Local News

Many Memorial Day parades, activities in Barry County area

Memorial Day is a federal holiday on the last Monday in May to remember those who died for their country while in the armed forces. Originally called Decoration Day, an organization of Union veterans in 1868 established it as a day to decorate the graves of the fallen veterans with flowers.


Many towns, villages and townships observe the day with ceremonies to salute the veterans, including Hastings, Middleville, Hickory Corners, Nashville, Orangeville and Yankee Springs townships, and Caledonia. What follows is a listing of area activities on Sunday, May 28 and Monday, May 29.//


The Hastings American Legion Post # 45 annual Memorial Day Parade will be different this year with the completion of the Veteran’s Plaza at Tyden Park. The memorial to all veterans from all branches of the military service covering all the conflicts and wars has been several years in the planning.

It is now a reality and will be dedicated Monday, May 29.

The parade will begin at the corner of Boltwood and State Streets at 9:30 a.m. Post 45 Color Guard, followed by the Post’s Cooperative Honor Guard, will lead the parade west on State Street to Broadway, north on Broadway to Tyden Park and to Veteran’s Plaza.


Wreaths will be placed at the Soldier’s Civil War Monument and  other monuments honoring all veterans. A rifle salute will be followed by the playing of  Taps. The dedication of the plaza will then be conducted with presentation of the American flag as well as six flags representing the branches of the military services and POW-MIAs. The Hastings High School band will play the anthems of each branch of service and end with the national anthem.


Thirty Minutes later, the Riverside Cemetery service honoring the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic will be conducted at the cemetery.  The gravesite of the most recently buried veteran at the cemetery will receive a wreath, a rifle salute and the playing of Taps. As with previous years, no political signs, banners, sirens or horns, candy or pamphlets will be distributed.

“This parade and dedication are solemn occasions to honor military personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice to uphold and defend the freedom and ideals of America,” said Jim Atkinson, parade chairman.


The Prarieville Memorial Day Parade begns at 1 .m., Monday, May 29.



Members of American Legion Post #305 will hold observances for fallen veterans at five cemeteries on May 29. The schedule: Alaska at 9 a.m., Blain at 9:45 a.m., Dutton at 10:30 a.m., Holy Corners at 11:15 a.m. and Caledonia at noon. The Main Street Memorial Day parade kick off follows.



Lake Odessa VFW Post 4461 marks Memorial Day on May 29 beginning at 8:30 a.m. with the Post Color Guard leading the Clarksville Memorial Day Parade to be followed by observances at Clarksville and Woodland cemeteries and by a final memorial at Lake Odessa’s Lakeside Cemetery.


Hickory  Corners:

Memorial Day activities begin with a pancake breakfast at the Hickory Corners Fire Department from 7 to 9:30 a.m. followed by  the parade at 10 a.m. sharp starting at Cadwallader Park. The parade’s 125 to 150 participants, Shriner’s Mimi-T’s, Delton and Gull Lake high school bands, kids on bikes and Boy/Girl Scout Troops march to the East Hickory Corners Cemetery for a memorial service honoring departed comrades and a fly over by the Civil Air Patrol (weather permitting).  Retired Colonel Frank Walker will be the guest speaker. A chicken bar-b-que at Simmonds-Williams American Legion Post 484 follows.



The annual Memorial Day Parade in Middleville steps off at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 29, from McFall Elementary school, the marchers stop at the Thornapple River Bridge to lay a wreath to remember those who served on the waters, and Taps, 21 gun salute,National Anthem and fireworks. At Hope Cemetery on East Main and Sheridan, there will be an invocation, a local veteran tribute, the National Anthem sung and signed by TKMS and first graders of Mrs. DeVries' class,  a civilian fly over by Hastings Flying Club, Taps & echo, and a flag folding presentation  by Boy Scout Troop #327.   Breakfast is available at the United Methodist Church from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. 



This year’s Memorial Day Parade will begin on the north end of the village at 11 a.m. and march down Main Street, to Sherman, to Lakeview Cemetery for an observance to remember veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. The public is invited show up at 10 a.m. to walk, ride their tractor, or horse, or decorate your kids bikes and be in the parade. After the parade, everyone is invited to a potluck at VFW Post 8260. Bring a dish to pass.



The Memorial Day Service at the Veteran’s Monument at the Orangeville Township Hall begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 28.

Supervisor Tom Rook will welcome the visitors and introductions made by Trustee Robert Perino.

An invocation by Pastor Dan Bowman, from Orangeville Baptist Church, is followed by the Delton Kellogg Band under the direction of Sarah Knight, playing a medley of patriotic songs.

 Guest speakers are: John Rolland, Brigadier General, U.S. Army Ret; Vivian Krewson, former Sergeant, U.S. Army; Ed Ellard, former Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army; Brad Vandenberg, former Sergeant, U.S. Army and Bill Owen, Brigadier General, U.S, Army, Ret.

A reading of the deceased Honor Roll of all known Orangeville Township veterans, the laying of a wreath at the monument and the Hastings American Legion Post #45 Honor Guard 21-gun salute will be followed by Taps, concluding the ceremony.



Yankee Springs Township:

The township hosts a Memorial Day service on Sunday, May 28 at 4:30 p.m. at the Yankee Springs Fire Station on Payne Lake Road.










Photo: Ceremonies at Riverside Cemetery in Hastings at an earlier Memorial Day observance.














Delta Township's GM assembly plant to host active violence training exercise

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Delta Township Fire Department and the General Motors assembly plant in Delta Township have been working together on active violence training and will conduct a full-scale training exercise at the assembly plant Wednesday, May 31. The training is part of the continued effort to prepare and train for an effective multi-agency response to an active violence incident in the tri-county area, according to the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office.


Several local first responders will be participating, including the Eaton and Ingham county sheriff’s offices; Delta, Lansing, Meridian and Delhi township fire departments;  the Lansing Fire Department; Charlotte, Potterville and East Lansing police departments; the Michigan State Police and Eaton County Central Dispatch.


“General Motors and first responders are training to promote public safety and to save as many lives as possible in the event something like this ever happens in the tri-county area,” the news release said.


The exercise is closed to the public and some roads near the plant may have partial or full closures for parts of the morning and early afternoon.  Some areas around the plant also will be closed except for those actively participating in the exercise.




Eaton, Ingham counties fugitive sweep "tremendous success"

Four eight-hour days of warrant sweeps in Eaton and Ingham counties during May targeting felony warrants from all the agencies taking part was a tremendous success, according to an Eaton County Sheriff’s Office news release. Teams of specially trained members from several area law enforcement agencies targeted violent offenders and violent warrants.


Four teams were sent throughout both Eaton and Ingham County because those who commit crimes often don't stay in one area or commit crimes where they live. The teams were seeking some 80 subjects with warrants for multiple offences, from homicide - delivery causing death, felonious assault, criminal sexual conduct 1st degree, unlawful carrying of concealed weapons, drug offenses, embezzlement and fraud offenses.


“The results of the operation were tremendous and clearly demonstrate how efficient and effective a well organized multi-agency approach is to bring fugitives to justice and fight crime in our neighborhoods,” the release said.


A few highlights of the operation:

* 62 people were located and arrested in the four days of the mission,

*104 arrest warrants were cleared, including 53 felony warrants, 38 misdemeanors and 13 civil warrants for child support,

* a suspect wanted for homicide, delivery causing death in East Lansing was taken into custody,

* several people with multi-county criminal sexual conduct warrants were arrested,

* narcotics seized included heroin, crack cocaine, and several methamphetamine labs,

* nine original, new felony charges were requested.


Taking part in the fugitive sweep were the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police Lansing Post, Grand Ledge, Potterville, Charlotte and Eaton Rapids police departments, Lansing Police Department’s Violent Crimes Initiative, Michigan Department of Corrections Absconder Recovery Unit, and the Lansing Area Fugitive Task Force.

“We wish to thank every agency and every officer that contributed to the success of this operation,” the release said.



Vietnam vets pinning and much more is June 10

A ceremony honoring Vietnam Era vets is set for June 10 at the Barry Expo Center on M-37,  midway between Hastings and Middleville. The American Legion Riders from Hastings Post 45 will enter the Expo at about 1 p.m. when the program will begin and continue until 3 p.m.


Each Vietnam Era veteran will be awarded a commemorative pin recognizing their service and asked to videotape an account of their time and place in Vietnam. Much more is going on at the ceremony, said William Roush, Adjutant Chapter 110 MOPH, Military Order of the Purple Heart.

“Besides the pinning on of the 50th Vietnam Era Vets,  I have on hand to give to all of the kids an 8x11 inch U.S. Flag.  Also, we had Save-A-Lot store in Hastings give us 1,200 bottles of water and the Disabled American Veterans Organization gave us snacks to give to everyone,” he said. The Delton High School Band will add music to the event.


The Battle Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center has loaned four displays of the 20 years the United States was in Vietnam, and there will be a picture history of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, USA, out of Hastings, on display. The "5 hat Missing Man" table will be performed, a POW/MIA remembrance ceremony, and bag pipes will perform  the Posting of Colors. 


“Veterans who did not make it into the country will receive a pin for being in the service at the time of war,” Roush said. “I will have on hand help for any Veteran or/and his family with VA benefits that they may need.”   



Four escape with minor injuries in Plainwell plane crash

At approximately 1 p.m. Friday, May 26, Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a plane crash at the Plainwell Airport at 630 19th Street in Gun Plain Township. The plane had crashed at the end of the runway with the pilot and three passengers onboard.


The pilot and one of the passengers were transported to a local hospital for minor injuries; the other two passengers were treated at the scene and released, deputies said.

The incident is still under investigation.


The sheriff’s office was assisted by Plainwell Department of Public Safety, Gun Plains Fire Department, Plainwell EMS and Life EMS.    




Allegan County jogger suffers head injury in collision with vehicle

Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies responded Wednesday evening to a report of a car striking a pedestrian on 142nd  Avenue and 38th Street in Overisel Township.

Deputies learned that the pedestrian, Julie Nicole Genzink, 19, from the Bentheim area, suffered a significant head injury in the collision.  She was transported to the hospital where she underwent surgery last night and it currently in critical condition, according to deputies.


Genzink was jogging on 142nd with a woman friend and was struck when the pair suddenly crossed 142nd Avenue. Her friend made it across the road but Genzink was struck by the car as it was slowing in response to the first runner crossing the roadway, deputies said.

Two eye witnesses to the crash both stated that the runners did not appear to look before crossing the roadway and that the car was not able to avoid hitting the her.


The crash remains under investigation, however, it does not appear that the driver of the vehicle was at fault, officials said. The investigation will continue, and when complete, will be reviewed by the prosecutor’s office. The driver will not be identified until the prosecutor reviews the report.

 The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Michigan State Police, Overisel Fire Dept. and AMR.



Superintendent's Platform

WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight news in their districts. This posting is from Hastings Area School System Superintendent Carrie Duits.


"The Hastings Area School System (HASS) is blessed by the generosity of our community! We are thankful for everyone who supports our schools and students—whether through their time, talent, caring or financial donations.

Monday evening, the HASS Board of Education had opportunities to express their

gratitude for all of the above!


Prior to its regular meeting, the board held a reception for retiring teachers and staff who are leaving with a combined 349 years of service! During their time at HASS, many have gone above and beyond what was expected, and our students benefited from their time, talent, and caring.

We can’t express enough about how much we appreciate all that they have done.


The board adopted a resolution honoring the following staff who are retiring effective with the end of the 2016 -17 school year: Kay Acker, Raymond Boulay, Rebecca Bradley, Cynthia Clark, Christopher Cooley, Charmaine Henke, Kitty Hoke, Nancy Jenks, Judith Johnson, Steven Kogge, Sue McKeough, Ellyn Main, Rebecca Parker, Mary Pennington, Wilbur Raab, and Kurt Schaaf. Thank you one and all!


Later in the meeting the board once again expressed its gratitude- this time for the generosity of the community—accepting with great appreciation, the following donations totaling $91,297.46.


* Hastings Education Enrichment Foundation-- $9,316 for subscriptions to grade/age appropriate news magazines for the middle all elementary schools; transportation for middle school and elementary field trips; and Decision Day breakfast for seniors, staff and families and transportation to elementary schools for parades

* Edythe Marshall Estate-- $69,981.46 for an animal facility for the benefit of the middle school FFA

* Kisscross Events/Barry-Roubaix-- $400 for the high school FFA

* Hungry Games-- $6200 additional donations to support the backpack meals program

* Anonymous-- $3,000 for transportation for the summer lunch program

* Al & Pete’s Sports Shop-- $400 to support students in need

* FHI-- $1,000 to provide a maker space lab at Northeastern

* Wal-Mart-- $1,000 to Central to purchase school supplies


We are overwhelmed with the generosity of our community—thank you one and all!

The board also approved the list of students eligible for Hastings High School diplomas as submitted. We are very proud of the 194 Saxons who are graduating this year. And we are thankful for all our teachers, staff and our community that have supported them every step of the way!


Congratulations Class of 2017!”


Milling, resurfacing dates set for downtown Hastings streets

Residents and visitors are being notified of the dates for milling and surfacing on downtown Hastings streets by the Department of Public Services.

The alley behind the Walldorff Brew Pub & Bistro will be milled and resurfaced on May 30 and 31. 

Parking lot 8 will remain open during the project.

Court and Church streets will be milled on June 14, resurfaced on June 15, and striped on June 16.

Residents would be advised to seek alternate routes during this period.


Little Thornapple River Drain restoration may be moving closer

The latest plan to repair the damage done in 2015 to the Little Thornapple River Drain by tree removal to prevent flooding has been submitted to the DEQ for review and approval, Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said Tuesday.

Aaron Snell, co-owner of Streamside Ecological Services, submitted a revision of an earlier restoration plan that has been at the DEQ for months.


Dull said he is optimistic that this plan will be approved after working with DEQ officials, Snell and the other members of the Intercounty Drain Board.

The board has jurisdiction over the drain which has parts in Barry, Ionia and Kent counties. Drain Commissioners of the three counties sit on the board.

Dull anticipates the DEQ will approve the plan, and submit it to the Environmental Protection Agency. “They might make some tweaks, but I expect to move ahead,” he said. “Everyone just wants to get it done."

"With the exception of one property owner (along the affected area of the river) all of the other owners have said we could work on their property,” Dull said. That owner will work directly with the DEQ, he said.

With the various approvals, and oversight by the DEQ, work can begin. In the meantime, the Intercounty Drain Board attorney will produce an agreement for the board and the DEQ on the scope of the work to be done, Dull said.


Barry Central Dispatch 911 gives annual report to Barry County Commissioners

In 2016, Barry Dispatch 911 moved to the next generation of technology with the switch to fiber optics from copper wires and become part of the NextGen Network. 911 Director Phyllis Fuller in the annual report Tuesday, said the new system means prioritizing of calls, back up service in an outage, and the ability to transfer its operations to other service centers along with other advantages.

“Fiber is good news for us,” she said. “It has opened so many doors for us.”


Central Dispatch also developed and adopted a new 911Service Plan in 2016, replacing the last update in 2009. The plan contains enforcement power in a new Emergency Service Ordinance.

No person shall intentionally place a false 911 call, engage in a swatting hoax in the county, knowingly engage in call jumping, impede first responders from reaching an emergency, or fail to forward 9121 calls or texts are a few of the restrictions.


Fuller also listed several statewide awards earned by the “phenomenal staff that do a fantastic job.” Going forward, the center will continue to work to keep up with technology, retain telecommunicators in the high stress positions and continue its involvement with the state legislature, she said.


The annual report included charts of 911 calls for service by the month over 2013-2016, showing a 35 percent increase over the years, and a call for service by type for 2012-2016, with the vast majority of calls for police. A 2016 call summary showed the numbers of outbound, land line,  wireless, abandoned, text, and nonemergency calls.


Fuller supplied a history of the operating budget, with millage collected, budgeted amounts and actual expenditures for 2012-2016. The 911 board very is careful with its funds and has a healthy fund balance, she said.

That has allowed them to use some of the fund and not levy all of the taxpayer approved millage for several years, something she thinks will happen again this year.  In 2012 and 2014, they levied three quarters of a mill instead of a full mill, and 6/10 of one mill in 2013.

“We’re really unique. There aren’t many other departments that have that leeway,” she said.





Barry sewer authority plant manager and now interim general manager gets raise

Scott Monroe, plant manager and now also interim general manager of the Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority, had his salary raised at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The board approved the raise because of the increased workload with a “mix of his previous and the new position as interim general manager.” 


Chairman David Messelink, who represents Hope Township on the board, said he checked and found the supervisor of the Gull Lake Sewer and Water Authority makes $97,500 a year with benefits.


A $1,000 a month raise, and keeping his present benefits, was set for 90 days to see if both parties will want to continue the arrangement. If it becomes permanent after the 90 days, Monroe will receive $88,775 annually, up from the present $77, 775.


Monroe, who has been with the authority for 23 years,  offered to hold off the raise for 90 days, but the board declined, making it effective the next pay period.

Messelink said he expects Monroe to, “rise to the challenge and do an excellent job.”


In a split decision at a May 4 special meeting, the board fired former manager Mark Doster after months of wrangling about his pay, hours worked and accessibility to the public.

Messelink, Barbara Earl, representing Johnstown Township; Wes Kahler, from Barry Township, and Matt Peake, Hope Township, voted to terminate Doster.  Jim Stoneburner, Prairieville Township, voted “no.”


In the next few weeks, the full board, along with Monroe, will work on a job description and duties for the combined positions. Still to be negotiated is a separation package with Doster.//


Monroe said he has talked to officials at Gilmore Car Museum about possible sewer service and will talk again about their future plans, what they have on site now and go over a feasibility study of a sewer district including the museum recently completed by Prein & Newhof. He also asked the firm to develop a bid on engineering costs for the project, “if we move forward.”


In other business, the board approved leasing a fingerprint/ time clock system for employees at the office and the plant for $2,016 a year. The biometric time clock system comes from Advanced Time Management, from Canton, with guarantees of replacement of a system within 24 hours, if needed.


And, security cameras will be installed at the authority office with coverage of the parking lot and entrances and at the plant, also covering the parking area and entrances, from Prudential Alarm & Security. from Oak Park, at a cost not to exceed $5,000 for installation, equipment and training. Camera footage will be available for 30 days, then be recorded over.



Gun Lake Dam replacement approved by Barry, Allegan county boards

The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the replacement of the Gun Lake Dam on Marsh Road in Orangeville Township.


The dam was saved from collapse in May of 2015 by temporary emergency measures. Land and Resource Engineering (LRE) recommended a new control structure made of steel to protect public safety, properties around the lake and preserve natural resources. An informal meeting of residents from around the lakes showed all in favor of replacing the dam.


The vote approving the replacement of the dam by LRE was put off two weeks to give county Attorney Doug Kelly time to review the agreement language.

The Allegan County Board of Commissioners has approved replacimg the dam, which was required within 60 days of Barry County’s approval.


Commissioners also approved:

*a contract for two years with Iris Waste Diversion Specialists for $40,000 per year for recycling coordination in the county.

*the purchase 12 color copiers from Ricoh Corporation for  $52,522.33 with five years maintenance, supplies and training and $003 for black and white copies and $.03 for color.

*entry into the Michigan Department of Agricultural Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation, more commonly known as PA 116, for Norman and Kim Hammond in Section 2 of Barry Township and Brad Smelker in section 7 of Carlton Township, and partial termination of PA 116 for property owned by Brian Leudke in Section 24 of Carlton Township.



Free Family Fun on Charlton Park Day

Looking for excitement this Memorial Day weekend?  Celebrate the official kick-off to summer at the 11th annual Charlton Park Day Saturday, May 27 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.


A new exhibit, “Tangled Alliances: The United States in WWI,” is on display at the stone museum building, along with crafts, activities and treats throughout the Historic Village.  Watch master craftsmen in action in the blacksmith shop and fiber spinning in the township hall. 

Sample cookies and bread baked on a wood stove in the Sixberry House and the Bristol Inn.  Popcorn and balloons are available at the Upjohn House. 

Two bounce houses will be there for the kids to enjoy.  Cowboy Tommy and his fancy roping tricks are featured at 12:45 p.m.  Hop aboard one of the park’s trams for a tour of the park between noon and 3:30 p.m.


Several organizations, including Barry County’s Central Dispatch, Transit Authority, Road Commission, Commission on Aging, YMCA and Mid-Michigan Mounted Color Guard will be attending with goodies and information.  Fingerprinting for children will be done by the Barry County Sheriff’s Posse.  WBCH 100.1 FM will host a live radio remote as well.


The mission of Charlton Park Day is to honor Barry County residents who have supported the Park for the past 81 years.  Thanks to 38 generous community donors, the entire day is free to everyone with no tax dollars used.  Stop by for lunch and bring your appetite.  Free grilled hot dogs, chips, ice cream, and bottled water will be provided to all visitors while supplies last.


“Representatives from the Michigan Longbow Association, Civil War reenactment, Barry County Youth Day and Gas & Steam Engine Club will be onsite to promote upcoming park events,” Stacey Graham, event coordinator said.  “The 1890 Corley Sawmill will also be running”.


The Park is now open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily so stop by to swim, boat, picnic or hike today.


Historic Charlton Park is southeast of Hastings at 2545 South Charlton Park Road. For more info, visit or call 269-945-3775.



Upper left: Cowboy Tommy and his amazing rope tricks are popular with kids at Charlton Park Day.


Lower left: Barry County Commissioner Vivian Conner gives visitors a ride on the tram at last year’s Charlton Park Day.



Definition of a city park in Hastings to be reworked

A discussion what is and what is not a city park under various city codes and policies was held by the Hastings City Council Monday. City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes told the council the current city definition says a park is used for athletic events or sports, a place to bring interaction. Fekkes said in her mind, that does not fit the Thornapple Plaza which provides entertainment events, so would not be a park.

By consensus, the council asked City Manager Jeff Mansfield to add the word entertainment to the definition of a park and more language controlling those uses.


Also Monday, a public hearing at the June 12 meeting was set to take comments on a possible special assessment district on eight property owners, including the city, to pay for 2,025 linear feet of five-foot wide sidewalks at a cost of $153,000 along West State Street.

The new sidewalks will connect other sections already in place and make walking safer as people walk between destinations on the western edge of the city and future urban areas to the west, Mansfield said.


Riverside Cemetery on State Road will get an entry arch from low bidder Copperrock Construction for $64,600 as recommended by the Riverside Cemetery Advisory Board. The bid turned out to be $10,000 higher than the original estimate. The funds will come from an account held at the Barry Community Foundation.


Also, several years ago, the city intended to do away with pole mounted signs in favor of ground signs for traffic safety, grandfathering in existing pole mounted signs with a non-conforming status. The council approved amending the ordinance to require the removal of non-conforming poles before a ground mounted sign can be installed to prevent both signs being at the same location.


Two developers have submitted offers to the city to buy and rehabilitate the former Moose building. The council set a public workshop for 6 p.m. at the June 12 council meeting to hear the proposals details, “so that you can make a more informed decision,” Mansfield said.


The council also approved closing a portion of Market Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. during Wendy’s 18th annual Classic Car Show on June 16 and also Sidewalk Sales days in the downtown area on July 7 and 8.



Hastings to have a Food Farm

Andrew Ortwein, a local resident, was given the go-ahead by the Hastings City Council Monday to create a Food Forest in Bliss Park by planting fruit trees, bushes and plants on about 0.5 acres that is now open space, to be open to all residents to harvest.


The area will be planted and cared for by sponsors, and others, with trees including  paw paw, apple, peach, pear and cherry; shrubs such as cranberry, blueberry, gooseberry and gojiberry and vines like grape raspberry, hardy kiwifruit and blackberry.


Ortwein said the list is preliminary and things can be added or subtracted.

Forest gardening is low-maintenance sustainable plant based food production incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs and vines and perennials vegetables with yields directly useful  to humans, he said.

Ortwein plans to work with MSU Extension in plant selection to assure compatible plants and trees and with civic clubs and others to raise fund for the plantings. No city funding or staff work would be required, he said. Seattle, Detroit and other places are developing food farms.



Also Monday, with council approval of  the Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays recommendations, the DPS will:

*enter a $52,416 contract with A-I Asphalt for milling and resurfacing city streets,


*purchase a Hurco Valve Trailer for $58,695, to be used to “exercise” some 480 water valves in the city. The machine will open and close the valves, some that haven’t been opened since they were installed. The machine is not as likely to break the valves as opening it manually, Hays said. He hopes to find valves now that may break in the middle of winter. Councilman Bill Redman said he considered it, “preventive maintenance,”


*complete the sale by auction of a 2001 Rosco Vibrastar III roller, two 1995 Lawnboy push mowers, and a 1951 Horner welder.



Superintendent's Platform

WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight news in their districts. This posting is from Maple Valley Superintendent Michelle Falcon.

“It is official. We have been granted nearly $300,000 to complete the air conditioning at the elementary buildings this summer. 

With the cooperation of our union leadership, board, and administration, we were able to acquire a year round school grant by agreeing to a year round calendar for our Pathways High School. 

This was a competitive grant which only certain districts met the qualifications. The state set aside $1.5 million dollars to award schools who submitted a complete and quality grant. 

There is so much to be grateful for at Maple Valley Schools. As we know climate controlled classrooms make a positive difference in our learning environment. 





National Safe Boating Week May 20-26

Boat Smart. Boat Safe. Wear it.

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf is alerting those who go boating that they will encounter hazards and risks.  It is important to make an emergency less likely to happen by managing those risks, such as wearing a life jacket. “Playing safely will make your time on the water much more fun, he said.”


During National Safe Boating week, May 20-26, the emphasis will be on safety on the water, especially the use of life jackets by everyone on or near the water.


Leaf said life jackets can be the difference between life and death in many boating accidents. Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating related accidents and eight of every 10 victims were not wearing a life jacket. “Thousands of people would be alive today had they taken the simple precaution of wearing a life jacket when they went out on the water,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council.


Leaf also stressed the importance of regular maintenance checks of life jackets. When jackets fail to inflate properly, the results can be life threatening.


The national safety campaign is designed to reach more than 70 million boaters in North America and bring this year’s life-saving message: Boat Smart. Boat Safe. Wear it.

The campaign is a partnership of the National Safe Boating Council, the U.S. Coast Guard and National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.


Carlton Township intends to bill Barry County insurance carrier for special assessments paid by its citizens

The Carlton Township Board has sent Barry County Administrator Michael Brown a letter notifying him that by unanimous vote, they intend to submit a claim to the county’s insurer, MMRMA, for payments its citizens have made through special assessments to pay for reconstruction of work on the Little Thornapple River Drain.

The administrator’s office has not received the letter as of Thursday, May 18.


The letter, dated April 10,  unanimously approved by the board on May 8, said it wants to recover, “past and future charges being mandated to Carlton Township for additional work outside of the scope of the original contract.”


The contract to remove trees along part of the Little Thornapple River Drain by Geiger Excavating in September of 2014 soon led to property owners complaining of trees being cut and left lay, bank erosion, loss of ground cover along the river’s banks, lowered property values and general devastation of the river and their property.


In response, the Intercounty Drain Board stopped the work, and hired Streamside Ecological Services to develop a plan agreeable to the DEQ to repair the damage.

The DEQ rejected the first  plan from Streamside, the second, submitted in March of 2016, and is still being negotiated by officials and the DEQ.


With little or no work done on the basic problems along the drain,  the drain board has levied $330,000 on property owners in Ionia and Barry County.As of Feb. 7, this year, the drain board has  paid $182,286.03 in legal fees to two law firms and $85,315.23 to Streamside.


Carlton Township Supervisor Brad Carpenter did not return calls seeking a comment.

The Barry County Board of Commissioners liability insurance is through the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority a self-insurance pool formed by counties in 1980 to  provide liability and property coverage to municipal governments. 


Preliminary hearing for former Barry County Animal Shelter director is June 1

The case against the former Barry County Animal Shelter Director Billie Jo Hartwell, scheduled for a probable cause hearing in front of Judge Michael Schipper in District Court Wednesday, was instead moved to a preliminary exam on June 1 at 2:30 p.m.


Hartwell was charged in early April with one count of misconduct in office, a felony common law offense that carries a maximum of 5 years in prison.  

The charge against Hartwell stems from a combination of alleged acts of misconduct, ranging from unauthorized taking of dog food to inappropriate conduct toward a Barry County Jail inmate worker.

County inmates work at the shelter and other county entities in a work release program.


A Freedom of Information request for the Barry County Sheriff’s investigation was first extended because the investigation was not complete, then denied for the same reason.


The initial hearing set for  April 12 was adjourned because her Attorney, Jeffrey Portko, with Advocate Law Offices in Grand Rapids, was to be in federal court. The next scheduled hearing, for May 3, was adjourned because another person had stepped forward with an additional complaint against Hartwell, but hadn’t been interviewed by investigators.

Hartwell was fired from the shelter position the third week in April. She is free on bond. 





Gun Lake Tribe presents the Environmental Speaker Series, The Importance of Pollinators

The Gun Lake Tribe and the U.S. Department of Agriculture  will present the Environmental Speaker Series: The Importance of Pollinators on Wednesday May 24, at 6:30 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Dinner, also free, will follow the presentation at the Luella Collins Community Center, 419 126th Street Shelbyville. Speakers will be from the Gun Lake Tribe and U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The decrease in pollinators in the United States over the last 20 years is a very serious concern.  The speakers will inform the audience about the important roles bees and other pollinators play in our ecosystem and what we can do to support and protect pollinators.

Attendees will be given a seed packet, or a small flowering plant, both native.


Anneke Vermeulen, a soil conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be part of the presentation.  She works with local farmers on conservation plans to manage resources responsibly for both humans and wildlife.

Pollinators are a strong passion of hers and she is looking forward to the opportunity to share her knowledge with the Gun Lake Tribe and all those who attend the May 24 event.


Hastings Police Cadets Class of 2017 continues tradition of giving back to the community

The 2017 Class of Hastings Police Cadets is continuing the program’s mission of giving back to the community, following in the footsteps of the first two classes. In their latest project, cadets attended the Household Hazardous Waste Collection on May 13, where they collected discarded batteries to sell to Padnos Louis Iron & Metal Company in Hastings, Sgt. Kris Miller said.


The cadets netted $361, and donated it to Barry County United Way. The money is earmarked to help fund a BCUW car seat program to be held in July, Miller said. Last year, cadets donated the proceeds from a similar effort to the YMCA to help kids pay for programs.


The cadets, all Hastings High School students, were busy throughout the school year, helping others by doing chores like raking leaves and washing windows around the COA building and for several elderly homeowners,  serving hot chocolate to “trick or treaters” on Halloween on Green Street and checking candy, helping during Easter Egg Hunts, entertaining kids with crafts and treats before they go to “Shop with a Cop,” cleaning up trash along the Hastings River Walk, and helping with a bicycle helmet fitting event, Miller said. This year’s class of Cadets will have its own graduation ceremony later this month.


Billed as Hastings Michigan Recycling Center for Barry County, Padnos recycles plastic bottles, electronic waste, aluminum cans, newspapers and all kinds of scrap. The Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee sponsors two Household Hazardous Waste Collections a year.



Photo (upper left) Taking part in the check presentation to the Barry County United Way are (from left) Hastings Police Sgt. Kris Miller, Cadets Joshua Sherwood and Carson Winick, BCUW Executive Director Lani Forbes and BCUW Community Input and Veterans Affairs Coordinator Pattrick Jansens.


Photo (left) Hastings Police Cadets who worked at the May 13 Hazardous Household Waste Collection are (front row, from left) Dakota Chilton, Allyson O'Dell, Justin Voshell, Hayden McMahon, (back row) Deputy Chief Dale Boulter and Cadets Hunter Tyner, Carson Winick, Joshua Bachman and Joshua Sherwood. 


Hastings Resident Hit By a Scam

A Hastings resident according to the Hastings Police Department  was scammed out of $500.00 when he went on line to locate a company to repair his computer. The company charged him $300.00 for their service. Shortly there after the company contacted him telling him they were told by another source they must return his $300.00 plus a another $100.00. The check to him was for $1,200. He was to take out the $400.00 and send the rest by gram to China. When he went to the store to send the gram it was not working. He was advised then to purchase $500.00 in gift cards and send the verification codes. That's when he discovered he was scammed out of The $500.00.


May is melanoma, skin cancer detection and prevention month

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer and also causes wrinkles, blotches or spots on your skin.

The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented, and it can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early.


During the month of May, join the Barry-Eaton District Health Department in taking action to prevent skin cancer and reduce the risk of UV damage by taking these simple steps today to protect your skin:


* Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

* Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Put on sunscreen every 2 hours and after you swim or sweat.

* Cover up with long sleeves and a hat.

* Check your skin regularly for changes.


For more information on skin cancer prevention strategies, visit or Follow us on Facebook at and stay tuned for a series of webinars offering child care centers, recreational facilities and outdoor workers easy-to-implement skin cancer prevention tactics.


Teens and parents: Make graduations safe, follow the law, Sheriff Miller says

Ionia County Sheriff Dale Miller wants teens in Ionia County to have a fun and memorable experience at this year’s graduation and graduation open houses. To ensure that teens stay safe, he is reminding them and their parents that underage drinking is not only dangerous but it is against the law. 

“You can’t have a memorable experience at graduation if you are unable to remember any of it because you have had too much to drink,” Miller said.


The consequences of underage drinking are serious.  Every year underage drivers under the influence of alcohol kill or seriously injure themselves or others in crashes.  In some communities a partnership between law enforcement and school officials prevents students who have been caught drinking from participating in extracurricular activities, he said.


Miller offers the following tips to prevent underage drinking and keep this year’s prom and graduation open houses safe for everyone in the community:

• Parents and other adults must remember that underage drinking is against the law. Not only is furnishing alcohol to someone under age 21 a crime, it sends the wrong message.

• Parents and teens both need to understand that “everybody is doing it” is just plain wrong! Being liked should never mean giving up your personal responsibility or caving in to social pressures. Parents have an obligation to set boundaries that tell teens which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. //

• Everyone in a community is responsible for preventing alcohol-related injuries. During graduation time retailers and others in the community have a responsibility to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.


Suspicious activity may include: Drinking and/or visible intoxication of a youth, someone purchasing a large quantity of alcohol, furnishing alcohol to a minor, or a teen using a false ID and prom parties hosted in hotel rooms


 “Keep safe during your end of school celebrations,” Miller warns. “If you are a teen, don’t drink or use drugs. If you are a parent, remain vigilant about what your teen is doing. By making it inconvenient for kids to drink, you just may save a life.”


Recycling Coordinator proposed for Barry County

The Barry County Commission’s committee of the whole unanimously recommended entering a contract for a solid waste coordinator to provide the resources and expertise to help create and expand sustainable recycling in the county.


Frank Fiala, chairman of the Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee, proposed a two-year contract with Iris Waste Diversion Specialists, Inc. to work with township leaders and others to increase recycling in the county.


“Iris has a wealth of experience in the recycling arena, and has a strong track record in providing similar services for units of government throughout the State of Michigan,” Fiala said.

The $40,000 a year cost is to be paid from the Barry County Solid Waste Fund, which Fiala said has been built up over time.


Sarah Archer, president of Iris, will work with the BCSWOC, township and local units of government, other organizations and the solid waste industry to coordinate and improve recycling through source reduction, source separation, recycling and reuse.


Archer will first “explore all facets of recycling” in Barry Country, and work with others to coordinate efforts to keep items out of the landfill and “improve what we have,” Fiala said.

Archer noted that Michigan does half the rate of recycling of neighboring states, with a recycling rate of just 14 percent.

“You can’t force residents to recycle, but you can give them opportunities,” Commission Chairman Ben Geiger said, adding that some townships in the county have effective recycling programs. //


Also Tuesday, IT Director David Shinavier’s request to buy 12 new copiers/printers for the county was also recommended for approval by the committee. Shinavier had earlier approval to seek bids for copiers; nine companies responded. The goal is to have all the copiers with one vendor, one contract and the same age, Shinavier said, which will bring lower price and maintenance costs.

The low bidder, Ricoh Corporation, asks  $52,522.33 for the dozen machines with five years maintenance, supplies and training.


The IT department will sell some of the older copiers and keep at least four for other county offices that use copiers less frequently, like in the Courts & Law basement where records are kept.

The cost for black and white copies is 0.0030 and 0.0300 for color copies. The county produces about 92,000 copies a month.


Commissioners also recommended approval of entry into the Michigan Department of Agricultural Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation, more commonly known as PA 116, for Norman and Kim Hammond in Section 2 of Barry Township and Brad Smelker in section 7 of Carlton Township, and partial termination of PA 116 for property owned by Brian Leudke in Section 24 of Carlton Township.

The recommendations are expected to be acted on at the next regular board meeting.


Barry Commissioners to take more time to decide on COA millage request

Barry County Commission Chairman Ben Geiger issued a clarification after Tuesday’s meeting on the commission’s future consideration of a millage request to fund a new Commission On Aging building.

Commissioners will not vote next week on the issue, but instead will discuss several issues over the coming weeks regarding revised ballot language, discussing paring the size of  the building from 25,000 square feet to 20, 000 square feet, and the size of the millage, “to save some taxpayers dollars,” Geiger said. The initial plan was for a 20 year, 0.1843 millage request on the Nov. 7  ballot to fund a new $6 million Commission on Aging building.


A resolution approving an Aug. 8 ballot request was ready for a vote at Tuesday’s special board meeting, but COA Director Tammy Pennington said she preferred a November date to give them time to answer questions and provide information to the people.

By consensus, the commission agreed to change the resolution language to Nov.7 and now have until Aug. 15 to submit revised ballot language.


The latest, updated financial figures show a new 25,000 square foot building closer to M-43 at its present site on Woodlawn Avenue that would cost $5.5 million; adding architectural costs of $385,000 and the cost of bonding, $135,000, brings the total of $6 million.

Funding the project as presented, would require a 20-year bond; with 4.5 percent annual interest, the requested millage would be 0.1843 mills. Barry County property owners with a taxable value of $50,000 would pay, on average, $3.27 the first year and $9.22 in subsequent years. //


Pennington, who gave the COA’s  annual report at the committee of the whole meeting immediately before the special board meeting, answered several questions from commissioners.

After consulting similar counties COA’s with like facilities, Pennington expected savings of approximately $19,632 annually by making Meals on Wheel meals in house in a new commercial kitchen and anticipated growth of the adult day services. She anticipated more savings from other programs, fund raising events and other services.

With more room, adult care could serve 15 to 20 adults, up from nine. Wheelchairs and  walkers hamper movement in the small space they have now, she said.


Pennington said the “big room” that the community uses frequently for special meetings,  holds 180 and would go to 300. With more space, they wouldn’t have to set up and take down every event they have in the big room. With dedicated smaller rooms, say for computer use and instruction,  they could run two programs at one time, without having set it up and tear it down,” she said. “Overall, it would help our core mission.”


Without a new building, the cost for maintaining the current building would be approximately $175,000 to $200,000.

Asked they could forgo repairs for a while if the millage passed, she said: “We could get by for two years, if a new building was at the end of the rainbow.”


The COA board met last week and passed a resolution supporting a millage request for August or November. The last COA millage request of 0.497 mills for 10 years was approved by voters in 2015.


A second proposal to move the COA into the Barry Eaton District Health Department building, the BEDHD into the Friend of the Courts building, the FOC into the empty Michigan State University’s Extension offices in the Courts & Law Building at a cost of  $5.5 million was not discussed.


Alcohol may have been involved in early morning crash

Kent County Sheriff’s Office deputies are not releasing the names or gender of a pair of 21-year-olds who suffered non-life threatening injuries in a 5:30 a.m. crash in Caledonia Township today (Monday).


Deputies report a Caledonia Township resident was driving a Toyota northbound on Thornapple River Drive, south of 68th Street when the vehicle left the roadway, drove into a cemetery, over several headstones, and stopped when it hit a tree.


The driver was transported by ambulance to Spectrum  Hospital; the passenger, from  East Lansing, was transported by ambulance to Metro Hospital. Oficials said alcohol may have been a factor.

The crash  remains under investigation.


The cemetery is owned and maintained by Caledonia Township. The township clerk was made aware of the damage to the headstones, which date back to the 1800s.

The sheriff’s office was assisted by Caledonia Fire/Rescue and Life Ambulance.


Hastings Cops vs Teachers b-ball game for Leo benefits Helen DeVos Children's Hospital

The Hastings Police Department presented a check to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with the proceeds funds raised in the Hastings Cops versus Hastings Teachers fundraising game in honor of five-year-old Leo Loeks. More than  $6,200 was raised and donated to Helen DeVos where Leo, the son of Megan and Bill Loeks of Hastings, goes for treatment of leukemia.


Pictured at the presentation are, from left, Police Chief Jeff Pratt, Sgt. Kris Miller, Laurie Alighire, program coordinator for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and Amy Smelker, Star School Elementary principal. Pratt thanked “everyone involved who made the fundraiser a very successful event.”


All Vietnam veterans to be recognized, honored at pinning ceremony

A formal Vietnam veteran lapel pinning ceremony will be held in Barry County Saturday, June 10 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war. All interested residents and veterans are encouraged to join in paying tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.


The event Saturday, June 10 at the Barry Expo, 1350 M-37, Hastings, is sponsored by State Senators, Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, and Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek. The senators will present a Vietnam War Commemorative lapel pin to U.S. veterans who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location.  


The lawmakers are hosting the welcome home Vietnam veterans event to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families, along with the Barry County Honor Guard, American Legion Post 484 Hickory Corners, American Legion Post 45 Hastings, American Legion Post 140 Middleville, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7 Battle Creek, Military Order of the Purple Heart USA Chapter 110, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4461 Lake Odessa, and American Legion Riders Post 45.


RSVP to Barry County American Legion Commander Jim Gross at 616-328-1343 or by email at


Guest speaker will be Brigadier General Michael A. Stone, assistant adjutant general for installations for the Michigan Army National Guard and deputy director, Michigan Department of Military & Veterans Affairs.

“The commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period,” Kowall said. “All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.”


“I’m honored and privileged to be able to present these Vietnam veterans with these Commemorative Lapel Pins,” Nofs said. “It’s a small token of our gratitude and appreciation for their sacrifice. That sacrifice will not be forgotten.”


 The commemoration was authorized by the U. S. Congress in 2012 to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America in light of the 50th anniversary of the war.  Kowall has held numerous events throughout the state, often partnering with the senator of the district where the event is being held. “It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.


Gold Star Mothers or Gold Star Wives of the Vietnam era who would like to receive an “In Memory Of” pin at a future lapel pinning ceremony should contact Lynn O’Brien in advance of the ceremony at 517-373-0563.

The event is made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.

For more, visit



Free fishing weekend coming up June 10-11

Grab a fishing rod and enjoy some of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer during the 2017 Summer Free Fishing Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11.

That weekend, everyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply. Also, the DNR will waive the fee for vehicle entry to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas for the free fishing weekend.



National Correctional Officers Week recognized

Before Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf gave his monthly report to the County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, he noted this is National Correctional Officers and Employees Week. The time to recognize the men and women who work in jails, prisons and community corrections, to raise awareness of the duties, hazards and sacrifices made by correctional workers.


Leaf said corrections officers work behind the scenes without a lot of publicity and suggested sending a card to a corrections officer to let them know they are appreciated.


The American Correctional Association (ACA) issued a proclamation saluting the thousands of women and men working in corrections, in administration, security or health care, in the federal system, a state system, a local facility, a private facility, or in a military facility, in an adult facility or a juvenile facility, in a prison, a jail, or a community-based program, saying the officers and workers are owed a tremendous debt of gratitude.


“Corrections professionals put their health, safety and lives on the line every day to maintain public safety, to reform and rehabilitate our nation’s offenders and perform many other duties. Our highly devoted corrections personnel do more than ‘guard’ offenders. They treat, counsel, train, teach and rebuild lives. They give hope,” the ACA message said.


The ACA encouraged correctional administrators and leaders as well as public officials to present awards and/or send letters of commendation and recognition to all those who have served in corrections dutifully, honorably and/or with distinction.



Attorney says Hastings police officer retaliated against after filing discrimination lawsuit

Sgt. Cleon Brown, a 19-year-veteran of the Hastings Police Department, has filed a lawsuit contending his civil rights were violated by racial discrimination when he revealed an DNA test said he is 18 percent African.

The city, Police Chief Jeff Pratt, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter, Sgt. Kris Miller and City Manager Jeff Mansfield  were named in the federal lawsuit. The amount named in the suit is in excess of $500,000. The lawsuit has brought a response from the city (see related story).


Brown’s Attorney Karie Boylan, from Boylan Law in Rochester, said Tuesday they have not received the document. “We are waiting for their response to our complaint. I asked for them to come to the table to find a resolution…to  find remedies and a consent agreement; more training; put remediation rules in place, make the responsible people pay for what they did, so fences can be mended, to make the department the best it can be, so Cleon can support himself working in his profession.”


After Brown filed the suit, the defendants retaliated by un-friending him on Facebook and taking him off the official Hastings website, Boylan said. “When they used to have friendly banter when they passed in the halls, now they don’t talk to him,” she said. “Mansfield now doesn’t even acknowledge him.


“Cleon wasn’t allowed to play in the April 26 basketball game, something he has done for years. He was told he couldn’t attend sergeant’s school, then they said he could, but it had to be on off-duty time without pay, then they changed policies so he wouldn’t have time to do it, so he would fail. Chief Pratt wanted him to resign,” she said.


“I want to make abundantly clear this has to do with the main defendants,” Boylan said. “Eighty percent of the staff, the other officers and union rep all support him, making it tolerable to keep working. It is just the people in charge, the others are fine.” Brown is five years away from retiring, he needs to keep working, she added.


Brown’s health has suffered from the stress of the alleged harassment and retaliation, she said. “He sleeps in an upright position because of acid stomach. He has sores in his mouth from the acid.”

Boylan said when they get the city’s response, it will be followed by “four to six months of dealing with legal issues and then go to regular court.”





City of Hastings responds to police officer's charge of racial discrimination

A Hastings police officer is suing the City of Hastings, and several officials for racial discrimination.

Sgt. Cleon Brown, a 19-year-veteran of the police department has named the city, Police Chief Jeff Pratt, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter, Sgt. Kris Miller and City Manager Jeff Mansfield in a federal lawsuit filed early last month alleging derogatory remarks to him about his race.

Brown contends after he told fellow officers in November, 2016, that an DNA test said he was 18 percent African, several officers in the department harassed him on different occasions during November and  December 2016.


In a traditional event where officers put notes and other items in each others Christmas stockings during the holidays as a way to reduce the stress of their jobs, Brown a found black plastic Santa head with the number 18 percent in his stocking.

He said the harassment continued until Dec. 23, 2016. The law suit is for $500,000.


However, city attorneys issued a statement saying there are five elements Brown must meet to prevail in his charges of discrimination and he meets none of them.

“Sgt. Brown cannot demonstrate the elements necessary to prevail on a claim of illegal racial harassment with regard to the allegations contained in his Charge of Discrimination,”  the statement from Hastings officials said.

The five elements:

(1) He is a member of a protected class,

(2) He was subject to unwelcome racial harassment,

(3) The harassment was based on race,

(4) The harassment unreasonably interfered with his work performance by creating a hostile work environment and,

(5) The employer is liable for the harassment if they fail to take prompt and corrective action once they become aware of harassment.


The city’s response:

Racial discrimination laws were not designed to protect those who can demonstrate some trace amount of a particular race through testing, but on outward appearances that stereotype an individual.

Brown made a point to tell others of his heritage, he joked about it in a racially derogatory way himself, went to other officers and raised the topic and engaged in typical racial stereotypes. “Clearly, Sgt. Brown welcomed his interaction with other officers on this topic.” the statement reads. “In this case, the facts show that not only did claimant invite joking and banter regarding racial stereotypes because of his African heritage, but he never found them to be abuse or hurtful toward him,” according to the statement. //


 “Sgt. Brown did not mention the fact that he was offended by any actions of fellow officers during November and December, 2016, until February, 2017.” When he did, Pratt asked if there were any more instances of harassment, and Brown mentioned the black Santa.

Pratt told Brown he had made sure the Santa was removed at the time and told those who had seen the Santa there would be no more joking with Brown about his genetic test results. Brown acknowledged there were no incidents after Dec. 23, 2016.


Since the city took appropriate action to prevent any further harassment or any matter involving illegal harassment or discrimination, the city is not liable for the harassment, the statement concluded.

Brown was hired by the Hastings Police Department as a patrol officer on April 13, 1998.  He was promoted to Sergeant on January 30, 2016. 


























Customer satisfaction very high at Barry County Transit

Barry Transit Director Bill Voigt was gratified by the results of a survey taken on about how riders felt about using the transit service.


Conducted by a research team from Michigan State University and contracted through the MDOT, the survey found customer satisfaction was “very high” with the Barry County Transit.

“MSU actually conducted interviews of our clients on several of our buses all day long over a few days.  They did this at no cost to our taxpayers, too!” Voigt said. “As always there is some work to do but all in all, I think the ratings were quite high!  I think if you take out the high and the low it leaves a pretty fair picture.”


The survey was conducted on Feb. 24 and March 3 and 1, with data collected from 58 respondents.

The majority of respondents answered very satisfied for every question in the satisfaction category. The results of the trip purpose category showed the service is mostly used to travel from home to reach a destination, and the most common destination is also home. The questions on demographics, shows the most common Barry County Transit Authority riders are Caucasian/white 65 years or older and retired with no special needs.


For customer satisfaction, transit riders were asked 19 questions in seven categories: timeliness, comfort, cleanliness, information availability and ease of use, customer service, safety/security, and cost/value. In each category, the majority of respondents rated themselves “very satisfied.”// Forty five transit riders were asked what they would do if public transportation was not available. Forty five persons responded to the question. Forty percent said they would not make the trip; 

13 percent said they would look for alternative destination.

The remaining 46.7 percent would take the following alternative transportation options: 15.6 percent said they would walk, 15.6 percent said they would get a ride, 2.2 percent said they would drive and 13.3 percent said something else. The majority of respondents said their total combined annual household income was less than $10,000.


Some additional comments:

· “I am very happy that we have the transit. Almost all the drivers are friendly and easy going. You also have a great team on the phones. I just love Miss Mary, oh and Larry is a pretty good guy too. Keep up the great work Barry County Transit Team!”

· “One of the most exceptional transit systems I have ever encountered. Considerate and professional.”

· “Love the service”

· “Add hand sanitizer to buses”

· “I am 89, and have trouble getting on the bus, some help, others do not. Have requested the car but they say they always booked. I go to see my son in the nursing home. Have no other way to get there.”

· “I answered this for the whole time I have used the service, not just today's experience.”

· “Very good transportation services”

· “I am a first time rider and will definitely ride again!”

· “I am appreciative of the fact Barry County offers this service as I do not own a vehicle. Nothing negative to say.”

· “Service is fantastic and everyone is wonderful. Would like to see service expanded on Saturdays and running on Sundays (church)”

· “Great service. Thank you!”

Customer satisfaction was very good overall. Analysis of the final question of the survey, which asked if respondents had any additional comments, demonstrates that riders are pleased with their transit experience.

However, a few respondents commented that sometimes they find the drivers to be acting unprofessionally on the job or are unhelpful. This is especially true for the respondent who commented that they almost got hit by an agency bus.

It is recommended that the agency reiterate safety and timeliness measures with its drivers so that these issues are not of concern in the future.




Delton Kellogg to negotiate a superintendent's contract with Three Rivers school principal

The Delton Kellogg Board of Education has unanimously made its choice for its next superintendent.

Kyle Corlett, currently principal of Park Elementary in Three Rivers, was asked to negotiate a contract to lead the district after a special board meeting Monday 


The search started with Hartman Consulting in February, leading to interviews of seven candidates, that were narrowed to four for second interviews in late April. The board members who visited Park Elementary said they talked to officials, teachers and others and heard nothing but positive things about Corlett.

The goal is to have Corlett in place on July 1. Interim Superintendent Carl Schoessel leaves the district on June 30. Schoessel accepted the position in the summer of 2014, when officials were having difficulty finding a permanent replacement for retiring Superintendent Paul Blacken. Schoessel signed on for two years and agreed to stay an additional year.  Well known in the community, Schoessel was superintendent for the Hastings Area School System for more than 20 years.


Corlett taught English at Momence High School in Momence IL. from 2007 to 2013; was Curriculum Coordinator there 2013-2014; was Curriculum Director/Elementary Principal for Iroquois West Elementary Community Unit School District (CUSD) 10 in Gilman, IL. from 2013 to 2015 and principal at Park Elementary in Three Rivers from 2015 to present.


He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities at Cornerstone University, a Masters degree in Education from Olivet Nazarene University and is working toward a PhD in Educational Leadership:K-12 Leadership, at Western Michigan University, with anticipated course work completion in spring of 2018.

Corlett said it was an honor to be selected by the Delton Kellogg Board of Education. 


Barry County elected officials pay to be decided by compensation committee

Barry County Commissioners and other colunty elected officials, will have their pay decided by others after they voted, 5 to 2 to set up a County Officer’s Compensation Commission to decide salaries for elected officials, other than judges. The new commission will be a seven-member independent body appointed by Commission Chairman Ben Geiger from a list of names submitted by the other commissioners. The commissioners would need to ratify Geiger’s choices, he said.


Determinations by the compensation commission would go into effect unless a super majority of the commission voted against it. If county commissioners do not act, the salaries would be effective in the first odd-numbered year after the committee’s determination. In answer to questions, Geiger said the commission members would get paid only mileage, not per diems, would set their own time table for considering salary increases and their own criteria; they do not have to follow the recommendations of the Segal Waters compensation study.


Commissioners Vivian Conner and Heather Wing voted no, with Conner saying she was elected to make decisions. “I’m not afraid to look at the compensation of elected officials and vote on those decisions,” she said. “I don’t want to delegate the process…I really feel we need to leave it in our hands. That’s what constituents want us to do.”


“I would just as soon not decide my own salary,” Commissioner Dan Parker said.

Barry County had a compensation committee until about  2003, when it was abandoned in favor of commissioners setting salaries. The new committee members could not be a member or employee of the legislative, judicial or executive branch of any level of government, or a member of that person’s immediate family, Geiger said.


Elected Barry County officials are the clerk, prosecutor, sheriff, register of deeds, treasurer, drain commissioner, surveyor and commissioners.


Also to do with salaries, in a memo to other Barry County Commissioners dated April 28, Geiger notified them that a recent action granting wage increases to the Barry County Courthouse Association employees, general fund department heads and non-represented (GFDHNR) employees in line with a compensation study, also would mean raises for Administrator Michael Brown.

“While the County Administrator has a separate employment contract, Michael was included in the list of GFDHNR employees that were granted salary increases effective May 1, 2017 through 2020, though the current agreement with the County Administrator expires December 31, 2019,” Geiger said.


Brown’s contract calls for salary of $103,334.40 annually in 2017 and any further increases or decreases in salary in 2017, 2018 and 2019, would be based on increases or decreases of other county managers, he said.


Brown was listed with the other GFDHNR employees approved for salary increases “off scale” but a corresponding off scale pay scale for the county administrator was not attached, Geiger said.

However, the county administrators position was one of the job titles that was compared in the study. Based on the comparison, the overall market maximum for the County Administrator’s position was $124,105, he said.


Following the same strategy used with the other employees, the market max in 2015 would be the 2020 target and salary adjustments for the administrator are as follows, he said: “Effective May 1, 2017, the salary will be adjusted for a 2017 annual salary of $106,314.95; effective 1/1/18 an annual salary of $113,201.10 and effective 1/1/19, an annual salary of $118,657.55.” //


Commissioners contracted for a classification and compensation study in September 2015 with Segal Waters Consulting Group for $92,500.  In the compensation part of the study, Barry County employee’s pay was compared to four geographical neighbors, Kent, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Eaton counties. Based on population and taxable values, Montcalm, Ionia, Cass and St, Joseph counties were selected. Two cities, Kentwood and Kalamazoo were also compared. They were all asked to identify pay rates for 50 job titles, or benchmarks.


The commission also delayed approving the replacement of the Gun Lake Dam on Marsh Road in Orangeville Township by Land and Resources Engineering until May 23, to give county Attorney Doug Kelly time to do what Conner called “a little wordsmithing” on the agreement language.



No foul play in Lake Odessa teen's death

An 18-year-old woman was struck and killed by a train in the Village of Lake Odessa just after midnight Wednesday.

“It appears that no one else was involved and early indications are that it was an accident or self induced, no foul play at all,” Lake Odessa Police Chief Mark Bender said.

The name can’t be released at this time, he said.


Barry County Commission hears Health Department update, names Tyden Center

Barry Eaton District Health Department officials gave an update on data they can access and how they use it to the Barry County Commissioners Tuesday, but before the presentation, Citizen Jack Miner spoke, asking the commissioners to remember three things as they listened to the report.


“Thirty five percent of our residents receive some type of Social Security, $55,064 is the average household income in Barry County and six executives of the Barry Eaton District Health Department will cost the taxpayer close to three quarters of million dollars in this fiscal year,” he said.


The health department’s budget is about $6,350,000 and none of the departments under the control of the commission have executive costs that come near those numbers, Miner said.

“You have shared control of the health department with Eaton County and maybe it’s time to reconsider this arrangement.”


In the report, BEDHD Health Officer Collette Scrimger reported a 2016 highlight is that they are a nationally accredited Health Department after achieving accreditation from the Public Accreditation Board.

Anne Barna, evaluation manager, discussed data sources available on the department’s health statistics website, data from surveys for area schools, and phone surveys inside Barry County.

Other  data sources available to the health department include the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Statistics website,  the State of Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth, county health rankings, and the CDC, she said.


The Barry County Community Health Needs Assessment identified Chronic Disease, Mental Health, Obesity, Smoking and Tobacco Use and Opportunities for Physical Activity as top health concerns.


In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

*officially named the former library/post office the Tyden Center for an early influential Hastings businessman, Emil Tyden. A survey on WBCH and the county website showed an overwhelming majority percent of respondents wanted it named after Tyden.


*approved the sheriff’s office upgrading technology with 10 new Kustom Signals Raptor speed radar detectors from low bidder Kustom Signals for $17,420.


*accepted the taxable value report for the county from Timothy Vandermark, equalization director.


* approved the 2018 budget calendar with specific dates for each step in the process from May to Oct. 24, 2017.


*approved the Office of Community Corrections 2018 grant application to the state for a total of $100,073. 


Poppy days are May 18, 19, 20

Lawrence Bauer American Post # 45 in Hastings will accept donations for poppies during May 18, 19 and 20 during Post #45 Auxiliary Poppy Days. Thursday, May 18 volunteers will be at K-Mart and Wal-Mart;  Friday, May 19 at K-Mart and Family Fare and Saturday. May 20 at K-Mart, Family Fare and Wal-Mart.

Since its inception, the red poppy signifying the blood lost by millions of Allied soldiers in World War 1, has lived up to its motto: “To honor the dead by helping the living,” by directly benefitting thousands of disabled American veterans. The movement is said to have been inspired by a poem by Colonel John McCrae.


Flander's Field by John McCrae:


“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved and now we lie,

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe

To you, from failing hands, we throw,

The torch, be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us, who die,

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,

In Flanders Fields.”



Veterans Memorial in Tyden Park to be dedicated Memorial Day

Thanks to many dedicated volunteers, the Tyden Park Veterans Memorial is being finished and is expected to be dedicated Monday, May 29, after the Lawrence Bauer American Legion Post 45 annual Memorial Day Parade that steps off at 9:30 a.m. The limestone caps will be set on the brick piers this weekend, and the three foot tall black aluminum fence will be installed between the piers on the May 15.



Rep. Calley plans local office hours in May

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley, Portland, welcomes residents to office hours in two communities on Monday, May 22.

Calley will give attendees a legislative update before taking individual meetings of ten minutes each at:


* The Village of Lake Odessa, Page Memorial Building, 839 Fourth Avenue, Lake Odessa, from 11 a.m. to noon.

* The Barry County Courthouse, Commissioners’ Chambers in the mezzanine, 220 West State Street, Hastings, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.


"District office hours allow me to learn more about the priorities of the people I serve,” Calley said. “I value their insight and welcome the opportunity to address questions." No appointment is necessary. Residents unable to attend scheduled office hours may send their questions and ideas to Calley at 517-373-0842 or via email at



Bill Cobbs is running for Michigan Governor in 2018 as a Democrat.

William C. Cobbs III is running for the governship of Michigan as a Democrat in 2018.

“I am not a politician...I’m a citizen who feels called to serve my community to steer us out of difficult times,” he said. “The state must restore public policy driven by its citizens.”


Cobbs attended Detroit public schools, and worked his way from stock boy in a Detroit clothing store to a Global Vice President in  Xerox Corporation.  A U.S. Navy veteran, Cobbs is retired from Xerox. "Now I coach promising Fortune 500 Company executives on how to listen to their customers, how to listen to their team and how to win,” he said.


He believes the way to take Michigan forward is to build a solid foundation, emphasizing a long term plan for fixing the state’s infrastructure, investing in a quality K-12 education for the state’s children and assuring access to safe, clean, affordable water.


Education: The foundation of a restored State of Michigan includes restoring K-12 public education through proper funding. A college tuition promise type fund. Every school should have a vocational program to teach plumbing, carpentry, electric, so those who don’t go to college can earn a living in Michigan. “If we don’t do it, we will be in deep trouble.”


Infrastructure: “Flint was at its core an infrastructure issue...if we have learned anything in Flint, it is that we need a state-wide 20 to 25 year infrastructure plan, he said. ”It would be paid for with 30-year municipal bonds. “That would provide work for any citizen who wanted it for the next 20-25 years.”


Environment: “We must have a water and environment policy that protects Michigan for Michigan people… a policy to restore and protect the Great Lakes and our inland waterways. Michigan is surrounded by 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, we have to protect  it.” He advocates shutting down the Enbridge pipeline under Lake Michigan  and saying “no” to any increase in water for Nestle. “Water is going to be the new oil,” he predicted.


Income tax fairness: Cobbs proposes a progressive income tax with no change in the current Michigan income tax rate of 4.25 percent tax for households earning up to $200,000 a year. The rate would progress gradually with a top-stop of 10 percent for households earning $600,000 or above. Cobbs said it will raise between $3.2 to $8 billion dollars in revenue. The additional dollars would service the municipal infrastructure bonds.


“Under Governor Rick Snyder, the state has made international headlines of mice infested schools, water shut offs and lead poisoning, I’m tired of Michigan going in the wrong direction.

“In Michigan, we have a ton of issues. People say what about insurance, what about this, what about that? If we have a foundation for the future, the rest will come. Take care of the most important issues first.”


Cobbs graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, attended Wayne State Law School and the University of Michigan. Married for 36 years to Lisa Weaver Cobbs, the couple lives in Farmington Hills, have two children and a granddaughter.


Michigan Ag. Dept. issues consumer advisory for metal flecks in one Pepsi product

Out of an abundance of caution, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development today issued a consumer advisory for 16.9 ounce Pepsi bottles distributed in Michigan under product codes HC022373 and HC022473.

An investigation initiated by a consumer complaint determined some of the products contained metal flecks due to a malfunction of equipment during bottling. Laboratory analysis identified the flecks as iron and chromium.


The metal flecks found during the investigation were very small (0.1 - 0.3 mm), but there is a concern that larger flecks could have been formed when the equipment failed. No known injuries or illnesses associated with these products have been reported to date.

The advisory applies only to 16.9 ounce plastic bottles of Pepsi-Cola – it does not apply to Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar, or any other Pepsi-Cola flavor variations, or any other package sizes.


Consumers are encouraged to check whether they have purchased Pepsi 16.9 ounce product with these lot codes, and if so, return the product to the place of purchase. Pepsi has removed all affected products from store shelves, but some of the products may have been purchased before the market withdrawal occurred.


Questions or concerns may be directed to Pepsi-Cola Consumer Relations at 866-433-2652 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT, or; or contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939.


Barry County resident running for Governor in 2018

Dwain Reynolds, a member of the Green Party from Yankee Springs Township, is running for governor of Michigan in 2018. A Democratic Socialist, Reynolds said, if elected, “I would listen to the people and ask what’s best for everyone. I would break the stranglehold the rich and big business have on our democracy. It’s about time they paid their dues; the taxes for the rich would increase drastically,” he said.


The high school Social Studies teacher believes with gerrymandering and other electoral issues,  big money, big business and special interests have taken democracy away from the people.

“We need to bring democracy back the people, make a Michigan where my votes count,” he said.


Businesses should be owned by the workers and have a say in who manages it and how money is spent and everybody should have the  ability to unionize, including those in prison, he said.

Nestle would not get water from Michigan, if he were governor, Reynolds said. “Nestle has no business taking water away from the people…that’s profit over people.”


"Education is incredibly important," he said. "We need well-rounded critical thinkers who can earn a living here. Schools need machine shop, metal works, plumbing and electrical training to certify a trade to make a living, work their way out of poverty and keep pursuing more education. And, make it absolutely free, not putting them into debt.”


The minimum wage should be $15 an hour, and Medicare and Medicaid retained. He would have the people vote on the state budget.

There would be no private electric and water companies; it would provided by municipalities with management elected by the people.


“I worry about the people I care about. Republican policies and ideology is hurtful. Democrats try, but it’s just band aids. We need somebody to stand up for the people who don’t feel they have a voice. I will be all inclusive and work with everybody.”


“I know I’ve got a long way to go. My run it not to fix things with band aids, but to reform the way we do things to make them better. I see a better future.” Reynolds said he accepts donations for his campaign from private donations only. To learn more about Reynolds visit:


Photo: Dwain Reynolds


Hastings police officer files suit against the city, officials for alleged civil rights violations, report says

An article saying that a Hastings police officer, Sgt. Cleon Brown, is suing the City of Hastings, its police chief, two police officers and its city manager for violating his civil rights, was aired in a news story on WOOD TV Saturday.


WBCH e-mailed City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Police Chief Jeff Pratt, and Brown’s attorney Karie Boylan, early Saturday morning asking for comment.

Pratt said that all comments on the matter will be handled by Mansfield.


“We are simply not at liberty to provide comment on this matter at this time,” Mansfield said. “We are of course in the process of addressing these allegations through the appropriate channels.  We will do so as expeditiously as possible.”


Brown’s attorney alleged that Brown was harassed and his civil rights violated by fellow officers after he learned that he was 18 percent black, the news story said.

The city, Pratt, Mansfield, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter, and Sgt. Kris Miller are named in the suit, according to the aired report, which also said the lawsuit is for in excess of $500,000. WBCH will attempt to learn more details about the charges, where they were filed, the attorney for the city and possible court dates, as well as comments from Boylen and Brown.


Photo: Sgt. Cleon Brown displays a police camera mounted on his glasses in a file photo.





SBCSWA board terminates Administer Mark Doster, moves plant manager to interim general manager

In a special meeting May 4, the Southwest Barry County Sewer and Water Authority board opened the meeting, and went into an hour and a half closed session with Attorney Scott Dwyer from Mika, Meyers.

They came back into open session and voted 4-1 to eliminate the administrator and project manager positions, thus ending Administrator Mark Doster’s employment with the authority.

The motion to terminate Doster also made Plant Manager Scott Monroe interim general manager for the time being.  The board will look at a salary adjustment for a general manager, and also negotiate a separation package with Doster.


The action comes after months of questions about Doster’s pay, hours worked and accessibility to the public. Barry County Commissioner David Jackson has brought up Doster’s pay at several board meetings, charging he was being paid full-time wages for a part-time  job.


A shaken Doster asked for a few minutes to think before making a comment on his dismissal.

David Messelink, chairman; Barbara Earl, representing Johnstown Township; Wes Kahler, from Barry Township, and Matt Peake, Hope Township, voted to terminate Doster.  Jim Stoneburner, Prairieville Township, voted “no.”


In his response, Doster traced his involvement in the sewer serving Southwest Barry County from when, as a Barry County Commissioner in the early 1990s, he voted to approve funding for the system, to as Prairieville Township Supervisor, he served on the authority board, and became its chairman.


Doster said the system was then facing severe financial trouble and lawsuits, which he helped resolve by refinancing a large debt, saving the authority money and raising the user rates to finish paying the debt. He became administer of the authority in 2005.


The authority has avoided raising rates since by expanding the service to Long, Gilkey and Guernsey lakes, Delton, Cloverdale and other areas, he said. “All were extraordinarily successful.”  

He praised authority employees, saying they worked well together, and the 2,200 to 2,300 people on the system who helped solve the problems.


“We’ve had 12 years of extraordinary success ,we’re in fine financial position. I always had a policy of treating everyone fairly, everyone like a human being. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve done here.”


In other business, the board increased the authority office hours immediately to 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The board is considering a fingerprint system as a “time clock,” and security camera system for both the plant and office, and will act on that at its regular board meeting May 23 meeting. //


Messelink later issued the following statement:

“Tonight we turned the page and tomorrow we begin writing a new chapter in the history of the Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority. The board, after reviewing the Authority’s operations, finances, structures, and needs, has decided to go in a different direction by eliminating the Administrator & Project Manager positions and creating, at least on a temporary basis, the position of General Manager.

Scott Monroe, the current plant manager, has been appointed to be the general manager on an interim basis and will serve in that capacity until further notice. The board will decide the exact direction and implementation in the coming months.

“The board and all employees of the authority remain fully dedicated to providing the best service and support possible to our customers. We are excited about the opportunities ahead to better serve our community.”




Barry County Animal Shelter part of Empty the Shelters day

Thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation’s latest statewide Empty the Shelter event, 1,530 pets found forever homes, according to the Foundation.

The Grand Rapids-based non-profit paid all adoption fees at 65 shelters and rescue organizations, including the Barry County Animal Shelter, on April 29.  

 “All of the adoptable cats that were in the shelter (nine) were adopted.  Seven dogs were adopted, only two senior dogs were not,” County Administrator Michael Brown reported.

Adopting families paid only the licensing fees, which vary by county from $7 to $12. Bissell picked up the rest and also gave each family an AdoptBox.


Results of school bond, millage requests in Tuesday's election mixed

A roundup of the results of requests by area schools for bonds and millage on May 2 shows both approvals and rejections by the voters.


Delton Kellogg Schools request for renewal of  the 18 mill non-homestead millage for four years passed, 604 to 546.


Kent Intermediate School District voters passed an enhancement millage request for  0.9 mill for 10 years, 39,996 to 34,193. Barry County voters in the Intermediate voted against the proposal, 1,110 to 816.


Kalamazoo  Educational Service Agency’s request for renewal of 1.5 mills for three years in Regional  Enhancement Millage passed 16,833 to 10,386. Barry County voters tallied 101 “no” votes to78 “yes” votes.


Both proposals by Wayland Union Schools failed: The $34.1 million bond proposal, 1,959 to 1,103 and the $20.845 million bond proposal by  2,011, to 1,049 (including Barry and Allegan County). Barry County voters in the district also rejected both requests: proposal 1, by 150 to 86 and  proposal 2, by 153 to 83.


Pennfield School District voters rejected a $8.6 million, 30 year bond proposal, 855 to 820. Barry County voters in the district reflected the loss, 23 to  9.


In Prairieville, the request for .8174 mills for four years for police protection was denied, 304 to 232.




Charlotte Dental Center welcomes new dentist

The Charlotte Dental Center at 623 Courthouse Drive has added a second dentist.  Dr.Tamar Shrikian, DMD, recently joined the My Community Dental Centers network and is joining Dr. Randle Samuels in the Charlotte center.  Shrikian earned her dental degree at the University of Pittsburgh with research interests in restorative, emergency and special needs dentistry.  Shrikian said she looks forward to improving patients understanding in the importance of good oral health, dental treatment and providing quality care. 


My Community Dental Centers operates the dental center on behalf of the Barry-Eaton District Health Department,  providing dental services to Medicaid enrollees, Healthy Kids Dental, Healthy Michigan Plan, low-income, uninsured and those with private insurance seeking a dental home. Comprehensive dental care for the entire family including – exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, and dentures is provided.


The care is customized to meet the individual needs of each person, and offered in a patient centered atmosphere with exceptional customer service. The centers also use electronic patient records, digital radiography, and state-of-the-art dental equipment.

 The Charlotte Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information or to register as a new patient, call 877.313.6232 or visit


Studies show that when your mouth is healthy, chances are your overall health is good as well.  Follow these tips for a healthy smile and overall healthy you: Visit your dentist regularly, brush twice a day for at least two minutes, using a soft bristled brush and fluoridated toothpaste, floss each day and eat healthy foods and limit snacks.


Shrikian's motto, “Treat others the way they want to be treated” reinforces not only the care she gives her patients, but MCDC’s value system.  The Charlotte Dental team welcomes  Shrikian and the increased dental care in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. 






Elevated home Radon levels can be fixed

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) gave out free short-term Radon home-testing kits to residents of Barry and Eaton counties during National Radon Action Month in January.

Now, residents whose test results showed that they have elevated levels of radon in their home, around or above 4 picocuries per liter of air [pCi/L], might be wondering what to do.


Residents with  short-term test result at or around 4 pCi/L, they should do another short-term test or a long-term test. A short-term follow-up test is best for homes with very elevated radon levels.  For homes with levels around 4 pCi/L, a long-term test will give a more accurate idea of the year-round radon level. Residents should fix their homes if two radon tests have results of 4 pCi/L or higher.


BEDHD offers short-term radon home-testing kits for $8 and long-term testing kits for $22.


Radon is a naturally-occurring invisible and odorless radioactive gas. It is caused by uranium decay in soil and bedrock. From the ground, the gas moves into buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation or walls, including at floor/wall joints; sump openings; and other plumbing, wiring, or ductwork openings.


Fixing homes with high radon levels is known as “Radon mitigation,’ and should be done by a qualified contractor who has specific knowledge, equipment and skills. The State of Michigan does not regulate Radon professionals, but there are two national associations that certify radon mitigators. To look for a local qualified mitigator go to the National Radon Safety Board ( or the National Radon Proficiency Program (


The cost of radon mitigation depends on how a house was built, its foundation type, and how high its radon level is and prices vary. Residents should get more than one estimate, compare proposals and ask for references when considering hiring a mitigator. //


Local resident Brenda McNabb-Stange, of Hastings, described her experience with radon mitigation. McNabb-Stange had her home tested for radon before she purchased it. The level was around 14 pCi/L. After a contactor sealed cracks and openings in her basement and installed a pipe and a fan system to draw radon outdoors, that level was reduced to about 0.7 pCi/L. Her mitigation system has lasted 11 years and hasn’t needed any maintenance. She believes everyone should test their homes for radon: “It’s silly for anyone not to test. I think it’s a risk for [others]—an unnecessary risk—and [radon] is so prevalent around this area.”


For more EPA information on radon mitigation, see   For more, visit, or contact BEDHD at (517) 541-2615  in Eaton County or (269) 945-9516 in Barry County.




Gun Lake Casino opens $76 million expansion, upscale buffet

Gun Lake Casino cut the ribbon today unveiling the $76 million expansion to the public. The expansion includes Harvest Buffet, more gaming space, and a new Stage 131 bar.






















Gun Lake Casino cut the ribbon today unveiling the $76 million expansion to the public. The expansion includes Harvest Buffet, more gaming space, and a new Stage 131 bar.


“We’re thankful to the community, our guests, and over 900 team members, who have supported Gun Lake Casino over the years and have made it what it is today,” said Scott Sprague, chairman for the Gun Lake Tribe.


“We’re pleased to offer a fantastic regional entertainment destination, along with employment opportunities and economic growth for our friends and neighbors here in West Michigan.


Gun Lake Casino originally opened its doors in February of 2011 with 83,000 square feet, which included 1,400 slot machines. The expansion will bring slot machine totals to over 2,000, with an additional 73,000 square feet. In addition to slots, the expansion also houses the 300-seat Harvest Buffet, offering lunch, dinner, and specialty nights, including steak and crab legs.


The addition also boasts a new Stage 131 bar, which will replace the former Stage 131 and is nearly double in size.  Stage 131 will continue to play live, local music seven nights a week with no cover charge.


“We’re excited to offer these new amenities for our guests.  We think they are really going to enjoy the new offerings we have,” commented Brent Arena, vice president & general manager for Gun Lake Casino. 


“We’re also thrilled to begin improvements to our current casino, including widening the aisles and improving the ventilation system.” Gun Lake Casino will continue its expansion endeavors, with additional table games, a high-limit room, and another bar planned to open late-summer into early fall. 


Photo: Gun Lake Tribe cuts the ribbon to open Gun Lake Casino’s new expansion

Left to right: Council Member Jeff Martin, Council Member Jennie Pearl Heeren, Council Member Phyllis Davis, Chairman Scott Sprague, Vice-Chairman Ed Pigeon, Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority CEO John Shagonaby, Council Member Jodie Palmer. 


No joking matter

A Hastings student is in trouble with the law and Hastings school officials after he posted a picture of himself holding a pistol with a text on "snapchat" a popular social media that said "don"t come to school tomorrow."

One of the students who received the text said they didn't even know this person. When the young man was question by Hastings Police with his mother present, he said,  "it was a joke."

The pistol  taken  by officers is a "Powerline Daisy BB Gun Pistol.

The Barry County Prosecutor is  now reviewing the police report.

Names have not been released.



Central El 4th graders donate pennies, nickels, and dimes for a classmate's walk to cure arthritis

Nicholas Kane, 10,  is a fourth grader at Central Elementary who lives with childhood rheumatoid arthritis.


On Saturday, May 6, he and his family will participate in the Walk to Cure Arthritis at John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids. Mom, siblings Ashleigh, 26, Jacob, 18 and Makenna, 17 as well as other family members will walk with Nick.


The funds raised from the walk goes directly to the Arthritis  Foundation’s nonprofit mission to find a cure for America’s leading cause of disability.

Nick was diagnosed at three. His classmates have known him since pre-school and now elementary and have always been entirely supportive, his mother Lona said.

“When he has to be in a wheel chair, they fight to see who will get to push him. When he goes on the elevator, he can pick one friend to ride with him.”



For many years, Nicholas’s condition has required frequent trips to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for rheumatology and orthopedics treatment and St. Mary’s for pain management.

“Through it all, his classmates have been kind and supportive,”  his teacher Teresta Bolo said. “However, recently they began to support him on another level. They joined in his fundraising efforts, creating awareness posters and giving speeches to other classes.”


In their speeches, they told of Nick’s struggles and provided information about his upcoming walk.

When the Kane’s get to the zoo for the walk, they will spend the day there, with a picnic lunch in front of the zoo and tables with free stuff for the kids, mom said.
“He’s a great kid. You’d never know to look at him what he is going through.”


Anyone can join the walk. Most teams are for supporting children, but there adults too.

“He has had great teachers at Central, they let him go to the office for medicine when he needs to; they support him in general, but Mrs. Bolo goes above and beyond, making posters and letting kids talk to the other classrooms. She’s just a great teacher.

“Nick and three girls made the presentations to the other kids. Anything he can do to end pain and treatment of arthritis, he’s all for it. He loves doing it.”

Bolo said the “presenters”  encouraged fellow students to donate pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars. In the end, his classmates raised $120.37 for “Team Nicholas,” she said.


Quoting a motto that the fourth graders have been living by this year, one student proudly commented, “No day is complete until a kindness is done. Today we did a kindness...a kindness for Nick.”


Photos: (Top left) Nicholas Kane holding a collection poster


(Top right)  Brennan Reser and Rachael Hewitt creating informational posters that were hung around the school.


(Middle left) Fourth graders Rachael Hewitt, Nicholas Kane and Izzy hold the money collection container they decorated.


(Bottom right) Ms. Bolo's fourth graders class.






Barry County committee of the whole recommends replacing Gun Lake Dam

The Barry County Commission’s committee of the whole has recommended replacing the Gun Lake Dam on Marsh Road in Orangeville Township. The full board will act on the recommendation at its meeting next Tuesday.

The dam was saved from collapse in May of 2015 by temporary emergency measures. A subsequent study by Land and Resource Engineering recommended a new control structure made of steel to protect public safety, properties around the lake and preserve natural resources.

The approval sets in motion the many steps involved, including approval by the Allegan County Board of Commissioners within 60 days of Barry County’s approval.


At an informational meeting held by Land and Resources Engineering for residents around the lake, all of the estimated 25 people present voted in a straw poll to replace the structure. Commissioner Vivian Conner, who represents District 6, said everyone she talked to on the subject, “just wanted to get it done.”


In other business Tuesday, the committee recommended approval of:


* the results of an unofficial survey held by WBCH and on the Barry County website, in which responders clearly wanted the former library on Court Street to be re-named the Tyden Center after early Hastings businessman Emil Tyden. Eighty two voted for Tyden, 10 voted for Andrew Mellon, 12 for the Cabinet Building and 26 supplied their own choices.


* the sheriff’s office request to continue upgrading its technology with 10 new Kustom Signals Raptor ROP-1 Dual Ka-Band speed radar detectors from low bidder Kustom Signals for $17,420. The office has 20 detectors, with 15 working. Undersheriff Matt Houchlei said deputies highly recommended the Kustom detectors and they are user friendly.


* the county's taxable value report from Timothy Vandermark, equalization director.


* the timelines for development of the 2018 budget, with specific dates for each step in the process from May to Oct. 24, 2017.


* the Office of Community Corrections 2018 grant application to the state, for a total of $100,073 for plans and services and $5,392 for a drunk driver jail reduction program. Administrator Dawn Karfonta said they asked for more funding this year to add anger management services and cognitive behavioral services to men and women separately. Karfonta said she was leaving Barry County this week to work for the State of Michigan and quipped she would then be assessing Barry County’s future requests.


No decision on new COA building for at least two weeks

Barry County Commissioners Tuesday delayed a decision on moving ahead with plans for a new Commission On Aging  building until they get more information on several things; possibly lowering the $6 million price tag, how to handle operational costs if the building twice the size of the present one is built, if they should try  to meet a May 16 deadline to put the millage proposal on the August ballot, pay $50,000 for a special election, and hear more from their constituents.


Mark Nettleton, attorney with Mika Meyers law firm explained the funding. The recommendation is for unlimited general obligation bonds of $6,020,000 over 20 years. With a millage rate of 0.1843, a projected 4.5 percent interest rate and using the example of a residential property’s taxable value of $50,000 and state equalized value of $100,000, the cost to the homeowner would be $9.22 a year, Nettleton said. The first levy would be on interest only, or  $3.27, and subsequent years would be both interest and principal at $9.22 a year.


There are two conflicting sides, Commissioner David Jackson said.” We know it has to be taken care of.” But he questioned unknown figures in the cost of repairs, the savings in maintenance and repairs, operational costs and doing meals in house.

“The COA does a tremendous  job…it would be a benefit to have a building for 50 years in the future,” he said.

However, people are reminding them of all the millages they already pay, he said. “Barry County voters are very generous, but they’re tired. They’re just tired of millage taxes…it seems fast to me.” He also asked for more information from the COA.


Consideration was pushed back to a special board meeting after the committee of the whole meeting on May 16. // 

Commissioner Vivian Conner said based on what people are telling her, “There is not a lot of love for another millage.” “There may not be,” Commissioner Dan Parker responded, “but there is a lot of love for the COA and it will be needed more and more as the boomers age.” He asked if there would be higher operating costs with a larger building. “Have you thought of that?”

COA executive Director Tammy Pennington said there would be a additional costs, but the proposal came up so quickly, the board had not met; a special meeting has been called for Friday to discuss the proposal. Parker asked Pennington to see if she could get operating costs in a few weeks.


Pennington said money would be saved in maintenance and repair costs, additional income could come from offering more services, and they could find the difference in cost for catering Meals on Wheels, which they do now, to making the meals in house in a larger, commercial kitchen in a new building.

Conner suggested delaying the issue and more study on other options, like selling the FOC building, as the facility plan suggests. Commissioner Heather Wing said there was time to look closer at the proposal. Commissioner Jon Smelker agreed there was no rush; he pointed out that the November election would be just three months after the August election.


Commissioner Howard Gibson said an August ballot will have no other proposals, and the general election in November might have many issues and lessen the chance for passage of millage. The discussion was only on a new COA building. No commissioner spoke on the three-way move that is the alternative plan: Moving the COA to the Barry Eaton District Health Department, move the health department to the Friend of the Court building and the FOC to the Courts & Law Building for a total cost of $5,592,000 for renovations and additions.


Bob Van Putten, Landmark Designs, gave a brief overview of the new COA building that would cost $6 million, including architect’s fees and bonding: an expanded dining area, a commercial kitchen, adult day care, meeting room and classrooms, and mechanical improvements. The building would have a residential feel and ease of entrance, with the size going from 9,600 square feet to 25,000 square feet.


Carlton Township resident Larry Bass said the people have already taken on a big burden in taxes. At the local level, property owners pay millage to support the schools, Thornapple Manor, COA, Barry County Transit, Charlton Park, 911 and individual school bond proposals. Most townships also have millages for fire and police protection.

At the state level, Bass said, with cutting taxes on businesses $1.4 billion a year to make the state more attractive to businesses, the Snyder administration has put the tax burden from the business sector onto the people.


“There is the road funding bill with a gas tax and vehicle registration fee hikes, taxes on pensions, fewer child deductions, and tax on unemployment.”

And now, Bass said, he is paying a special assessment for the restoration of the Little Thornapple River Drain.



Liberty Bell Award presented to Jan McLean during Law Day observance

Jan McLean, retired executive director of the Barry County Community Health Authority, was presented the Liberty Bell Award by the Barry County Bar Association Monday during the Law Day program.

Bob Byington, president of the bar association, said the honor is awarded to those who have given outstanding community service and shown a commitment to their community.

 “Started in the mid-1970s, there have been 35 recipients, now Jan joins that list,” Byington said.


Linda Maupin, good friend and authority board chair, introduced McLean. “Jan spent 32 years in mental health, 32 years, 15 as executive director,” Maupin said.

She said McLean knew the importance of therapy dogs in hospitals, nursing homes and schools, and she guided the change from a Barry County department to an authority. She was director during the building of the new mental health building, which was on time and under budget, Maupin said.


“I am so honored to be accepting this award here today,” McLean said. “The mission at the authority always included helping a person to whom we provided services achieve equality. It just made sense to that this was the right thing to do. This included reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, intellectual  developmental disabilities, and substance abuse for  the persons who asked for our help and educating the community.//


“We also tried to provide opportunities to increase the quality of our clients lives and give them a chance to realize their dreams, be it living on their own, obtaining a job or registering to vote, getting an education or just providing a place to hang out with friends-things that most of use take for granted.
“There is still a long way  to go but progress has been made to increase awareness  and advance the rights of all Americans. However, I did not do this alone and the vast majority of credit needs to go to the staff of Barry County Community Health Authority for their tireless efforts to help those persons that they serve. Thank you.”




Photos: (Upper left) Retired executive director of the Barry County Community Mental Health Authority Jan McLean holds the Liberty Bell Award presented to her at the Law Day program.


(Middle left) The McLean family: left to right: Husband Steve McLean, Jan McLean, daughter Haley McLean, Jan’s brother Steve Perry and daughter Madison McLean.


(Lower left) Jan McLean, left, with Attorney Stephanie Fekkes, organizer of  the 2017 Law Day program. 


Law Day observance centers on 14th Amendment protections

The role of the law in protecting citizens of the United States is always the focus of Law Day.

In Hastings this year, Judge Mark T. Boonstra from the Third District Court of Appeals was keynote speaker. Traditionally it is also the day the Liberty Bell is presented to a deserving person.

The award in 2017 was given to Jan McLean, retired executive director of the Barry County Community Health Authority (see related story).


Judge Amy McDowell welcomed the crowd to the annual Law Day recognition at the Barry Community Foundation Monday. The idea of a Law Day was first proposed by the American Bar association in 1957 to honor the role of law in the United States. Congress passed a joint resolution establishing May 1 as Law Day in 1961, she said.


The theme for the 2017 Law Day is “Transforming American Democracy: the 14th Amendment,” which McDowell noted is the foundation of many civil rights.

Barry County Bar Association President Bob Byington, added that the 14th Amendment includes due process and other protections for the nation’s citizens, and is one of the most litigated amendments to the Constitution.


Byington introduced keynote speaker, Judge Mark T. Boonstra, who sits on the Third District Court of Appeals. Boonstra, in private practice for 27 years before being appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2102, won a full six year term in 2014. He attended Michigan State University and earned his law degree from University of Michigan.


Boonstra, 59, said the 14th amendment has four main sections, but Section One is the most well known. It assures that the State will make no laws which will take privileges or immunities of its citizens or deprive any person of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without due process of the law or deny any person equal protection of the law.


Boonstra talked of several very different cases which he heard. One was a complaint by residents that a neighborhood bar and grill’s music was too loud, a case where teens broke into a house and stole marijuana, another terminating parental rights, one where her refusal to accept a blood transfusion led to a woman’s death, and another where two factions in a church were both fighting for control of the church.  Each of the cases turned on the protections in the 14th Amendment.

“As you can see, the 14th Amendment really does affect what we do in the real world,” he said.


Photos: (upper left) Judge Mark T. Boonstra, Third District Court of Appeals, was featured speaker at Law Day.


(Center left) Judge Mark Boonstra (left) enjoys a laugh with 87th District Rep Julie Calley and Barry County Bar Association President Attorney Bob Byington.


(Lower left) Barry County Chief Judge William Doherty talks with Judge Mark Boonstra, Third District Court of Appeals,  before the Law Day program begins.


Yankee Springs Township trash clean up expands in second annual event

A crew of volunteers responded to a call to help in the second annual  trash clean up in the township on April 29. Yankee Springs Township Supervisor Mark Englerth said he was very happy with the turn out and the effort.


“This year we went further than we did last year when we spent 95 percent of our time in the township. This year, we went as far as Fish Lake in Orangeville Township and Daggett Lake, which I think is in Rutland Township. We also went to Middleville to the state game area there. Some of the volunteers worked more than  12 hours.”


Dumpsters were donated by the Barry State Game Area and Yankee Springs Township.

Englerth and his wife Janet and the Dauntless Jeep group split the cost of 20 pizzas and 100 bottles of pop that were consumed.

Submitted photos show what volunteers did during the day.




Get in line to recreate the move to the new library

On June 9, 2007, residents from all over Barry County formed a line from what became the former Hastings Library on Court Street to the brand new structure on State Street. Hand over hand, they moved 500 books from the old building to the new, marking the transition from the past to the present.


To mark the anniversary of 10 years and 1,380,000 visitors, the library is going to recreate the symbolic exchange on June 3 and is inviting everyone in the Barry County area to line up between the former and present library buildings, and move 200 books.


The lineup begins at 9:30 a.m. sharp and begins exactly at 10 a.m. Library Administrator Laura Ortiz said, to avoid tying up streets or traffic too long.

In 2007, 87th District Rep. Brian Calley gave a short speech marking the occasion. In 2017, now 87th District Rep. Julie Calley will do the same.


Ortiz is inviting everyone to come inside the library at the end of the exchange in a kind of open house to see the changes made in the first 10 years. Hear about the special programs and activities for individuals and groups, speakers, special events for all ages and interests, and visit the  well used large community meeting room.//


Technology has changed and the library is keeping up with more ways to convey knowledge or entertain; computers to use, M-P3 players, tablets and more.   


The new library was built completely with donations from private sources, taxpayer approved millage now supports operations.

“Come in and see what we have. Everything will be opened up…this is your library, come and see it all,” she said.

The first event was video-taped; this one will be, too. The original video, already on the library Face book page, will be running during the open house for the enjoyment of the people who were there, and those who weren’t.


The library celebrated its 120th year last year. The former library was also once home to a U.S. Post Office. It is now a county-owned building holding county offices and technology equipment.

Just like your average homeowner, the staff and volunteers at the library are “spiffing it up” painting and planting the rooftop gardens, Ortiz said.


The library is Gold LEED Certified in Architectural Design, the most widely used green building rating system, so everyone is encouraged to wear green for the event.



Eaton County Animal Control hosts Pet Health Fair

On Friday,  May 5, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eaton County Animal Control is hosting a Pet Health Fair, with free distemper and rabies vaccines as well as wellness exams.

No appointments are needed, and the first 200 pets will be seen on first come, first served basis. All dogs must be leashed and cats in a carrier.

The service is provided by the Capital Area Humane Society (CAHS) only for the benefit of your family and pet.

Please note that some type of proof is required that you are in need of these services and are unable to pay: Social Security, unemployment, Bridge Card, Michigan Section 8, Military ID, (active) or college ID (currently enrolled). 

For more information, contact the CAHS at (517) 626-6060.



Bank robber being sought in Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a man who walked into Old National Bank at 6338 Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo Saturday morning and told tellers he was there to rob the bank.


He was given cash from the teller and fled the bank on foot. Authorities said the money he was given contained a dye pack/tear gas device. The suspect, pictured, is about 6 feet, 2 inches tall, wearing a black knit cap, black jacket and dark jeans. Anyone who can identify the suspect is asked to contact the sheriff’s office or Silent Observer.


Barry County Commissioners to decide on millage proposal for new COA building

The Barry County Board of Commissioners will make a decision on a millage proposal to fund a new Commission on Aging (COA) facility after an informational meeting and more research into options and costs.


The agenda for next Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting calls for a vote on the ballot language for millage to pay for a new, larger building for services for older adults in Barry County. If approved, the proposal would be technically a “special” election in the scheduled election Aug. 8 and must be submitted to the county clerk before May 2.


County Administrator Michael Brown provided an updated example of a schedule to pay off unlimited general obligation bonds of $6 million over 20 years.

With a millage rate of 0.1843, a projected 4.5 percent interest rate and using the example of a residential property’s taxable value of $50,000 with state equalized value of $100,000, the cost to the homeowner would be $9.22 a year, he said.


A two-hour Barry County Board of Commissioners meeting April 25 was designed to give commissioners options for a new Commission on Aging building or to undertake a three way shift of county offices to accommodate the facility in larger quarters.  Commissioners toured the three buildings before the 1 p.m. meeting at the COA.  Commission Chairman Ben Geiger said no decisions would be made at the meeting, but information given to help them to, “make the best decision we can.”


Bob Van Putten, from Land Mark Designs, went over the plans for a new COA building, pointing out areas where the COA has specific needs and how the building would meet those needs. The new 25,000 square foot building would be built on the existing Woodlawn Avenue site, closer to North Broadway/M-43. It would feature more classrooms, a computer center, exercise room, multi-purpose room, adult care space and offices. The current building will then be removed.


The other option would shift three county departments and upgrade each in the process.

It would move the COA to the Barry Eaton District Health Department building, move the health department to the Friend of the Court’s (FOC) building and the FOC to the former Michigan State University Extension office in the Courts & Law building.

The health department would have a 5,800 feet added to its current 13,400 square feet, a 6,000 square foot second story added to the 6,600 square feet of the FOC building with renovations only to the MSUE office. Renovation and addition costs for all three buildings involved in the relocating total $5.1 million. //


Preparing the health department building for the COA would cost an estimated $1.5 million for renovation and $1.2 million for an addition to the building for  a total of $2.7 million. To accommodate the health department, the FOC building would require $0.8 million for renovation and $1.3 for a second story addition, totaling $2.1 million.

Renovating costs to the former MSUE office in the Courts & Law building for the FOC would cost $0.3 million.


Questions from commissioners, and others, concerned millage rates, cost for a special election and loss of reimbursement from the state for FOC operating costs.


There was no disagreement on the need for an upgrade to the COA facilities. Staff said the roof was repaired several years ago for $400,000 and is again leaking. Catering food for its Meals on Wheels program is needed for lack of adequate kitchen facilities, executive Director Tammy Pennington said.  The biggest concern and the reason for the commissioners considering action, is the lack of space for its services. Demand for their programs and activities has far outpaced the room they have in the building. Pennington said.


Some questions remained. Van Putten said too few parking spaces at the FOC would still have to be considered and furniture and technology costs are not in the figures for a new COA building, or the cost of a special election. However, COA has money in its building fund they said could be used for furniture and IT, and they could also pay for a special election.

“We understand the question before us,” Geiger said then. “The status quo is not acceptable. It’s our responsibility to act.”



SWBCSWA elects officers, sets meeting dates

The Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority held its organizational meeting Tuesday, electing officers and setting meeting dates.

David Messelink, from Hope Township, was elected chair; Wes Kahler, Barry Township supervisor, vice chair; and Barb Earl, Johnstown Township supervisor, elected secretary.

Jim Stoneburner, Prairieville Township supervisor and Matt Peake, from Hope Township, make up the rest of the board.


With Messelink assuming the chair from Stoneburner, authority Administrator Mark Doster thanked him for his service, saying he thought he was, “the best chairman we’ve ever had… I appreciate your counsel.”

Board meetings were approved for the last Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. from May, 2017 to March 2018, matching its fiscal year. Because it falls the day after Christmas, there is no meeting in December


The board also approved the purchase of a 2017 Chevrolet truck, with added equipment including a snow plow and crane, for a price not to exceed $47,000.

After being assured that as chairman he has the authority to seek legal advice on authority matters, Messelink said he will consult an attorney about Doster’s compensation, an issue brought up by Barry County Commissioner David Jackson.


Jackson contends that Doster’s pay is excessive for a part-time position; Doster maintains his pay should reflect his part in the success of the system. That issue, and others involving Doster’s availability to the public, has roiled the board for some time.


In pubic comment, Citizen Barb Cichy said she has a copy of a report from Prein & Newhof on the feasibility of providing sewer service to Hickory Corners and Gilmore Car Museum. She protested a finding in the study dated April 21 that sewer service to each resident in the Hickory Corners area was forecast to be $33,437 without future growth.


The board declined to discuss the document, saying they had just received it in their meeting packets and needed to review it.


Correction: Only Kent Intermediate School District has millage request on May 2 ballot

Thornapple Kellogg Schools and Caledonia Community School  district voters will decide a 0.9 mill, 10 year enhancement millage on May 2, put forward by the Kent Intermediate School District (KISD).

The two districts, as members of 20 school districts under the KISD’s umbrella, will have its votes counted with all the other districts. The result will depend on the combined votes.


If passed, the KISD will distribute the funds to its member schools to enhance programs and services. All districts will receive the same allocation, roughly $211 per pupil. No funding goes to the ISD. Preliminary estimates are that $650,000 would go to Thornapple Kellogg annually and $1 million every year to Caledonia.


One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of state equalized value. According to Proposal A, law since 1994, only ISDs, not local school districts, can seek enhancement millage. 



Community Mental Health Authority director meets Barry County Commissioners

Richard S.Thiemkey, executive director of the Barry County Community Mental Health Authority, introduced himself to the Barry County Commission Tuesday. Thiemkey came to the authority in December 2016, bringing with him 25 years of experience in leadership roles in mental health in the private and public sector.


A full array of mental health is offered to 1,600 clients, he said.

Mission and values and a financial model are two sides of the same coin for the authority, he said. “You can’t have one without the other.”


A brochure outlining services offered by the authority lists 22 separate services, covering different facets of mental health.



Mental health and substance abuse services:

500 Barfield Drive, Hastings


Crisis: 269-948-8041

After Hours: 1-800-873-0511

Hearing/speech impaired and deaf contact telecommunications relay service at 711.


Positive Directions site:

2350 Iroquois Trail, Hastings



ubstance abuse prevention services mailing address:

500 Barfield Drive, Hastings



For much more information, visit


Also Tuesday, commissioners delayed action until the May 9 meeting on a proposed Barry County Officer’s Compensation Commission.

Commissioner Ben Geiger, chairman, said he needs to learn the details on time lines that must be met “before we start,” forming the compensation commission.


In other business, the commissioners approved:


* increases in some fees in the Barry County Clerk’s Office, mandated by the state and required in all counties.


* contracting with Mark Bishop, Quality Forest Management, to harvest all red pine trees, leaving white pines on Norris Road property with proceeds from the sale to go to the Norris Road Trees 4-H account.


* changes in the Charlton Park bylaws; having one voting member from the Historic Charlton Park Village Foundation, limiting citizen-at-large positions to 10 instead of 11, adding forfeiture of membership to those who miss three consecutive meetings without excuse, and changing its annual report to the commission from February to within six months of the new year. 


* the 2017 county evaluation values as given by Equalization Director Timothy Vandermark. Total equalized value is $2,801,583,488, up a total of 5.53 percent county wide.




Colorado man's body recovered from Kalamazoo River

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and Dive Team Tuesday reported they have recovered the body of a Colorado man from the Kalamazoo River. Michael Joseph Baird, 34, from Engelwood, CO, was visiting family in the Plainwell area when he was reported missing and  presumed to have drowned after falling into the river April 6 in Plainwell.


After an extensive search, public safety divers located  Baird’s body approximately 1.2 miles downstream from his last seen point in an area west of 12th Street in Otsego Township, the news release said.


A pathological examination will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, however at this time all indications lead investigators to believe this was an accident and that Baird succumbed to cold water temperatures and hydrology leading to his drowning in the river.


The sheriff’s office was assisted in the search by the cadaver dog K-9 team from the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office, who had assisted in the search for Baird over a week ago. 

Also assisting in the search over the last two weeks were dive team members of the Kalamazoo County Recovery Team and the Otsego Fire Department.



Lt. Governor Brian Calley to address Barry County Republicans May 10

The Barry County Republican Party is inviting the public to attend its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Wednesday, May 10, at 6:30 pm in at the Walldorff Bistro Ballroom, 105 East State Street in Hastings. The dinner’s theme is “Celebrate Conservatism” and will feature a keynote address from Lt. Governor Brian Calley.


Historically, the Lincoln Day Dinner is the county GOP’s largest fundraiser, and has brought together Republican officials from the local, state and federal levels.

Previous keynote speakers include Governor Rick Snyder, Former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra and the Reverend Keith Butler.


“This past fall, Barry County stepped up and provided support for Republican candidates from President Donald Trump at the federal level, all the way down to the county and township offices here at home.” said Barry County Republican Party Chair Bob Price.

“The Lincoln Day Dinner provides us an opportunity to reflect on our success and keep this conservative momentum going.”


Classical performing artist Elfriede (Elfie) Stern of Kalamazoo will provide the music for the evening. Stern is a graduate of the Dominican Republic Conservatory of Music specializing in classical piano.


Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased online at, or by calling Price at (269) 671-4294. A limited number of free tickets are available to local high school and college students. Interested students should visit for more information.


Cops Teachers Basketball

Final Score   Teachers 49  Cops 37 

See the posted story on this event for details.


Two suspects nabbed in thefts from garages in Eaton County

Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Delta Patrol deputies responded to the area of Webster Road near Old River Trail Tuesday afternoon on the report of a suspicious vehicle and suspicious people in the area. 

On arrival, deputies saw two people running out of a Webster Road resident's garage.   


A perimeter was formed, and during the search of the area, deputies located and arrested two males, ages 17 and 14.   Deputies investigation showed the youths had been driving a stolen car and had previously broken into several other garages.  Stolen property from those crimes has been recovered, along with illegal drugs in the possession of one of the suspects. 


The 17-year-old from Grand Ledge was expected to be arraigned Wednesday.  He has been charged with Home Invasion 1st Degree and Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile.  The 14-year-old’s identity is being withheld due to his age, but similar criminal charges have been requested for him through the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office. 


Sheriff Tom Reich would like to thank the alert citizens who immediately reported the suspicious activity and people they observed, which led to the successful apprehension of these suspects and the recovery of stolen property.  



Mock Auto Crash Drill at Hastings High School

Hastings high school students got a first hand look at what happens when you are texting while driving.

The mock crash  wednesday morning was staged in the high school parking lot that brought in a compliment of area fire, police, ambulances, even a med-a-vac helicopter that flew in to take part in the exercise. 

While one of the students was texting their car crashed headon into another car that killed one of the students and sent others to area hospitals.

the whole purpose of the exercise again was to demonstrate the danger of talking or texting on your cell phone while driving.


Drugs Marijuana

Hastings Police and Michigan State Police  were called to a local motel after the smell of marijuana was detected. Police made contact with a Delton man in a room where the marijuana and other related drug items were found.

During their investigation it was found the individual had a few outstanding warrants.  His name has not been released.


Two car crash sends five to hospital for evaluations

A two-vehicle crash at the intersection of M-37/M-43 Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. drew several ambulances and law enforcement vehicles to the scene and rerouted traffic for a time. Barry County Sheriff’s deputies report a car driven by an 85-year-old Hastings man turning left failed to yield to an oncoming car driven by a 59-year-old man, also from Hastings. The 85-year-old had no passengers; the other car carried four passengers.


“Neither driver and none of the passengers appeared to have debilitation or life-threatening injuries; however, all were transported by ambulance to Spectrum Health Butterworth for further medical evaluation,” the sheriff’s office news release said.


Deputies found the 85-year-old very confused and his family confirmed he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and had voluntarily surrendered his driver’s license to the Secretary of State in 2016.


The incident remains under investigation. The Barry County Prosecutor’s Office will determine if any charges will be filed. Assisting at the scene were Michigan State Police, Hastings and Freeport fire departments, Thornapple Township Emergency Services and Castleton Township EMS.


Fire update

Firefighters were called to a house fire Wednesday morning at 7490 south M-37 highway south of Hastings.  Two individuals were taken to the hospital, no information on their conditions. 

Hastings fire chief Roger Caris said  the house was a total loss and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Barry County Bar Association-Law Day

Monday May 1st the Barry County Bar Association will celebrate Law Day with a special ceremony  at the Leason Sharpe Hall at the Barry Community Foundation at 231 south Broadway in Hastings.

The ceremony begins at 11-am with a reception and concludes with a formal presentation of the Liberty Bell Award presented to Jan McLean, former Executive Director of the Barry Community Mental Health Authority. The guest speaker is the Honorable Mark T. Boonstra from the Third District Court of Appeals.


Cops vs teachers basketball game for Leo is Wednesday

Leo Loeks is a shy, blonde five-year-old boy who smiles a lot and proudly reports that he goes to school in Young 5s. Leo is the oldest son of Megan and Bill Loeks of Hastings, who also are parents of Woody, 3, and Archer 1. Mom is a photographer and busy with three little boys, dad is in the U.S. Army National Guard where, “he goes to work every day,” Leo  said.


Leo is going to a basketball game Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Hastings High School, where he will get to shoot for a basket and he’s been practicing his free throw technique. What he doesn’t realize is that the basketball game was organized by the Hastings Police Department officers, reserve and cadets, just for him, to raise money to give to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in his name.


Leo goes to the hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosed in June, 2016. He has a port in his chest where he gets “medicine” and gets to play in the play room; his favorite activity is the race car track. He also likes puzzles and is very good at coloring.

Mom said staff at the hospital interact with the kids, distracting them during treatment. Sometimes the sessions are very long, so that helps.


Leo took a tour of the police department and Hastings City Hall Monday, met Mayor Dave Tossava and some city staff, saw a lot of police equipment and handcuffed Sgt. Kris Miller.


The basketball game involves a lot of people; teachers from Hastings schools will play the game against a group of men and women from the Hastings Police Department, the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.


The police department personnel donated money, the Cookie Company, Mexican Connection, and Kloosterman’s Sports Bar donated gift cards for their products, Sav-A-Lot is supplying water and pop, the Band Boosters will run the concession stand, hold a bake sale and donate the proceeds from the food. Laser Wash, Attorneys Tripp and Tagg, Miller Real Estate, Bail-Tek, Flex Fab, Total Health Center of Lake Odessa and Battle Creek and M-43 Auto Body also donated.

Courtside Screen Printing and Embroidery printed the tee shirts at a steep discount. Leo has a mini-tee to wear at the game, with the number 5, his favorite number, and a police badge printed on the front.


The organizers sold 123 tee shirts to raise money and are charging $5 to attend the game.

It may be well worth adding a donation to the price. Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt has said publicly that despite having “players” from all area law enforcement, and even a ringer from the prosecutor’s office, they are having trouble finding five to put on the floor. “We’re in big trouble,” he said.


Or, he may be just softening up the teachers, who have several outstanding players. It all happens tomorrow at 6 p.m. at  the Hastings High School gym.




Photos: Upper left: Leo Loeks has no trouble handcuffing Sgt. Kris Miller during his visit to City Hall.


Middle left: Mayor Dave Tossava talks with constituent Leo Loeks during his tour of City Hall.


Lower left: Mom Megan Loeks sits with son Leo at the Hastings Police Department He’s a student at Star School in the Young Fives program.








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