Local News Archives for 2016-06

Barry County deputies handle possible drugs, stolen vehicles, handguns and drones

Barry County Undersheriff Matt Houchlei reported on some recent incidents handled by deputies.

When Barry County Sheriff’s Deputy T.J. Heald saw a traffic violation by a motorcyclist Wednesday, he pulled in behind the man in the parking lot of the convenience store at the corner of M-79 and Charlton Park Road, south of Hastings, Houchlei said.

 Before Heald could talk to him, the man fled, throwing something from of his pocket while running. After a short chase, Heald apprehended the man. The substance, sent to a lab for testing, is believed to be methamphetamine.


The Grand Ledge Police Department had asked the sheriff’s office to be on the lookout for a man riding a stolen motorcycle and likely in possession of meth. The man faces preliminary charges of resisting arrest, methamphetamine possession and in possession of a stolen motorcycle. The case has been sent to the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office, Houchlei said.


In the second incident, Deputies Joel Funk and Kevin Erb responded to a citizen’s call of a reckless driver in the M-43/Cook Road area on June 21, according to a Houchlei.

 A traffic stop of the vehicle with four individuals was initiated by Funk.  The driver was Steven Cooper, 63, from Kalamazoo.  Two of the vehicle’s rear seat occupants were identified as Deandre Hayes Jr., 22, and Hartlee Lewis, 22, both from Kalamazoo. Both were arrested for outstanding warrants. During a search of the vehicle, a Beretta 9mm handgun was found in the storage pocket behind the front passenger seat. A small amount of marijuana was also found in the car. The report has also been sent to the prosecutor’s office for review.


Houchlei also clarified that  a reported drone near the scene of a June 24  accident was in reality a one-passenger gyro, typically seen around the City of Hastings Barry County Airport.  Houchlei said the Federal Aviation Administration has identified the pilot of the gyro and is now in charge of the case.


Sweet Grass Moon Pow-Wow to be held at Jijak Camp in Hopkins

The Gun Lake Tribe and the Jijak Foundation are inviting the public to the second annual Sweet Grass Moon Pow-Wow, a cultural celebration of Pottawatomi traditions at Jijak Camp, 2044 126th Avenue, Hopkins.

The free celebration of Pottawatomi culture, dance and song is Saturday, July 9 from  1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, July 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The tribe’s non-profit cultural center, Jijak Camp is a sprawling center featuring a beautiful pow wow arena, cabins, lakes, a community center, cultural workshops and much more.  

Pow wow events include cultural ceremonies, sobriety walks, grand entries, the honoring of veterans, elders and youth, drum and dance contests, canoe and horseshoe competitions and a golf shot competition.

More than 40 Native American vendors from across the Great Lakes region will offer authentic native arts, crafts and jewelry and multiple food booths will feature native foods. For more information visit


Watch them land during Dawn Patrol at Hastings Barry County Airport

Dawn Patrol is set for Saturday, July 9, the morning when airplanes from all over fly in for breakfast and to show off their airplanes at the City of Hastings Barry County Airport. 

A pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., hosted by the Hastings Flying Association, features eggs, sausage, juice, coffee and all you can eat pancakes. Adults can eat for $6, kids under 10 are $3.

Airplane rides will be $30 per person. Helicopter rides will also be available. The public is invited to inspect the planes, some vintage and some custom, talk to the pilots and take a look at the antique cars that will cruise in.


Photos:(upper left) Vintage airplane owners are happy to talk with Dawn Parol visitors about their unique planes.

(lower left) Hastings Flying Association members will again serve a pancake breakfast at this year's Dawn Patrol.

Barry County Sheriff takes debate with opponent off the table

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, running for re-election against challenger Robert Jordan, said Tuesday any debate with his opponent is now, “off the table.” Leaf said that he would not let his family become involved in the political process after an incident at a recent “Meet and Greet,” giving the public a chance to talk to the candidates on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.


The sheriff’s race is the most contentious on the ballot, with Leaf supporters saying in public forums that Leaf is taking the high road and Jordan isn’t playing fair in the campaign. People supporting Jordan have written letters to the editor and questioned Leaf’s administration of the sheriff’s office.  Leaf has so far not responded to remarks from Jordan supporters.


Leaf made it clear that Jordan did not say anything about his family, but said a woman who is a Jordan supporter did. He did not identify her.


He said resents his family being brought up in a political campaign when the woman publicly brought up a private medical issue of a member of his family at the Meet and Greet.


“That’s low,” Leaf said.  “I’ve been in office for 12 years and I’ve never had anything that dirty in all my years as sheriff. She was escorted away by the Hastings police chief when she got loud and personal about my family.”

“I had been considering a debate, I’ve had two offers, one from WBCH and another one, but that’s off the table. I will not expose my family to that.  That’s it. I’m done. I’ll see you at the finish line,” he said.


“We are willing to debate,” Jordan spokesman Jack Miner said. “Whether he wants to or not, is up to him.”  Miner said the woman in question is not on the list of campaign volunteers working to elect Jordan. “She has never been a volunteer in our campaign,” he said.




Charlton Park hosts 34th Old Fashioned Fourth of July, salute to veterans

A celebration to honor America’s independence will be Monday, July 4 at Historic Charlton Park in Hastings. Festivities at the 34th annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July and Veterans Barbeque are from noon to 4 p.m. Parking and admission are free.  

A flag raising ceremony by the Lawrence J. Bauer American Legion Post at noon is followed by  a pork BBQ buffet from 12:30 p.m. to  4 p.m. Cost is $8 for those 13 and up, $5 for five to 12 year olds; children under four eat free.


 “Guests told us they wanted more free community events, and we are happy to host this fun-filled day,” said Office Manager  Stacey Graham. “We owe a debt of gratitude to our past and present servicemen and women who are stationed around the world. Purchase a meal and help support veteran’s programs locally.”


Games for all ages on the village green, a best-tasting pie contest and an appearance by Uncle Sam are part of the celebration. The beach, fishing, picnic area, hiking trails or boat launch are also available. The village will also be open for self-guided tours. For more, visit


Photos: (top left) American Legion Post 45 members  raise the flag in a veteran’s salute at an earlier Charlton Park Fourth of July celebration.

(bottom right) Kids are enjoying their sack race in this file photo of a Fourth of July at Charlton Park.




BEDHD annual report,TOST update given to Barry County Commissioners

Colette Scrimger, Barry Eaton District Health Department health officer, presented the annual report and an update on TOST to Barry County Commissioners Tuesday.

TOST is the Time of Sale or Transfer health department regulation that mandates inspection of the on-site septic and water systems of property in Barry and Eaton counties when the property is sold or transferred. Originally, if either system was deemed deficient by a certified heath department evaluator, it had to be repaired or replaced by the owner before the sale.


Critics complained from the beginning that the regulation was punitive, expensive, arbitrarily enforcement and, against the intent of the regulation, had the goal of bringing all systems up to today’s health codes whether they were failing or not.


Scrimger reported that the response to TOST is more positive since changes were made last fall in response to the feedback from the public. The officials revamped their notices of evaluations from failure to no action, action recommended and action required, giving more flexibility she said.

They actively promoted more communication with the home owners by sanitarians, either by e-mail, telephone or face to face, she said. Officials also improved communication with the public. More interaction with real estate agents, officials and certified evaluators also helped improve the process, Scrimger said.

The homeowners right to appeal is stressed in the letters, with the steps outlined, and health department officials work with unique cases to find the best course of action for them, she said. //

In the annual report, Scrimger outlined achievements by the BEDHD in 2015 in the areas of planning, promotion and evaluation, personal & community health services, environmental health, finance, Eaton behavioral health and the Charlotte dental center.


Among improvements listed are expansion of the Pathways to Better Health Program to serve those with chronic diseases; BEDHD compliance with 100 measures of quality public health services, part of the national Public Health Accreditation Board process; publication of the Healthy! Capital Counties Community Health Assessment and implementation of the MyEvolv electronic medical record system in Eaton Behavioral Health.


“The purpose of public health is to promote the health of the population, making sure that people have safe, clean and healthy place to live, work, and play and to make sure that diseases and injuries are prevented whenever possible,” the report said.


Barry County earns clean audit

Kristin Hoogerwerf, senior manager at the Rehmann auditing firm presented the results of the 2015 audit the Barry County Commission Tuesday.


On page two of the 200-page audit report, part of one paragrph said:

“In our opinion, based on our audit and the reports of other auditors, the financial statements referred to above present fairly in all material respects, the respective financial positions of the governmental activities, the business type activities, the aggregate discretely presented component units, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the County of Barry, Michigan as of December, 31, 2015...ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”


Hoogerwerf said it more simply: “You had a clean audit, the highest we can give you.” She answered questions and updated the board on changes that will affect the financial reporting for the next audit.


As part of the audit process, municipalities must list in a single audit report of all funds or equipment it gets from the federal government every year, either directly or pass through the state, to go with the full county audit. 


In 2014, the federal awards were $1,551,298. When the audit compliance report showed  a weakness in the internal controls of the reporting, county administration made changes that included training for department heads and elected officials, submitting grant information quarterly, hiring Walker, Fluke & Sheldon to provide quarterly reports and quarterly review by department heads.


The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Audit and Management asked the county to adopt a formal policy documenting the improvements, which the commission did Tuesday. //


In other business, the commission approved:

* appointing Ruth Perino to a three year term on the Barry County Mental Health board.

* the sale of two 2008 Kawasaki personal watercraft and trailer in sealed bids, with the proceeds to go into the vehicle fund for two boat motors.

*a budget amendment for the Swift & Sure Sanctions program, and the Sobriety and Adult Drug courts. Court Administer Ines Straube said the amendment aligns the expenses and revenues with state grants.

* the award of $10, 230 to Thompson Interiors for 12 restroom countertops in the Courts & Law Building with funds from the building rehab fund. Buildings and Grounds

Supervisor Tim Neeb said $20,000 is in the budget for the project and they intend to replace water lines and outdated faucet handles with battery operated on for an additional $3,500, for the total cost of $13,730. Grand Valley Wood Products submitted a lower bid, did not meet specifications.

*the revised Barry County IT policy. In the agenda request, IT Director David Shinavier said the policy was last revised in January, 2015 and there have been significant changes and many minor updates. The policy covers the security of the entire county computer system, the rights and responsibilities of users and methods to implement the policy.

* an agreement for PCI to provide construction code enforcement for building, electric, mechanical and plumbing for five years.

* the renewal of liability, vehicle physical damage, and property and crime insurance coverage by the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority for one year for $372,760.





Decibel limits asked for Thornapple Plaza sound at events

The sound generated by entertainment acts at Thornapple Plaza at the start of its first summer season came under fire from North Church Street resident Al Sherry Monday at the Hastings City Council meeting. Sherry said when he earlier expressed concern that sound from entertainment acts would travel down the Thornapple River, echo off the buildings and disturb the peace of residents, he was told if there was a problem, the city council would fix it.


During the first event, “It sounded like it was in my backyard. I want to know about the noise ordinance…if it has decibel levels. They have 12 speakers the size of refrigerators… I realize they bring their own amplifiers, but there is no reason the band had to be that loud. 


“I’m here right now to ask you to set decibel levels,” he said. City Manager Jeff Mansfield took decibel levels during the concert that reached 90 decibels. Rock music sometimes reaches 120 decibels, Sherry said. “Where did they take the measurements? I’m asking city officials to step up and set decibel levels.” He invited council members to come and sit in his yard during the next concert and, “see what I have to put up with.”


In his report, Police Chief Jeff Pratt reminded citizens that fireworks displays are allowed in Michigan only on the day before, the day of and the day after the July 4th holiday and no later than midnight on those days.

It is illegal to fire off firecrackers on public property like parks, schools or churches, or in a manner that would let them land on others property without their permission. Also, those under 18, or using alcohol or drugs, are not allowed use fireworks. Fines could be $500, he said. Given the cautions, Pratt advised residents to, “just be safe and have a good time.”


Clerk Tom Emery also had a message for Hastings voters. The August and November elections will be held at the Hastings Baptist Church on Woodlawn Avenue because the usual site, the Hastings Middle School, will be unavailable while undergoing substantial renovations.

Clinton Street in Hastings closed from now to end of August

The Hastings Department of Public Services is letting the public know that Clinton Street will be closed between Michigan Avenue and Hanover Street until the end of August while water main work is being done.




Level 3 Communications will be asked to pay higher rent or remove its building

A request from Level 3 Communications for renewal of its lease agreement for  property at 506 East Court Street in Hastings where a small building houses the company’s fiber optic equipment will be given to city staff to negotiate a higher rental fee or the company will have to remove the structure.


The Hastings City Council agreed with Mayor Frank Campbell when he said he was opposed to approving the new lease terms of $555.53 annually. The space was worth much more than $555. 53 a year, when other communication companies like Sprint are paying the city up to $2,000 a month, several times Level 3’s offer, Campbell said.


Councilman Bill Redman suggested going back to “talk to these people” and negotiate a higher amount as well as an opt-out clause. He thought rent should be more like $555 a month. The original agreement between the city and Level 3 was for two terms of 15 years each, from 1986 until 2016 which expires at the end of November.


Also Monday, the council adopted a resolution setting fees for city services such as permits and copies of documents, cemetery fees, planning and zoning, police and fire departments fees as well as water and sewer connection and shut off charges. Information on fee changes can be obtained at city hall.


Also approved were resolutions to amend set back requirements  in B2 and B4 zoning districts, a budget amendment, downtown sidewalk sales and amending the city’s sign ordinance to comply with recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.


Hastings mowing contract questioned by councilman and bidder

A three year contract for mowing of 34 separate sites of city property for $89,928 a year by was approved by the Hastings City Council by a 7-1 vote with Councilman Don Smith absent.

The “no” vote came from Councilman Don Bowers after he questioned Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays’ recommendation to give the work to B&L when PMT Preservation of Hastings bid $79,680.


Hays said he knows B&L Outdoor Services has the manpower and equipment to do the large effort, the company has done quality work for the city in the past and he was not sure that PMT Preservation had the manpower or equipment to do the mowing of the amount of city property the contract calls for. City Manager Jeff Mansfield said in the past, problems have come up when companies bid on jobs that they were not equipped to complete. “Sometimes, they just don’t realize the scope of the work,” he said.


In public comment, Kelly Brown, owner of PMT Preservation, told the council its bidding process was flawed, adding that neither he or any other official of his company was given the chance to talk to Hays to make their case. He said Hays did not check his references and did not engage him in any conversation.

“With $30,000 (difference) over three years, we should have been able to make a pitch to the person who takes bids,” he said. “We didn’t got a fair shake.”


Also, after a brief closed session, the council voted to ratify contracts with the Fire Department’s Association and also DPS members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The new three year pact calls for raises of one percent each of the first two years, a two percent increase in the third year and some language clarification. //


The council also approved an amendment to the City of Hastings Barry County Airport budget to allow a donation to pay for a $767,000 extension of a runway. The move shifted figures around, but, “is essentially a wash,” Mansfield said. The document will now go to the Barry County Commission for its approval.


No alcohol at Thornapple Plaza entertainment events

There will be no alcohol sold at Thornapple Plaza entertainment events after a third request by Thornapple Arts Council Executive Director Council Megan Lavell was turned down by the Hastings City Council Monday.


Objections included constituents telling them they don’t like the idea, general disagreement for allowing alcohol, non-profits competing with local businesses, alcohol at a family friendly event, lack of barriers in the area where alcohol would be served and the children at events.


Councilman Don Bowers said his constituents are the ones he listens to and they don't want it. He noted an event already held drew 500 people without selling alcohol. Councilman Al Jarvis said his big issue was non-profits competing with local businesses that sell alcohol.


Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange favored giving it a test with the one event Lavell had asked for. She said she was concerned by children being in the area where alcohol was being served, but said Lavell, “did a great job with that. It’s worth testing to see how it would go over.”


After the first  request was denied, Lavell made several changes to answer the council member’s concerns, and was denied again. She was asked by Mayor Frank Campbell to talk to individual council members and come back for a third time.  


In her presentation Monday, she said the entertainment acts were funded this year by the Baum Family Foundation, but that was for this year only. The TAC does not benefit from the entertainment. The alcohol serving area was moved farther away from where children would be, there would be a two drink limit in two hours, those over 21 would have wrist bands and hands stamped for each drink and all serving would be cut off at 8:30 p.m., a half hour before the end of the performance.


Lavell said the beer and wine sales is another tool in their marketing arsenal.  A survey of 13 area municipalities showed that all but one allowed alcohol sales in public spaces, including Hastings. Charlotte was the only municipality that did not, she said.


The vote to deny the proposal was 5-3 with Councilman Don Smith absent. Council members Dave Tossava, Brenda McNabb-Stange and Campbell voted “yes.”  Voting “no” were Council members Therese Maupin-Moore, Bill Redman, Al Jarvis, Bill Cusack and Don Bowers.


Charlotte Police Department, Charlotte schools to conduct violence training June 29

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office, the Charlotte Police Department and Charlotte Public Schools will be conducting an active violence training June 29 at Charlotte High School, 378 State Street in Charlotte. The high school campus will be closed to the general public.


Ten law enforcement police agencies and nine fire/EMS services as well as Hayes Green Beach Hospital and the American Red Cross will take part in the exercise. Negotiators from Clinton County and Eaton County as well as Eaton County SRT team will be involved and there will be staff from several local schools participating, including Maple Valley, Charlotte and Williamston.


Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said training seminars have been held with local fire departments to train police to escort medical staff in to treat the injured as soon as possible. The exercise will use the knowledge and lessons learned from law enforcement and EMS response to previous active violent incidents across the country to be well prepared and respond effectively to protect lives in Eaton County and the tri-county area, he said. //


The list of participants includes the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office and Charlotte, Eaton Rapids, Potterville, Olivet, Bellevue, Grand Rapids and Lansing police departments, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Service and Michigan State Police, along with fire and EMS services from Charlotte, Delta Township, Windsor Township, Eaton Rapids, Grand Ledge, Benton Township, the City of Potterville, Sunfield Township and Eaton Area EMS.



Parking permits now needed for Sharp Park fireworks in Delta Township

For the safety of everyone attending the annual Delta Township fireworks display on Sunday, July 3, the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office and Delta Township have taken steps to increase security and reduce the potential for injury inside Sharp Park before, during and after the event.


One of those steps is a required parking permit (one per licensed driver), including handicapped parking, to enter the park for the fireworks.  The free parking permits can be obtained starting Monday, June 27 at the Delta Township Parks and Recreation Department at 7710 West Saginaw Highway.


The limited number of parking passes will be issued on a first come, first served basis. During the day on July 3, Sharp Park will be closed to motor vehicles. Starting at 5 p.m. limited parking will be available in the park with a permit.

There will be two entrances into the park. The main entrance from Elmwood Road will be open to pedestrians and vehicles holding the parking permit. The second will be at the East/West Pathway entry at the west end of the park and is open to pedestrians or bicyclists.


Fireworks, missile-like objects, weapons or firearms that are not permitted by law are prohibited in Sharp Park and those entering the park are subject to a visual inspection of their person, parcels, bags, containers, and clothing capable of carrying such items. Visitors may refuse the inspection; if so, they will be refused entry into the park.


Yankee Springs Township Fire Station open house well attended

Attendance at an open house June 25 at the Yankee Springs Fire Station exceeded planners estimates. They had 200 hot dogs to grill, potato chips, water and cookies to pass out for the noon to 3 p.m. event. They headed to the store for more hot dogs and bottled water before 1 p.m. because they were running out.

The visitors could pick up a hot dog, talk to fire station personnel, watch an extrication demonstration and look at equipment that serves area residents.


The parking lot at the corner of M-179 highway and Payne Lake road was crowded with two grass rigs, two all-terrain vehicles, a Medical First Responder unit, an ambulance, Michigan State Police with K-9 Pito, a ladder truck, two fire engines and two antique fire trucks. The Genesis Company demonstrated the latest in battery operated extrication equipment, something the department would like to have in the future.


Wayland Deputy Fire Chief Dan Miller worked part time at the station for several months before the official April 1 transfer date for emergency services from Thornapple Township Emergency Services to the Wayland Fire Department and Wayland Area Ambulance Service.


He now works 20 hours a week, taking care of matters at the station and maintaining equipment. He said growth of the service is beyond where he expected it to be today.

“We have personnel up to 15 from the Gun Lake area,” with a goal of 20. We have a emergency medical technician, medical first responder and paramedic; the backbone of emergency services,” he said.  Miller credits a new electronic sign at the station and social media for the interest in volunteering for the fire-fighting service.

“ A lot of volunteer hours went into the service here since we got up and running in April. We’re beyond happy with where we are,” he said.

Photos: (top) Josiah Commans, 10 from Dorr, checks out driving a fire engine at the June 25 Yankee Spring Fire Station Open House.


(upper right) An equipment van is stocked and ready to roll.Visitors inspected the facility and the equipment available for emergency services to Yankee Springs Township.


(lower left) Genesis employees demonstrate portable battery operated extrication equipment that would let fire fighters take them into houses or out in farmer’s fields.



Skydive Hastings event draws 150 skydivers

The Hastings City Barry County Airport was the site of a Skydive Hastings event for some 150 skydivers over four days this weekend, ending today. Skydivers from Indiana, Illinois. Ontario Canada, Texas, Florida, British Columbia, Ohio and other states were attracted to the occasion.


It’s called a “Boogie,” defined as a gathering of skydivers usually focused on fun rather than competition. Skydivers also call parachutes canopies.  Andy Draminski, from Jackson, and a member of the Raw Dogs, is a group instructor of the various subsets of skydiving at such events; basic free flying; swooping, tandem, wingsurfing and canopy relative work.


In a small room at the airport Draminski holds classes; a large television screen shows skydivers practicing formation skydiving over Hastings the previous day. In another room, workers add names to a large blackboard that keeps track of events and competitions such as accuracy challenges in precision landing.


 Late Saturday afternoon, a skydiver’s primary parachute failed to open, causing concern for a time. The reserve parachute had opened and the diver landed safely in the trees off the main course. “That’s what it is designed to do,” Draminski said of the reserve chute. “It’s not really a big deal for experienced sky divers. Our biggest problem was getting the parachute out of the tree.”


Photos: (upper left) Skydivers practice formation skydiving over the City of Hastings Friday morning.

( left) Brandon Burns from Skydive Tecumseh packs his chute. A newcomer to skydiving, Burns has logged 130 jumps since he began in 2014.



Six injured Friday in minivan, pickup crash at M-179, M-43 highway

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office reports that deputies responded to a two-vehicle personal injury traffic crash on May 24 that sent six injured people to area hospitals, three of them transported by Aircare and Aeromed helicopters.The crash occurred at the intersection of West M-179 and South M- 43 highways in Rutland Twp at about 3:15 p.m.


Deputies initial investigation indicated a southbound 2015 Nissan pickup struck a 2007 Dodge Caravan that had apparently failed to yield at the intersection. Five of the injured were in the Caravan: an Orangeville woman, 49, who was ejected, two juvenile female passengers, a Wyoming woman, 66, and the driver, a 43-year-old Belmont woman. The 40-year-old Hastings man driving the Nissan pickup was also taken to an area hospital.


The condition of the injured is not known and the incident remains under investigation. During the incident, Aircare reported a drone was observed flying over the scene, which also remains under investigation.

Deputies are withholding names at this time. Alcohol/drugs are not believed to have been a factor in the crash.



Operate a boat under the influence, you may talk to a Barry County marine deputy

As boating under the influence (BUI) continues to be a major factor in accidents and deaths on the nation’s waterways, Barry County Sheriff’s marine deputies join local, state and federal agencies in Operation Dry Water, a national BUI awareness and enforcement campaign.

The effort, June 24-26, is just before the Fourth of July – a holiday known for drinking and boating, and deadly accidents.


Law enforcement has a message for those who drink and operate a watercraft:  “We would rather arrest you than have to tell your family you've been killed in a boating accident... If you are boating under the influence, we will find you.”


The drive is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and deliver a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.

Operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is against the law in Michigan and carry penalties that include fines, jail, and loss of boating privileges.//


In 2015, more than 6,600 officers from 582 local, state, and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water, contacted 57,402 vessels and 125,087 boaters, made 278 BUI arrests, and issued 17,942 citations and warnings for safety violations. For more information, visit,, or Barry County Sheriff’s Office.













160 students to graduate from Michigan Career and Technical Institute

The Michigan Career and Technical Institute will host a graduation ceremony for 160 students from throughout the state on Saturday, June 25.


The event is at the MCTI campus, 11611 W. Pine Lake Road, Plainwell. Operated by Michigan Rehabilitation Services within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, MCTI provides vocational training in 13 career areas for adults with disabilities.

“MCTI graduates have learned the technical skills they need to meet the demands of Michigan employers looking to hire qualified candidates,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. “I applaud these students for their hard work and trust that employers will recognize that individuals with disabilities have great skills to offer.”


MCTI and its staff strive to promote the integration of Michiganders with disabilities into both the competitive workplace and the society in which they live. Students have the opportunity to be enrolled in technical training programs in automotive technology, cabinet making/millwork, certified nursing assistant, culinary arts, custodial, electronics, graphic communications, grounds maintenance/landscaping, machine technology, office automation, pharmacy technician, retail marketing and weatherization. 

Meet the Candidate

Thursday evenings Meet the Candidates event in Hastings  was well attended, not only by the candidates themselves  who are on the August 2nd primary ballot, but  by the  voters who wanted to speak directly to the candidates from congressional, state, and local levels  and share their concerns.  The non- partisan meet and greet lasted well over two hours.

Gabrielle Shipley one of the nominees for NCAA Woman of the year award


Former Hastings High School Graduate Gabrielle Shipley and Grand Valley State University golfer has been named as one of the nominees for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the year award.

Shipley ended her Laker career in great fashion, winning the individual title at the 2016 NCAA Division 2 National Championships by tying a school record for a low round score with her best ever round of 69 (-3). The senior From Hastings earned her national championship with a decisive final birdie putt to wrap up a one stroke victory, becoming the second Laker to win the individual  national title.

No evidence of assault by Barry County Jail correction officer, questions linger

An investigation of an alleged assault complaint filed against a Barry County Jail corrections officer has resulted in no charges filed against the officer.

Candace Johnson, a therapist with a practice in Middleville, said she was in the jail on September 26, 2015, counseling her client, inmate Jesse Sweeney, when Corrections Officer Amber Jansens opened the door to the room where Johnson were sitting, striking her in the head and causing her severe medical problems that lasted months.


According to her statement to investigators, Jansens was monitoring the visit and saw Johnson showing the inmate something on her cell phone. She went to the room and told Johnson that cell phones aren’t allowed in the jail. Johnson put her telephone in her purse and Jansens left.


Johnson notified Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf by text the next day that she had been “struck in the head,” and might have to file a complaint. Nothing further happened until March, 25, 2016, when she filed a complaint of an alleged assault by Jansens.


In such cases, law enforcement personnel from agencies at least two counties away investigate the  charges. Det. Chuck Buckland, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Trever Tate, VanBuren County Sheriff’s Office, investigated the claim, and sent their report to Barry County  Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor-Pratt for review.

The report was based on viewing the video of the situation, an in-house report by Undersheriff Matt Houchlei, and interviews with Houchlei, Lt. Pete Nevins, Jansens, two other corrections officers, an inmate, supervisor of the corrections officers, Johnson, her husband and Sweeney. They also reenacted the alleged event with Houchlei and Nevins.


Their interviews were recorded and put on CD’s “to assure complete and accurate statements of every person interviewed for comparison.” 

Nakfoor-Pratt reviewed the report. “She was  completely cleared by me,” she said. “There was no assault. I didn’t issue charges because there was no evidence to support the charges. There are no pending criminal or civil charges. ” That is fact and the case is closed. However, it may not be over. //


Nakfoor-Pratt said she considered charging Johnson with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor, for two reasons: “One, the corrections officer’s private attorney asked me to, and I also considered it because of some of the evidence contained in the investigator’s report. I decided not to charge her.”


Attorney Les Morant, from Britt Morant Law, PC of Grand Rapids, identified by Jansens attorney, Kerri Selleck, as Johnson’s attorney for a possible civil suit against Jansens, did not return a call asking for confirmation of any lawsuit. So far, no civil or criminal complaints have been filed.


The charge against Jansens stemmed from when Johnson was meeting with Sweeney at the jail every week before he was sent to prison after being convicted of criminal sexual conduct.


Visiting hours by family and friends of inmates are posted in the lobby of the jail, however, only the sheriff has the discretion to allow professionals to meet with inmates, if needed,  when he deems it necessary for their mental health or safety.


According to Selleck, when the staff questioned Johnson’s regular visits, Leaf told them it was by court order from Judge Amy McDowell.

Leaf disputes that, saying there was no court order. “I didn’t tell the staff that at all…she (Johnson) said she had approval from the judge, I was just repeating what she told me.”

Houchlei concurred. “We don’t need approval; Dar was just repeating what Johnson said.”


When meetings with Sweeney were moved from the room where attorney’s meet in private to assure attorney/client privilege, to a room monitored by cameras, Johnson complained to Leaf.


In her statement to investigators, Johnson said she texted Leaf saying “Judge (Amy) McDowell said we could have private meetings…” also, she said she got only vague reasons for the move from Leaf. The meetings with Sweeney ended with the September incident.


Selleck said it was her understanding that Leaf was a personal friend of Johnson and went to her home to file a complaint, something Leaf denies. He said he has never been to her home, Johnson was not a personal friend and she came to the Middleville Unit of the sheriff’s office to file the claim.


Selleck said her client is “devastated…it weights heavily on her…she goes to work every day wondering if her job is in jeopardy.” Asked about the corrections officers morale, Leaf said it was “fine,” and that he had expected that no charges would be filed.  Jansens “is probably walking on air because no charges were filed…things are good with her and her work,”  he said.


Jansens personnel record shows she has no marks in her personnel file during her employment at the jail, three years as part time and five years as a full-time corrections officer.

Houchlei said investigations of officers is rare but part of the system when working with the public.  “They have every right to complain about how we do our business,” he said.

He would like a sheriff office website where people can make their concerns known, commend deputies or lodge complaints, he said.







Armed Robbery at Eaton County dollar store

On 6-21-2016 at approximately 7:30 p.m. Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Delta Patrol responded to an armed robbery at the Dollar General located on W. Saginaw Hwy. Two black males entered the business demanding money. A weapon was indicated but not seen. They left with an undisclosed amount of money. A canine track was unsuccessful. No one was injured during the incident.


Anyone with information is directed to call Detective Rick Buxton at (517) 323-8480.


(Eaton Co. news release)

Update - Fire

Thornapple Township Emergency Services was dispatched early Wednesday morning to report of a structure fire on Moe Rd in Thornapple Twp. Arriving units found the garage area of a structure involved with fire. With assistance from Caledonia FD, Hastings FD, Alto FD and Freeport FD the fire was extinguished.  All units where clear of the scene at 04:22.

Hastings Cadets receive awards

On June 11, 2016, the Hastings Police Department held the 2nd annual Cadet Banquet honoring the 15 Cadets who successfully completed the program. There were approximately 100 family and friends who attended the banquet which was held at the Leason Sharpe Hall inside the Barry County Enrichment Center.  During the ceremony there was a video that was played which reviewed the year in the Cadet program and then there were awards which were presented. Among the cadets receiving the awards were Tommy Patterson for “ Cadet of the year”,  Carson Winick received the “ Most Improved Cadet” , Justin Voshell received the “ Leadership” award and Logan Cobb received the “Iceberg” award for having the most potential.









Sgt Kris Miller, Officer Josh Sensiba and Officer Shawn Olmstead were the mentors for this year’s Cadet program. The Hastings Police Department is looking forward to the 3rd year of the program which will begin in September .

Allegan County crash kills Hamilton man

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Wayland Post investigated a fatal, one vehicle, crash that occurred in Allegan County, Overisel Township.  Troopers responded to the crash on June 18th, 2016 at approximately 7:20pm which occurred on 140th Ave at near 42nd St.


Initial investigation reveals the vehicle crossed the centerline and left the roadway.  The vehicle crashed in a field on the north side of 140th Ave. and overturned.  The driver was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash. 


The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.  The deceased driver was identified as 29 year old Matthew Martinez of Hamilton, Michigan. 


Troopers were assisted on scene by personnel from the Overisel Township Fire Department, Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, and AMR Area EMS.



Father's Day and Cars

A weekend filled with Classic cars, fun and a father's day weekend celebration.

Friday over 56 Classic Automobiles joined the festivities at the Annual Wendy's Car Show. Saturday the Classics moved  to the Village of Nashville for a day of fun, and Sunday the Grand Daddy show with hundreds of Classic Automobiles was held at Historic Charlton Park near Hastings.

The weather was no doubt perfect in everyway for the celebration.

UPDATE Body of a woman found in Gaines Township identified

UPDATE:The woman whose body was found June 17 on Patterson Road in Gaines Township has been identified  as April Renee Keenan, 35, of Grand Rapids and Jenison, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports. There were no external signs of trauma. The cause of death will not be released until the autopsy is complete, which could take several weeks if toxicology results are required.

Detectives are asking anyone with information or who know of April’s whereabouts prior to her death to call the Kent County Sheriff Department at 616-632-6357 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.



The Kent County Sheriff’s Department has issued a new release reporting a woman walking in the 8100 block of Patterson Avenue in Gaines Township today discovered a deceased woman near a fence line off the road.

Investigators are currently on the scene and gathering information regarding the circumstances of the death and identification of the white woman in her 30s. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death. Additional information will be released when the identity of the victim has been determined and the family has been notified.

Walgreens armed robber sentenced to 25 to 60 years in prison

Eric Gregory Lawson, the man who robbed the Hastings Walgreens in October of 2015, was sentenced to 25 to 60 years in prison by Circuit Court Judge Amy McDowell Thursday, June 16, Barry County Prosecutor Julie-Nakfoor Pratt said.


Lawson pleaded no contest to armed robbery in April as a four time habitual offender. The maximum sentence for armed robbery is life in prison. Lawson will serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison because at least one of his prior offenses is a “serious crime” under Michigan law, Nakfoor-Pratt said.


Lawson was visiting a friend in Michigan when he robbed Walgreens on his way to Kent County to see the friend. He also faces robbery charges in the state of Ohio. Nakfoor-Pratt required the mandatory minimum as part of the plea to address Lawson’s lengthy and violent criminal history. 


“Lawson is a menace to society and this sentence is well deserved. He has no empathy or respect for what he has put the victims and our community through. The victims have shown strength and courage throughout the court process, they deserve some peace of mind,” she said.


Two victims from Walgreens were at the trial; one made a statement in a letter read by Nakfoor-Pratt describing the negative effects she suffered after the robbery.

Nakfoor-Pratt thanked the Hastings Police Department, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the Howland, Ohio, Police Department for their coordinated efforts in locating and apprehending Lawson within days of the Walgreens robbery.


UPDATE Hastings motorcyclist who died in deer collision identified

UPDATE: The Eaton County Sheriff's Office has identified the man who died in a motorcycle/deer collision June 16 as Eric Steidle, 45, from Hastings.


ORIGINAL STORY: An unidentified Hastings man, 45, died Wednesday after striking a deer while riding his motorcycle in Vermontville Township, the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office reports.


Initial investigation indicates the motorcycle rider, who was not wearing a helmet, was southbound on Ionia Road south of Kelly Highway when he struck a deer.  He was transported to a local hospital with life threatening injuries, where he later passed away.


Sheriff’s deputies, Vermontville Township Fire Department and Eaton Area EMS responded at 11:07 p.m. to a report of  a motorcycle accident.  Ionia Road was closed from about 11 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. The accident is being investigated further by the Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Team.


Jean Gallup

Bridge over Cedar Creek project set for September

Cedar Creek Aquatic Habitat Restoration Project is the long name for a bridge over Cedar Creek, planned for south of McKeown Bridge Park off  M-79. Two small culverts can’t handle the creek’s water flow, so will be removed, and the bridge installed, Barry Conservation District Executive Director Sarah Nelson said.


The project was made possible by a state grant secured by Nelson and several others committing to the plan. The total project cost is $392,300; the DNR Aquatic Habitat Program grant is $305,000. The remaining funds, donated labor talent and equipment are thanks to several partners, Nelson said.


The Barry County Road Commission, Michigan Cat of Grand Rapids and Nieswander Environmental are partners. Pierce Cedar Creek Institute donated the talents of two of its interns; they will be overseen by GVSU Professor Dr. Eric Snyder.


“We’ve got a fabulous team working on this; it highlights that conservation is everybody’s business and we can all work together. We’re excited about the project,” she said.

The bridge will be a 44-foot span of treated lumber, the most economical choice of bridge material and work will begin in September. Nelson is planning an August meeting for people to learn more about the project.

Construction begins later this month on Hastings new veterans monument

Construction on a Hastings monument to veterans at the Civil War soldier's statue at Tyden Park will begin the latter part of June, DPS Director Lee Hays told the Hastings City Council  June 13. The schedule was pushed back slightly due to scheduling conflicts with volunteers.

A joint venture of the city and American Legion Post 45, additions to the area to recognize and honor all those who served in the military will include four benches, stamped concrete, a total of eight lit flagpoles and the veteran’s monuments and Blue Star Highway marker now at the Barry County Courthouse.


The original $15,000 cost estimate of has increased to $26,000 with additions to the memorial and some faulty estimates. On May 23, the council voted to amend this year’s budget to include the $11,000 overage and do the project now.


Hays said the city has recently received a donation of all of the reinforcing steel for the project, resulting in a cost savings of around $1,500. He earlier said that with the many donations of labor and equipment they have received, the city will get a veterans memorial worth $60,000 for its $26,000 investment.


Also at the May meeting, Mayor Frank Campbell, who supports Hastings having its own veteran’s memorial and pushed to get it done before he leaves office at the end of the year, pledged to raise money for the project. “I will see some people. I will try to raise some money and give it back to the city. I’d like to see it done, we got it this far.” //


In other business on a busy agenda, the council:

* held a first reading of an ordinance to allow side and rear yard setbacks to be set in the B-2 and B-4 zoning districts when a project or proposed improvement does not require site plan review. Now, the setbacks can only be set during site plan reviews.


* held a first reading on an ordinance to amend the city’s sign regulations to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting sign regulations based on the content of the sign. The change, worked on for several months by the planning commission and an attorney, was recommend for approval by the commission.


* accepted with regrets, the resignation of Michael Tomko from the Local Development Finance Authority/ Brownfield Redevelopment Authority board effective immediately. They also approved the appointment of Emily Casarez as the student representative on the Hastings Nature Area Board.


* approved several accommodations for Summerfest and the stay of the ordinance to allow them.


* approved three year contracts with Mike Hallifax for custodial and maintenance services at Hastings City Hall for $26,000 a year and grounds maintenance at the Hall for $7,800 a year. Hays said the bids were reasonable and within the budgeted amount.


* approved the use of various city parks on several dates by the YMCA. There are no conflicts with the Y’s dates.








Dollar Store

In the last couple of weeks heavy equipment near Hastings  has been clearing land on the south side of M-37 M-43  across from Walmart. 

The question many have been asking is, "what is it?

WBCH talked with Rutland township officials who told us, "It Is a Family Dollar Tree that is under construction."   No information at this time on the opening date.




New fund explained, pay study, audit reports ready, Barry County Administrator says

In his report to Barry County Commissioners June 14, Administrator Michael Brown explained a new account that is being created to handle capital purchases of equipment, such as furniture, desks and chairs.


The county divides funding not spent by departments by the end of the fiscal year into three special funds; Vehicles, Buildings and Grounds and IT. The funds are used for capital improvements in those categories by county departments.


Now, unspent funds will be split four ways instead of three; the fourth fund  to be used for capital improvements in furniture and other needs. Brown said they haven’t been successful in funding some capital items.


“We often look to department budgets for equipment, chairs, desks, radios, bullet proof vests. We haven’t been able to address those needs…as the fund develops and progresses, we can identify them and plan for them.”


Brown also said the final draft of a classification and compensation study will be presented for review July 5, with a copy of the presentation given to commissioners in advance.

Segal Waters Consulting Group was hired in September, 2015, to produce the study for $92,500. They compared Barry County employee’s salaries and benefits to comparable private sector jobs and updated classifications. //


The study was done in a series of steps; project initiation, confirming goals and objectives for the study and specific dates for reports, presenting the plan to employees through a series of meetings; performing a job analysis that includes typical tasks, supervisory responsibilities, level of discretion and judgment needed and conducting employee interviews. The county provided current salary structures, personnel policies, organization charts, job descriptions, and employee census data.


Also, revenue sharing from the state will be increased one percent this year, meaning $11,500 for the county. State revenue sharing of $1.5 million is a significant part of the county’s budget, he said. And, a planned DEQ soil erosion study project in the county has been postponed for 30 days and the annual audit is complete with a report set for the June 28 meeting.

Standoff Ends

A stand off with an individual identified as Jason Kohlhoff in Van Buran County ended early this Wednesday morning after Michigan State Police arrested Kohlhoff and took him to jail.

The standoff  started tuesday morning when a State Police Detective went to talk with him about alleged threats.   Kohlhoff got angry went into the house and came back with a long gun and  fired shots into the ground.   He then went back into the house where over the next several hours gunshot were exchanged.

No reports of any injuries.




Two street projects get underway in Hastings, watch for orange cones

Friday, June 17 marks the beginning of road work on East State Road, with water main replacement from Wilson to First Street, culvert removal and a box culvert installed at Butler Creek, sidewalk and curb installed on both the north and south sides of the road and asphalt replacement of the road surface, DPS Director Lee Hays said Monday, June 13.

The project schedule calls for the road to be closed and work to begin Friday with the street re-opened to traffic on Sept. 2 and completion of the project on Sept. 30.


The East State Road detour will begin one block east of North Michigan Street at North Boltwood, leading south to East Mill, to First Street north to rejoin East State just beyond the project. Signs will alert motorists on West State Road to the upcoming detour, as well as directional signs along the detour route.


A shorter project started this week on Clinton Street between Hanover and Michigan streets, which will include water main replacement, road reconstruction and retaining wall installation on the north side of Fall Creek, Hays said.

Clinton will be closed for the duration of the project and traffic detoured around the area. Completion on that work is expected by the end of July.


All of the Fish Hatchery Park ponds have been dredged and look beautiful, Hays said. DPS staff is moving the dredged material to the area north of the large pond to dry and then be seeded. “The park is looking really great, and should be fully restored by the end of June,” he said.


Hays reminds residents that when using the compost drop off location, all compostable debris should be left to the west side of the drop off area, rather than among the rocks that are located along the north of the site.





Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in Hastings for fifth time June 25-26

The Gus Macker, coming to Hastings Friday and Saturday June 25 -26, draws hundreds of competitors, their families and supporters to Hastings  to enjoy the basketball contests on courts set up around the Barry County Courthouse.  While in town, visitors also shop, dine and just enjoy the basketball action and the atmosphere.


The Macker 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament is designed so that anyone can play, men or women, young or old, short or tall, the most experienced or those with no experience at all. Since 1987, the Macker tour has held 972 tournaments with over 2.2 million players – men and women from seven years old to 50 plus, and with more than 23 million spectators.


Barry County Road Commission annual report presented to County Commissioners

Brad Lamberg, managing director of the Barry County Road Commission, gave his annual report to Barry County Commissioners June 14.

Overall, 2015 was a successful year for the commission, with routine maintenance, preservation and construction projects completed successfully, he said.

“In spite of increasing demands, inclement weather and funding shortages, the Barry County Road Commission believes it has provided one of the best county road systems in Michigan,” Lamberg said. "Keeping good roads good is something we have to do. It’s cost effective and pays off a lot in the future."


He credited dedicated employees and the ongoing financial support of townships as key to the success of the BCRC, and pledges to maintain a strong working relationship with township officials. “We’re proud of the situation we have with townships and residents."

Lamberg outlined 2015 revenues, $7,523,701, and expenditures, $7,378,898, along with lists of where the funds came from and where the money was spent.


In January 2017, the state gas tax will increase from 19 cents to 26.3 cents a gallon  and diesel from 15 cents a gallon to 26.3, and registration fees will go up by 20 percent. It will be March, 2017 before any increase in funding “trickles down” to the road commission. It’s the first gas price hike in 20 years, he said.


In 2019, the legislature is supposed to phase in another $600 million annually from the general fund, eventually raising another $1.2 billon a year for roads by 2012, he said, however, he was cautious about the figures for 2012, saying, “things can change.” //

“The gap between what needs to be done and what can be done continues to grow and in now approximately $10 million,” he said.


In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved:

* the purchase of new mobile radios for Barry County Sheriff’s Office vehicles for $81,616.04 to low bidder Chrouch Communications, Inc. Barry County Undersheriff Matt Houchlei recommended Chrouch for the contract for 22 APX6500 Motorola mobile radios, accessories and activation fees.

The new radios will replace worn out equipment in primary patrol cars, new vehicles, and cars used in marine patrol, animal control and a detective. The funding for the new radios will come from the diverted felon fund.


* a memorandum of understanding between the State of Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs and Barry County to share use of the VetraSpec data system software with the Barry County United Way Veterans Service Office which will expedite filing and follow-ups for veteran’s claims.


* approved changing the county zoning map in Section 35 of Castleton Township from Agricultural (A) to Rural Residential (RR) and also to rezone A-2-16 from Low Density Residential (LDR) to Rural Residential (RR) in Section 32 in Irving Township.


* approved the grant application of the state Office of Community Corrections, requested by OCC Administrator Dawn Karfonta.


* approved the summer tax levy of 5.4176 presented by Equalization Director Tim Vandermark. Copies will be sent to all townships and City of Hastings and a copy is sent to the state in September.





Hastings City Council, Dog Park Companions agree on contract

The Hastings Dog Park Companions agreement with the City of Hastings for continued operation of the dog park for the next five years was approved by the council Monday, June 13.

Noting that the park gets a lot of use, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said the city agreed to take over mowing the park at an estimated $2,300 a year and provide a portable toilet for about $1,000 a year.


“They will continue to pick up the trash. There are other things, like lights, that we want to work on with them,” he said.


The council agreed the park could stay open to 8 p.m.  instead of dusk, from September to April when it is dark when people get out of work and still want to walk their dogs. Companions estimate 80 people a day come to the dog park.


The council approved City Clerk Tom Emery’s recommendation to retain the Michigan Municipal League Worker’s Compensation Fund, the only one to submit a proposal for the city’s worker’s compensation coverage, through June 2019 for $39,498 the first year.


Also, two companies bid on property and liability insurance for the city until June 2019.  MML Property Casualty Pool bid for $97,457 the first year; Triton $94,946 for the first year.

 Emery said while MML bid is slightly higher, they have significantly lower deductibles and the deductible difference on just a few claims would mote than offset that. Both coverages through the MML are via Meadowbrook Insurance.


In other business, the council approved:

* spending $42,825 to repair downtown crosswalks, recommended by Director of Public Services Lee Hays.


* ordering two patrol cars for $60,172 for the Hastings Police Department, included in the 2016/2017 budget.


* the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Michigan’s request to hold a five day youth ministry program open to the public at Bob King Park on July 11-15. They will not use the facilities, but need permission from the council for a religious meeting in a park.


* street closures for the Gus Maker Basketball Tournament June 25-26.


Hastings Council members urged to talk to supporters of beer and wine at Thornapple Plaza events

The Thornapple Arts Council’s revised request to the Hastings City Council to allow the sale of alcohol at the Thornapple Plaza during some events got a motion to approve it, but there was no second, so the request died.

However in public comment,  Director of the Arts Council Megan Lavell said she would “like to have a conversation with the council, to find a way to see what it is we can do to assuage your fears or concerns about having alcohol at the Plaza…The goal of the Thornapple Plaza is to make it a destination and to bring in people from outside into Hastings, as well as draw people who live here...I don’t know what other concerns you might have…I would like to know what it is that we can further answer for you.”

The Baum Family Foundation financed the Plaza; Larry Baum, supports the idea of alcohol at events there. “As far as the public’s concern, I’m with a couple of other organizations, one in transportation and cars and we applied for a liquor license…and it’s been very profitable for us, we have not had any personal problems with it, we’ve not have any accidents with it… we just had an event where there were thousands of motorcycles… same thing, never had a single incident with the people that were there, there were no incidents after the event. So, I really don’t see where it is a detriment to the community. It could be a great fund raiser for the Plaza and bring more people in…I’d like to meet with any of the council that have questions,” Baum said.

 Mayor Frank Campbell urged council members, “to meet individually, we can’t meet as a group, but talk to Megan and Larry…each council person at their convenience…before the next council meeting and try to get on the same page…and bring it back to the next council meeting.”

“As long as you are willing to consider, at least talk to us about it, that’s all we ask, and if we can convince you fine, and it we can’t, that’s up to the council,” Baum said. //


Background on alcohol at the Plaza: At its meeting two weeks ago, the council voiced several objections to alcohol at the Plaza, including allowing alcohol at events designed for families, which would include children, non-profits competing with local businesses and the lack of barriers in the area where alcohol would be served.


In a letter to the council June 13, Lavell outlined changes to the original plan including a new diagram of the refreshment area, staff approved barriers around the area and volunteers to monitor entry and exit points. Also, wrist bands for those over 21 who drink, a two drink limit and stopping alcohol service at 8:30 p.m., a half hour or so before the concert ends.


Councilman David Tossava supported the concept saying an event “would be a lot different than the Summerfest beer tent, it is the kind of environment where I don’t think you are going to see any anybody abuse alcohol down there, and I think that’s a big issue with anyone here.”


Council Bill Redman talked to 101 people and “out of that 101, 32 said “yes,” 55 said “no” and 14 said, “they didn’t care.” So it almost, but not quite, two to one against it having it down there, so I think that lack of a second pretty well takes care of the situation.”


Councilwoman Therese Maupin-Moore talked to people in her ward who all said “no” and of the people from outside the city she asked, three said “no” and two said “whatever you want to do.”  One business owner said they didn’t know if it would affect their business one way or the other.


Eaton County Sheriff releases information on fatal bicycle crash

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office reports the bicyclist who died as a result of a bike/vehicle crash is Randy Ray Robinson, 52, from St. Johns.

According to witnesses Robinson, eastbound on St. Joe Highway on June 11,  failed to stop at the stop sign at Mulliken Road.

The vehicle driven by a 18-year-old woman was southbound and attempted to swerve around Robinson but he struck the passenger side of the vehicle, officials said.

The woman and the passenger in her vehicle were not injured. The crash is still under investigation.



Charlton Park hosts largest one day car show in the Midwest

Charlton Park kicks off its summer season with the largest one day car show in the Midwest, the 35th annual Father’s Day Car Show, Sunday, June 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.

Admission is $6 for ages 13 and up, $4 for children five to 12 and children four and under are free.  All spectator parking is off River Road with shuttle service from parking areas provided by Barry County Transit. The Barry County Sheriff’s Posse will assist with crowd control and parking.


Guests can tour the Park’s Historic Village while admiring hundreds of vintage show cars covering more than 45 acres. A DJ will play music from the 50’s and 60’s, and vendors will offer festival food. Vehicle awards will be presented at 3 p.m. All cars are 1991 or older and driven in under their own power. //


The day of the event, South Charlton Park Road, from M-79 to River Road, will be open to northbound traffic only from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Show cars must access Charlton Park via northbound M-79.  Spectator access is easiest using southbound Charlton Park Road to River Road. For more information, visit or follow the park on Facebook.

The event is coordinated by the Southern Michigan Street Rod Association and park staff.



Gaines Township motorcycle crash injures one

A Kentwood man suffered non-life threatening injuries in a June 12 crash that occurred when a Rochester Hills woman turned left in front of him on Kalamazoo Avenue,  the Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports.


Man Singh Gurung, 25, was riding his Honda motorcycle southbound  on Kalamazoo Avenue south of 60th Street, when Sarah Livingston, 22, driving a Ford Escape northbound on Kalamazoo, turned left in front of him.  


Gurung, who was wearing a helmet,  was transported by AMR ambulance to Spectrum Health Butterworth with non-life threatening injuries. Livingston and her two adult passengers were not injured; she was issued a citation for failing to yield the right of way.


Alcohol and speed were not factors in the crash, deputies said.



Groundbreaking for Hastings Schools facilities improvements is June 20

Hastings Schools officials will host a groundbreaking symbolizing all of the upcoming upgrades and improvements to school buildings to be held June 20 at 6 p.m. in front of the Hastings Middle School, Superintendent Carrie Duits said in a news release.


“Our community passed a $45 million bond proposal in November 2015 for remodeling all six school buildings in the Hastings Area School System,” Duits said. The two most significant projects include replacing the 1917 portion of Hastings Middle School and adding a Performing Arts Center to Hastings High School.


“As a community, we celebrated the history of Hastings Middle School during a wonderful Commemoration Party on May 22. Now, it’s time to officially break ground for all the facility changes that lie ahead. Please join us for a short groundbreaking ceremony on June 20 at 6 p.m. in front of Hastings Middle School. Thanks to our community’s support, we are building a brighter future for all students!” she said.


Hastings Spray Plaza to host entertainment for children Thursdays until Aug. 25

Hastings area children can enjoy free entertainment at the Spray Plaza every Thursday at noon from now until Aug. 25. Professional storytellers and musicians will present children’s educational entertainment programs designed to delight kids.


On June 16 Tim the Music Man will take the Spray Plaza stage at 203 West State Street.

Tim is a seasoned musician who toured nationally as the bassist for mid-Michigan’s 19 wheels from 1996-2005. For more on entertainment in downtown Hastings this summer, visit






Tim the Music Man will entertain area children at the Spray Plaza June 16.

Ed Englerth Band plays the Thornapple Plaza June 16

The Ed Englerth Band will entertain on June 16 at 7 p.m. at the new Thornapple Plaza, 301 East State Street in downtown Hastings.The trio’s performance is one in a series of 30 free concerts offered at the Thornapple Plaza this summer.


With Todd Strickland on bass and Matt Larghi on drums, Englerth’s trio plays a refreshing and unique form of “Moody, Intelligent Folk-Jazz-Blues.” Englerth, a resident of Hastings, brings extensive musical experience to the new venue having played with Ray White (Frank Zappa & Zappa Plays Zappa), Kenny Meeks (Sixpence None The Richer), Joe English (Paul McCartney & Wings), Robin Robbins (Bob Seger), and John Lawry (Petra) among others.


Bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on the grass, or enjoy one of the provided seats and sit right up front. For more on entertainment in Hastings this summer, visit






The Ed Englerth Band will present a free concert at the Thornapple Plaza June 16


Leah Sprague Fodor named new Chairperson of Gun Lake Tribe

The June 2 swearing in of Leah Sprague-Fodor as chairperson of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, the Gun Lake Tribe, follows more than 20 years of service on the tribal government staff, according to a news release from the Tribe.


“I am honored and proud to serve as the Chairperson of the Tribe,” Sprague-Fodor said.

“My focus will remain on the wellbeing of our elders, our children, and the entire tribal community as one extended family. I look forward to continuing the legacy of leadership handed down to me by our ancestors who worked hard to keep our community together here in our homelands.”


Sprague-Fodor was one of the first two staff members hired by the Tribe in the early 1990s. She held the position of Member Services Director for a majority of her time on the tribal government staff. She was elected to the Tribal Council in 2012 as a representative of the Salem District.


During her time on Tribal Council the Tribe successfully refinanced Gun Lake Casino debt and then paid off the debt entirely; successfully petitioned the U.S. Congress to pass a law to clarify that the Casino parcel was lawfully taken into trust; and opened the Government Campus which serves as the Tribe’s Capitol Building. //


In the last 20 years the Tribe has undergone an incredible transformation. Prior to federal recognition the tribal community had virtually no resources. Today, the Tribe has become a modern tribal government with a staff of over 100 employees that serves the needs of its people through a wide variety of programs and services, the release said.


The Tribal Council consists of Chairperson, Leah Sprague-Fodor; Vice Chairman, Ed Pigeon; Secretary, Phyllis Davis; Treasurer, Kurt Trevan and Bob Peters, Scott Sprague and Jennie Pearl Heeren.  


Sprague-Fodor is the daughter of David K. (D.K.) Sprague, who retired from the position of Chairman in January after serving in that role for 24 years.








New Tribal Chairperson Leah Sprague-Fodor

DeCamp & Gordon maintenance building, Jones property at Cedar Creek Institute to be dedicated June 22

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute will dedicate property donated by Alice and Ken Jones and celebrate the opening of the DeCamp & Gordon maintenance facility on Wednesday, June 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.,

“When Bill and Jessie Pierce created The Willard G. Pierce and Jessie M. Pierce Foundation in 1998, their goal was to give back to the community and share their love of nature,” said Sara Lien Edelman, communication coordinator at the Institute. Their dream continues to grow with the new Jones property and the DeCamp & Gordon maintenance facility, she said.


The public is invited to tour the new maintenance building from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and enjoy free ice cream and educational activities at the Institute.  An exceptional example of energy efficiency, the new 5,256 square feet building provides much needed space for maintenance and equipment storage.  


Douglas and Margaret DeCamp,  longtime supporters of the Institute, stepped in to provide the funding to make the new maintenance building possible.  George and Barbara Gordon are devoted supporters of advancing art and education in West Michigan.  Through their support, the Institute offers the Gordon Art Fellowship to nurture artistic development of promising student artists. The Gordons partnered with the DeCamps to fund the new building.


Grand Valley State University student Hana Christoffersen,  a Gordon Art Fellow, will speak at the dedication. //

“The Fellowship gave me the unique opportunity to explore, learn, and grow in biological illustration,” Christoffersen said.  “It opened my mind to the possibility of a career in art and science and showed me the value of collaboration between talented science and art students, faculty, and staff."


The Pierce family legacy continues to grow with the Pierce’s son, Willard L. “Joe.” 

“Joe Pierce has been an invaluable partner as a board member at the Institute,” said Imstitute Executive Director, Michelle Skedgell. “He led the effort to build a new maintenance facility and helped greatly with researching contractors and materials for the building,”


“Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is such a beautiful example of how legacy works,” said Bonnie Gettys, CEO of Barry Community Foundation.  “By creating a place where people learn and expand their appreciation for the land, water and air, Bill and Jessie Pierce truly left behind a gift for generations that they will never know. We hope the community will come and help us thank these very special donors who have made incredible gifts to the Institute that we and our guests will benefit from for years to come.”


“This new facility helps us by giving us an actual working space that is set up with the proper tools, is well lit, has running water and is warm in the wintertime,” said Facility Manager Tadd Wattles.  “This allows us to work on projects of all types no matter the weather.”


Contractor Andrew Offrink of Morton Buildings, Inc. said energy efficiently was the main force driving the design of the building which features in-floor heating and LED lighting.  Additions that increased insulation include deep sidewalls, thick overhead doors, additional weather seal, and the entire building interior wrapped with a vapor barrier. 


In 1961 DeCamp and Pierce started Flexfab in Hastings. Today, FlexFab has a 150,000 square foot plant in Hastings with 450 employees and plants in England, Brazil, and China.


The Institute is a non-profit environmental education center located one hour from Grand Rapids and Lansing and 45 minutes from Kalamazoo.  The Institute’s mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of the environment. Set on 742 acres, the Institute offers 10 miles of public hiking trails, numerous environmental programs, and a brunch on the second Sunday of every month. For more information, go to








The new DeCamp & Gordon maintenance facility.

Hastings City Police Cadets raise funds to benefit Barry County Silent Observer program

The Hastings City Police Cadets recently raised the money by collecting used lead core batteries at the household hazardous waste collection at the Barry County Fairgrounds. Throughout the year, cadets learn the skills needed to be a police officer, as well give back to the community through public service and fundraisers. There are currently 15 young people in the cadet program.

Silent Observer in Barry County offers rewards to citizens who provide critical information to solve crimes by calling1-800-310-9031 and remain anonymous. Both programs can be followed on Facebook by liking Hastings Police Cadet Program and Barry County Silent Observer.

Hastings Police Cadet Tommy Patterson (center) presents a $307.60 check to members of the Silent Observer of Barry County Board, Barry Central Dispatch 9-1-1 Director  Phyllis Fuller (left) and Katie Kellogg.

Barn Fire

The Hickory Corners Fire Department was called to a barn fire around 5:00 pm Tuesday on Kellogg school road.  No information on barn contents and fire may have started from a fire nearby.  No report of injuries.

Lead Poisoning

Lead levels are showing up all across Michigan.  According to the Detroit News, Lenawee County kid lead level exposure is one of the highest in Michigan.

A higher percentage of children tested positive for lead poisoning in Lenawee County according to data from the state  health department. Grand Rapids is showing 14-point-1 percent.

Barry County shows a percentage between 2 and 4 percent.

Children  six and under were tested.


New mobile radios for Barry County Sheriff Office vehicles recommended

Following permission last month by the Barry County Commission to seek bids to replace aging and non-operating mobile radios for an estimated $90,000, Barry County Undersheriff Matt Houchlei received three bids: Chrouch Communications, Inc, for $81,616.04; Tele-Rad Inc, for $87,276.86, and Roe-Comm, Inc. for $83,787. Tuesday, at the committee of the whole meeting, he recommended low bidder Chrouch Communications for the contract for 22 APX6500 Motorola mobile radios, accessories and activation fees.


The funding for the new radios will come from the diverted felon fund. The radios will be delivered a week after state approval of a template that Houchlei said he thinks contains details of frequencies the radios will be using. A plus is that the Chrouch representative is local and is easily reached with questions, he said

The equipment will replace radios in primary patrol cars, new vehicles, upgrade radios in existing cars in marine patrol and animal control and a detective’s car. An authorized Motorola Service station since 1953, Chrouch Communications serves more than 30 law enforcement agencies, including Barry Central Dispatch 9-1-1, Houchlei said.


In other business, the commission unanimously recommended approval of:

 * a memorandum of understanding between the State of Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs and Barry County to share use of the VetraSpec data system software with the Barry County United Way Veterans Service Office. Pattrick Jansens, an accredited veterans service officer, said the software data system would be available every day for filing and following up on Barry County veterans claims for benefits instead of the current one day week. The program is funded by a 12-month state grant, with options for two more 12-month contracts, Jansens said.


* changing the county zoning map in Section 35 of Castleton Township from Agricultural (A) to Rural Residential (RR) to help promote potential development near the Village of Nashville.

Also, to rezone A-2-16 from Low Density Residential (LDR) to Rural Residential (RR) in Section 32 in Irving Township, which the township submitted on behalf of 20 property owners.

Planning Director Jim McManus said area was zoned LDR in 2008 with expected “explosive” residential growth which did not happen with the depression. With RR zoning, the residents would be able to have hobby farms or raise chickens if they chose.

The Barry County Planning Commission unanimously recommended both rezonings, he said.


* the annual grant application to the state Office of Community Corrections. The grant is the sole funding source of the OCC, Administrator Dawn Karfonta said. They are asking for the same amount as last year with the same programming. The application was due June 1, however, the OCC has been allowed to submit the application with a tentative commissioner's approval date, pending final approval of the request.


* the summer tax levy of 5.4176 to be billed July 1, presented by Equalization Director Tim Vandermark. There was a .9976 mill Headlee roll back this year, Vandermark said. Copies will be sent to all townships and City of Hastings so the correct amount is billed. A copy is also sent to the state in September.



Gun Lake Tribe hosts electronic devices recycling event June 9

The Gun Lake Tribe and Gun Lake Casino are inviting the public to take advantage of an opportunity to properly dispose of obsolete electronic items at an electronics recycling event Thursday, June 9 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in conjunction with local electronics recycler Comprenew. The collection will be in the parking lot on the east side of the Gun Lake Tribe TRC building, directly across from the casino at 1150 129th Street in Wayland Township.


Office and household electronics, cell phones, radios, microwaves, VCRs and TVs, computer laptops, monitors, keyboards and mice, printers, speakers and power cords will be accepted. Comprenew will erase or destroy all computer hard drives.  A $10 fee is required to recycle tube-style television and computer monitors; the tribe will sponsor the cost of the first 200 such units. //


Comprenew uses best practices in the electronics recycling and data security industry; they do not ship e-waste overseas and the zero-landfill policy requires that all e-waste received is recycled, refurbished or reused. The tribe and casino support recycling efforts because electronic waste in landfills can leak harmful toxins into the soil and groundwater, a growing concern for the environment.


Hastings youth, two others sustain non life threatening injuries in crash

Ionia County Sheriff’s Deputies are investigating a personal injury traffic crash that occurred when a 2000 Chrysler convertible was traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of I-96 near Jordan Lake Road Sunday morning.  The Chrysler, driven by a 16-year-old male from Hastings, crashed head on into a 2008 Pontiac being driven by a 24-year-old woman from Monroe.


Both vehicles received major damage from the crash, however both drivers and a 27-year-old passenger in the Pontiac, were all transported from the scene by LIFE EMS with non-life threatening injuries, deputies report. Names of those involved were not released.


Alcohol and drug use are believed to be a contributing factor to the crash. Deputies are awaiting toxicology results, before sending the case to the Ionia County Prosecutor’s office for review.


The crash happened at 8:42 a.m. and closed eastbound I-96 for approximately two hours.  Assisting at the scene were the Michigan State Police, Berlin/Orange Fire Department, Saranac Fire Department and Reed & Hoppes Towing.


Good Samaritans pull three from burning vehicle in Allegan County

Callers to Allegan County Dispatch the afternoon of June 1 told dispatchers that a car had left the roadway, struck several trees and started on fire. Several Good Samaritans stopped and pulled three people from the burning vehicle before emergency services arrived a short time later to extinguish the fire, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports.


The driver, Caroline Norman, 70, from the Pullman area, suffered life threatening injuries and was transported to South Haven Hospital, and then flown to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo by West Michigan Air Care (WMAC). Norman’s minor female child was also taken to Bronson Hospital by WMAC.


Terrence Norman, 44, Caroline Norman’s son, was transported to South Haven Hospital where he is listed in good condition. As of Thursday, Caroline Norman was still in the trauma unit and her daughter in pediatric intensive care at Bronson, officials said. The crash, which occurred on 102nd Avenue near 62nd Street in Casco Township, remains under investigation. //


No reason has been determined why the vehicle left the roadway and information on seatbelt use was not available. The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Michigan State Police, South Haven Fire, South Haven EMS and West Michigan Air Care.


Corrections deputy prevents suicide at Barry County Jail

Corrections Deputy Mike Hanger prevented an inmate suicide in the Barry County Jail on Wednesday, June 1, according to a news release from Undersheriff Matt Houchlei.

Hanger was alerted to a possible suicide attempt by an inmate at about 6:18 p.m. yesterday.

The deputy went to the housing unit and discovered an inmate hanging from his bunk with a bed sheet around his neck and with face discoloration. Hanger was able to quickly remove the sheet, allowing the inmate to breathe.

The man regained consciousness and was transported to Spectrum Health Pennock where he was checked for injuries. He was later returned to the jail and will continue to receive treatment.  



Wayland area man pushing bicycle along road injured by hit and run driver

A man pushing his bicycle near 135th and 6th Street at 10:25 p.m. on June 1 was struck from behind by a hit and run driver, Michigan State Police Wayland Post report. The 35-year-old man from the Wayland area, was seriously injured and transported by Wayland EMS to Metro Health Hospital in Grand Rapids. Troopers are investigating the crash and ask that anyone with information about the crash, the suspect vehicle or driver, contact them at 269-792-2213. 


A witness at the scene told troopers that a newer, red Ford pickup truck traveling eastbound on 135th Avenue struck the man from behind, did not stop and continued east on 135th Avenue.  It is unknown at this time if alcohol was a factor. MSP was assisted by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department, Wayland Police Department, Gun Lake Tribal Police, Wayland Fire Department and Wayland EMS.




Hastings High School incidents quickly handled by area law enforcement

“It was just a 10 minute time frame where three separate incidents occurred at the school,” Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said. All the incidents at Hastings High School the afternoon of May 31 were quickly defused by area law enforcement.

While officers were handling the first incident involving students not wanted on school grounds, two other students began fighting and another student called 911 from a school bus asking for them to make sure the bus was secure, Pratt said.  


Chris Cooley, High School Interim principal, released an explanation of the situation. Two Hastings Virtual Academy students who had been asked not to return to the campus were reportedly going to return in a dispute with other students, Cooley said. School officials asked for a Hastings police car at school when classes let out.


At 3:05 p.m. officers stopped the two students in the parking lot, found they had no weapons, and detained them at the police department for pickup by their parents. While the officers were there, two students began fighting in a unrelated incident. The fight was broken up and the students held by officers for parents to pick up. No problems were found on the school bus.


“Through police communication we ended up with officers from the city, county and state police here and they all did a great job insuring student safety,” Cooley said.


Jean Gallup    




Free child car seat inspection June 9 in Dorr

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and Dorr Township Fire Department are encouraging parents and caregivers to bring children in their car seats to a free Child Safety Seat Inspection on Thursday, June 9, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Dorr Township Fire Department, 4196 18th Street in Dorr.  A limited amount of replacement seats will be available at the inspection station for those who qualify.


Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for young children. While 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, research shows that seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that nearly three out of four parents do not properly use child restraints. If not properly installed, the child safety seat may not protect a child the way it should.  For more information about child safety seats, visit the NHTSA website at:


UPDATE Driver in fatal crash in Allegan County identified

UPDATE: The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office has identified the driver who died in a crash June 1 as Shawn Lee Marroquin, 16,  from the Saugatuck/ Hamilton area. Marroquin was a student in the Hamilton School District and living with his grandparents. He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash and his 1980 Mazda had no airbags. The crash remains under investigation.


A man in a single vehicle crash died this morning, June 1,  about 3 a.m. on M-40 north of 136th Avenue, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports. Deputies responded and found a passenger car that had left the roadway, and appeared to have rolled over several times.


The man,  the single occupant in the car,  was unresponsive and was later declared deceased at the scene. The crash remains under investigation, and the name of the driver is being withheld pending notification of family members. Sheriff’s deputies were assisted at the scene by AMR and the Hamilton Fire Department.


No charges against Barry County Transit bus driver

After reviewing the police report filed by the Hastings City Police Department, the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to issue criminal charges against a Barry County Transit bus driver, according to a news release from the prosecutor’s office. The driver was alleged to have spanked a child on the bus, which gave rise to the complaint.  


Transit Director Bill Voigt has read the report and said: “I’m grateful for the independent, professional investigations by the police department and the prosecutor’s office as well.”


Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor-Pratt met with the child’s parents to discuss her decision and address a concern shared by the parents, prosecutor and police; the need for cameras on the buses, that would benefit passengers and drivers.

Voigt agrees and said they have already had one demonstration by a camera system company, and, "will be looking at others," with an eye to cost and effectiveness. He will bring his recommendation on a camera system to the transit oversight board, which includes Hastings businessman Ken Radant and Barry County Commissioners Howard “Hoot” Gibson and Jon Smelker.


“The concerns in this case do not end with the denial of criminal charges,” Nakfoor-Pratt said. “I thank the parents for taking the time to meet with me and discuss the case and the reasons for my decision. They have kept an open mind and, like any parent, they are looking out for their child’s welfare.


“They also wanted to be a part of a change that they felt would benefit the community.  I also want to thank Mr. Voigt for his time and consideration toward making positive changes within the Barry County Transit Authority.”  


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