Local News

Hastings spring cleanup will start at North Boltwood Wednesday

The Hastings Department of Public Services crew will be on North Boltwood Street today, heading south to Mill Street and will then proceed north on Michigan Avenue.


A reminder from the DPS: Spring cleanup is completed on the south side of the Thornapple River.






Farmland, open space preservation program approved by Barry County Commission

The Barry County Farmland Preservation Ordinance, as amended, is meant to preserve agricultural lands by an easement; owners selling the developmental rights to their farm land in exchange for insuring the land would be used only for agriculture in perpetuity.


The Barry County Open Space Preservation Ordinance, as amended, is meant to protect open space land by the same type of easements, to preserve the rural character and scenic attributes of the county and its environmental benefits in perpetuity.


The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved the amendments in both programs by a 5-2 vote with Commissioners Vivian Conner and Jon Smelker voting “no.” Commissioners Ben Geiger, David Jackson, Dan Parker, Heather Wing and Howard “Hoot” Gibson voted “yes.”

In an earlier meeting, Conner said the seven member board is too heavily weighted with those with agriculture interests, and Smelker wouldn’t support it because the commissioner serving on the board does not have a vote.


Questions unanswered are an estimated cost to the county of the program, because it is not known how many county farms or open spaces would qualify and also where the county would find the funding.


In the voluntary program, state certified assessors determine the value of agricultural property when used for agricultural and the value of the property if sold for development. Property owners are paid the difference between the values and guarantee that the land would remain in agriculture forever, Stacy Byers, consultant with Sheridan Land Consulting said in a special commission meeting on the subject on April 11.


Applicants for easements are scored and ranked by points with several criteria, with the top-scoring land owners given appraisals, insuring the best agriculture land is preserved. The owner keeps all personal property rights and can sell the land, but it would always have to stay in agriculture, she said.


Various land preservation plans have been around since the 1970s,  and accelerated with a development surge of the 1980s and 1990s. The major stumbling block for the present plan is the lack of funds to pay for the development rights. Byers said there are several possibilities to obtain funding for easements; the federal and state government, townships, landowners and the county.


The open space ordinance mirrors the farm preservation component, with more emphasis on the environment, and is run by the same board. There is working and non-working land; any not working, not producing a product, is open space.  “It needs to have environmental value. It has to warrant an easement,” Byers said.


The name of the board is also changed from the Agriculture Promotion Board to the Barry County Conservation Easement Board.



Barry County employees receive recognition and kudos for their work

Ten Barry County employeeswere recognized Tuesday by the Barry County Commission for their attitudes and work for the county.  They have seniority from five to 25 years and several personality traits came up over and over during the presentations.


The honorees are April Staines, deputy register in the Barry County Register of Deeds Office; Amanda Miller, deputy clerk with the Barry County Courts; Bill Voigt, director of Barry County Transit; Aaron Staines, IT Department network administrator and Corrections Officers Eric Vanvalkenburg, Thomas Steensma, Melinda Backus and Deputy Don Wilgus and Det. Sgt. Janette Maki, all with the Barry County Sheriff’s Office and Mary Hermenitte, office manager at the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.


Presenting the awards, the employees were said to be positive, reliable, dedicated, professional, kind, patient, willing to help co-workers, willing to learn and knowledgeable team players witha  good sense of humor.


The commission also made decisions on several other matters.

In the consent agenda, the commissioners agreed to:

*appoint Kerri Selleck to a three-year term on the Community Mental Authority.

*appoint John LaForge to a three-year term on the Planning Commission.

*apply for FEMA Hazard Mitigation funds to update the expired county mitigation plan and issue requests for proposals.

*reassign a 2010 Ford Edge to the Planning Commission; sell a 2008 Dodge Charger to the highest bidder by sealed bid and sell a 2001 Chevy Astro for scrap.

*renew an agreement with MEI for an antenna on the radio tower at the sheriff’s office for three years for $24,500 annually.

*replace the part-time Property Records Clerk position in the Equalization Department  with a new full time Property Appraiser at Grade 6 on the pay scale and promote Ingrid Pagano to the position on April 29. Estimated salary and benefits is $57,831, an increase of $27,887 more than the salary and benefits of the Property Records Clerk.

*replace the GIS Technician/Residential Property Appraiser position with new IT Helpdesk/GIS Technician at grade 8 on the pay scale. Maximum needed for the remainder of 2019 for the position is $14,500. The estimated 2020 salary/benefits is $79,285 which may be less depending on health insurance cost, $4,316 more than the estimated salary and benefits of Grade 7.

*spend $25,000 from the Capital Improvement budget for heating/AC at the Animal Shelter Training Barn and to make necessary improvements to the interior of the barn.


Also, under items for consideration, the commission:

*authorized Fidelity Insurance coverage to Barry County Road Commissioners through its self-insurance pool.

*accepted and approved 2019 Barry County equalization values on state form L-4024.

*approved a 2918 Homeland Security grant program funding agreement between Barry and Van Buren County.

*approved spending $24,137 to replace a heating unit for the animal shelter kennels with funds from the building rehabilitation fund.

*approved Julie Jones application to purchase seven months of generic service with Municipal Employees Retirement System.

*postponed a decision for six weeks on filling vacant positions on the Commission on Aging Board. The committee of the whole last week recommended appointing Gerald Schmiedicke and Catherine Gramze to two of the three open seats. Commissioner Ben Geiger proposed the delay, saying he hopes to attract more applicants by re-advertising the positions.


Photo: Barry County employees recognized for their work for the county are (left to right) Bill Voigt, director of Barry County Transit, Mary Hermenitte, office manager in the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office, Amanda Miller, deputy clerk in the Barry County Courts, April Stains, deputy register in the Register of Deeds Office and Aaron Staines, IT

Department  network administrator. 

Vanvalkenburg, Steensma, Wilgus, Backus and Maki were not available for the photo.


Hastings Council clears the way for Spectrum Health Pennock to move forward on new surgery center

The Hasting City Council Monday approved an easement on a strip of city land requested by Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital where they will build a new $12 million surgery/endoscopy center and a license for the use of 75 of the 200 parking spaces in Fish Hatchery Park for its staff.


Liability questions and Michigan Department of Natural Resources approval will be satisfied as part of the agreement. City Manager Jeff Mansfield credited Spectrum Health and specifically Emily Green for her work in “capturing the concepts we talked about,” in the agreements.


Alan Kranzo, director of Real Estate and Facility Strategy at Spectrum, said the approvals, “will allow us to get started on the parking lot.” Spectrum will pay the city’s costs associated with the agreements, including attorney fees, he said.


Securing the easement of a 30-foot strip of city property at the site will help keep costs down, saving money he said. During early planning, it was discovered that the hospital’s west visitor’s parking lot encroached on city property. Spectrum wanted to make the space two lanes to allow families to drive around to the back of the new center and park.  


Spectrum has agreed to resurface the entire parking lot, make a number of improvements to the asphalt, lighting and pathways and maintain it.  They will also improve and extend a sidewalk to the hospital from the park and install a sidewalk along the drive from the parking lot to Green Street so pedestrians don’t share space with cars.


The new surgical center will include three operating rooms, 15 private patient rooms, five recovery bays and two endoscopy suites.


Also Monday, Hastings Cable Access Committee Chairman Randall Schaefer returned to the council with an amended request of the committee’s planned improvements he had asked for at the last council meeting.


The council approved his request for council room microphone replacement and studio room cleanup for this fiscal year. The committee has $25,500 available to pay for the two most urgent projects that will cost $20,119.18.

Schaefer was authorized to issue a purchase order for AVI to proceed with the work. Replacing the whiteboard with two television monitors will be in a future budget, “hopefully next year,” Schaefer said.


In other business, the council approved a YMCA request to use the sand volleyball courts at Tyden Park and near the Skate Park; Hope Network’s plan to close part of some streets for an Open House May 30; and for American Legion Post 45 to hold the annual Memorial Day Parade.


A public hearing was held on the necessity of setting a special assessment district in the downtown to pay for part of the upkeep of the city parking lots. Because of a timing issue with publication of the hearing, the council set another public hearing for May 13. They also set a public hearing for May 13 to hear public comment on the draft budget for 2019/2020.


A workshop is already scheduled for April 29 for council members to discuss the draft project plan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant with Dennis Benoit of HRC.


Fire risk expected to be high in Lower Peninsula this week

Dry, windy spring weather has put much of the Lower Peninsula at high risk for wildfires, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


Areas of highest concern are southwest Michigan to the top of the northern Lower Peninsula. Fire danger also is elevated from southeast Michigan to the top of the Thumb. Some precipitation set to move in this evening is expected to help with the dry conditions.


The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for the northern Lower Peninsula as well as southwest Michigan, said Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist. The warnings are in effect until 8 p.m. today. “Conditions will be very conducive for fires to build quickly and rapidly, especially with the high winds that are predicted,” Rogers said. "Grass can be dry enough to ignite even if it looks green."


Everyone in the affected area should take extra precautions to prevent accidental fires. Wait to burn yard debris and wait to use all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery until later in the evening. In very dry conditions, heat from even a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an ATV can ignite dry grass.


A trailer chain dragging on pavement also can create sparks. To find out if it’s safe to burn, get a free burn permit online at or contact your local municipality. So far this year, DNR fire staffers have fought 46 fires that burned nearly 360 acres in the state.


Hastings spring cleanup cotinues...

Hastings spring clean up continues Tuesday April 23. The Department of Public Services is at Mill and Park streets heading west to Washington Street,  then over to Mill and Boltwood streets, heading east. 


Barry County Sheriff's Detective Sergeant recognized for her strong advocacy for children

Barry County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant Janette Maki was recognized for her strong advocating for children by Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Allegan on April 13.


Maki was presented the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year by the organization that provides a lifeline to victims of child abuse and neglect and helps kids just be kids. Lori Antkoviac, executive director of the center, presented the award to Maki at the 2019 Lifeline Event, an annual fundraiser.

“I was pleased and humbled to receive the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year award from Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center,” Maki said. “I have long admired and respected the namesake of this award, Trooper Ray Hoffmann, and it is my honor to accept it.

“I offer a special thank you to the Safe Harbor Advisory Committee for selecting me and of course, I want to thank Sheriff Leaf and all of the Barry County Sheriff’s Office for their continued support.  

“We are very fortunate to have Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in our community and I urge everyone to continue to support them as we work together to bring support and healing to victims of child abuse.


“Congratulations go to Detective Sergeant Janette Maki for getting recognition of her hard work,” Sheriff Dar Leaf said.

The award is named for Michigan State Trooper Ray Hoffman who, until his death in September of 2017, was a fierce advocate for abused and neglected children during his 24-year MSP career.


Aided by the Allegan County’s Safe Harbor’s leaders, a Barry County Safe Harbor was established in 2013 by community leaders. This is the second award for the sheriff’s office in consecutive years.



Photo: Safe Harbor Advocacy Center Executive Director Lori Antkoviac, left, presents Barry County Sheriff‘s Sergeant Janette Maki with the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year Award.



Eaton County Central Dispatch telecommunicators recognized for their dedication

In 1991, the United States Congress designated the second week in April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. “This is a week for us to take special note of the life-saving work done every day by public safety telecommunicators,” Eaton County 911 Director Michael Armitage said.


“We have tried to make this week extra special for them as they do a very stressful and often thankless job.  I appreciate our local public safety agencies, local organizations, businesses, and individuals who have taken the time to tell them ‘thank you’ this week.”


Eaton County Central Dispatch serves as the primary point for dispatching police, fire, and EMS responses. Telecommunicators also provide medical pre-arrival instructions; activate weather alerts, towing services, hospitals, road commission, utility, and public works department notifications; handle call-outs for specialized response teams such as search and rescue, activating medical examiners, and hazmat response teams, Armitage said,


Telecommunicators receive calls through many various 911 dialing systems including wireless, traditional telephones, Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), and via texts.


Quick Facts about 911 in Eaton County:

•  26 public safety agencies served.

•  138,260 calls were answered in 2018 and 55 text sessions to 911.

•  72,965 Police Incidents, 15,177 EMS Incidents, and 6,563 Fire Incidents were dispatched in 2018.

•  In becoming a telecommunicator, individuals first participate in 80 hours of basic and advanced dispatch training within their first 24 months of employment.

•  Eaton County 911 telecommunicators maintain continuing education requirements by participating in approved courses and accumulating at least 24 continuing education hours every 24 months.

•  Eaton County offers Smart911 at no charge- visit to learn more and sign-up.


Eaton County dispatchers were to be honored April 19th at the Michigan State Capital building by Representatives  Sarah Lightner, Angela Whitwer, and Senator Tom Barrett.



Barry Conservation District expands its Tree and Habitat Sale

The Barry Conservation District annual tree sale is well known, but this year’s tree sale is so much more. Participation by several partners makes the District’s native tree seedlings, forestry advice and equipment display just the start of what is available at Charlton Park on April 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon.


Here’s a rundown:

*The Natural Resource Conservation Service--invasive species management information and advice.


*Marsh ‘N Meadow Outdoors, LLC--contract services, habitat advice.


*Pheasants Forever--native grass and wildflower seeds, grassland restoration advice.


*Pierce Cedar Creek Institute—native plant sale orders and advice


*Quality Deer Management Association—food plots, wildlife habitat advice.

Plus, attendants get a free custom soil map of their property and free habitat advice from the experts.


While at the event, consider registering for Family FUNgus Day at Jijak Camp in Hopkins May 5 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to Make and Take a mushroom-growing log. Register with Ben at the BCD by April 28 at 269-908-4134


All 30 Michigan State Police Posts to serve as medication disposal sites Saturday

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is asking residents to dispose of expired, unused and unwanted pills during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, one of two annual events held in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies.


All 30 MSP posts will participate in the one-day ‘Take-Back’ effort from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, by serving as drop-off points. All collected pills will be destroyed, with no questions asked.


Liquids, inhalers, patches and syringes cannot be accepted.


“Taking a few minutes to go through your home and discard these medications is something small that can have a huge impact,” said Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. “The devastation caused by opioid and prescription drug abuse, accidental poisonings and overdoses is real. We urge you to do all you can to help us fight this crisis.”


The State of Michigan is using every available tool to combat the opioid epidemic. The collaborative efforts of state agencies amplify Michigan’s efforts related to prevention and treatment of patients, education of health professionals and enforcement of over-prescribers.


Efforts include:

* A one-stop shop website ( with all helpful information and resources on the epidemic.

* Providing online resources for patients, health professionals and communities about prevention and treatment of opioid abuse;

* The Michigan Automated Prescription System provides real-time prescription data and resources to better assess a patient’s risk for substance use disorder;

* Assistance with proper drug disposal of unwanted medications;

* Michigan State Police posts serving as drug-take back sites and providing the Angel Program for individuals struggling with addiction.

* For more information about opioids and the additional steps residents can take to protect themselves and loved ones, visit

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is held twice a year, in April and October. During the October 2018 effort, MSP posts collected nearly 950 pounds of prescription drugs.


Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. Further, disposing of unused medicines by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can pose safety and health hazards.

MSP collection sites can be found here.


Additional collection sites across the state can be found by going to

Those unable to participate on the take back day can surrender their prescription drugs anonymously at any MSP post, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding holidays.




Easter Photos - Turning Tulips into Smiles

WBCH Radio, with help from PFCU and Spectrum Health Pennock and other area businesses, delivered potted tulips for Easter to every resident at Thornapple Manor and the Cottages, Hastings Rehabilitation, Woodlawn Meadows Retirement Village, and Carveth Village.


Here are some photos of the happy residents!



Thornapple Manor - front row: residents Mike Zimmerman, Carol Bunge, Genevieve Dobija











The Cottages -left to right, back row:  Dave McIntyre of WBCH, Carlos Zink of Barlow Florist, Mike Topoll of WBCH.

-middle row:  Cherie Hoaglin and Tracy Kushmail of The Cottages

-front row: Shirley Tobias and Ruth Doyle, residents







Hastings Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center - left to right:  Pat Louden, Sue Radant of WBCH, Rex Rockwell, Marjorie Maynard











Woodlawn Meadows - left to right:  Edith Grashuis, Becky Sassaman, Carl Schantz, Ron Stevens, Dick Groos, Phyllis Settles, Pat Reed











Carveth Village - left to right:  Evelyn Bailey, Recina Stuebicer, Arleen Stauffer 



Hastings School Board selects three finalists for superintendent position

Thursday night the Hastings Board of Education selected three finalists for the Superintendent position at Hastings Area Schools to replace retiring Superintendent Carrie Duits.  They are Steve Wilson, superintendent of Constantine Public Schools,    Jonathan Whan, superintendent of Grant Public Schools,  and Daniel Remenap, high school principal at Allendale Public Schools.

On Tuesday, April 23rd from 4:30 to 5:30 the Hastings Board of Education will be hosting a meet and greet of the candidates, followed by a special board meeting at 5:30 to interview the finalists.   


The interview schedule is as follows:

5:30 - 6:45 - Daniel Remenap

7:00 - 8:15 - Steve Wilson

8:30 - 9:45 - Jonathan Whan


This is a change to the originally published timeline.  The original date for the second round of interviews was April 25th.  


'Raise the Age' reforms approved by House committee

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved a plan to improve the way 17-year-olds are treated in Michigan’s criminal justice system.  State Rep. Julie Calley, who sponsored the plan alongside a bipartisan group of her colleagues, said Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. She said eliminating this outdated practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.


“Juvenile courts are better equipped to educate, protect and rehabilitate teens so they can grow into responsible and productive adults. Unfortunately, 17-year-old offenders in Michigan do not have access to necessary programs, because our law requires that they be charged in adult court,” said Calley, of Portland. “This reform will give prosecutors and judges greater discretion to determine the best course of action for each individual case.”


The proposal would raise the age at which individuals are considered adults for the purposes of prosecuting and adjudicating criminal offenses, allowing 17-year-olds to be treated as minors within the juvenile system in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors would continue to have discretion, allowing them to waive minors who commit violent crimes into the adult system when appropriate.


The measure also includes a funding plan to ensure local communities do not incur additional costs associated with keeping 17-year-old offenders in the juvenile system, which is administered at the local level. Funding was the key sticking point that halted similar reform efforts in the past. Calley said the proposal is expected to save public tax dollars over time. Other states that have raised the age have lowered both short-term and long-term costs.


“A tremendous amount of research shows placing 17-year-olds in prison with adults is harmful to their psychological development and hinders their ability to re-enter society and lead successful, productive lives,” said Calley. “This bill package is the right direction for our troubled youth and our state as a whole.”


House Bills 4133-46, 4443 and 4452 now move to the full House for consideration.


Home invasion under investigation in Richland Township

On Wednesday April 17, 2019 at approximately 11:47pm, members of the Kalamazoo County Sheriffs office were dispatched to the 5600 Blk of Grassymeadow Ave in Richland Twp in reference to an armed home invasion.


When offices arrived on scene it was determined that two unknown subjects, one of which was armed with a firearm, forced their way into the residence, and robbed the occupants. The suspects were last seen fleeing from the apartment towards the North.


Two of the victims that were inside the apartment were treated at the scene by Pride Care EMS for minor injuries.


Anyone that may have information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriffs Office or Silent Observer.


Suspect #1 - Black male, approximately 6'5", short hair cut, last seen wearing a blue and white jogging suit. Suspect #1 was armed with a hand gun.


Suspect #2 only described as a black male, nothing further.


Anyone who may have further information is asked to contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office at 269-383-8748 or Silent Observer at 269-343-2100.



Spring compostable pickup underway in Hastings

The Department of Public Services will be closed in observance of Easter on Friday 4-19-19, and will continue their spring compostable pickup on Mon April 22, 2019, beginning at S. Young St heading south and heading west towards Broadway. Thank you and  have a safe and Happy Holiday weekend.


Lansing man drowns at Thornapple Lake

The Barry County Sheriff's office was dispatched to the area of Camp Thornapple on Thornapple Lake in Castleton township at 8:23 Tuesday morning  when a boat was reported drifting approximately 200 yards off the shore with what appeared to be a life jacket floating near the boat.


Upon arrival, law enforcement launched their boat and were able to locate a male subject, who was identified by the Sheriff's office as 69 year old Edward Louis Phillips of Lansing.  Philips was fournd floating at the surface next to the drifting boat and was not wearing a life jacket. Deputies believe that Phillips had fallen overboard while fishing on the lake and was unable to get back into the boat. 


The sheriff's office stated in a facebook post that the man was deceased when officers arrived. Foul play is not suspected. 


Barry Central Dispatch and Nashville Fire/EMS assisted Sheriff's deputies and investigators.



April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month


April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. According to a release from the Barry Eaton District Health Department, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their life. These numbers may be even greater as many survivors of sexual violence do not tell police, family, or friends.


Sexual violence is any nonconsensual sexual activity and can include sex acts with an individual who is unable to consent due to force, alcohol and drugs, or age. Sexual violence can also be unwanted intentional sexual touching or verbal sexual harassment. Sexual violence can negatively impact the health of survivors, who may experience chronic pain, headaches, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more.


If you or someone you know may be a victim of sexual violence, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE can be reached as a 24/7, free, confidential resource. If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, dial 9-1-1.


Indecent Exposure

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office is investigating indecent exposure incidents that have occured April 3rd and April 13th in Delta township.

The suspect has approached people in public and exposed himself. He is described as a white male 5'8" tall, age  17 to 20 years old. He has short dark hair, a slim build, possibly wearing a nose ring.

Anyone with information is ask to contact the Eaton County Sheriff's Office.


Vermontville hosts Maple Syrup Festival April 26-27-28

From the official opening by Jeff Weiler Friday on the main stage at 6 p.m., the Vermontville Syrup Festival has a jam-packed schedule to please anyone and everyone. Vermontville, the home of the original Maple Syrup Festival in Michigan, starts Friday, April 26, continues on the 27th and 28th  with a full schedule of things to do and see.


Some samples:

Friday: The official opening and presentation of the 2019 Maple Syrup Festival Queen and Court, maple syrup exhibits at Maple Manor and the Vermontville Historical Museum opens, Mid-America amusement rides in the downtown, pancake breakfasts at the American Legion and Fire Station, talent show winners and fireworks at 9 p.m.


Saturday: More pancake breakfasts, 5K walk/run, Maple Valley jazz band, arts and crafts for sale, a Children’s Parade, Mid-America amusement rides, on-going main stage entertainment, several choices of fundraising dinners, petting zoo, the Grand Parade, introduction of 2019 Grand Marshals, and the Little Miss Maple Syrup Pageant.


Sunday: More pancake breakfasts, saw mill and various displays, arts & crafts, Sunday Church Services, flea market, tractor pull, arm wrestling, petting zoo, egg toss and other games.

For much more, visit


Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for maple syrup production. You can find producers staying with the most traditional methods as well as modern facilities using the latest techniques. All maple trees produce sap, with sugar maples the highest sugar content of two percent, followed by black, red, silver and ash-leafed maple with a sugar content of about one percent. It takes 40 gallons of syrup to produce one gallon of maple syrup.




Barry County Jazz Festival in Hastings is April 25-26-27

The 16th annual Thornapple Arts Council’s Jazz Festival, April 25-26-27, features a dozen venues in Hastings where residents and visitors can enjoy jazz by hundreds of student musicians and professionals  from more than 130 school and professional jazz bands and ensembles from all over the state, according the council’s website.


The festival draws some 10,000 people to the city and provides a weekend of free jazz performances and the chance for student groups to work with and learn from professional musicians.


Headliners this year are Jim Hayward with the Thornapple Jazz Orchestra on Thursday, The Four Freshmen on Friday, and Navy Great Lakes Liberty Call on Saturday.

The Four Freshmen and Navy Great Lakes group will perform in the new Hastings High School Performing Art Center that has a seating capacity of 850.



Music will be coming from all over the city, in restaurants, churches, the Spray Plaza Band Shell, Thornapple Plaza, Hastings Public Library, Barry County Enrichment Center, the HHS Performing Arts Center and more.  Jazz artists and those accompanying them will be met by Hastings Reserve Police Officers and Ambassadors who will welcome them and offer any assistance they can.


The Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival began in 2003 and has grown to be the largest jazz festival of its kind matching more student groups and performers to professional jazz musicians through its clinician program than any other festival in the United States.

Follow the Jazz Festival on its Facebook page. For a complete schedule of performers and venues for the three day event, visit



Battle Creek man dies, two hurt in M-37 crash Sunday

The Michigan State Police in Hastings said a 76-year-old Battle Creek man died and his two passengers were injured in a two-vehicle crash Sunday in Barry County.  The crash occurred on M-37, south of 108th Street about 2 p.m. in Thornapple Township.


Troopers report a 19-year-old Middleville man driving a Ford Explorer lost control of his vehicle and crossed the center line, causing the collision with the Chrysler Town and Country driven by the Battle Creek man. He succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.


His passengers, a 77-year-old female and a 9- year-old girl, were transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Preliminary investigation indicates that the crash was caused by speed. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be a factor. Authorities did not identify those involved.

Troopers were assisted at the scene by Caledonia Fire Department and Thornapple Township Emergency Services.


35-year-old Hopkins man dies in one car crash

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Wayland Post report they continue to investigate a fatal one-vehicle traffic crash that occurred Sunday at about 3:40 p.m. on 20th street, north of 128th Avenue in Hopkins Township.

A 35-year-old Hopkins man driving a Dodge SUV south on 20th Street lost control, drove off the roadway, rolled over and struck a tree.  He was not wearing a seatbelt and died at the scene.

His name is being withheld pending notification of family. No one else was in the vehicle.

Troopers were assisted by the Hopkins Township Fire Department and Wayland EMS.   




Goal: Complete remediation of Little Thornapple River Drain this year

The Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drain Board has secured funding for remaining remedial work on the drain with the goal of completing it by the end of the year.


The board Friday accepted a bid for a $450,000 three-year note from Isabella Bank with 2.95 percent interest. The funds are expected to cover the remaining remediation of the damage done to the drain by excessive tree removal several years ago.


Closing on the note is set for April 17, with the first payment of principal and interest on June1.

Joseph Colaianne, senior council at Clark Hill PLC, who advised the board on the transaction, said they got a good interest rate because “there’s a lot of competition out there right now.”  Colaianne added the note is “callable” meaning the board can pay it off at any time.


Barry County is the paying agent; they will accept the funds from the bank and distribute it to the drain board. The board consists of three drain commissioners; Jim Dull from Barry, Ken Yonker from Kent County and Robert Rose from Ionia County. Brady Harrington, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, chairs the Intercounty Drain Board.


There will be a special assessment this year on property holders in each county within the drain district, according to the percentage of property holders in the district. The new parameters of the drain district determined in a study last fall and winter shows Barry County residents at 63.48 percent, Ionia County at 36.31 percent and Kent at 0.37 percent of the drain district area.


Barry County residents are scheduled to review the assessment roll on May 8, Ionia County residents on May 7 and Kent County residents on May 9.  Everyone affected will be notified by letter confirming the dates, meeting place and times.  

If a person disputes their assessment, they can file an appeal with the probate court within 10 days of the review. Those assessed can pre-pay the assessment, if they wish.





Barry County Commissioners recommend farmland preservation/open space ordinance changes

In a special meeting Thursday, the Barry County Board of Commissioners in a 5-2 vote recommended approval of changes in the Agriculture Promotion and Open Space ordinances. The issue will go to the next regular board meeting for consideration.


Stacy Byers, consultant with Sheridan Land Consulting, gave a 35-minute presentation on the concept of the preserving agricultural land by an easement; owners selling the developmental rights to their farm land in exchange for insuring the land would be used for only agriculture in perpetuity.


Byers gave some history on the effort in other places, examples of where the idea has been successful, and possible funding sources. There are social, environmental and economic benefits to Ag land preservation; it makes it easier to stay in farming, it controls urban sprawl, protects nature, animal habitats and the environment, she said.


In the voluntary program, state certified assessors determine the value of Ag property when used for agricultural and the value of the property if sold for development. Property owners receive the difference between the values, and guarantee that the land would remain in agriculture forever.


Applicants for easements are scored and ranked by points in several criteria, with the top-scoring land owners given appraisals, insuring the best agriculture land is preserved. The owner keeps all personal property rights and can sell the land, but it would always have to stay in agriculture.


Various land preservation plans have been around since the 1970s; and ramped up during the development surge of the 1980s and 1990s. The major stumbling block for the present plan is the unavailability of funding to pay for the development rights. Byers said there are several possibilities to obtain funding for easements; the federal and state government, townships, landowners and the county.


“We should move on this,” Commissioner Ben Geiger said. “It’s low risk for the county.”

Commissioner Dan Parker encouraged the adoption of the amendments, saying he has served on county and village offices and school boards and in every case, county citizens said they valued and wanted to keep its rural flavor.


Commissioner David Jackson asked why it was needed when farmers have PA116, a state land preservation program.  Byers said PA 116 agreements are for a specific number of years and offer tax credits, but not in perpetuity. Framers can opt out of PA116 by paying back the tax credits.


Commissioners Vivian Conner and Jon Smelker asked the most questions and were ultimately the two who voted against sending the matter to the full board for a decision.


In answers to questions, Byers told where the funding could come from, that her office would monitor compliance with the easements, mineral rights stay with the farm property, farmer’s property taxes could be lower by not by much and the county would be legally responsible to pay legal fees if disagreements arise.


When Conner said the seven member board is too heavily weighted with those with agriculture interests, Commissioner Heather Wing responded that farmers are the best judges of farmland, “not someone who doesn’t have a clue… farmers should pick out the best ones.” One member of the board would be a county commissioner without voting rights, something Smelker said he could never support.


The 15 to 20 people in the audience supported the plan with the exception of George Hubka who said they should not get involved with buying easements until they, “fixed the damn roads,” and cautioned that the county can levy special assessments without a vote of the people.


The open space ordinance didn’t get much debate; it mirrors the farm preservation component, with more emphasis on the environment, and is run by the same board. There is working and non-working land; any not working, not producing a product, is open space. “It needs to have environmental value. It has to warrant an easement,” Byers said.


The amendments would streamline the process and change the name of the board. Byers said the name change should, “say who we are...we purchase conservation easements.”




Hastings becomes "Bicycle City" during Barry Roubaix

Hastings was crowded with 3,500 colorful bicyclists, family and friends for the 2019 Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race Saturday. Cyclist came from all over the United States and beyond; men and women, young and not so young, lined up in waves for the different lengths of races;  the 22-mile “Chiller,” 36-mile “Thriller,” 62-mile “Killer” and the 100-mile “Psycho-Killer.”

After the races there were awards for winners and a street party.  Here’s what Hastings looked like Saturday morning at the start of the races.










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