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Local News Archives for 2017-03

Alert citizen calls police Gaines, Byron township robbery suspect nabbed

Thanks to an alert citizen, Kent County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a suspect in multiple daytime home invasions in Gaines and Byron townships on March 16 and 17.

 

The observant citizen saw a suspicious person in a Gaines Township neighborhood and contacted the sheriff’s office. Deputies located Troy Ritsema, 19, of Byron Township, with a large amount of stolen property in his vehicle. A search warrant of Ritsema’s residence resulted in more stolen property being recovered.

 

Ritsema was arrested and the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office charged him with two counts of first degree home invasion and possession of burglary tools. Ritsema is currently being held at the Kent County Correctional Facility on a $100,000 bond.

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Barry County Courthouse employee's new contract "a step in the right direction"

Barry County and the Barry County Courthouse Employees Association have agreed on an extension of its labor agreement after several months of negotiating (see related story).

Julie Ingle, president of the BCCEA said she is pleased that a new three-year agreement was reached with Barry County. 

 

“After several months of negotiations and mediation, as well as countless hours of committee work on the 2015 Wage and Compensation Study by Segal-Waters, we are confident that this is a step in the right direction to pay current employees fair and competitive wages in the upcoming years,” she said. “The Association would like to thank all of the judges and the department heads that were instrumental in supporting our efforts throughout the last few months.”

 

Barry County Court’s Chief Judge William Doherty added his thoughts, saying the new contract between the county and employees is a step forward. The first  compensation and classification study done since 1998, which the negotiators followed, was not completely implemented, but the contract is a good start, he said. “I am very supportive of this contract;  it’s in the best interests of the everyone.”

 

Doherty noted county employees are handling a huge increase in the complexity of their jobs with increasing state and federal requirements in already stressful jobs. The county is having trouble keeping experienced employees, he said. “This will make a huge difference in keeping capable employees.”

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Hastings Council to reconsider beer, wine at Thornapple Plaza events

The Hastings Rotary and Kiwanis clubs Monday sought permission from the Hastings City Council to operate the Thornapple Plaza concession stand  during its second season, and again asked to serve beer and wine during some of the entertainment programs. A similar request made last year was soundly rejected by the Hastings City Council.

 

This year, council members were more open to the idea and asked for a business plan and more information on the plans for them to consider before making a decision. David Solmes, speaking for the civic clubs, said the concession stand made very little profit last year and beer and wine sales would raise money needed to pay for the entertainment acts at the city’s newest attraction. 

 

The Baum Family foundation funded the construction of the Plaza and then gifted it to the City of Hastings, and also agreed to pay for the entertainment for the first three years; last year, this year and next year. Solmes said they have a Barry Eaton District Health Department permit and liability insurance, and want to work with city staff on the details of the concept, “to see if we can make it work.”

“There could be a scenario where this would work,” Councilman Don Smith said, noting that alcohol is served outside during Summerfest and the Barry Roubaix. “But, we do need a plan on how it’s going to work. With a plan, the questions go out the window.” Other council members echoed Smith.

 

Councilman Bill Redman objected, saying: “I have a real big problem with this,” and made a motion to deny the request. The motion failed 8-1 with Redman the only vote against the request.

“Draw up a plan…and bring it back,” Mayor David Tossava said.

 

In other business, The Hastings Police Department Monday was given formal permission to host National Night Out at Tyden Park Aug.1. Deputy Chief Dale Boulter said the event is “a big picnic,” that gets police involved in the community and lets all emergency services personnel, police fire and ambulance meet and interact with the community.  A national event on Aug.1 since 1984, the Hastings event will be from 5 p.m. to 8 pm.

 

Also, the council presented a certificate of appreciation to Eric Baird recognizing the extensive improvements he and his wife made to their new residence at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Center Street.

“Code enforcement is challenging, frustrating and sometimes, no fun at all,” Police Chief Jeff Pratt said. The Bairds made extensive improvements in the house in disrepair that they purchased less than a year ago, “spending a small fortune, I’m sure,” Pratt said, “to make Hastings look better. It is appreciated by the City of Hastings.”

 

The council also tabled an amendment to the zoning code that would allow construction of balconies on buildings in the downtown under certain conditions. Council members asked for more information on safety issues and if balconies will fit in with the historic look of downtown. They will bring it up again in two weeks. The planning commission has been working on revisions and refinements to the ordinance over several months and recommended its approval.

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Barry County Commission, courthouse employees agree on new contract

The Barry County Board of Commissioners approved a three-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement with the Barry County Courthouse Employees Association, Commissioner and commission chair Ben Geiger announced Monday.

 

The agreement covers 70 of the county’s 271 employees from May 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2020.

“Barry County’s workforce has changed greatly since 1998, when the last compensation study was implemented,” Geiger said. “Today I’m proud to report that Barry County has both a new agreement and a new commitment for retaining and attracting great people. “

 

A 2015 Segal Waters study compared the county’s compensation with other governments and the private sector, and also studied the accuracy of job classifications and descriptions, he said.

“The study resulted in more accurate job descriptions, but also found Barry County wages were significantly behind public and private sector comparables,” he said.

 

Last year, a workgroup of administrative staff, elected officials and employee association representatives used the Segal Waters study to draft a plan for a new job evaluation and classification structure, Geiger continued. “This plan was designed to make county wages more consistent internally, and more competitive in the labor market. The agreement reached today incorporates much of that plan.”

 

 

Highlights of the agreement:

* Continuing with precedent, the county board extended the same agreement to General Fund non-represented employees and department directors.

* Thirteen positions, 21 employees, will receive a new job description and two percent raises in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, bringing them closer to market wages.

* Forty seven positions, 68 employees, will receive a new job description, and by 2020, gradually receive salary increases also bringing them closer to market rate.

* The cost of the agreement in 2017 is $89,277 based on the effective May 1 date, and will largely be paid for by projected growth in the county’s tax base, and a decreased focus on capital improvement funds, Geiger said.

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Barry County tornado siren tests begin Saturday

Barry County Central Dispatch is advising residents in Freeport, Hastings, Middleville, Nashville, Orangeville, Woodland and the Gun Lake area that the tornado sirens in those communities will be tested on Saturday, April 1, at 1 p.m. All tests through October will occur on the first Saturday of the month at 1p.m. 

 

If inclement weather is present at the time of scheduled testing, the test will be cancelled. 

 

Those whose community does not have a siren, or are out of range of a community siren, may want to purchase a NOAA Weather Radio or download the American Cross tornado app.

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Barry County charities invited to apply for funding through Bill Porter Memorial Charity Golf Classic

The 14th annual Bill Porter Memorial Charity Golf Classic of the Hastings Country Club is seeking charities to benefit through its memorial golf outing, set for Friday, June 16 at the golf course in Hastings. Since 2004, the classic has granted over $350,000 to Barry County 501(c) (3) organizations.  The request for proposals is open to all eligible non-profits that provide programs and projects in the Barry County area. 

 

Interested non-profit organizations may submit a proposal to a committee made up of representatives from the grant committee of the Barry Community Foundation (BCF), the allocation committee from the Barry County United Way (BCUW) and the committee for the charity golf outing.

 

To request an application or for questions, call Jennifer at the BCF at 269-945-0526, Janie Bergeron at Green Gables Haven at 269-804-6021 or Lani at BCUW at 269-945-4010. After review of the submissions, which are not limited to program or project costs, the top four charities successfully demonstrating the importance of their organizations will be selected by the committee and then publicized as the charities. 

 

Chosen charities are required to have a booth on display during the outing, complete with a voting box. They will also be asked to recruit golf teams, collect door prizes, provide volunteers for the day of the event and obtain three hole sponsors.

 

The registered golfers will receive four ballots in their goodie bags to vote for their favorite charity. They can use all four votes for one charity, or split their votes any way they wish, which will encourage them to get their people involved.  Following the tournament, the charities will be rewarded with 50 percent of proceeds going to the lead charity in the voting, 25 percent to the second, 15 percent to the third and 10 percent to fourth place.

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Hastings students earn Citizenship Awards

The Hastings Police Department has established a  “Citizenship Award”  for Hastings area students who demonstrate not only excellent citizenship, but also take extra steps to help and assist their teachers and fellow students. The new initiative is part of the department’s partnership with the schools, Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.

 

Students will be selected from the Hastings Middle School and each Elementary School, including St. Rose,  who will receive a certificate and will then be taken to lunch by an officer of the Hastings Police Department. Pratt, Sergeant Kris Miller, Officer Josh Sensiba, and Deputy Chief Dale Boulter host the students.  

 

Superintendent Carrie Duits said the new program fits in perfectly with the school system’s emphasis on positive behaviors. Students being rewarded for positive behavior encourages citizenship and being good role models, she said. “It also strengthens the relationship of the schools with the community.  The schools promote service to our community, police officers serve us; together, this ties it all together,” she said.

 

The students who received the awards are:  Christopher Espinal Lopez  from Southeastern Elementary; Alex Miller, Northeastern Elementary;

Bradley Riley, Central Elementary; Rory Campbell, Middle School, Carlos Gonzalez Perez; Star School and Brant O’Heran from St. Rose.

Three students were presented their awards last week and taken out to lunch. The other three will be presented their awards and taken out to lunch this week, Pratt said. The award will be presented every marking period for the respective schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Central Elementary student Bradley Riley (left), Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt and Joe Priest, Central Elementary principal, display Riley’s Citizenship Award.

 

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No more members needed on Parks & Rec Board, applicant says

When Hastings Township Supervisor Jim Brown sat down to interview Tuesday for a seat on the Barry County Parks & Recreation Board that he had applied for, he didn’t take questions from county commissioners;  instead he declined to be considered for the seat and chastised the commission for having so many people already on the board.

 

Five is a good number for any controlling board, seven is okay, but nine is iffy, Brown said.

“If you can’t do it with seven, you need to rethink what you’re doing,"

Parks & Recreation has 12 seats on its board, with two citizen-at-large seats vacant.

 

“There are all kinds of talented knowledgeable people in Barry County, but you have too many of them in one place. They don’t get anything done…the Parks and Rec Board is imploding as we speak. You don't have 12 to 15 people on a commission like this,"  Brown maintained.

 

“You set the numbers and you should reduce the number of board members…it is just not effective.”

Just before leaving, Brown also advised the commission to delegate the interviews for vacancies to committee members themselves. “They know what they need.”

 

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Autism Alliance of Barry County to hold free autism safety meetings

Autism Alliance of Barry County is holding four Michigan Autism Safety Trainings in the county; three for first responders and one for community members.

 

First responder training (each session is approximately two hours) will be:

*April 24, at 11 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. at Thornapple Kellogg High School auditorium, 3883 Bender Road, Middleville

*April 26 at 11 a.m. at the Barry Central 911 Center, 2600 Nashville Road, Hastings.

First responder continuing education credits are available.

 

Community training is April 26 at Barry Central 911 Central at 6:30 p.m. Pizza dinner and child care are provided for registered participants.

 

To reserve a seat or for more information about the free events, go to AABC’s Facebook page or visit eventbrite.com. Call Laura at 269-948-8939.

AABC is a non-profit group raising funds to provide autism acceptance and awareness activities in Barry County.

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Superintendent's Platform

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

 

“Spring is an exciting time of year for the Hastings Area School System (HASS); graduation is drawing near and our seniors are busy planning and preparing for their lives after high school— college, technical training, careers—their options are endless!

 

March is also when Hastings High School (HHS) announces students in the graduating class earning top academic honors. Monday evening the HASS Board of Education recognized 12 students for their academic excellence: Mara M. Allan, Megan N. Backe, Kayleigh M. Collins, Abigail M. Czinder, Reilly C. Former, Mary C. Green, Samuel K. Johnson, Olivia G. Mead, Emily R. Pattock, Timbree M. Pederson, Samantha S. Richardson, and Austin D. Stephens.

 

Monday evening the board also heard about the achievements, both in the classroom and out, of many other students in the district:

• Lizzy Heide earned the title of Top 3 Point Shooter in the State during a competition at MSU.

• Our Drumline continues to receive accolades. They have been invited to play at WOODTV’s Maranda’s Park Parties. They will be the featured performance, showcasing not only their musical talents but also their leadership ability as role model high school students.

• Out of 12 pieces selected for the Michigan Art Education Association State show at Western Michigan University, six are from Hastings, and one is in the top 15 in the state!

• Four of our elementary students, who have modeled good behavior and leadership  were selected to be in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with Mayor David Tossava!

Congratulations to our students—you make us proud! And to the parents, Board of Education, teachers, staff, and community members who support them—well done!

 

The Board of Education also approved the following action items at Monday’s meeting. These include:

• Awarding a bid from Hurst Mechancial, Inc., to replace the current domestic hot water boiler at Hastings High School. 

• Approving the partial contract award recommendations as presented from Wolgast Construction Services. Contracts awarded are: Flooring – Lansing Tile & Mosaic, Inc.; Theater & Stage Equipment – LVH Entertainment Systems, Casework – Stonecreek Interior Systems, LLC; Theater Seating – Irwin Seating; Electrical – Excel Electric. 

• Approving the addition of a middle school tennis team as a school-sponsored sport, beginning with the 2016-2017 spring sports season.  

 

• Accepting, with great appreciation, the following donations:

 

* $5,000 from TNR Machine, Inc., to purchase middle school wrestling uniforms.

* $10,000 from SCMY to purchase new batting cages for the baseball program.    

* $8487 from the Hastings Education Enrichment Foundation to cover the transportation of students for numerous educational field trips

* $1,000 from the Richard B. Messer Trust in support of the High School Drama Department

* $500 from Robert Former to the 2017 Varsity Singers Chicago trip.

* It’s a great day to be a Saxon!”

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Yankee Springs Township looking for spring cleanup volunteers

Yankee Springs Supervisor Mark Englerth is personally inviting area residents to join him in a spring cleanup in the township Saturday, April 29. Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. in the Yankee Spring Fire Station at  the corner of Payne Lake Road and M-179 Highway. He suggests  bringing gloves.At noon, there will be food, water and pop. For more information or to offer suggestions, contact Englerth at 269-838-1289 or e-mail him at markenglerth@yankeespringstwp.org.

Photo: The volunteer crew from last year’s cleanup poses for a photo at the Yankee Springs Fire Station.

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Barry County to have new system of panic buttons for employees

The Barry County Board  of Commissioners committee of the whole recommended approval of a request by the county IT Director David Shinavier to replace the panic button system for county employees, including the courts. The current copper-based system is more than 10 years old and lacks the advantages of current technology, Shinavier said.

The SecureTech System, Inc., will install 128 panic buttons in various locations for $28,750 to be paid from the Data Processing or Diverted Felon funds.

 

The original request was pared down from 200 buttons for $37,759 to the lower numbers.

The staff will have to be trained in the use of the new alarm systems, probably by the sheriff’s office, Shinavier said. In answer to commissioner’s questions on the number of times employees used the buttons, he said it was very few. “The problem is that they use it too little, not too much,” he said.

 

The commission will act on the recommendation at its next board meeting, Monday, March 27. The meeting has been moved up one day to allow commissioners to attend a Municipal Employees Retirement System conference.

 

Also, Tuesday, commissioners approved Shinavier’s request to seek proposals from vendors to replace the 12 to 15 copiers used by the county. The object is to have all copiers the same age, with one vendor with one contract, which will bring lower price and maintenance costs, Shinavier said. Now, the county copiers are of three different age levels with three different vendors and three different contracts.

 

He will ask for trade-ins for copiers from 2014, and keep some of the older models for places that use copiers infrequently, like in the basement where archives are kept. Shinavier expects at least four vendors to submit proposals. He stressed the requests are exploratory. “The numbers have to be right. If it looks good, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll put it off for another year.” The county produces about 92,000 copies a month.

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Little known women's political protest highlighted in Women's History Month

***March is Women’s History Month and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf used a recent County Commission meeting to tell of one example of women’s influence.

Several events led to the Revolutionary War in 1776, including the Boston Tea Party in 1773, he said. Most have heard of the event when Samuel Adams and the “Sons of Liberty” dumped tea into the Boston Harbor to protest the tea tax levied by the British Crown. Virtually no one has heard of the Edenton Tea Party, he said.

 

Ten months after the Boston Tea Party, Penelope Barker, 46, twice widowed, mother of two sons and married to attorney John Barker, met in her friend Elizabeth King’s home with 50 other women and organized the first recorded women’s political protest. The women signed a declaration of their own and sent it to a London newspaper, Leaf recounted.

 

“Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now,” the declaration read.

“That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are. We, the aforesaid Lady’s, will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our native country shall be repealed,” Leaf quoted.

 

The colonists praised the women and joined their boycott, however, the English news media portrayed the women as bad mothers and loose women.

“Sound familiar?” Leaf asked. “To our youth: politics and labeling has been going on for centuries. From loose women to ‘Krauts’ and ‘Japs’ in World War II to gooks in Korea and Vietnam wars to homophobe, to etc…,” he said. “Learn from these principled women and how they handled the labeling. To our youth ‘ladys’: never underestimate “Girl” power. Happy Women’s History Month.”

 

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Barry County committee of the whole recommends citizens for several boards

The Barry County committee of the whole Tuesday made several recommendations of citizens to fill vacant seats on county boards and commissions.

Its recommendations to the full board:

* Animal Shelter Advisory Board:

Patricia Robinson and Candace Stowe to one year terms. A third applicant Frank Jesenek could not interview because of a family emergency. He will be invited to interview at a later time. A two year term remains vacant.

 

* Barry County Community Health Authority Board: Norm Francis, Nora Hurst and Robert Nelson, all incumbents, to be returned to the board for three-year terms.

 

* Veterans Affairs Committee: Douglas Eugene Lindsey, for a four-year term, Shannon Alexander Szukala for a two-year term.

 

* Planning Commission:

Incumbents Clyde Morgan and Robert Vanderboegh to three-year terms.

 

* Zoning Board of Appeals:

Incumbents Shirley Barnum and Richard Patterson to three year terms.

 

* Barry County Tax Allocation Board:

Craig Stolsonburg and Commissioner David Jackson to represent the county commission, to a one-year term.

 

The recommendations will be acted on at the next board meeting to be held Monday, March 27 to accommodate commissioners attendance of the MERS Conference.

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Barry Commissioners to meet Monday, March 27

The second monthly regular meeting of the Barry County Board of  Commissioners is being moved up one day to Monday, March 27 to accommodate members attending a Municipal Employees Retirement System Conference in Lansing. 

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Public to offer new name for Barry County Cabinet Building

The naming of the Barry County owned building once a U.S. Post Office and the Hastings Library and recently named the Cabinet Building, will be reconsidered by commissioners.

Commissioner Howard Gibson said Tuesday that after the commission voted to name the building, he heard from several constituents that they wanted a chance to make suggestions.

The rest of the commissioners agreed and decided on a 30-day period to hear names the public suggests.

 

If you have a name you want considered, WBCH has set up a section on our website for you to submit your choice.

Ideas for names should be sent to the county administrator’s office, and commissioners would likely pass along names that were offered.

There was no doubt whose name Fred Jacobs, publisher of J-Ad Graphics, would support for the building.

 

“Emil Tyden did more for Barry County than anyone in our history,” he said.

Using a borrowed $33,000 in the late 1860’s, Tyden brought in some friends and was credited with laying the foundation for manufacturing in Hastings for future companies: E.W. Bliss, Hastings Manufacturing, FlexFab, Hastings Reinforced Plastics, Hastings Fiberglass, Tyden Seal and Viking Corporation, all names important to Hastings and Barry County’s past and future, Jacobs said.

 

The building’s name should honor someone who not only had a future vision for the city, and worked to achieve it, but had “a phenomenal impact on Hastings.” Tyden was also well known for building businesses in Moline, Indiana, Chicago and Iowa, he added.

Other speakers agreed with Jacobs that the name should be for someone who made significant contributions to Barry County, “and to no one else.”

 

After the suggestions are collected, the commissioners will decide if they need an election by the public, or if the choice is obvious, they should make the decision on their own.

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EPA seeks further public comment on injecting brine in Johnston Township well

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a public meeting and hearing on Wednesday, April 19 at the Hastings Public Library, 227 East State Street in Hastings. The meeting is on EPA plans to allow a Traverse City company to inject brine 2,000 feet below the surface in a well in Johnstown Township.

 

The public meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the public hearing from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Arbor Operating has applied for a Class II injection well permit, that the EPA plans to approve.

The public notice said the EPA received requests for a public hearing on the proposed permit approval. The new comment period for written comments ends Friday, April 21, at midnight, exceeding the 30-day period and including an additional three days for any delay caused by mailing. The original public comment period ended in October, 2016.

 

If the EPA makes its approval final, Arbor Operating will inject brine into the Swanson well located about a quarter mile from Manning Lake and Bristol roads in Johnstown Township, according to the notice.

 

New comments can be submitted to by mail to:

Jeffrey Wawczak,

U.S. EPA Region 5 (WU-161)

77 West Jackson Boulevard

Chicago, IL. 60604-3590.

 

Comments can be submitted by e-mail (wawczak.jeffery@epa.gov) or in person at the public hearing.The EPA will consider all comments it receives and then issue a final decision, along with a response to significant comments. Those who make an official comment during the comment period or at the public hearing have the right to appeal any final permit decision by appealing first to the Environmental Appeals Board.

 

For more on the EPA’s Underground Injection Control program, or join its mailing list, go to http://go.usa.gov/3JwFP.

For questions about the location of wells, contact: MDEQ, P.O. Box 30256, Lansing, MI, 48909, or call 517-241-1515.

 

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Tractor Truck Crash

A truck and tractor collided monday night  near Hastings on Brogan road.

One person was taken to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. more details as they become available.

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Hastings welcomes Barry Roubaix, the largest gravel road race in the world

Michigan’s 2017 cycling season kicks off in Hastings on Saturday, March 25 with the Founders Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race, the largest gravel road race in the world.

Hastings will host up to 3,500 bike racers, and their friends and families, for the fifth Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race held in the city. The riders this year will be met by several “ambassadors” from the Hastings Police Department to provide information on parking, places to shop and dine as well as general questions from visitors.

 

The race waves start at 10 a.m. and go off every three minutes from the starting line on Green Street in front of the United Methodist Church and finish on Church Street. All routes are well marked by signs.

It will be bicycles every where you look, with group after group pushing off from the starting line, one every three minutes, with the longest route riders leading the way. The public is encouraged to take part in the excitement with bells, whistles or other noise makers along the curb to cheer on the racers at the start and return to Hastings. An after party and awards ceremonies, with free admission and open to the public, will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Church and Center streets. //

The races are staged by the mile on courses to challenge all level of competitors: the 22-mile “Chiller,” 36-mile “Thriller” or the 62-mile “Killer.” The race tests riders against a route of 80 percent rolling gravel roads, pavement, one mile of rough two track, rocks, sand, mud, and possibly snow and ice, as they travel the scenic roads of Barry County. Registration ends March 23.//

 

Statistics from the 2016 Roubaix:

* Over 3,200 Racers from 32 states, Canada and the United Kingdom

* 1,900 spectators

* More than $32,000 in awards cash and prizes

* Over $30,000 paid to organizations and individuals for race day volunteering

* Over $1,500 donated to Michigan League of Cyclists

* Combined racers biked over 100,000 miles on race day or four times around the earth

* 38 kegs of Founders enjoyed at the after-party

* Youngest racer, 11 and oldest, 77

* $5.4 million dollars worth of bikes at the event

* Economic impact of the Roubaix to the area in 2016: $565.250.

* Thirty area organizations provided 300 volunteers for the event.

 

Photo: One of the waves of cyclists turn onto Cook Road in last year's Roubaix. 

 

 

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UPDATE: Allegan County Sheriff releases names in fatal U.S. 131 crash

UPDATE: The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of those involved in a one-vehicle crash early Sunday except the driver, a 20-year old woman from Grand Rapids. She will be identified after arraignment.

Alexis Danielle Brown-Johnson, 15, Grand Rapids, died in the crash.

Passengers Taliyah N. Zziwambazza, 19, from Kentwood and Bianca Monet Bland, 17, Grand Rapids, suffered minor injuries.

 

ORIGNAL STORY:

A fatal traffic crash at 2:40 a.m. on Sunday morning on U.S 131 near 12th Street in Wayland Township left a 15-year-old Grand Rapids girl dead, two other passengers with minor injuries and the driver in custody of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Deputies said the 20-year-old woman driving southbound on U.S.131 Highway lost control of her vehicle and slid toward the ditch, spun around, slid down the embankment into a fence, and then into the ditch, causing the car to roll over onto its roof.

 

Deputies reported the 15-year-old girl, unrestrained in the back seat, was ejected from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries.  An 18-year-old unrestrained passenger in the rear seat suffered minor injuries and was transported to Metro Health Hospital; the 19-year-old front seat passenger was belted and suffered very minor injuries.

The passengers names will be released pending notification of family.

 

The driver is suspected of  being under the influence of alcohol. A blood sample obtained from her will be sent to the Michigan State Police Lab for toxicology testing, officials said.

The woman is lodged in the Allegan County Correctional Facility awaiting review of the information by the prosecutor’s office.  Her name and charges, if issued, will be released early next week. 

The crash remains under investigation.

The sheriff’s office was assisted at the scene by the Gun Lake Tribal Police, Wayland Fire Department, Wayland Area EMS and Plainwell EMS.

 

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Delton Band Pearl Harbor Day

The Delton Kellogg Marching Band was chosen to participate in the 2017 Pearl Harbor Day Parade by the selection committee after receiving recommendations from various State and local Music Directors.

The parade will take place on December 7, 2017 commemorating the 75th Anniversary of World War Two.

This year, will feature an opening ceremony, including Pearl Harbor survivors and special speakers and a ceremoneal Mass Band.

Following the opening ceremony the parade will step off at 6-pm Hawaii time and proceed through the heart of Waikiki down their famous Kalahua Avenue..

Mlive is reporting the Delton Kellogg band is seeking donations to fund the trip.

 

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Irish turn out for St. Patrick's Day Parade

Everyone in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Hastings on March 17 all had something in common. They all had their green on, were real or honorary Irish for the parade and had fun. Here are a few photos of the event.

 
 
 

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Former Barry County probation officer pleads guilty to misuse of office, drug charges

Greg Kotrba,38, former probation officer in the Barry County Courts, will be sentenced in a Calhoun County Court on April 17 for one count of abusing his office and two counts of drug possession.

Kotrba pleaded guilty as charged to all three, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said.

There is no plea agreement on the “indictable offense under common law,” or abusing his office, which is punishable by five years in prison and/or $10,000 fine, he said.

On the two drug offenses, Gilbert said his office would not object if the judge sentenced Kotrba under Michigan drug law 333.7411 which allows the charges to be dismissed for first time offenders if they successfully complete probation. “But that’s up to the judge,” he said.

The drug charges were possession of less than 25 grams of a controlled substance, punishable by four years/$2,500 fine, and possession of analogues, with a possible sentence of two years/$2,000 fine.  After a Barry County Sheriff’s Office investigation, Kotrba’s case was assigned to the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s office to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

 

The following information is from the sheriff’s office investigative report:

 

A Delton Kellogg  DK Academy alternative education student told his teacher that he and other students were being pressured by Kotrba, their juvenile probation officer, to get prescription drugs for him. The teacher doubted the charges until reading text messages between the students and Kotrba that the students kept on cell phones.

 

The student, identified as CI, said when the students were enrolled in Juvenile Drug Court, they were prescribed Vyvanse for their diagnosed ADHD. Kotrba volunteered to hold their medication and distribute it to them every week. One time, he told them their medications had been stolen from his car, and their pills, “were always coming up missing or short for the month,”  the students said

 

When CI complained, Kotrba agreed to buy pills from the students. CI claimed Kotrba got, “Vicodin, Narco, Vyvanse, whatever.” Kotrba paid the students $300 for drugs on one occasion, but they spent the money instead of providing the drugs.

 

In November of last year, SWET and the sheriff’s office coordinated a meeting for Kotrba to buy drugs from CI. SWET directed CI to set up a meeting with Kotrba to deliver 28 pills of 40 mg Vyvanse on Nov. 16, the day after he picked up his prescription in Delton. The unopened drugs were held by authorities until the next day when a controlled delivery was made by CI, under SWET’s direction, of the Vyvanse and eight Norco 10/325, to Kotrba in a parking lot at M-43 Highway and Orchard Street.

 

Kotrba was pulled over by deputies at M-43 Highway and Sprague Road where he was taken into custody for controlled substance violation.

 

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Eaton County successfully implements on line self reporting storm damage program

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services successfully activated its on-line self-reporting tool for the first time during the recent windstorm for the public to report damage, according to a sheriff's office news release.

 

Residents entered property damage from the storm to be viewed by emergency management on the county’s GIS mapping applications as soon as it is entered, allowing much faster understanding of the extent of losses. 

More than 11,700 people were reached simply by posting the link to the program on the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.  For future events, the web page link will again be posted on-line on the sheriff’s web site, Facebook page and to local media partners, the release said.

 

 The information is verified by reviewing the homeowner’s uploaded photos or site visits by Emergency Services Program Manager Sgt. Brown.  The number of reports, degree of damage and damage amount estimate of losses is then forwarded to the Emergency Management/Homeland Security Division (EMHSD) of the Michigan State Police. 

Personal information, names, phone numbers, and so on, is not included in the forwarded report. 

 

There were some minor implementation issues the first time the program was used, but overall, Sheriff Tom Reich said he is, "very satisfied with how it performed."  //

                        

In the type of damage typical from a wind storm, a basic homeowners policy covers the majority of losses.  The EMHSD looks closely at losses not typically covered by the homeowner’s insurance and if the damage makes the primary residence uninhabitable.  

The on-line tool helps get this information to EMHSD sooner, which can speed up emergency disaster relief, the release continued.

 

Damage is rated using strict criteria set by the EMHSD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Historically, damage assessment by Emergency Services is very labor and time intensive; assessors conducted drive-by surveys, which did not include damage not visible from the road.  With the technology, much more comprehensive reports are available with fewer hours in the field.

 

Eaton County received about seventy reports of damage via the on-line reporting tool. Sixty-five of the reports reviewed were found to be at the “affected” level, which is the lowest.  These may include loss of shingles, siding, or damage to structures other than the primary residence.  Five damage reports were rated higher, mostly due to trees falling on houses. 

 

Had the storm caused more severe damage, the information would be the first step toward possibly obtaining state of federal disaster relief.  While any property damage is very disruptive to daily lives, the loss of the primary residence is what emergency management is most concerned about. The program was recently developed by the county’s technology department GIS Specialist.

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Vermontville area man in critical condition after crash

A Vermontville man is in critical condition after a single-vehicle traffic crash, according to the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the crash at 8:50 p.m. Wednesday in the 5000 block of Allegan Road in Vermontville Township. 

Officials report the preliminary investigation indicates a Subaru was northbound on Allegan Road when it left the roadway and struck several trees.

Vermontville Fire and Eaton Area EMS treated the driver, and sole occupant of the vehicle, for his injures.  Aero Med airlifted the unidentified Vermontville area man, 52, to a local hospital for treatment where he remains in critical condition. The crash is still under investigation by the sheriff’s Accident Team.

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Is your child ready for kindergarten?

March is the time for Kindergarten Round Ups. Families who plan to enroll their children for school in the fall are encouraged to attend.

An important part of preparing for kindergarten is making sure kids are up to date on their immunizations.

 

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) wants to make sure that every child is protected before entering school.

 “Immunization is the single most important way parents can protect their children from serious disease,” said Jackie Anderson, RN, BEDHD’s Immunization Coordinator. “If your child has not yet received all of the immunizations required for school entry, don’t wait. Take action now to get them protected before school begins.”

 

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor, or call the health department’s immunization clinic at 517-541-2630 in Eaton County or 269-798-4133 in Barry County. If you are not sure if your child is up to date, please contact their doctor or the BEDHD immunization clinic to review their records.

 

A child who is fully immunized and ready to start Kindergarten in the fall will have had these vaccinations:

* 4 doses of DTap (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis)

* 2 doses of Hepatitis A 

* 3 doses of Hepatitis B 

* 2 doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)   

* 4 doses of Polio             

* 2 doses of Chickenpox (Varicella).

              

 

 

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Superintendent's Platform

**WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight news in their districts. This posting is from Barry Intermediate School District  Superintendent Richard Franklin.

 

“Jacob Shorey, an eighth grader from Delton Kellogg Middle School, was the runner-up at last night's Greater Grand Rapids Spelling Bee. Jacob took

second place out of 21 regional spelling bee winners at the national-qualifying bee.

 

His downfall was "pandowdy," a spiced, deep-dish
apple pie (sadly rather ironic for a spelling bee held on Pi Day). Jacob was the back-to-back champion of the Barry ISD Regional Spelling Bee. This year's regional bee involved 28 students from eight area schools. Students in grades four through eight qualify for the regional bee by winning their school bees.  Only the winner of the regional bee competes against the winners of twenty other regional bees at the Greater Grand Rapids bee.


The 40th Greater Grand Rapids Spelling Bee was held March 14, at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. The winner was Aashray Mandala, a
seventh grader from Grand Haven Lakeshore Middle School, who correctly spelled "semester" and "legislation" for the title.

 

Mandala will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, May 28-June 2.
To test your own spelling acumen, the complete list of words missed by spellers were: gondola, cognition, kahuna, layette, pampas, Crusoe, mirage, gestapo,
macadamia, junta, wainscot, hippopotamus, aul, coffle, melba (vocabulary round), dewlap, hummable, urbane, dunnage, pandowdy.
 

For more information about involvement in next year's Barry ISD Regional Spelling Bee, contact Rich Franklin, BISD superintendent, at rfranklin@barryisd.org or 269-945-9545.

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Stolen cars, vehicle break-ins continue in Gaines Township

Since the Gaines Township Community Alert issued on Feb. 14, there have been two additional vehicles broken into and three vehicles stolen in the township; two were stolen last night.

High density neighborhoods and multi-family communities are the targeted areas. There is evidence that suspects are walking up to many vehicles parked outside and finding them locked. However, the stolen vehicles were unlocked and keys left inside. Residents are asked to spread the word to neighbors to lock all vehicles.

 

Residents are also encouraged to:

* Lock vehicles, especially when parked outside.

* Keep valuables out of sight.

* Close garage doors and lock service doors.

* Do not leave firearms in a vehicle.

* Do not leave the keys inside a vehicle, even if it’s parked in a garage.

 

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Hastings Riverwalk will extend to Wal-Mart in next phase

The Hastings City Council heard Monday that the next phase of the Riverwalk Trail will extend from Industrial Park Drive, along the abandoned railroad bed behind San Marco’s restaurant to Wal-Mart.

Department of Public Service Director Lee Hays said he will apply for grants from the Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Transportation to fund the 14-foot wide extension. With the trail continuing into Rutland Township, 44 percent of the cost will be come from the township. The grants would go to the total project costs for both the city and Rutland Townships.

 

The council approved the concept of the proposed design for a decorative entrance to Riverside Cemetery on State Road. The  16-foot high, 12-foot wide opening would be at the main entrance to the cemetery on the north side of the road. The height will allow all city equipment entry; larger vehicles will use other entrances into the area.

The design of the opening will tie in with the decorative fence at the facility and is estimated to cost $46,000.  It is in the second phase of cemetery improvements and recommended by the Riverside Cemetery Preservation Advisory Board. //

 

Also, action on Tyler Guernsey’s plan to purchase a parcel in the city-owned Industrial Park on Star School Road will be delayed until some legal matters can be clarified by City Manager Jeff Mansfield. Guernsey plans to build up to 42 storage units similar to those on Green Street, which are allowed in B-2 zoning districts, but language dealing with restrictive covenants on the property have to be explained, and perhaps, changed. Mansfield plans to have a report at the council meeting on March 27.

 

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Little Thornapple River Drain, beavers challenge Barry County Drain Commission

Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull gave the County Board of Commissioners the department’s annual report, with a complete accounting of the drain commission budget during the year and a listing of all 2016 projects.

Dull said the Little Thornapple River Drain is an ongoing challenge. He and others are meeting with the DEQ to find solutions to the long-simmering problem of how to reconstruct the area of excessive tree removal of about nine miles along the 14 mile stretch of the Thornapple River, which is also an intercounty drain.

“A recurring issue that seems to be on the  rise is the presence of nuisance beavers in county drains,” he said in the report.
“Six county drains and one county dam received maintenance to remove beaver dams to ensure the county drains and dam would remain functional. Several sites require year round trapping services to control the beaver population.”

 

The report, compiled by deputy Drain Commissioner Tammy Berdecia, showed the project totals for the year were $863,646.17 related to 55 drains. //

Nine drains received herbicide applications, four were  evacuated and sealed, eight had inspection and or maintenance, seven were maintained due to nuisance beavers, 12 had tile inspection or replacements, and five were inspected for quality operation.

The Michigan Dam Safety Unit required inspection of five county dams this year at Wall Lake, Fine Lake, Upper Crystal Lake, Jordan Lake and Podunk Lake.

 

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved the appointments of Robert Carr, Michael Pratt, Ken Vierzen, Steven Koerber, Randall Jonker and John Bueche to the Barry County Remonumentation Review Board and Monumentation Surveyor agreements for 2017 between the county and Reynolds Land Surveying & Mapping P.C., Arrow Land Survey, Pathfinder Engineer Inc, Crane Land Survey, Carr & Associates LLC, Exxel Engineering and Jonker Land Surveys PC.

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Armed robber of Admiral gas station in Eaton County sought

Deputies from the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Delta Township Division, responded to an armed robbery of an Admiral gas station on Monday at 7:39 p.m. Initial information indicated a light-skinned black male entered the business located at 4306 West Saginaw Highway and showed the employee a hand gun. The suspect stole an undisclosed amount of money and fled to a nearby vehicle.  The employee was not injured.

 

The Detective Bureau of the sheriff’s office is continuing to investigate the robbery. Anyone with information related to the incident is asked to contact the sheriff’s office.

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Middleville wins statewide award for Main Street Bridge reconstruction

 

The Village of Middleville has earned an Award of Excellence from the Michigan Concrete Association (MCA) for the 2015-16 reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge over the Thornapple River. The award will be presented to village officials tonight at the council meeting.

Nominated projects were judged based on quality, safety, construction process, complexity, innovation, and aesthetics. The bridge won the award in the “Structural Concrete” category,  acording to a MCA news release.

 

“We truly were very honored to win this award,” said Village Manager Duane Weeks.

There were a lot of engineering challenges with the bridge. It was a joint effort; without the team effort we had, we wouldn’t have the product we have. It’s a beautiful bridge.

“I was pleased when we were nominated, and surprised when we won. We’re the only ones that won in that category. That says a lot about the engineers.” The bridge is another piece in ongoing projects to improve the village.

“We’re happy with the direction Middleville is going,” he said.

 

MCA Executive Director Dan DeGraaf said: “Decorative concrete on either end of the bridge blends into the existing sidewalk and decorative intersections in downtown Middleville.  The careful color matching required two different integral colors and a matching stamp pattern to replicate the same decorative look. The end result is a beautiful bridge and roadway that ties seamlessly into the quaint downtown area and will serve the residents of Middleville for many decades to come.” //

 

The designers, contractors and suppliers involved with rebuilding the bridge will also receive recognition; prime contractor Milbocker & Sons, decorative concrete contractor F and M Concrete Construction, supplier Consumers Concrete, and engineer Williams & Works, the release continued.

The team of Milbocker and Williams & Works worked through the lack of design information on the old bridge and the inconvenience of having a dam right next to the bridge, the release said.

The new two-span spread-box beam bridge has a Texas Modified Railing that features three viewing areas built into them for viewing the Thornapple River and the dam, The panel of judges noted that the project showed a great example of teamwork and partnering during construction, and attention to detail with regard to the forming, placement, and finishing of all the concrete used in the project.

 

Each year, MCA recognizes the best concrete projects and presents awards to contractors, engineers, and agencies for their work.  More than 55 road, highway, airport, industrial, commercial, and residential construction projects were submitted to the 2017 MCA concrete awards program, and 23 received recognition. 

 

The Michigan Concrete Association (MCA) was originally established in 1952 as a forum for the state’s ready-mixed concrete industry and as an educational resource for consumers. Today, the Association includes over 200 members involved in the production, specification, and construction of concrete and concrete-related products.

 

MCA’s mission is to increase the use of concrete in Michigan, through customer promotion and support, and to further the interests of Michigan's ready mix and concrete paving industries.  The Association's driving values are to encourage the best product in the appropriate application, a healthy concrete industry, a strong customer focus, member success, good public policy based on fact, to be credible at all times in all things, and to recognize and apply the best in technical expertise.

 

 

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Safe Routes to School means tree removal in Hastings

Some 40 trees in Hastings will be removed by Hometown Tree Services to make way for sidewalks under the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School grant, Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays told the Hastings City Council Monday.

The MDOT grant mandates sidewalks be parallel to the roadway, and not “jog” around trees. All of the trees, in about 25 different locations, are in city owned rights-of-way, and homeowners near the trees are getting hand-delivered notices of the removals.

 

Hays said there have been few objections; if a homeowner requests, a tree can be replaced during the fall tree plantings. Trees smaller than three inches around can be moved to a nearby location out of the path of the sidewalk, Hays said. Consumers Energy is moving eight utility poles out of the way of sidewalks.

The trees must be removed before the end of March to avoid the cuttings during the migrating season of certain endangered bats, he said. The cost is $10,000.

 

In other business, the city will upgrade and replace several pipes at the  Carlton Township oxidation facility by GVL Excavating for $12,497 to be paid from the township’s sewer maintenance fund.

Also, the out of date communications/emergency notifications system at the facility, still on dial-up modem, will be upgraded for $13,275.28 by Integrated Controls, Inc., also to be paid from the maintenance fund. Carlton Township has approved both projects.

 

Also:

*The first reading of an amendment to the zoning code to allow balconies in the city’s downtown, under some circumstances, was held. The second reading and consideration of the change will occur at the next meeting.

 

*The YMCA was given permission to use the volleyball courts at Tyden and the skate park.

 

*The streets used for Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament last year will again be closed during the event on June 23, 24 and 25.

 

*The council approved two sheep being displayed in a small fenced enclosure in Tyden Park on May 20 during a fundraising canoe race, “Paddle for a Cure”  for the treatment of Huntington’s disease.

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UPDATE: Woman charged in death of Saugatuck man identified

Meghann Corcoran Owen

 

UPDATE: The woman charged with operating while intoxicate causing death and driving while license suspended causing death in a crash that killed a Saugatuck man has been identifed by the Allegan County Sheriff's Office as Meghann Corcoran Owen, 37, from the Douglas area. A charge of possession of  a controlled substance has been added to the original charges against her.

 

ORIGINAL STORY: A woman driving a pickup truck that crashed causing the death of her passenger has been arrested and charged with operating while intoxicated causing death and driving while license suspended causing death, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports.

Evidence obtained from the driver indicated that she was intoxicated at the time of the crash as well as being suspended, officials said.

 

The pickup appeared to have rolled over while westbound on 116th Avenue near 65th Street in Ganges Township. The passenger in the pickup, Jeremy J. Slenk, 42, from Saugatuck, was unrestrained at the time of the crash and was ejected from the vehicle as it rolled over in the roadway, deputies said.

Slenk suffered a severe head injury and died a short time later at Bronson Hospital.

 

The woman, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffered minor injuries. After being treated and released from Holland Community Hospital, she was lodged at the Allegan County Correctional Facility. Her name and information will be released after her arraignment.

The crash, which is still being investigated, occurred Sunday, March 12, about 9:20 p.m. The sheriff’s office was assisted at the scene by the Michigan State Police, AMR Ambulance, West Michigan AirCare and Ganges Township Fire Department.

 

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87th District Rep. Julie Calley plans office hours inMarch

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley is inviting residents to office hours in two communities during March; Friday, March 17, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Barry County Cabinet Building, 121 South Church Street in Hastings and Monday, March 20, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Page Memorial Building, 839 Fourth Avenue in Lake Odessa.

 

"I value feedback from residents, along with the opportunity to address their questions or concerns. Together, we will strive to make government more effective, efficient, and accountable,” Calley said.

 

No appointment is necessary. Residents unable to attend scheduled office hours may send their questions and ideas to Calley via email at JulieCalley@house.mi.gov or by calling 517-373-0842.

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Cancellations for Monday March 13th

Barry County Commission on Aging- No meals on Wheels Deliveries today and Congregate Dining Center Closed.

Hastings Community Music School Classses Cancelled

Barry County 4-H Horse Parent Meeting and Developement Committee Meeting cancelled

Barry County Family Support Workshop in Middleville cancelled tonight.

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Superintendent's Platform


**WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight news in their districts. This posting is from Lakewood Superintendent Randy Fleenor.

 

“District S.T.E.M initiative: forging new opportunities for our learners to ready them for the global workplace. S.T.E.M., or the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are not new subjects in school; however, the concerted, focused study and application of all of them together has been the trend in recent years.

 

I am so proud of our vision and support from our Board of Education at LPS to develop relevant, rigorous S.T.E.M.-related opportunities for our students. Last year, we initiated a K-12 S.T.E.M. team comprised of teachers, administrators, parents, and local business owners.

The charge for this group was to develop a 3-5 year district S.T.E.M. plan, as well as brainstorm potential ways to connect with local industry. We are realizing the fruits of our labors this year.

 

One such idea generated from our collaborative meetings was the development of a Pilot S.T.E.M. class at our Middle School. Led by veteran science teacher, Kelly Shumway, the two-hour block class has explored some pretty cool topics of study, been involved in some high-level projects, and has allowed the students to be exposed to some new ways of thinking about S.T.E.M.-related jobs.

 

Mrs. Shumway commented about making this relevant to students and “wanted students to be exposed to different careers and opportunities related to s S.T.E.M..” The district couldn’t agree more. This exposure is critical and allows students to possibly embark on these courses of study in the future, even employment in a S.T.E.M. field (and potentially locally, to boot).

 

Over the course of this year, the class has based work on the NextGen Science standards infused project-based learning and teacher-facilitated discussion. The students have used their skills in topics study such as Maglev track design, flight simulators, drones, computer coding/programming, CAD/CAM design, energy, global marketplace discussion, and the crown jewel, competing (and doing very well, I might add) in the recent MDOT TRAC structural bridge design competition (Transportation And Civil Engineering). We have 11 teams moving forward to the next round of the tournament!

 

How important is a focused, coordinated S.T.E.M. initiative you ask? In a recent study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, there were more than 600,000 unfilled S.T.E.M.-related jobs1; and, these job pay very, very well. According to the study, many students are reluctant to pursue S.T.E.M.-related jobs, citing: a lack of knowledge of available S.T.E.M. employment, S.T.E.M. classes being too challenging, or not feeling prepared for the S.T.E.M. content .

This is exactly why Lakewood Public Schools will continue to support these critical opportunities for our students and support our teachers as they develop this important coursework.

 

When asked about how this class has benefited her, 8th grader Morgan Stahl comments, “I wasn’t a huge fan of public speaking and presenting information. But since being in this class, I actually enjoy it now. Teamwork [also] helps you with your social skills and understanding problems or a situation better.” The District plans to offer a similar experience next year at the middle school.

 

We currently are working on expanding S.T.E.M opportunities at all buildings, as well as developing our skilled-trade pathway. In the coming weeks, more information will be released about a unique, first-in-the-county opportunity for our students interested in pursuing a great career in the skilled-trades!

To learn more about district opportunities, including our K-12 S.T.E.M. initiative, visit www.lakewoodps.org/.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Street Diner is "Must Try Diner" in Barry County

The State Street Diner in Hastings has been named the “Must Try Diner in Barry County” by Michigan Entertainment, which has listed the best diners in all 83 Michigan counties.

Michigan Entertainment identified “Must Try Diners” as places to go for those who love fresh, hot food, in large portions, for a reasonable price, served up by friendly local faces.

Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Diner’s raspberry crunch French toast or eggs benedict are singled out by customers  as “must try” dishes.

The restaurant at 1105 west State Street in Hastings, also features 11 gourmet burgers, a weekend breakfast bar buffet from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. and a Friday night dinner buffet from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., owner Lee Campbell said.

 

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Wind Damage update Monday Lights are on

A powerful low pressure system pushing east through Michigan brought winds in excess of 64 miles and hour last Wednesday knocking out power to over 9,000 Barry County Consumers Energy Customers. As of late Sunday night the electric has been restored to their Barry county customers.

 

 

The high winds tour off part of the Lakewood Early Childhood Center in Woodland Township Wednesday morning. The 200 student in the building were evacuated and removed to safety with no reported injuries. The Center will be closed Thursday.

The high winds also damage the roof of the Hastings Walldorf Brewpub and Bistro closing the popular restaurant for the time being.

Thousands of residents in Michigan are without power as a result of the damaging winds that brought down trees, limbs and powerlines and caused  widespread damage. In Barry County Consumers Energy is now reporting zero  customers are without power. 

 

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Allegan Co. Sherriff's Officer involved in crash

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an officer involved traffic crash which occurred Friday at approximately 3:50 AM on M40 Hwy in Valley Township.  At this time the crash remains under investigation and a cause for the crash has not been determined.

 

The officer was northbound on M40 Hwy when the vehicle left the right side of the roadway and struck the end of a guardrail.  It then went into the ditch next to the guardrail and struck several smaller trees causing extensive damage to the vehicle.  The officer was wearing his seatbelt and airbags were deployed leaving the officer with no injuries.  The officer was sent to a local hospital to be checked over but was released a short time later.  The officer is home resting and we are waiting for a cause determination before any further action is taken.

 

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Consumers Energy continues restoration progress

JACKSON, Mich., March 10, 2017 – Consumers Energy employees, contractors and mutual assistance crews from six states working around the clock have restored power to more than 265,000 customers affected by this week’s damaging wind storm.

 

The vast majority of customers without electric service should have power restored by midnight Saturday. In some of the hardest areas, including portions of Genesee, Jackson, Kent, Lenawee, Ionia and Kalamazoo counties, restoration work will continue into Sunday. As of 4 p.m., approximately 72,000 customers remained without power.

 

“We appreciate the patience of all customers impacted by this catastrophic wind event as our crews continue to work day and night to restore normalcy to every customer,” said Dan Malone, senior vice president of energy resources. “Our employees remain focused on working safely, and we want to remind our Michigan friends and neighbors to remain safe too. That’s why we’re encouraging those who may be concerned about staying in their homes as temperatures drop to call 2-1-1 to get information about warming shelters. It’s also why we are asking even those who have power to check on the safety of family members, friends and neighbors.”

 

This week’s long-lasting winds of up to 60 mph took down nearly 9,000 electric wires and broke more than 1,200 poles across Consumers Energy’s service territory, which includes all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

 

From lineworkers to damage assessors, wire guards and customer service representatives, more than 3,300 people are engaged in electric restoration activities. An additional 166 crews from utilities in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana are assisting Consumers Energy crews in this effort.

 

Customers can sign up to get outage alerts and restoration times sent to a phone, email or text message, Text ‘REG' to 232273 or visit: www.ConsumersEnergy.com/alerts. Customers can also, report an outage, check the status of an outage and get useful tips what to do before, during and after a storm by visiting www.ConsumersEnergy.com/OutageCenter.

 

The public is urged to make these safety tips a top priority:

  • Stay at least 25 feet away from downed power lines. Call 911 and Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 to report.
  • Be alert to crews working along roads. Drivers should slow down or stop and wait for oncoming traffic to clear so they safely can go past workers on roadsides.
  • Operating a generator may produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and deadly gas. Never use a generator in an attached garage, basement or near any air intakes, and never fuel a generator when it is running.
  • Customers concerned about staying in their home during the colder temperatures are encouraged to call 2-1-1. Local emergency management officials are collecting information from 2-1-1 centers to help determine if warming centers need to be opened. 
  • Because temperatures are dropping, we ask our customers to reach out to family, friends and neighbors who may be impacted by this storm and make sure they are safe.
  • Help keep pipes from freezing during low temperatures by maintaining a constant drip on faucets.

 

To view specific counties and regions most affected by electric interruptions, please visit: https://www.consumersenergy.com/outagemap

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Health Department offers safety tips during power outage

 

Due to the recent high winds in the area, portions of Barry and Eaton counties are without electrical power at this time. Here are some important safety tips about carbon monoxide poisoning, food safety, and water safety to remember during a power outage:

 

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur, the use of other sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause CO to build up. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO. Every year, more than 500 people die in the United States from accidental CO poisoning.

 

To prevent CO poisoning, generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, or camper – or outside near an open window.

 

Every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector. The detector’s batteries should be checked each month. CO detectors should be installed on each level of the home and outside sleeping areas. CO detectors should not be installed in attics or basements unless they include a sleeping area.

 

Food Safety for Your Home

If the power was out for less than 2 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to eat. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

 

If the power is out for longer than 2 hours, follow these guidelines:

•      For the Freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours (1 day). A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours (2 days). Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.

•      For the Refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and leftovers that could spoil into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive sStyrofoamstyrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.

•      Use a digital quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Safe Drinking Water for Your Home

When the power goes out, make sure you are using safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene, which could include bottled, boiled, or treated water.

 

•      Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.

•      If you use bottled water, be sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the water came from a safe source, you should boil or treat it before you use it. Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.

 

More information about power outage safety tips from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services can be found online at http://bit.ly/2lI1NNQ or at www.michigan.gov/michiganprepares. Questions about carbon monoxide and food and water safety can also be directed to the Barry-Eaton District Health Department’s Environmental Health Division at (269) 945-9516 ext. 35 in Barry County or (517) 541-2615 in Eaton County.

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Fatal rollover accident

Deputies with the Ionia County Sheriff's Office responded to a one car rollover accident Wednesday, March 8th, on Olmstead Road south of Nickle Plate Road. A Dodge Journey was south bound on Olmstead at a high rate of speed and lost control, ran off the right side of the road and struck a tree. It then went off the left side of the road, and struck another tree and a large rock.

 

The driver, a 31 year old male from Ionia, was killed. His  name was not yet released.

 

The accident remains under investigation. 

 

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Firefighters battle high winds as well as fire

The Yankee SpringsTownship/Wayland Fire Department was called at 6:54 a.m. Wednesday to a structure fire at the end of Island Drive in Yankee Springs Township. Fighting a well-involved house fire with sustained winds of 30-40 miles an hour and gusts from 50 to 65 mile an hour challenged the firefighters, said Wayland Deputy Chief Dan Miller.

“The firefighters did a great job, even with the wind,” he said. “Everything fell into place, as its supposed to.”

 

The residence, owned by Gary and Linda Meyers, was deemed a total loss, with a preliminary estimate of “well over” $150,000 in house and contents. “No one was hurt, the owners were out of state and everybody came home safe,” he said. With automatic response to structure fires, Orangeville Fire Department was on its way and Miller called Hastings department for water while enroute.

 

In addition to Orangeville, Yankee Springs/Wayland and Hastings, other fire departments were involved; Hopkins was called for more air packs and to cover Wayland while they were out of the station and Martin sent extra firefighters, Miller said. Wayland Area Emergency Medical Service ambulance checked firefighters vital signs on a regular schedule, according to protocols. Two neighboring homes may have some smoke damage because of the strong winds, but no fire involvement.

 

The firefighters cleared from the Meyers fire at 10:45 a.m. The rest of the day and evening was spent answering calls related to the winds, with the crew getting back to the station at 6 p.m.

“Wednesday was a struggle with the wind, but it’s calm this morning,” he said,

 

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NOTICE: From Barry County Emergency Management:

“We are currently evaluating the need to open up warming center(s) and a shelter in Barry County. A warming center is a place for you to go to get warm, charge your cell phone/computer and fill your water containers.

 

Warming Centers are open during the day and do not provide overnight accommodations. Shelters are open 24 hours a day.

If you or someone you know is in need of these accommodations, please call 211 or Barry County Central Dispatch on their non-emergency line 269-948-4800 ext 1.

 

If you have an emergency don’t hesitate to call 911.

 

Currently approximately 6,500 are without power in Barry County. Current whole state restoration time is 11 p.m. Saturday March 11. As the power company gets safety issues wrapped up, they will re-evaluate the restoration times and localized times will move up.

 

Consumers Energy is currently working to get their outage map back up and running.”

 

 

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Phone System not Working at Barry County Mental Health

The phone systems are not working at Barry County Mental Health. The office is open until 7PM tonight if you need to stop in. If it is an extremely emergency you are asked to call 911.

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Hastings Manufacturing Fire

Hastings Fire Department responded to a call of a Fire at Hastings Manufacturing Company shortly before 1:00PM Tuesday afternoon. Investigation shows a fire started in the ductwork of one of the machines and could not be put out with fire extinquishers so water was used to extinquish the fire. No Injuries were reported.

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Intercounty Drain Board moves forward on Little Thornapple River Drain

The Intercounty Drain Board, responsible for the Little Thornapple River Drain, continues to try to meet the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s requirements for restoring most of the 14-mile long drain.

The drain, part of the Thornapple River, was damaged by excessive clearing of trees in the fall of 2014, causing erosion of the banks and leaving parts of the river looking “like a war zone.”

The renewed effort to move forward explained at Monday’s meeting, will be on just one part the total restoration project; the replacement of some lost wetlands.

Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull proposed using Barry County Jail inmate crews to remove wetland fill with shovels on .93 acres that was bypassed in original planning because it is not accessible to heavy equipment.

 

“The DEQ will be satisfied if we restore .93 acres that was not in the  previous plan,” Dull said.

If that isn’t possible, Dull and Aaron Snell, from Streamside Environmental Services, will develop a wider plan and cost estimates to replace 3.6 acres of lost wetlands.

 

Dull, Snell and Barry County Commissioner Jon Smelker have had one “sit down” meeting with DEQ officials and Dull suggested more, saying it would be better without attorneys present.

“They get antsy with lawyers in the room,” he said. When they have a plan for the DEQ to consider,

Dull stressed that attorneys will write the legal version.

 

Any plan they work out will not be simple and will entail, in some cases, DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency review, inspections and approval; intercounty board review and approval, easements from property owners, permits, and more.

“It’s a multiple step process, but it’s doable,” said the board’s attorney, Tracy Hissong from Fahey, Schultz, Burzych and Rhodes.

 

The drain board also unanimously approved a letter of support for an application for a $70,000 Trout Unlimited Aquatic Habitat Grant to pay for restoration work from Messer to Brown roads, including stabilizing the river banks, planting trees and habitat restoration.

 

The grant requires a $70,000 match, which will be “in kind,” satisfied by either donations, the value of material used in the work, or donated professional services, not cash.

If approved, an acceptance notice will be sent to the drain board, but it does not bind them to accept it and the provisions must to be approved by the board. The application was sent last weekend will be decided in, “a couple of months” Snell said. //

 

In other business, a group of 25 volunteers from the Coldwater River Watershed Council offered to plant trees in the Messer and Brown roads area.

A letter from the board to the DEQ noting, “no quality response from the DEQ,” and asking for “more guidance,” will be sent after a board review.

 

The  board also paid outstanding bills; $6,377.98 to the Fahey law firm and $1,886.40 to Streamside and set the next meeting for April 17 at 9 a.m. at the Central Dispatch 911 meeting room to hear a progress report from Dull.

 

Background:

Snell, hired by the board, provided two reconstruction plans to the DEQ in the last two years, which did not bring approval. The DEQ took the matter to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office last fall, raising the possibility of a civil suit against the board, according to Luis Saldivia, supervisor of the Water Resources Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Grand Rapids.

The Intercounty Drain Board is made up of commissioners from three counties, Dull; Ken Yonkers, from Kent County and Robert Rose, Ionia County. It is chaired by Brady Harrington, deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and chair of all intercounty drain boards.

 

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Barry Tobacco Reduction Coalition observes Kick Butts Day

The 22nd annual Kick Butts Day, a day of national activism, will be held this year on March 15. Organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day encourages and empowers youth to stand up, speak out, and seize control against tobacco.

 

The Barry Tobacco Reduction Coalition hosted an event last year at the skate park in Hastings where youth and adult advocates joined together to install a “graffiti” wall.

 

This year, the group is posting the graffiti wall design on their social media outlets and proposing the question, “What quit-tobacco method worked for you?”.

 

The group hopes to gather responses from the community, which will help the group with their efforts to encourage both youth and adult tobacco users to quit.

 

For information on the national initiative, visit the Kick Butts Day website at www.kickbuttsday.org.   

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**Superintendent's Platform

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

 

“THANK YOU! - I cannot put into words how proud I am of the Maple Valley Schools staff.  You truly have shown professionalism and dedication to our students.  Digital Learning Day demonstrated how a team of adults can pull together to create an extraordinary opportunity for our students. It is so rewarding to see students and staff enjoy learning.

 

Of course this day would not have been possible without the DeCamp's generous grant and the hours of organization by our technology department.  Tracy and Josh did an amazing job with every aspect of the plan. Thank you so much for making a lasting impression on all involved!

 

Attendance - As you are aware we are deep into the cold/flu season.  We have been carefully watching staff and student attendance as a district to determine if school should be cancelled.  We have not dipped into the low 80 percentages daily to warrant a closing.  Rest assured we continue to monitor our rates each day.

 

Author coming to the district - We will have Jennifer Strauss who is a Michigan author, come to the district to talk with students.  She will be in the district March 22-24.

 

Bond Update - We are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.  Please know that contractors will be on campus working feverishly during Spring Break to get the loose ends done.

 

I have been reviewing our district's progress over the past 4 years.  The DIT team will be sharing some significant positive growth with you in the next couple of months. There is so many things we should celebrate and be proud of.  Again, thank you staff ---- so proud to be a LION!”

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Suspicious death in Plainwell

Deputies and Detectives with the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a suspicious death that occurred this weekend.  A Deputy was at a gas station in Plainwell shortly before 1am this morning when a motorist alerted the Deputy to a situation occurring down the street.  The motorist advised that there was a subject who appeared to be passed out in a vehicle and that there was a small child in the back seat.   The Deputy responded to the location where he discovered that the subject in the vehicle was deceased and that there was a 2 year old child in the car.  Additional investigation has determined that there was a second individual involved who was inside the business and had been traveling with the deceased and the young child. 

 

The Deceased is Levi Ryan Newcomb 29 years of age and from Kalamazoo.   The initial investigation does indicate that the deceased has a history of drug abuse, as well as health issues, that may have played part in his death.  The remains an active investigation as Detectives have additional follow up investigation to conduct in addition to the awaiting autopsy and toxicology results.  

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Caledonia man killed in motorcycle accident

The Kent County Sheriff Department investigated a fatal accident involving a motorcycle and passenger vehicle in the 7300 Block of 84th Street SE, Caledonia Township.

 

According to the preliminary investigation, a Honda motorcycle driven by 22 year old Seth David Wyma  from Caledonia Township, was traveling westbound on 84th Street shortly before 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Witnesses reported that Wyma was traveling at excessive speeds before he collided with the rear end of a Jeep Wrangler driven by 19 year old Tobias Paul DeGroote of Middleville. Wyma died in the crash, DeGroote was not injured. The Kent County Sheriff Department was assisted by Caledonia Township Fire and Life EMS.

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Hastings property re-assessment detailed

Hastings City Assessor Jackie Timmerman Monday gave the Hastings City Council an in-depth review of the  assessing process and the recent re-assessment of all properties in the city.

 

What follows is the gist of Timmerman’s report:

The State of Michigan requires that the city review the assessed value of properties within the city every five years.  The city had fallen behind in this process, and therefore commissioned a firm specializing in municipal property appraisal to complete a “city-wide” reappraisal of all properties located within the city. This process was started approximately two years ago and was completed this past fall. 

 

The impact of the reappraisal on property values varied from parcel to parcel, with some assessed values rising, some falling, and some remaining unchanged.  You may contact City Assessor Jackie Timmerman if you wish to know how the reappraising affected your property’s assessed value. 

 

The reappraisal process only impacted the assessed value of properties, not the taxable value.  The taxable value of a parcel is the value used in calculating the property tax to be charged to the property owner.  Increases in taxable value for a property are strictly limited under state law.  The reappraisal also did not affect the millage rates levied by the city or other taxing units.  Changes in millage rates also impact the property taxes charged to a property owner.   Questions regarding any of these issues should be directed to Timmerman. 

 

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