Local News

Barry County children will get Christmas gifts thanks to community's giving spirit

The goal of the United Way’s partnership with WBCH for Stuff Our Station eight years ago was to insure that each child in Barry County, who might otherwise not get anything under the Christmas tree, would find gifts there with their names on them.



Other organizations stopped taking names at Thanksgiving from those who needed help with gifts, Executive Director of the Barry County United Way Lani Forbes said.

But, some families have significant changes in their circumstances and there was no way to respond to those children, so the Barry County United Way teamed up with WBCH and extended the signups until mid-December.


The community’s response to the appeal to donate Christmas toys was, and is, incredible, with individuals, families, businesses, civic clubs, schools, many other sponsors, all donating new, unwrapped gifts as well as money that is used to shop for more, Forbes said. 


This year, there are 360 children already signed up, with 400 names expected before the distribution begins, Forbes said. The toys were collected Friday, Dec. 14 and on Sunday, volunteers from the Youth Action Council will sort the gifts according to age and either a boy or girl.


Parents sign up by calling BCUW at 269-945-4010, and if they qualify, get an appointment, when they are welcome to shop for 15 minutes to select three toys and stocking stuffers for each of their children. They can wrap the toys there, or take the paper and wrap them at home.

“It’s doesn’t  matter when they celebrate the holiday, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or a week later; it’s whatever suits the family,” she said.


The system for giving gifts to 350 to 400 kids takes a full week, and works very well.

“We are blessed that we can serve, and it’s only because of our incredible community,” Forbes said. “It’s one thing we can do to take the load off their shoulders in a stressful time.”


One example of the giving: The Michigan State Police Wayland Post/Hastings Detachment was at Wal-Mart last week accepting toys for the program.  “They filled three Tahoe’s and two cruisers; we had to open a side window to start taking the toys out,” Forbes said. 


The following is a list of places in the community where toys were dropped off during the collection.


-Courtside Screenprinting

-Carl’s Supermarket




-Walker Fluke and Sheldon

-Thornapple Valley Credit Union

-Andrew Cove Edward Jones Investments

-Kevin Beck Edward Jones Investments

-Barry County Chamber of Commerce

-Seasonal Grill

-Preferred Credit Union

-Barry County Mental Health

-Woodlawn Meadows (two locations)

-Courtside Screenprinting



-Bradford White

-Snack Shack

-Community West Credit Union


-Village Hall

-Township Hall

-Thornapple Valley Credit Union



-Thornapple Valley Credit Union

-Gilmore’s Car Museum




-Portland Federal Credit Union


Lake Odessa

-Portland Federal Credit Union




-Southside Pediatrics


(top) Volunteers from WBCH and Barry County United Way display a few toys for Barry County kids at Christmas. (From left) are Sue Radant, WBCH; Lani Forbes, BCUW; Steve Radant, WBCH; Devin Hamlin, BCUW; Emily Blocher, BCUW; Pattrick Jansens, BCUW; and Morgan Johnson, BCUW.

(top left) Stuff Our Station they said, and that’s what the community did.

(middle right) WBCH’s Steve Radant and BCUW’s Morgan Johnson move boxes of toys from the radio station.

(lower left) Pattrick Jansens, BCUW, finds a place for a large toy dog to ride to the distribution center.

(lower right) Lani Forbes and Devin Hamlin (BCUW) have a handful of toys that are going to kids at Christmas.


Barry County Sheriff's Office stats for November told

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf recounted statistics for the month of November for Barry County Commissioners Tuesday. Leaf compared statistics handled by the uniformed patrol in five areas this November, compared to November, 2013.


Last month’s stats are followed by the 2013 figures in parentheses:

Incidents handled, 624 (467)

Accidents handled; 159 (134); car/deer, 96, (95)

Arrests, 50--16 felonies, 40 misdemeanors, (53-- 28 felonies, 31 misdemeanors)

Alcohol related arrests, 9 (5)


Also, the office ran 32 home checks for Swift and Sure, sobriety and drug courts, 425 criminal histories requested for warrant entry or requests, 458 breathalyzer tests performed by court order and 81 sex offender registry transactions completed.  The K-9 unit was activated six times during the month.


During the month of November, the corrections staff booked 242 people (76 weekenders) into jail, released 166 back into the community and transported 115 inmates to court, medical facilities or other counties.


Sixty seven people were fingerprinted at the front desk, 149 drug screens of probationers performed and 8,458 meals served to inmates for $1.49 a meal. Maintenance costs for the month included $5,893.72 in plumbing, $2,700.68 for HVAC repairs and $377.59 for security repairs. The daily average number of inmates was 90.


Two sustain minor injuries in car vs. Pine Rest Clinic building

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports that a 51-year-old Grand Rapids woman in a GMC Acadia was parked in a parking space at the Pine Rest Campus Clinic when she stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal and struck the wall of the clinic. The incident occurred Dec. 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the clinic located at 300 68th Street, S.E. in  Gaines Township.


The driver was not injured, however two passengers, a 23-year-old and a 25-year-old suffered minor injuries and were transported by Life Ambulance to Mercy Health St. Mary’s Hospital. All occupants were wearing seat belts and alcohol was not a factor, police said.


There was moderate damage to the wall of the clinic; the vehicle did not go through the wall into the building and no one inside the building was injured.


Cutlerville Fire Department assisted at the scene.


Four cases of whooping cough confirmed in Ionia County

The Ionia County Health Department is advising citizens to be aware that there have been four confirmed cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in Ionia County since Nov. 30 in children from three to 17 months.

Infants/children are not considered fully immunized until they receive their fifth pertussis vaccination at age 4 or 5, before they start preschool or kindergarten.


Pertussis is an acute infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis with an incubation period of seven to10 days with a range of four to 21 days. The illness is clinically divided into three stages. The first stage by the slow onset of runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever, and a mild, occasional cough, similar to the common cold.


The cough gradually becomes more severe, and the second stage begins after one to two weeks when the diagnosis is usually suspected. The stage usually lasts one to six weeks, but may persist up to 10 weeks with bursts of numerous, rapid coughs, with a long indrawn breath is usually accompanied by a characteristic high-pitched “whoop” at the end.


During such an attack, the patient may turn blue; children and young infants will appear very ill and distressed. Vomiting and exhaustion commonly follow the episode. Infants younger than six months of age may not have the strength to have a whoop, but they do have bursts of coughing. In the third stage, recovery is gradual. The cough becomes less severe and disappears in two to three weeks.


Adolescents, adults, and children partially protected by the vaccine may become infected with B. pertussis but may have milder disease than infants and young children. Pertussis infection in these persons may be without symptoms, or present as illness ranging from a mild cough illness to classic pertussis with persistent cough, lasting more than seven days.//


The whoop is not common in older patients. Even though the disease may be milder in older persons, those who are infected may transmit the disease to other susceptible persons, including unimmunized or incompletely immunized infants.


Older persons are often found to have been the first case in a household with multiple pertussis cases, and are often the source of infection for children. Please consult your physician if you believe that you may have pertussis or have been exposed to it. Close contact is usually necessary for disease transmission.


An antibiotic effective against pertussis should be administered to all close contacts of persons with pertussis, regardless of age and vaccination status. Persons diagnosed with pertussis need to stay home.


If there is a case in a school or day care unimmunized children may be excluded from attending for 21 days, the incubation period of pertussis after the last confirmed case.

For more information, consult your physician or visit:


2018 Athena Award recipients announced

As with any community, strong and meaningful leadership is crucial to that community’s success. That certainly is the case in Barry County, which is why the Barry County Chamber of Commerce serves as the host organization for the ATHENA program.


“The ATHENA program and awards are a way that we are able to bring acknowledgement of internationally recognized female leadership traits here to Barry County.” says Megan Lavell, Past-Chair of the Barry County Chamber and the 2012 ATHENA Young Professional honoree.


In conjunction with the Chamber’s annual awards banquet, two awards are presented to outstanding leaders in the community who embody the ATHENA Leadership Model. This year’s honorees will be presented with these awards at the January 19th Chamber Annual Banquet at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners.


The ATHENA Leadership Model, developed right here in Michigan through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership: living authentically, learning constantly, advocating fiercely, acting courageously, fostering collaboration, building relationships, giving back and celebrating. These personal traits that tend to be more intuitive to women, and combined with the strongest aspects of traditional leadership - taking risks, assertiveness, hard work - prepare women to be successful leaders in the 21st century.


The 2018 ATHENA Leadership Award recipient is Julie Nakfoor Pratt, Barry County Prosecuting Attorney.   


A native of Lansing, Julie is a 1984 graduate of Michigan State University and was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1988 after completing her Juris Doctor at Cooley Law School.  She began her legal career in Barry County in 1989 and has served in both Barry and Allegan Counties since then, including four years in private practice.


In – and in addition to - her role as County Prosecutor Julie was instrumental in the opening of the Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Barry County. Her devotion to this cause has garnered widespread recognition, including her being voted Child Advocate Of The Year twice, in 2006 and 2015. She serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect and is a board member of the Barry County Family Support Center.


Julie also serves on the Barry County Substance Abuse Task Force, the Barry County Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Elder Abuse Work Group and many others.

“Julie knows there is bad in this world, but she always looks for the good in people first,” notes Tammy Pennington, Executive Director of the Barry County Commission on Aging. “She uses her brain, her heart and her intuition to seek justice for people of all ages and all walks of life.”


“She is one of the strongest, most intelligent and compassionate women I know. “says Liz Lenz, Coordinator of the Barry County Substance Abuse Task Force. “I think of Julie as a standing constant…waves and winds and other forces will not keep her from doing her job and living her passion.”


“Julie cares deeply about every person that is involved in a case that comes before her office,” says Kristen Cove, last year’s ATHENA Young Professional honoree. “She dedicates her days to educating victims about the process that they are going through. While Julie has been a prosecutor for decades, she understands that for most families this is a one-time experience.”


“My parents instilled in me the idea that I could be anything I want to be: whether it was staying home to raise my children or having a career or both, and to me that epitomizes what the ATHENA Award is all about,” says Pratt about bring named this year’s recipient. “When my children were young, I was fortunate to do both.  My role as a mother comes first, always!   However, I am fortunate to also have a career that I love, even though at times the subject can be heavy.  My parents also taught me to lead by example.  It is not enough to tell people what is best, but to show them!  A strong foundation of love, trust and respect starts at home and empowers our children to do the same wherever they go.”


Nancy Goodin – 2017 ATHENA Leadership Honoree – will present the 2018 award to Pratt at the Chamber Banquet event.


Kristen Cove – 2017 ATHENA Young Professional Honoree – will present the 2018 ATHENA Young Professional Award to Morgan Johnson.


Morgan is the Director of Outreach and Community Engagement at the Barry County United Way and has been with the organization since 2010, when she began as the Volunteer Center Director.

Born and raised in Hastings, Johnson has a self-professed love for this community. While at Western Michigan University, she interned at Kellogg where she assisted with opportunities for employees to volunteer and participate in the local United Way campaign. After graduating, she went to work at Hands On Battle Creek and attended the Battle Creek Leadership Academy. She felt strongly that she wanted to come back to Barry County and give back to her hometown.


Johnson married her high school sweetheart – Brandon – and have four children: Harper, Kinsey, Bryleigh and Beckett.


Initiatives that she spearheads include the Barry County Annual Day of Caring and the Fresh Food Initiative.  She also serves on the Barry County Resource Network, Great Start Collaborative and the Food Resources Workgroup. During her tenure, Day of Caring has grown to over 500 volunteers at 47 different sites on two different days, and Johnson works with governmental, non-profits, churches and the business sector to ensure the best results for all participating. To contrast what Johnson manages herself, Kent County has 800 volunteers with a staff of four.


“When the floods hit last spring, Morgan helped organize a Multi-Agency Resource Center at Barry County Central Dispatch,” says Lani Forbes, Executive Director of Barry County United Way and a prior ATHENA Honoree. “She brought together the American Red Cross and other organizations that could assist the residents effected by the situation. Morgan has chosen to be available no matter when a problem arises to bring together those needing assistance and the volunteers that want to provide services. That says so much about the quality of her character.”


“Morgan leads with a positive attitude, kindness, and passion. Each day she leads her home through all of their many adventures while managing a full-time career,” says Emily Blocher, Housing Impact Specialist at the Barry County United Way. “Morgan leads her children by setting a strong example for them, showing them how to love your community, love those around you, and give compassion. This is all true for her professional life as well through her leadership of many professional groups such as the Volunteer Advisory Board and the Barry County Emergency Food and Shelter Program Board.”


“I appreciate that my daughter has so many strong women in this community to look up to;

Morgan is one of those women,” notes Courtney Ziny of the Family Economic Support Office. “My teenager sees a woman who values her physical and mental health, who values giving back to her community and who values the importance of family. She is professional and handles crisis’ easily.”


Upon learning of her selection as this year’s ATHENA Young Professional, Johnson says she is “humbled by this nomination and award”. In fact, her actual words when she learned of her selection were: “I’m sorry….who?”


“Being an ATHENA takes on a lot of attributes that are sometimes hard to see in ourselves,” says Johnson. It is hard to take in such an honor personally as I see every aspect of my life – work or at home – as a team effort. I would not be where I am professionally or personally without a great team to support me and without this community that continues to embrace change. Growing up in Barry County, I’ve been fortunate to observe many influential leaders, women leading the charge and change makers. I am proud to be among them as we work together for OUR families, OUR community, and OUR future. I greatly appreciate all who see the leader in me, when sometimes I don’t.”


In addition to these awards, the Barry County Chamber of Commerce also hosts an ATHENA social as well as a Leadership Luncheon each year as part of its annual program. Generous supporters of the annual ATHENA program are Ruby Sponsors Hastings Mutual Insurance, Edward Jones-Andrew Cove and The Walldorff Brewpub & Bistro; and Crystal sponsors Bay to Bay Building Concepts, Carbon Green BioEnergy, Commercial Bank, Hastings City Bank, Spectrum Health Pennock, Thornapple Credit Union and the YMCA of Barry County.


“These awards continue to be a prestigious honor for recipients of both ATHENA awards,” says Kimberly Rodriguez, a Chamber Board member and past ATHENA Young Professional Honoree. “These are the women who continue to do the work that needs to be done in our community to make Barry County a better place. More important than the outcome of their own efforts is the inspiration they provide for other women to be leaders.”


Both ATHENA awards will be presented at the Barry County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet which begins at 5pm on Saturday, January 19th at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. Contact the Chamber at 269-945-2454 or at for details.


DEQ, Little Thornapple River drain board/DEQ consent agreement to be signed this week

An Administrative Consent Agreement between an intercounty drainage board and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality outlining the steps to be taken in the restoration of the Little Thornapple Drain is expected to be signed this week by the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).


“They’re good with it, the DEQ is good with it, we’re good with it, so we’re moving forward,” Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said. They worked on the restoration as they waited for the DEQ to approve remediation plans submitted by Aaron Snelling, cofounder of Streamside Ecological Services. “We did it, knowing it had to be done… the DEQ is making it official,” he said. “We’re going from no agreement at all two years ago to a signed agreement this week. I’m real happy.”


The signing will lessen the pressure of  “wondering what happens if they don’t come to the table,” he added. His best estimate on the amount of work left on the restoration project is between 30 and 40 percent.


At its November meeting, the board agreed with its attorney Stacy Hissong’s advice to post a $600,000 bond, ask that Streamside complete all actions by the board to do with the project and to approve hiring Paul Forton, an engineer with the Spicer Group, to work with the Barry County Road Commission on a required road crossing.

The intercounty drain board is made up of drain commissioners from three counties; Dull, Ken Yonker from Kent County, Robert Rose from Ionia County and Brady Harrington, chair of the MDARD.



Hastings leaf pickup complete, street sweeper to be out as weather permits

With the conclusion of the annual leaf pick up in Hastings, the Department of Public Services Superintendent of Streets Jim James issued the following statement:

“The Department of Public Services would like to thank the residents of Hastings for their patience during the 2018 leaf pickup. As we all witnessed, it was a challenging event due to the early season snow and ice storms. DPS has completed our second and final round in all areas. Our street sweeper will continue to be out as weather permits.”


Water Leak at Central Elementary School

There is a water leak at Central Elementary School. All students have been transferred to the Hastings Middle School while the leak is being repaired. All students are safe.


Consumers Energy still repairing Middleville gas leak

Middleville village officials have been told that Consumers Energy is continuing to work on repairing a gas leak at Lafayette/Grand Rapids streets in the village. The street is expected to remain closed through Thursday morning. A marked detour in place.


Barry County Jail, COA project agreement decision delayed until late February

Barry County commissioners Tuesday again delayed a decision on a Professional Services Agreement with consulting firm TowerPinkster. It will not be taken up again until the committee of the whole meeting on the third Tuesday in February.


TowerPinkster was selected to facilitate the new Barry County Jail and Commission on Aging projects but commissioners balked last week on having no specific language saying the firm would not only look at building both a new jail and COA building, but committed to reviewing county facilities to see if it would be feasible to move some departments into other spaces and provide room for expanded COA services without building new.


The Friend of the Court and Barry Eaton District Health Department offices were given as prime examples of buildings being under used.


Commissioner/Chair Ben Geiger agreed with the delay. He said he talked to TowerPinkster and was given a new figure of $70,000 for their services, up from $50,000, to include the expanded review. “We’re still negotiating with TowerPinkster,” he said. “They’re still the best for the job; we just want to make sure there’s not something (we’re asking them to do) that we could do for ourselves.”


An ad-hoc committee, made up of commissioners Dan Parker, Jon Smelker and Heather Wing, is assessing Barry Eaton District Health Department operations to determine the feasibility of a separate Barry County Health Department. The study is to be completed by the end of the year.

Parker said he wasn’t sure the results of the study would make any difference in the issue at hand.

“It may not,” Smelker said, but I don’t want to enter a contract without knowing about it.”//


Commissioners also approved numerous applicants to Barry County committees and boards recommended by the committee of the whole last week.


They are:

*Frank Fiala, road commission-six year term

*Craig Stolsonburg, transit-three year term

*Shannon Szukala, Veterans Affairs-four year term

*Tim McKay, Veterans Affairs-four year term

*Paul Wing, Agricultural Promotion-three year term

*Larry Neil, Agricultural Promotion-three year term

*Tim McGavin, Animal Shelter Advisory-two year term

*David Tripp, Building Authority-three year term

*Kristin Cove, Central Dispatch Admin Board-four year term

*Don Bowers, Commission on Aging-three year term

*Sally Shuster Shoff, Commision on Aging-three year term

*Michelle Newton, Community Corrections Advisory-two year term.


In other business, the commission also approved:

*an Audit Engagement Agreement between the Barry County Road Commission and Walker, Fluke & Sheldon for the auditing firm to perform the 2018 road commission audit for $9,000.

*buying two new boilers for the Courts & Law Building for $90,000 by DHE Climate Solutions. *Agriculture Farmland and Open Space Preservation (PA116) applications for Brandon and Derik Schantz in Section 3 of Maple Grove Township and Larry and Tammy Kuperus in section 11 in Irving Township.

*a 2019 agreement between the county and Michigan State University Extension for access to MSUE’s programming.





Grant request for Royal Coach environmental study approved

A request for a DEQ brownfield redevelopment site assessment grant of $62,650 for the former Royal Coach building on Mill Street property will go ahead after Hastings City Council approval Monday.

Community Development Director Dan King said the city is looking for a developer who will revitalize the site with plans for a mixed-use riverfront property with residential housing, retail and commercial uses.


The building was a manufacturing site of Hastings Manufacturing Company (HMC) before being used just for storage. The city is working with HMC, a local philanthropist and the Barry County Economic Development Alliance on the project, King said.


The anonymous benefactor’s funding of a phase one Environmental Site Assessment for $2,900 and a Hazardous Materials Assessment for $7,500 makes up the match for the grant.

Information on any environmental issues at the site encourages developers, giving them “a better handle on costs,” King said


SME, an engineering consulting firm, will do the environmental assessment of the site. In the grant application, the property is described as some 8.2 acres with two warehouse buildings and three sheds that were used for fire suppression equipment, a paint shop and fuel dispensing.


Known or potential contaminants include VOCs (volatile organic compounds), SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds, metals, PFAs (polyfluoralkyl substances) and methane. King said he expects a quick turnaround on the grant request from the DEQ.


The council also approved the City of Hastings/Barry County Airport 2019 budget that City Manager Jeff Mansfield said generally reflects standard operations over the course of the year. Revenues are expected to exceed expenditures by $20,000, he said, with most of the airport’s income coming from hanger fees and gas sales.

Barry County Commissioners must also approve the budget as part of a Joint Operating Agreement of the airport with the city.


Mansfield updated the council, reporting that the state granted an extension for the city to submit a Corrective Action Plan related to retirees health care benefits and the final plan has been sent to the state.


The city was not in compliance with the state’s recently established limits on the amount of unfunded liability and payments that municipalities are allowed to make for health care benefits for retirees. The city’s conversion to Blue Care Network and Blue Care Network Advantage Plans for eligible retirees brings the city into compliance with the state’s standards, he said. Now, they wait to see if the state approves the plan, which Mansfield thinks will be the case.




Hastings New Year's Eve Ball Drop celebrates 10th year

Hastings downtown New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, always a part of the city’s holiday celebrations, is on  track for its 10th year with unanimous approval of the Hastings City Council Monday.


Speaking for the organizers, Carl Schoessel said this year’s event will again have a big tent at the corner of Jefferson and State streets, a fire pit, an interactive ice sculpture and groups with displays and possibly items for sale.


WBCH’s Dave McIntyre will emcee and John Anderson will be the DJ until midnight, when illuminations will create “oohs” and “aahs” as the ball drops at midnight Dec. 31 to say good bye to 2018 and welcome to 2019.

A wedding and David Tossava’s swearing in as mayor of Hastings have occurred at previous ball drops. The event attracts around 1,000 people, and is growing. It's all made possible by the “generous” Downtown Development Authority, Barry County Chamber of Commerce and volunteers and sponsors, Schoessel said.


In other business Monday, the council gave tentative approval to a revised agreement with the Hastings Public Library, the City of Hastings and Rutland Township, an action taken with the failure of Hastings Township residents to pass millage to support the library.


Without the millage, Hastings Township residents will not have unlimited access to the library, though they can still buy non-resident cards and have library’s services. The document has been made more generic and flexible, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


The library’s board of trustees has also given tentative approval of the changes, including removing Hastings Township representatives from the library board. The agreement will now go to Rutland Township for its review and approval. Mansfield said Rutland Township attorney Craig Rolfe will likely want to examine the agreement, so the council would get it back in January.


The new agreement is flexible enough to let Hastings Township re-enter the agreement without amending the document, should township residents pass millage in the future, city attorney Stephanie Fekkes said.





Hastings DPS on last of leaf cleanup Tuesday, Dec. 11

The Hastings Department of Public Services crew will be on North Michigan Avenue, then head toward the west Tuesday, Dec. 11 for the last of the leaf cleanup.


State Police Troopers Spend Saturday at Walmart

In keeping with the spirit of the Christmas Season State Police Troopers from Hastings and Wayland spent Saturday at the Hastings Walmart collecting gifts for those in need. The annual event is known as "Stuff the Blue Goose."

Shoppers stuffed the patrol cars with food, clothing, toys and many other needed items. Four patrol cars were packed full after spending from 9-am to 7-pm at Walmart. Trooper Scott Scharrar told WBCH News "It was a very good success, and thanked everyone for their generosity."

At the end of the day the gifts and Food items were taken to Barry County United Way.


Barry County residents tell what they want more of in recreation

Developing a five-year recreation plan for Charlton Park and Barry County Parks & Recreation created widespread interest from area residents and the feedback from the public was all positive, Parks & Recreation’s part-time Administrator Ron Welton said.


The public provided its opinions mainly through a survey and two input meetings. One of the questions on the survey asked, “Which of the following activities would you like to see expanded in the county?” on a list of 23 options. That question garnered more than 300 responses. “That’s a very good number for a survey, it shows a lot of interest,” Welton said.


Two public meetings brought more input from the public.  Welton said everyone’s ideas and thoughts were welcome. “We’re all stakeholders.” With the information gathered, parks officials will write the recreation plan with results based on the public’s responses.


When the boards approve a draft document, a copy will go to the Barry County Commissioners for preliminary approval, followed by a 30-day public comment period and then final approval.

The recreation plan, renewed every five years, is required to apply for state and federal grants. “This is why the DNR requests the plan, to ensure broad-based support,” Welton said.



Respondents treasure the county’s natural features.

“Barry County is still pretty rural, and the people like it,” Welton said. Some of the things people listed as important to them for recreation had a heavy emphasis on enjoying the outdoors, as shown by the top five items, all with more than 100 “likes.”

In order: walking trails, natural areas, wildlife viewing, canoeing/kayaking, and biking trails.


The second tier of five most popular activities to expand includes campground/camping, swimming and picnic facilities, each with 80 “votes,” dog walking areas and playgrounds.


Of less importance to survey takers were with the bottom five (leaving out “other” at 18 votes), football fields, skateboard park, basketball courts, sand volleyball and tennis and pickleball courts tied with 25 each.



Based on the total responses from all the survey questions and public input, the board is planning its top priorities, Welton said.

*The Paul Henry Trail; paving a three-mile stretch in Nashville with a long term goal of filling in the gaps in the length of the trail.


*McKeown Park; improving the boat launch, fishing area and expand parking.


*Charlton Park; study the feasibility of either rustic or modern campgrounds, improvements to the beach area and improving the boardwalk in the village.


Pearl Harbor Day


It was 77 years ago on December 7, a Sunday Morning in 1941 when Japanese war planes attacked the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor Hawaii without warning and without  a declaration of war . The Attack killed 2,403 American Servicemen and Civilians plunging the United States into a four year long war against Japan.

On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered.

Friday Aboard the Battleship Arizona Memorial at Pearl harbor a Special ceremony was held.


It's not too late to get your flu shot

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department is observing national Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 2-8. It’s not too late to protect yourself and your family from influenza this season and get vaccinated.


The vaccine may take up to two weeks to provide full protection so it is advised individuals receive the vaccine as soon as possible.  It’s the first and most important step to fight the flu; everyone six months and older is recommended to receive the flu vaccine.


Anyone can get the flu. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Flu symptoms usually appear suddenly and for most people last from a few days to two weeks.


Those 65 and older with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, pregnant women  and children younger than five years old, especially infants, are at greater risk of more serious illness.


A flu vaccination is the most effective method to prevent the flu. If you are vaccinated and still get the flu, the vaccine may make the symptoms milder. It will also prevent you from spreading the flu to others, including those at risk of more serious illness.  


Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, health departments, pharmacies, health centers, and travel clinics, as well as by many employers and schools. 


The health department offers flu vaccinations to those six months to 18 years. For more, visit Call 517-541-2630 or 269-945-4133 to schedule an appointment.



Hastings leaf pickup continues Friday; crews on final pass around town

The Hastings Department of Public Services crew will continue leaf pickup Friday, Dec. 7 beginning at East Mill Street and Michigan Avenue, heading to the east and north.

The crew is working on the last and final pass around town.


Gun Lake Tribe shares $9 million with state, local governments

The Gun Lake Tribe has announced its fall revenue sharing payments. The state of Michigan received $5,221,249 and the local revenue sharing board received $2,261,699.  GLIMI, an economic development entity, received $1,566,375.  The figures are calculated from electronic gaming revenues reported from April 1, to Sept. 30, 2018.    


“This revenue sharing distribution validates development decisions made by Tribal Council and casino management to study market demand and place value on guest experience,” said Bob Peters, Chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe.  “Our economic impact study confirms that our success supports thousands of great jobs while providing substantial benefits to Michigan’s economy.”


Last week, the tribe released the findings of an economic impact study showing  the tribal government, Casino and Gun Lake Investments added $1.5 billion to Michigan’s economy from 2011-2017.  The tribe’s annual economic impact contributes $228 million to the state’s economy while supporting 2,600 jobs. 


The tribe has shared more than $80 million with the State of Michigan, which directs the payments to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  The MEDC awards grants to businesses to invest in Michigan and create jobs. 


 Gun Lake Casino opened in February 2011 and employs more than 1,000 team members.  The tribe has now shared $118,368,404 with state and local governments over 16 distributions.



Hastings rental unit inspection change, code compliance discussed

Hastings Code Compliance Officer Frank Jesensek, hired last fall, is a great addition for the city, Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.


“Frank has a great ability to communicate with people and explain the codes we’re trying to gain compliance. The goal with our codes is to gain compliance and not to have to enforce, or issue citations. As long as there is good faith effort by a person to correct an issue we’ll work with them for full compliance.”


Unfortunately, he said, there are times when people will not want to comply, and then they are forced into an enforcement action.

“If anyone has any questions about a city ordinance, they are encouraged to contact Frank,” he said.


Pratt said he and Jesensek met with Professional Code Inspections to go over a change in rental inspection laws.  PCI has done rental inspections with registration, inspection and compliance of rental units for Hastings for years.


Enacted the first of the year, the law requires tenants to give an inspector permission to inspect the premises, instead of the owner.


In a letter sent to landlords on upcoming inspections, PCI includes a letter required to be signed by the tenant that allows the rental inspection.

Inspections of rental complexes in the city will continue to be waived as long as they pass the state inspections, Pratt said.


The new law mandates that landlords make a good faith effort to obtain the consent from a tenant by a written letter to the landlord when the city notifies the landlord of an inspection; a written letter giving permission as part of the lease; or putting the consent into the lease, so when the tenant signs the lease it is considered consent.


Hastings is not required to conduct rental inspections. If the city council opted not to continue inspections, it would not affect PCI’s contract, they would just not do them.


UPDATE: Hastings woman who died in collision with deer identified

UPDATE:The Allegan County Sheriff's Office has identified the woman who died in Wayland Township Monday evening as Kendra Kaye Ohler. 27, from Hastings.


ORIGINAL STORY:Monday about 6 p.m. a Wayland City Police officer and an Allegan County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of a car in the ditch on 135th Avenue near 7th Street in Wayland Township and found an unresponsive woman in the vehicle, a sheriff’s media release said.


The investigation of  the single car crash by the sheriff’s office reconstruction team determined that the vehicle was traveling eastbound and struck a deer, causing fatal injuries to a 27-year-old woman from the Hastings area.


Speed and alcohol do not appear to be a factor. The victim’s name is not being released until family is notified, the release said.


Wayland City Police, Wayland Fire Department, Yankee Springs Fire Department, and Michigan State Police assisted sheriff’s deputies. 



Celebrate Of Christmas Past at Charlton Park this weekend

Children and the young at heart will delight in the holidays of yesteryear during the Of Christmas Past event at Historic Charlton Park Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


The Park’s turn-of-the-century village and museum will be staffed by volunteers and adorned with festive decorations; including a train display and fresh evergreens.  Take a wagon ride, and then visit with St. Nicholas who has plenty of candy canes for good boys and girls.  In celebration of the season, guests are encouraged to make holiday crafts, including a candle and yarn doll. 


Traditional food and drink samples will be available throughout the village, such as wassail, roasted chestnuts, cinnamon & sugar apples and popcorn. The Charlton Park Foundation Board is providing coffee and cookies at the Sixberry House.  Live holiday music will ring through the Carlton Center Church courtesy of the Thornapple Valley Dulcimer Society.


The park gift shop will also be open.  Daily admission cost is $6 for ages 13 and up; $4 for ages five to 12 and children four and under are free.  For more, visit  The park is southeast of Hastings, north of M-79, at 2545 South Charlton Park Road.





Hastings attorney to be first Barry County Chief Public Defender

Hastings Attorney Kerri Selleck is in line to be Barry County’s first Chief Public Defender. The Barry County Board of Commissioners committee of the whole Tuesday unanimously recommended Selleck for the position, part of the county’s compliance plan with the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act.



The act proposes minimum standards so all county legal systems providing indigent defense meet constitutional obligations, work with counties to implement compliance plans to meet the standards and award state grants to county systems to bring them into compliance with the new standards.


“We needed to up our game …we’ve gone through the process to provide better (legal) representation for people who can’t afford it,” Commissioner/Chair Ben Geiger said.


“I’m excited,” Selleck said. “Barry County already has a good foundation to build on for representing indigents...Barry County could be a model for other counties…We are on the forefront, we’re ready to go.”


Barry County indigent services can access resources they couldn’t before; they will be able to get most of the resources available to prosecutors, she said.

The Chief Public Defender responsibilities include: managing the assigned counsel contracts, implementing, monitoring and maintaining compliance with MIFC standards, oversight and reporting on implementing the standards and grant accounting.


One of the differences Selleck said is that she or another attorney will be at an arraignment and bail setting for everyone accused for a crime, big or small, something that has not been the case in the past.


The position to head the program was advertised state-wide. Based on resumes submitted, interviews, and background checks, Selleck is recommended for approval for the post at the Barry County Commission’s Dec.11 meeting.


Selleck had a private law practice on Hastings for 11 years, has been on Barry and Kalamazoo county’s Criminal Indigent Defense list for 12 years, was Barry County assistant prosecuting attorney for three years and a member of the compliance planning team representing the Barry County Bar and the Barry County Bar Criminal Defense attorneys who wrote the county’s compliance plain


Selleck holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and public law from Western Michigan University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Dayton School of Law-Dayton Ohio.


Included in her resume were letters of recommendation from Hastings Attorney Nathan Tagg and former Barry County Prosecutor Gordon Shane McNeill. Both praised her dedication, fairness, integrity, saying she is absolutely qualified and would do a fine job heading the Indigent Defense team in Barry County.

Her message to those who do not have the money for an attorney: “We are here to help. Use us.”


Photo: Hastings Attorney Kerri Selleck


Barry County Commission recommends eleven committee assignments

The Barry County Board of Commissioners interviewed and recommended applicants for seats on the Barry County Road Commission, the Transit Board, and Veterans Affairs Tuesday.


They also recommended eight others, all without competition, for positions on other committees. Names of all of those selected by consensus will be forwarded to the commission for consideration at the next regular board meeting.


They are:

*Frank Fiala, road commission-six year term

Joyce Snow, Craig Stolsonburg and Russ Yarger also applied.

*Craig Stolsonburg, transit-three year term

Shawn Winters also applied

*Shannon Szukala, Veterans Affairs-four year term

*Tim McKay, Veterans Affairs-four year term

Frank Williams and Ron Felder also applied.


Recommended without interviews:

*Paul Wing, Agricultural Promotion-three year term

*Larry Neil, Agricultural Promotion-three year term

*Tim McGavin, Animal Shelter Advisory-three year term

*David Tripp, Building Authority-three year term

*Kristin Cove, Central Dispatch Admin Board-four year term

*Don Bowers, Commission on Aging-three year term

*Sally Shuster Shoff, Commision on Aging-three year term

*Michelle Newton, Community Corrections Advisory-two year term.


In other business, the commission recommended the full board approve:


*the Audit Engagement Agreement between the Barry County Road Commission and Walker, Fluke & Sheldon for the auditing firm to perform the 2018 road commission audit for $9,000.

*buying two new boilers for the Courts & Law Building for $90,000 by DHE Climate Solutions. The plan to install one boiler and then the other can’t be done, so to keep the courts operating, the installation of both will be done at the same time over a weekend, requiring overtime.


*Agriculture Farmland and Open Space Preservation (PA116) applications for Brandon and Derik Schantz in Section 3 of Maple Grove Township and Larry and Tammy Kuperus in section 11 in Irving Township. Both applications were considered by the Barry County Planning Commission with recommendations for approval.


*a 2019 agreement between the county and Michigan State University Extension to bring all of MSUE’s programs and resources to Barry County residents. The same agreement as last year, the agreement is for $55,145 for operating expenses and the 4-H program and $63, 463 for a clerical person in the Hastings MSUE office.












Be aware: new scam is making the rounds

Michigan taxpayers with past-due tax debts should be aware of a new scam making the rounds through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.


In the scheme, taxpayers are sent what appears to be a government-looking letter about an overdue tax bill, asking the taxpayer to immediately contact a toll-free number to resolve a tax debt or face asset seizure. The piece of correspondence appears credible to the taxpayer because it uses specific personal facts about the outstanding tax debt pulled directly from publicly available information.


The scammer’s letter attempts to lure the taxpayer into a situation where they could make a payment to a criminal.


“All taxpayers need to be aware of this scam,” said Deputy State Treasurer Ann Good, who oversees Treasury’s Financial and Administrative Services programs. “If you have questions about an outstanding state debt, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The state Treasury Department’s correspondence involves official letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service, including several options to resolve your debt and information outlining your taxpayer rights.”


To learn more about Michigan’s taxes and the collections process, go to or follow the state Treasury Department on Twitter at @MITreasury.











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