department of Public Works staff will be taking other remedial actions such as flushing and collecting bacteriological samples from around the system to determine that the water quality meets the state drinking water standards.


They anticipate resolving the problem within three days when testing from the DEQ is received. Bacteria are generally not harmful and are common throughout our environment, however, whenever a water system loses pressure for any significant length of time, precautionary measures are taken.


For more information, contact the DPW at 517-726-1444 or 194 South Main Street. P.O. Box K, Vermontville MI 49096.


General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1(800) 426-4791.


Report: Protection of Barry County computer data paramount

David Shinavier, Barry County information technology (IT) and geographic information system (GIS) coordinator gave county commissioners a report on the state of the county’s information technology system last week.


Led by Shinavier, the staff includes Rose Anger, half time GIS tech, half time appraiser; Aaron Staines, network administrator and Matt Ward, desktop technician.

Computers came to the mapping department in 1991, hiring an IT/GIS coordinator in in 1999. From the mid- 2000’s the computer service expanded to other county agencies “with good steady growth,” including the sheriff’s office, county courts, COA, transit, Charlton Park, animal shelter, central dispatch and in 2017, the road commission.


The computer system has about 650 devices it supports, Shinavier said. The county website, was outsourced to in 2016, with a five -year agreement and redesign at the end of the contract.


The website is visited about 600 times a day, Fetch about 300 hits a day and the clerk gets some 76 visits a day. Telephone/Internet service is provided by MEI for $600 a month, standard telephone service by AT&T for $1,800 a month and PRI internet by Iserv for $420 a month.

Protection of the computer system is paramount.


“This is what keeps us up at night,” Shinavier said: disaffected employees, viruses/malware, remote access, fire, water, sabotage, data loss, data integrity, public embarrassment, and loss of production.

The system as several levels of security, employee training and use policy, e-mail spam and virus filters that take out 70 to 85 percent of spam coming in, along with firewalls, endpoint scanners, subnetting, and security and backup policies.


“Foreign companies bombard our system…just twenty percent of the traffic is business,” he said.
They keep upgrading equipment and are always looking for upgrading standards.

Shinavier said the department had several points of emphasis: employee education/training, network security, incident response/mitigation, improving application stability, and increasing productivity.


The IT/LIS department is funded by the data processing fund; planned major projects include phone replacement in one to two years, new service to the jail and COA, a new server cluster in three or four years, backup drive in three to four years, and cloud apps and security enhancements, he said.

The county has a “significant investment” of $600,000 in computer assets in equipment right now, Shinavier said.




Armed gas station robbery foiled by manager, Allegan County deputies

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from the Village of Martin of an armed robbery at the Clark gas station about 8:40 p.m. Monday, according to a sheriff’s news release.


The robbery suspect showed a handgun and held the clerk and manager at gunpoint during the robbery.When he left the station, the manager chased after him and when he got into a vehicle, the manager followed in his car until the suspect was stopped and taken into custody.

He was arrested on several felony charges. His name will be released after he is arraigned.


The sheriff’s office was assisted by Plainwell Department of Public Safety, Michigan State Police and Otsego Police Department.











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