Local News

Suspect arraigned, charged in Barry County double homicide

63 year old Jon Otis Burnett, the suspected shooter in a double homicide in Orangeville Township on June 21, was arraigned Monday afternoon on two counts of Open Murder, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, Assault by Strangulation and four counts of Felony Firearm. 


Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said Burnett lived in the area of the murders, as did the first victim, identified as Gary L. Peake, 73, from Plainwell. The second victim, Bryce N. DeGood, 21, was from Haslett.  Authorities said Burnett also attacked his wife and allegedly tried to strangle her.


There is no clear motive for the slayings, Leaf said.


The shooting happened about 2 p.m.  Friday near Lindsey and Lewis roads northwest of Delton in Orangeville Township. One victim was deceased in a nearby residence; the other was outside in the roadway. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene quickly and arrested Burnett. 


Investigators are Deputy Kevin Erb, Deputy Brian Hansford, Det. Sgt. Janette Maki and Det. Jeremiah Kimbel.


Deputies were assisted by Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Prairieville and Barry township police departments, Orangeville Fire Department, Wayland Ambulance Service and Barry County Central Dispatch.



Hastings compost site closed again due to vandalism

The City of Hastings compost site is closed again due to vandalism.  Jerry Czarnecki, Director of Public Services, said the entrance gate was damaged by a vehicle pushing on it. This is the second time the gate has been vandalized since the system was put in place earlier this year. Czarnecki said they are trying to identify who caused the damage and how to proceed.


The city-owned compost site is supposed to be a service provided for Hastings residents only, but non-residents were using the site to drop off unauthorized debris and dumping other materials that are not allowed, resulting in significant expense to the city. 


A keypad-operated gate was constructed and residents were required to call Hastings City Hall each week to obtain the current code to open the gate.  The site just returned to regular operation in mid June following the first instance of vandalism.


UPDATE: Tequila's Mexican Grill closed again

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) closed Tequila’s Mexican Grill again at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, June 21 after receiving additional information from the investigation and epidemiology that suggests the illness is not norovirus.


Based on the information, BEDHD staff reviewed additional food handling procedures at the restaurant and determined it was in the best interest of public health to again close it. The health department staff will continue working with Tequila’s Mexican Grill to assure food handling standards are being met. Once all requirements are implemented, the health department will consider re-opening the restaurant. 


BEDHD is continuing to investigate the outbreak by analyzing the data collected so far. Individuals who reported their illnesses greatly assisted the investigation. The source of the illness is still unknown and the investigation is ongoing.


Those with questions or concerns about the outbreak, can contact BEDHD’s Environmental Health Division at (517) 541-2615 during business hours; Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1p.m. to 5 p.m. Those feeling sick may also contact their health care provider.


BEDHD will provide updates on the investigation as information becomes available at



Long-time Barry Central Dispatch employee honored for dedication, service

A resolution recognizing and honoring the late Suzanne Rose, an employee at Barry Central Dispatch 911, for her commitment, dedication and service to Central Dispatch and the safety of Barry County was unanimously adopted by the Barry County Commission Tuesday.


Central Dispatch Director Stephanie Lehman said Sue Rose was a crucial part of Central Dispatch as the first person hired by the director at the new facility. A Dispatch employee for more than 25 years, she recently passed away after a difficult health battle.

“We would like honor her service to Barry County with this resolution,” she said.


As administrative assistant from Nov. 9, 1992 until her retirement April 30, 2018, Sue earned certifications in many areas, including EMD, LEIN, CPT and Dispatcher Telecommunicator Manager Training, which allowed her to assist telecommunicators when needed. She also served on the Central Dispatch Administrative Board and Technical Advisory Committee, the resolution read.


Sue created and implemented many procedures that are still used for the administrative office, including a filing structure for vendor records, built database documents to track accounts payable and established a system to retain employee files.


Her keen attention to detail and superior accounting skills helped her track and balance the yearly budget, keep payments timely, process expansive State of Michigan expense and training reports and ensure that payroll for her team was accurate, the resolution continued.


A beloved member of the public service community, in her long career Sue crossed paths with hundreds of professionals in police, fire, EMS fields and 911 associations. Suzanne was described by them kind, compassionate, devoted, dignified and professional.


In other business, commissioners recommended the clock in the Barry County Courthouse clock tower be repaired and modernized at a cost of $21,000 to be paid from the Building Rehabilitation Fund.


Building and Grounds Director Tim Neeb recommended the repair. The clock has four independent motors and faces, one is four minutes ahead of the other, and all are at the end of their 20-year lives. Replacing the four would cost $7,000 each, he said.


Neeb recommended the four motors be removed and replaced with one central motor for all faces, making more accurate time and resetting easier than it is with four.

Because of the clock face angles, it is hard to reset the clock, something they have to do by hand because the clocks don’t recognize time changes.


The new controller is computerized making changes easier. New hands are also needed, there will be three or four models to choose from, he said.


Ionia County Sheriff's Office: New twist to an old scam impersonates police officers

For the last several weeks, Ionia County residents have been subject to a telephone call scam in which the caller claims to be a police officer or deputy sheriff and instructs the recipient of the phone call to purchase pre-paid gift cards to pay off a bond on a warrant or that they will be arrested, a media release from the sheriff’s office said.


No law enforcement agency will ever take bond money by phone by credit/debit card or via any sort of pre-paid gift card, iTunes gift card, Green-Dot, or Moneygram, according to the sheriff’s office.


The scammers have also started using real names of Ionia County Sheriff’s Office members, specifically using the name of Det/Sergeant Phillip Hesche.  Subjects are then directed to call a telephone number that is “spoofed” making it appear local, when in actuality the calls are originating overseas.  Subjects of the scam are told the call reception is poor because police use satellite phones. 


However, as a new variation to this old scam, the current calls are directed at residents on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry (SOR) who are being specifically targeted and made to believe they have violated the terms of their SOR and subject to arrest.


The scammers will take information off of the MI-SOR to target specific people in the community.  They are sophisticated enough to use  realistic sounding court docket numbers, and often tell the subjects they need to provide a DNA sample for their non-compliance.

 All of this leads the scammer to trick the resident into providing money by the means noted above.


If you receive such a call, and suspect that call to be a scam, hang up and call your local police agency to verify that no call was placed by them. 



UPDATE: Barry Eaton Health Department reopens Tequila's Mexican Grill in Charlotte


The Barry Eaton District Health Department is continuing to investigate reports of digestive illness in individuals who ate at Tequila’s Mexican Grill in Charlotte between Saturday, June 15 and Tuesday, June 18. The restaurant is cooperating with the investigation; all ready-to-eat food that had been prepared between Sunday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 18 was discarded. Environmental cleaning was completed June 19 and the health department interviewed all staff, according to an update from the health department.


On Wednesday, June 19 the restaurant completed environmental cleaning and the health department completed interviews with all staff. “After these public health interventions BEDHD allowed Tequila’s Mexican Grill to re-open with health department oversight at approximately 12:30 p.m. on June 19,” the update said.


Thirty nine individuals have reported feeling ill after eating at the restaurant. BEDHD is interviewing individuals that reported feeling well, and those who reported feeling ill, after eating at the Grill. The source of the illness is still unknown and the investigation is ongoing, according to the update from the department.


Those who ate at the Grill at 430 N Cochran Ave, Charlotte on Saturday, June 15 through Tuesday, June 18 and are feeling ill, especially with nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, or diarrhea, are asked to contact BEDHD’s Environmental Health Division at (517) 541-2615. Those feeling sick may also contact their health care provider.


BEDHD will provide updates on the investigation. To access this information visit the Barry-Eaton District Health Department’s website at


ORIGINAL STORY: On the evening of June 18, the Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) temporarily closed Tequila’s Mexican Grill in Charlotte. The closing was ordered after gastrointestinal (digestive) illness was reported by 10 individuals who ate at the restaurant for lunch on Sunday, June 16. BEDHD is conducting an investigation of the restaurant and the illnesses, according to a news release from the health department.


The BEDHD received the first complaint the morning of June 18 and a second later in the day after an investigation had begun. The restaurant will not open before employees are interviewed by health department staff as part of the investigation. Next steps for Tequila’s Mexican Grill will be decided based on the results of these interviews. The restaurant is cooperative and participating in the investigation.


All known individuals who were ill report feeling better.


Those who ate at Tequila’s Mexican Grill at 430 North Cochran Avenue from Sunday, June 16 through Tuesday, June 18 and are feeling ill, especially with nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, or diarrhea, are asked to contact BEDHD’s Environmental Health Division at 517-541-2615. They should also contact their health care provider.




Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf: Know the new fireworks days and hours

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf is reminding Barry County residents that Michigan’s fireworks law was recently changed, and the changes affect when local communities can allow the use of legal fireworks.

Prior to the change in the law, there were 30 days a year that local governments could allow people to set off fireworks displays on or around federal holidays. Now, there are 12 days, Leaf said.


They are:
*Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.
*Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend until 11:45 p.m...
*June 29 to July 4, and July 5 if the date falls on a Friday or Saturday, until 11:45 p.m.
*Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend until 11:45 p.m.


Leaf encourages Barry County residents to use fireworks in a safe and cautious manner at all times.



Heavy Rain


Flood advisories remain in effect for a number of counties including Barry County through 11 o'clock this Thursday morning.

The Hastings National Weather Service Climatological Station has recorded three inches of rain with most of it since midnight.

This now brings our June total to date at 5.89 inches with more rain forecast for the next few days.

The heavy  rains will impact streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. Even some homes will find water in their basements.


Citizens comments on serving on Barry County boards are direct, frank

The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved a new process to encourage citizens to serve on various county boards and committees.

A three-person committee of commissioners would interview all applicants three times a year in an informal setting, explain what boards do, help find the right fit for the person,  answer questions and generally put applicants at ease.


The candidate they thought was right for a board would be moved forward to the full board for a normal interview. The applications of the ones who were not forwarded would be held for consideration of future openings as they occurred (see related story for details). More advertising and a Facebook page are included in the plan.


In public comment time at the end of the meeting, four citizens gave the commissioners their opinions.


Cathy Gramze said she recently went through the former interview process and finds Geiger’s process much friendlier, but it doesn’t go far enough.

“People don’t read the Banner; people don’t read the Reminder. In fact, a great number of people don’t get the Reminder because of delivery issues. People read Facebook.


“They don’t listen to the radio, they don’t get local news on TV, they go to Facebook. The county needs a dedicated Facebook page." On Facebook, they could get information immediately to thousands, she said.  


“Ben is on the right track, but I think he needs to go even a little bit further if he wants to engage with the people under the age of 40 in Barry County. She later asmended that to 60.

“Yeah. Newspapers and radio are not advertising revenue sources anymore like they used to be or we wouldn’t have so many huge newspapers going under. We’re lucky we still have the Reminder.”


Sharon Zebowski said the new process was a step in the right direction…” I hope there are several steps to follow. Don’t stop there, keep going.”

When she’s asked people to consider serving on county boards, she said the response is: “Why on God’s green earth should I want to waste my time on a board where nobody knows what they are supposed to do, and if they should do something, the commissioners will put a stop to it.


“You show no respect and often are flat out insulting, and if I tell them I‘m on a board they laugh and think I’m crazier than a loon. Until you take a good hard look at the purpose of the board, what you want the boards to accomplish, how they help you govern and you show them the respect they deserve, you are still going to have problems getting people to serve, she said.


“People want to know what is expected of them, how they are helping, that they are appreciated and treated with respect. There are many other places to serve-you are competing with all of them.”


Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf: “The idea of getting more people to serve; I’d like to see when you look up on the Barry County website, to see ‘What does a drain commissioner do?’ Click on it and it will tell you what the drain commissioner does...just stuff like that…What is this board ? What do they do? What is their function?


“They should be able to read up on or even see a little video of what they do…the reality is you have to start reaching out to the younger group, the younger generation. You guys are no different;  we’re having a hard time recruiting for full time employment for law enforcement and corrections.


Ben Eastman agreed with Commissioner Vivian Conner who objected to a three commissioner panel interviewing applicants and deciding whether to forward them to the board of commissioners for a formal interview. “As far as selection, I don’t think you should have a subcommittee selecting these people and choosing who moves on and who doesn’t… I would like to see these decisions made in a public forum.


“I don’t think anyone is going to admit in this public forum that they have a personal agenda in that process, but I think the opportunity is there for that.”


Barry County Courthouse parking lot improvements pushed back to spring

Barry County Commissioners approved the concept of resurfacing and improving the Barry County Courthouse parking lot and other changes, but the work will wait until next spring.

Tim Neeb, director of Building and Grounds proposed the work on May 21, but commissioners asked for estimates on a canopy over the steps into the courthouse and other changes.


County Administrator Michael Brown was asked to get information from the design plans and cost estimates for the south exterior of the courthouse in the county’s Master Facilities Plan.

Gathering the information took some time and pushed the project back toward the end of the construction season.


Brown suggested the board accept the concept and wait until spring when they would to get better prices.

“It’s late in the year,” Neeb said. “If you approve it now, we can get bids out in early spring.”


Replacement of the more than 20-year-old lot is in the 2019 capital improvement budget, Neeb said when he brought the proposal to the commission. The work would extend the lot eight feet to the east, increase parking spaces from 28 to 31, put a new sidewalk along the north edge of the lot for foot traffic and replace the shrubs in front the mechanical equipment with a decorative fence.


The new design also calls for removing the middle of three entrances, leaving an in-and-out drive and the sidewalk on the south of the lot replaced. There are two alternatives for a canopy; one covering the entrance to the building and another with the canopy over the south entrance, the steps and the entrance.


Questions raised about the width of handicap spaces can be resolved later in the process, Commissioner Heather Wing said, pointing out that it is just paint.


In other business, the commission recommended:

*approval an amendment to its board rules to allow any board member on active military duty to attend meetings by videoconference or telephone. They would take part in discussion and have a vote, but would not be considered part of a quorum. Brown said it hadn’t happened in his years in Barry County, but there is now a mechanism to do it, if it comes up. The action is needed by a change to the Open Meetings Act law.

*continuing its subscription to Granicus software, the program that tracks and manages county boards and committees for at least another year for $7,560. Brown said they could replace if needed by the reformed application process, and it is a very reliable platform, but Geiger said it is a useful part of his plan and asked to keep it for one more year.


Barry County will likely change system to attract citizens to serve on committees and boards

The Barry County Commission’s committee of the whole is recommending a change in the way they recruit citizens to serve on its boards and committees developed by Commissioner Ben Geiger.

The new format is designed to be less intimidating and more effective in attracting candidates for positions. “It is friendlier, easier to get people in the door, let them know what the county is about and find a place for them,” Geiger said.


All applicants would be interviewed in one of three sessions a year by a subcommittee of three commissioners, newspaper ads would still be used, but also an emphasis on targeted ads in Facebook, Geiger said.


Applicants would meet with two or three commissioners for a 15 minute information/interview on a Friday, Saturday or Monday morning, afternoon or evening. They would tell the committee what their interests were and what board they were applying for.


The commissioners could walk them through the application process, tell them what a board does, help them fill out an application and determine where they would likely be a good fit, Geiger said.

Applications would be kept for future openings for another position if not selected initially; now it is discarded if the applicant is not selected for a specific position. Since it would good for many vacancies instead of specific seats, it lends more flexibility, he said.

The short interview sessions would be held three times a year, the first in March to get away from interviewing so many in January. The program has an expiration date of March.


All of the applicants recommended by the subcommittee would be forwarded to the committee of the whole or the board of commissioners for a second interview and selection.

That was the main concern of Commissioner Vivian Conner, who was adamant that all prospects be interviewed by the full board, not a subcommittee of three.


“I don’t want to change the process, I don’t want three people making recommendations; that’s up to all of us...I won’t vote for that; we need the full board.”


Commissioner David Jackson said it was step in the right direction. “It’s got an expiration date. What we’re doing now is not working. If they want to meet with us before interviewing, we can forward everyone who has an interest…I don’t see this board voting people off the island… Maybe this will open some new doors, with marketing, get more good people. “


If the county does go to Facebook, Commissioner Heather Wing said they must have with a strict policy and control. “It’s an important thing; we have to be very careful.”




Ionia County Health Department: STI's have potential to cause serious health problems if not diagnosed and treated early

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are more than 19 million new Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the United States each year, the Ionia County Health Department said.


The infections have the potential to cause serious health problems, especially if not diagnosed and treated early. Young people ages 15-24 account for half of all new STIs even though they represent just 25 percent of the sexually active population, according to a health department news release.


CDC analysis reveals that the annual number of new infections is roughly equal among young women and young men. 49 percent occurs among young men vs. 51 percent among young women.


Four of the STIs included in the CDC analysis are easily treated and cured if diagnosed early: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. However, too many of these infections go undetected because they often have no symptoms, the release said.


Undiagnosed and untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea can put a woman at increased risk of chronic pelvic pain and life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, and also decrease a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant later in life, the release said.


The CDC estimates that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) accounts for the majority of newly acquired STIs. While the vast majority, 90 percent, of HPV infections will go away on their own within two years, some will lead to serious diseases such as genital warts and cervical cancer.


Most sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives. This means that everyone is at risk for the potential consequences of HPV and many would benefit from the protection that the HPV vaccine provides, it said.


HPV vaccines are routinely recommended for 11 or 12 year-old boys and girls and protect against some of the most common types of HPV. The CDC recommends that all teen girls and women through age 26 get vaccinated, as well as all teen boys and men through age 26.

HPV vaccines are most effective if they are provided before an individual ever has sex.


Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms are all effective STI prevention strategies. Safe, effective vaccines and free condoms are available at the Ionia County Health Department.


 If you suspect that you have an STI, confidential testing and treatment is also available at the health department. Appointments are accepted Monday through Friday by calling 616-527-5341, extension 295. More information regarding ICHD is available at


Ionia Count Sheriff's Office issues scam alert

The Iona County Sheriff’s Office website is warning area residents of scams inundating the Ionia area, with scam calls regarding several issues involving registration and licensing.


If anyone saying they are a government agency requires payment in iTunes, Moneygram, Western Union or prepaid credit cards, they are not a real government representative, the post says.

The government generally corresponds in these matters via the mail and other forms of contact (i.e. in person).


The sheriff’s office advises reporting any suspicious calls to local law enforcement and not to obtain any suspicious forms of payment until after  talking to local law enforcement.


BEDHD recognizes June as Men's Health Month

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department in recognizing June as Men’s Health Month with the goal to educate the public about the many preventable health problems that affect men and boys and empower them and their loved ones to move toward a healthier, happier life.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention men die five years younger than women, on average, and die at higher rates for nine of the top ten causes of death. Men are the majority of workplace injuries, less likely to be insured and far less likely to see a doctor for preventive care, which impacts their ability to be an involved father, supportive husband and engaged member of their community.


To stay healthy and live a long life men should:

·         People who eat a healthy diet and engage in physical activity live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. For tips on eating healthy visit

·         Smoking causes heart disease, cancer, and stroke—the first, second, and fifth leading causes of death among men in the United States. For more information on the benefits of quitting smoking, and how to quit visit .

·         Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they can become a problem. For recommended checkups and screenings visit .

·         If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack call 911 immediately. Major signs of a heart attack include pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder and; shortness of breath. More information about heart disease and heart attacks can be found at .

·         Depression is one of the leading causes of disease or injury worldwide for men. Signs of depression include persistent sadness, grumpiness, and feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide.


This month is a reminder for men to take steps to be healthier, but they don’t have to do it alone. One can help support the health and safety of men in their life whether it’s your husband, partner, dad, brother, son or friend Anyone can be supportive and help men make that first step toward living a longer, healthier life.




Kalamazoo County Sheriff fires staff member for criminal activity

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office reports it discovered that a staff member had been involved in possible criminal activity on May 23. The Michigan State Police were contacted and asked to investigate while the sheriff’s office conducted an administrative investigation, according to a news release..

The sheriff’s office administrative investigation was completed on May 30 and on May 31 Sheriff Richard C. Fuller III fired the employee responsible for the criminal activity.  


The state police investigation continues.

It is very important to the sheriff to prove to our citizens that we are an organization that values transparency but until all investigations and possible criminal proceedings are complete there will be no further statements, the release said.


SEC0ND UPDATE Suspect identified, arraigned in Allegan County car-jacking spree


William Thomas Travis, 22, the suspect in the  carjacking spree was arraigned today in 57th District Court on felony charges of home invasion, attempted murder, felonious assault and carjacking. He is being held at the Allegan County Jail on about $650,000 in bonds.



UPDATE:Today several felony charges have been issued for the suspect in this case and more charges will be forthcoming.  His name will not be released until he is arraigned which is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the 57th District Court,according to the Allegan County Sheriff's Office.




                                                           (Photo) William Thomas Travis



ORIGINAL STORY:The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office has released preliminary information on a situation involving a suspect in a car stealing spree in Martin, Hopkins and Wayland and threatening homeowners with an assault rifle in Manlius Township.


A news release from the sheriff’s office said the suspect first stole a vehicle in Martin Saturday (June 15) about 7 p.m., later abandoned it and then stole another from the Wayland area, crashing it in the Hopkins area. Deputies tried to track the suspect with a K-9 but were unsuccessful, the news release said.


This morning, Sunday, around 7 a.m. the suspect car-jacked another vehicle while armed with an assault rifle. He was reported in the 128th Avenue and 56th Street area in Manlius Township shooting at houses. He entered a residence and held occupants at gunpoint while he tried to steal another vehicle.


Deputies confronted the man as he was leaving the residence in the family’s car. He refused to obey commands and was heading back into the house when deputies engaged him in gunfire. The suspect was injured and transported to the hospital. No deputies were injured according to the release.


“At this time the information is preliminary as the investigation is underway,” officials said.















UPDATE: Deceased in Johnstown Township crash identified

UPDATE:The Barry County Sheriff''s Office has identified the man who died in a Wednesday crash as Philip Hanshaw, 58, from Union City. Rebecca Roush, in the other vehicle in the crash, is listed as 74 years old.


ORIGINAL STORY: The Barry County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that deputies responded to a two-car fatal accident on Banfield Road north of Baseline Road in Johnstown Township at 3:25 p.m. today.


Preliminary investigation showed the southbound vehicle, a 2006 Saturn Ion, crossed the center line and struck a northbound 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer.  The driver of the southbound vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. The name of the deceased will not be released until family has been notified.


The driver of the northbound vehicle, identified as Rebecca Rouse of Delton, was transported by LifeCare Ambulance to Bronson Hospital, in Kalamazoo for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, officials said.

Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. The crash remains under investigation.


Johnstown and Bedford township fire departments, LifeCare Ambulance, Barry County Central Dispatch and Barry County MEI Tom Wodarek assisted at the scene.


Deputy Robert Fueri, Accident Reconstructionist Deputy Scott Ware and Deputy Rose O’Grady are the investigators. Released by Sgt. Jason Sixberry/Undersheriff Matt Houchlei



DNR invites you to Allegan State Game Area Open House


The Department of Natural Resources invites the public to visit Allegan State Game Area during an open house Wednesday, June 26, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the game area headquarters, located at 4590 118th Ave. in Allegan.


Area managers will discuss game area management activities, including Echo Point Shooting Range updates and upcoming timber sales.


The Echo Point Shooting Range, at 3682 Monroe Road in Allegan, offers an outdoor rifle and handgun range that will have stations at 10, 25 and 100 yards.

The range is closed through Aug. 31 while undergoing renovations and improvements. Improvements will include a new parking lot, pathways accessible to those with disabilities, new structures and benches for shooters, new berms and ricochet baffles to improve safety, and sound abatement measures to decrease the sound impact to surrounding properties.


Additional information is available on the DNR shooting range updates page.

Handouts and maps with more information about the game area will be available at the open house. You also can find information on state game and wildlife areas and other hunting locations throughout the state at

Information about DNR shooting ranges is available at



Lake Odessa fair 2019: Small fair, big fun

Make your plans now; the first fair of the season opens in Lake Odessa June 26 and goes thru June  30, the start of an annual summer tradition that celebrates county living in the whole state.


Organizers are promising, “endless possibilities of fun activities you can share with your family with livestock shows, amusement rides by Family Fun Tyme Amusements,  live action sports and grand stand events every night.”


Be sure to watch the parade, sit in for some Bingo, attend a grandstand show or two , stroll along the midway, examine the 4-H/youth exhibits, get some fair food and relax at the Music Festival.


An event unique to the Lake Odessa Fair is its mud run, with a Puddle Jumpers race course for kids 3 to 6 years old; the Kid Fun Run Mud Run is for kids between 7 and 12 and Competitive and Recreational Team races for adults.

It’s all at 1640 4th Avenue (Fairground Road), Lake Odessa. For details on many more events and activities, visit the fair’s Facebook page.





Kid’s Mud run photo: Kaden Smith PC: breaking bread photography



Park and recreation grants go to enhance recreation in Barry County

Recreation grants awarded by Barry County Parks & Recreation Board totaling $10,000 were approved by county commissioners following a recommendation by the committee of the whole last week.


Barry Township will receive $5,000, the Village of Freeport will receive $3,000 and Central Elementary school in Hastings, $2,000.


At Central Elementary, the funds will be used to paint activities on the existing pavement at the school to include four-square courts, hopscotch, basketball court keys, fitness paths, yoga poses, a peace path and the U.S. map. Also, they will have picnic tables and storage for playground accessories.


The schools sees it as “an affordable,  achievable, low maintenance option for enhancing the experience and appearance of the outdoor space used by school children during the school year and as a local park by the community during the year.”


The Village of Freeport will use its grant to remodel both the men’s and women’s bathrooms at CJ Moore Park to be handicapped accessible. The total project cost is $4 360, the difference will come from rentals of the Community Center.


Unless the community center is open or the village office opens for a meeting, there are no handicapped accessible bathrooms available to the public near the park. Village officials expect more generations will use the park, not just children with disabilities.


Barry Township will put its grant toward a playground set that provides free entertainment and recreation for area families in an ongoing project in William Smith Park in Delton. When the township committed to an amphitheater for the park as part of a five parks & rec year plan, they quickly realized they would need a safe and fun place for the kids to play while the family listened to music.

They expect more use of the park for family reunions/gatherings, and to be a starting point for families that want to walk, bike or relax in Delton.



In other business Tuesday, the commission approved:

*a Microsoft replacement server for the Register of Deeds Office for $7,630.26with funds from the Automaton Fund.

*renewal of liability, vehicle damage and property and crime insurance coverage from MMRMA for one year for $395,227.

*an amendment to the Swift and Sure Sanctions probation program between the 5th Circuit Court and the Michigan State Supreme Court.

*form L4029 to allow Barry County to collect summer taxes.


State Board of Education alleges irregularities in BISD accounts; superintendent says it's not so

A report from an on-site fiscal monitoring review conducted at the Barry Intermediate School programs by the State of Michigan Department of Education has charged the ISD with several irregularities, with “further action” required.


Noted in the 19-page report are a lack of internal controls in most areas, inability to match budget figures with actual expenses in several areas, inconsistencies in benefits charged to salaries, $129,58.83 in questioned costs and $34,849.14 in misclassified costs.


The report said approved costs reclassified into a different budget years were noted.  In one example, Support Services, salary expenditures were overstated in the general ledger by $7,581.61, a variance of 48.26 percent.  Benefits were overstated by $3,557.72, a variance of 70.84 percent, according to the report.


BISD Superintendent Rich Franklin disputes the reviews methods and conclusions.  He points to the district’s 2018 audit, required annually by law, from Briggs, Hausserman Thompson & Dickinson.


Their report said: “In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, each major fund, and the aggregate remaining fund information of the Barry Intermediate School District, as of June 30, 2018, and the respective changes in financial position thereof for the year then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”

“Our auditors said we were clear; there were no flags…we don’t think there is even an accounting problem, it’s a technical report, with technical compliance with grant requirements and standards.


“Much of the report focuses on discrepancies between state and school fiscal years...there was no charge of misconduct,” Franklin said Wednesday. “They gave us “X” number of dollars; we can show we spent every dollar on the programs as we submitted to the state grant system.”


On April 10, a five member team from the Department of Education came on an unannounced fiscal monitoring visit and worked in the conference room for two days, he said.

“They said I would get a written report, but wouldn’t give a timeline. I got the report June 6.”


“I am confident of the facts and the truth is on our side. I still think when you are honest and do your job, you will be vindicated. We have some angry parents and staff; I’m only sorry we can’t give better answers to the parents, local school and our staff.”


The report also recommends moving the programs to another ISD. “I know in my heart and head that we have run great programs for kids; I don’t see anyone, schools or otherwise that could fill that gap.”

The BISD can appeal; they have to make a decision by June 20 and then will have another two weeks to actually appeal.


“We have to analyze it, figure out what is going on. We just got the working papers, the documents that accountants use as their reasoning when they write reports, so we’ll get into it.. It looks like we’ve done some horrible things; we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong…this is so bizarre that I’m having trouble making sense of it.”


Barry ISD provides Early On services to young children with special needs, Great Start Collaborative and Great Start Parent Coalition services to children and parents and in cooperation with many community partners, and Great Start Readines Preschool programs in Delton Kellogg, Hastings Area School System and through Community Action Head Start.


Barry County Mental Health Authority learns, develops plans to address 2019 priorities

Rich Thiemkey, executive director of the Barry County Community Mental Health Authority, gave county commissioners a review of the authority’s annual report and its 2019 community assessment needs Tuesday.


Over the past year, the authority exceeded every professional standard set by the State of Michigan, such things as access to service and hospital recidivism rate.


In addition, the authority continues to be a leader in the use of validated tools such as the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale, the Supports Intensity Scale, the Level of Care Utilization System, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.


Whatever services they are providing, Thiemkey said, “our goal is to provide the right service, at the right time and in the right amount.”


The 2018 assessment defined five priority issues. They are below with some, but not all, of the ways mental health will work to meet the challenges.


1. Services to schools named a priority for an increase in anxiety and depression among younger students, suicidal thoughts or self-harm. Efforts include the authority website link for schools to put on their websites, continue the Signs of Suicide presentations, additional funding for services in schools, and take part in a professional development day for teachers.


2. Psychiatric needs have an increased demand/need in adolescents and a provider shortage. The authority will continue to search for an additional psychiatrist and partnerships with e-psychiatry, a warm hand off to other community agencies and Cherry Health grant exploration.


3. Substance use disorder services are a priority because of an increase in marijuana use by multiple stakeholders and other substances (vaping). Efforts will be to explore research-based treatment like acupuncture, additional prevention programs for schools and additional partner/community education sessions.


4. Individuals with mental illness being incarcerated are a priority because people are jailed instead of receiving treatment for mental health issues. The authority will expand jail diversion services and Stepping Up Program and continue to enhance the communication plan between the court/jail and mental health.


5. Awareness and communication of available mental health services is a priority because of the knowledge gap of eligibility criteria for receiving services between the community and community mental health. The authority will continually update its website, and arrange face-to-face meetings with community partners.


In 2018:

Barry County residents served …. 2011

Expenditures by client population, intellectual and development disability… 51.4 percent

Mental Illness adult….23.4 percent

Mental Illness child….12.2percent

Substance Abuse Disorder….6.4 percent

Administration…6.6 percent.


Some statistics:

*1083 requested mental health services

*983 were scheduled for an assessment

*708 met eligibility criteria.

Answering a question from Commissioner David Jackson, Thiemkey said if someone doesn’t qualify, perhaps because the facility does not offer a program for their problem, “We’ll connect you to someone who can help you.”


Hastings native is new Department of Public Services director

Matthew Gergen was approved as the new director of the Department of Public Services by the Hastings City Council Monday. Gergen is a Hastings native, a graduate of Hastings High School, resides in the area and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management from Michigan State University, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


Gergen also has extensive experience in the field of commercial construction, having worked for a number of years for both Rockford Construction and Lakewood Construction as a project superintendent on many large private and public sector projects, he said.


Mansfield, Deputy City Manager Jerry Czarnecki and Police Chief Jeff Pratt interviewed several candidates for the position and recommended Gergen.  

“We expect that Matt will be a terrific addition to the city team,” Mansfield said.

Gergen is out of state, but is expected to be at the June 24th council meeting. He replaces former director Lee Hays, who resigned in early March.


In other business, the council approved a one-year independent public official’s contract for construction code administration and enforcement with Professional Code Inspectors for the same conditions as last year.


The inspections will be the responsibility of Tom Thompson, as building official/inspector/rental inspector, Glenn Stoneburner as rental inspector and Josh Case as building inspector/rental inspector as independent contractors.


There are no specific wages or fees listed, instead, the contract reads: “officials shall receive, as compensation for the services performed under this contract, all revenues from the fees charged in connection with said services. The fees charged by said officials shall be in accordance with Chapter 18 of the Hastings City Code.”


Also, the council also extended contracts by one year with Hallifax Services, who provide cleaning, and maintenance services at city hall, and B&L Outdoor Services, who provide mowing and maintenance services for city parks.


And, a public hearing was set for June 24 at 7 p.m. to satisfy a new requirement for Community Development Block Grants. Community Development Director Dan King said a second public hearing was added to the conditions of the federal grants administered by the state.








Hastings' 3rd National Night Out is Aug.6

Hastings third annual National Night Out on Aug. 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. is a chance for the public to see the equipment of Barry County’s emergency services providers equipment, watch kid’s activities, enjoy free hot dogs, chips and a drink, win prizes and talk to police, firefighters and ambulance personnel who serve them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.


What started out nationally as a chance to improve relationships between the public and the police has evolved into all emergency services building relationships with the community and between agencies.


Deputy Police Chief Dale Boulter, chairman of the “night out” committee, received permission Monday from the Hastings City Council to hold the event.

“The Hastings Police Department is excited and once again ready to take on this challenge,” Boulter said. “We have many hours of preparation and planning ahead of us to make this a great event for Hastings and all Barry County residents.”


After last year’s event, Boulter said he was pleased with the participation by area residents and especially that it brought the emergency services people together in a casual setting. All the agencies personnel respond when called for mutual aid, but they don’t have a chance to interact in low pressure settings very often.


“We had the Hastings Reserve Officers and the Barry County Posse members both directing traffic at the entrance to Tyden Park. It was awesome to see.”


This year, the parking lot above the entrance of the park will be reserved for the handicapped, elderly and expectant mothers, and general vehicular traffic will be banned during the event day to allow the setup of the equipment. Use of the park and River Walk would be allowed during the day.


Photos: (left, from top)

A popular activity at last year’s National Night Out was kids putting their hand prints on a huge, white snow plow blade. Here, Constance Volosky adds hers.


Gaige, Trey and Cal Beard are dwarfed at the 2018 National Night Out  by equipment used by Barry County emergency services personnel.


Demonstrations are part of National Night Out, where emergency services members show what they do. This photo from last year’s event shows how firefighters use the Jaws of Life to free people trapped in a car.


Hastings adjusts fees for services

The Hastings City Council has revised its fees for various services and changed the structure for some planning and zoning services. What follows are some of the changes approved by the council Monday.


The full list of city fees for services can be found on the city’s website in the June 10 council packet. All rate changes take effect July 1.


Planning and Zoning site plan applications go to $250, down from $475; however, site plan review escrow of $1,000 is added. The $250 pays for the application; the escrow account set aside for publishing, planners and other expenses, Deputy City Manager Jerry Czarnecki said.

Special use permit applications are $250, down from $600, with $500 for special use escrow.


“We’re trying to get it more representative of the actual costs,” he said.  Any escrow funds not used will be returned to the applicant.


Re-zoning requests: Residential applications are $250, down from $390, with residential escrow of $500; commercial requests are $250, down from $490, with commercial escrow of $750.


Zoning Board of Appeals:  Requests for a residential variance are $300, up from $200; commercial variance requests are $675, up from $450.

Plat Review: vacating a public right of way application is $300, with escrow of $1,000.


Other changes include more for copies of some paper documents: Master Plan, $50, up from $25; zoning map, original plats and city maps from plotter, all $15, up from $10 and a copy of the budget, $50, up from $25.


In entertainment venues, small entertainment refundable security deposits and charges have not changed. For large entertainment venues, the refundable security deposit is $300; the charge for up to four hours is $200 for residents, $300 for non-residents and $50 for additional hours.


The Fish Hatchery Park building’s refundable security deposit is still $300, but the price of a four hour rental of the building has been reduced from $300 to $150 for residents and from $400 to $200 for non-residents. Czarnecki said the building needed some esthetic upgrades, and the price was lowered until they were completed.


Water rates: Charges for water go from $1.61 cents per 100 cubic feet to $1.90.

Minimum water monthly fees also go up; meters 5/6 and ¾ go from $7.10 a month to $8.38. Larger meters, for example, a 1 ½ inch meter goes from $35.49 to $41.88; four inch meters go from $177.61 to $209.58 and eight inch meters from $776.85 to $916.68.


Connection fees for new water hookups: 5/8 size meters service goes from $1,805 to $1,875, the meter from $251 to $260 for a total of $2,135. The other sizes also go up. The largest listed, the two inch meters, are $2,250 for service and $795 for the meter, for a total of $3,045. Any construction connections larger than two inches are typically done by contractors and they handle the larger units.


Sewer rates: Sewer service goes from $3.26 to $3.50 cents per one hundred cubic feet of water used a month. Service for 5/8 and ¾ meters goes from $14.31 to $14.81, a two inch meter, from $114.56 to $118.57, a four inch meter from $358.01 to $370.54.


The largest meter listed, one eight inches, goes from $1,572.75 to $1,627.80. Connections on a 4” paved street go from $1,700 to $1,750, on a 4” gravel street, a connection goes from $495 to $525.




Also, the council got the first look at the contract proposed for Jerry Czarnecki when he goes from deputy city manager to city manager of Hastings on July 1. The pact calls for Czarnecki to get $85,000 a year, a $400 allowance for a personal car for city business, and the same percentage increase other non- union employees receive, if any.

He will get a $50,000 life insurance policy, Blue Cross Blue Shield medical health insurance coverage and 20 days’ vacation annually. Czarnecki gets other benefits at the same rates as any city employee. Councilman Don Bowers objected to accruing sick leave, saying, “This should not be in this contract.” The document will be back at the next meeting for action...



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