Local News Archives for 2016-07

Missing five year old found after brief search

A five year old boy was found safe and sound after his parents reported him missing about 10 p.m. July 28, Barry County Undersheriff Matt Houchlei said.

The parents were in the yard at their 1374 Woodland Road, Nashville home and thought the boy had gone into the house. When he was not found inside, they called for help.  Sgt. Rob Horrmann responded and after a brief search, the boy was found sleeping in a chair in an outbuilding.


In another police matter, Houchlei said deputies responded to a car rolled over into a pond July 27 on Charlton Park Road. Deputies waded into the pond to make sure no one was in the vehicle; the driver had left the scene and has not yet been located.


Some police calls are more rewarding than others

Police are called upon to assist the public in many different situations.

So, on July 27 at 12:30 p.m. Eaton County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call of a woman in labor for her second child.

The husband had just pulled into a parking lot off East Saginaw Highway and told dispatchers that his wife’s water had broken and delivery was imminent. Grand Ledge EMS and Deputy Nabil Kanazeh were dispatched and arrived in time to assist in the delivery of a healthy baby boy!


Find out about invasive species on your property and what you can do about it

Do you have this plant in your yard or field? It’s garlic mustard and it releases fungus killing toxins in the ground around it, making it hard for native plants and new tree seedlings to grow near it. Deer and other wildlife won’t eat it; it grows quickly, outcompetes other species, and it’s just one of dozens of invasive species taking over natural areas.


To find out how invasive species can affect your property and what you can do about it, attend a free seminar on Wednesday, Aug. 3rd at 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge No. 1965 at 102 East Woodlawn in Hastings. “Getting the Most Out of Your Habitat.” focuses on how invasive species can affect your property and what you can do about it.


The seminar, designed for all members of the public, will provide refreshments and management resources and wrap up with a question-and-answer session.


The Barry County Branch of Quality Deer Management Association hosts the seminar, presented by the Barry-Calhoun-Kalamazoo Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

For more information, contact Sarah Nelson at 269-908-4135 or at


Grant, just being Grant, inspires others in his cancer fight

**You can’t call Grant Pratt a 14-year-old kid. He is one, but he’s really more. He’s a young man who has cancer, and the way he handles his struggle inspires others much older to have patience, remember what is important in life and that they can get through the tough times.


Grant, the son of Greg and Liz Pratt, younger brother of Garrett Pratt, all of Lowell, has relatives in Hastings.

Jeff Pratt is Hastings Police Chief, his wife Julie Nakfoor-Pratt is Barry County Prosecutor. To Grant, they’re just Uncle Jeff and Aunt Julie, and both admire the way Grant is handling his illness.


Diagnosed in November last year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Grant goes through his treatments with quiet determination, planning for when his chemo is over, keeping up his physical conditioning and his grades in school.


Mom, a teacher at Reeths Puffer School in Muskegon, dad Greg, superintendent of Lowell Public Schools and older brother Garrett are not his only support system; his fight envelopes his extended family and the wider Lowell community.


“When we first heard that he had cancer, I thought the floor was going to go out from below me,” Aunt Julie said. “It’s one thing to hear of a cancer diagnosis in an adult, it is a completely different story when it is a child.

“Grant is an amazing young man who has shown such strength and courage throughout his treatment…One of the qualities I admire most in Grant is that he does not complain, he just continues to fight,” she said.
 “To have such an active and full life interrupted by a life-threatening illness is unfortunate. However, there have been times when Grant worries more about everybody around him then he does himself.

“Grant has a very strong and loving family. The community support for him has been incredible! We continue to pray for a strong and full recovery for him!”

With his diagnosis, Grant’s family and the community immediately started pulling for him. “Mom and dad are awesome,” he said. The Reeths Puffer basketball team wore the their orange shirts with “Pratt Strong” on them to show support.


Uncle Jeff and Aunt Julie take Grant to chemo treatments, spelling mom and dad. “It’s nice to have company,” Grant said. He takes the hours long sessions quietly; Uncle Jeff says Grant is teaching him patience.  Grant appreciates that Aunt Julie, “is funny. She lightens up the day.”


“Grant will do what he wants to do after he graduates,” his uncle said. “He really wants to give back. He’s talked about pediatric oncology when we’re at the hospital, about giving back.”


Grant talked about his experience, “my story, my troubles,” at a football camp sponsored by Gilda’s Club. Afterward, a young man told him his sister was going through a similar situation and told Grant his story helped him.


Girls are not on Grant’s radar at all, yet, so his summer should be filled with riding his bike, hanging with buddies, and putting off taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn until prodded by mom or dad. Garrett might take him for pizza. Instead, two days a week, he goes to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s 10th floor outpatient clinic for a lumbar puncture, chemo injected into the spinal column and other chemo drugs delivered trough the  port in his chest over a relatively short visit, four hours; or a longer stretch of eight or nine hours. He has spent up to a week at a time in the hospital.


After, there are the side effects; headaches, body aches, nausea, fatigue, mouth sores, joint pain, swelling and hair loss. He looks forward to when he doesn’t have to deal with that. “Sometimes, I forget what it feels like to be normal.”


At 14, Grant is older than most of the kids in pediatrics.

 “I try to be nice to them. You want to make them feel better when they have shots, if you can.”

The days he doesn’t spend at the hospital, Grant’s day is weightlifting first thing in the morning, breakfast, playing video games and hanging with Garrett.


He is “excited about being a freshman” at Lowell High School in September and he won’t be behind his classmates. His teachers send him homework he takes with him to work on at the hospital. Sometimes, he admits he just doesn’t feel like studying so he doesn’t, but he still maintains his A average. He is a three sport athlete, football, baseball and wrestling. A goal for him is to play on the football team this year.


While affecting others by example, Grant tells what he has learned. “It’s taught me to work harder; persevere thought the tougher times. You can’t worry about it too much, when it’s not in your control. You need a positive attitude, and don’t get down on yourself.”  When he does start to feel low, his solution is to mingle with the people who are supporting him. “I just go see them,” he said.


This is round two with cancer for the Pratts, mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and is in remission. “She showed me how to fight this disease on a daily basis,” Grant said. He goes on a maintenance chemo regimen in October.

The center of attention of articles in the Detroit Free Press and Grand Rapids Press, Grant was nervous about  publicity at first, “but you get used to it.”  In fact, “I just wrote an article about my experience for the Lowell Ledger.” On the 26th he was at a wrestling camp named “Nothing for GRANTed” at Grandville High School with proceeds to benefit pediatric cancer research in his honor. DeVos Hospital arranged for Grant to attend a Tiger game Friday, going on the field and meeting all the players. Uncle Jeff is going along.


“In today’s world, there are lots of bad things going on,” he said. “His diagnosis rocked everybody’s world. He’s really amazing on how he reacts; how he’s handled it.”


He has pledged to shave his head should Grant lose his hair to chemo.  He will live up to his word, he said, but he really, really hopes Grant won’t lose his hair.


So far, so good.  

If Grant does lose his hair,  Uncle Jeff knows he will have no choice but to try to handle being bald at least as well as he knows Grant will.



















Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt (from left), Grant Pratt and Jeff’s son, Jacob Pratt, in a photo at the Hastings Police Department.





Non debate gives Barry County Sheriff candidate Robert Jordan a platform

With Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf declining to take part in a July 26  debate with Robert Jordan, his challenger in next week’s primary election, the stage was left to Jordan for an hour of questions from a moderator and a receptive audience. Jordan is the captain in the Eaton County Sheriff's Office in charge of management of the Eaton County Jail He is one of 386 certified jail managers in the country.


J-Ad Graphics CEO Fred Jacobs, who hosted the event, said he invited Leaf to the 7 p.m. debate as late as 4 p.m. Tuesday. An estimated 150 to 200 people filled seats at the community room at the COA with more standing along the walls. The moderator, retired Barry County Chief Judge Jim Fisher, asked Jordan several questions, with more from the audience.


Asked why he was running for sheriff, Jordan said Barry County is his home and he decided “enough is enough” in 2014 when the FBI used a search warrant to seize an unknown amount of records from the sheriff’s office. “Why serve a search warrant on a sheriff? Subpoenas are for people who cooperate, search warrants are for those who don’t cooperate.”


Jordan spoke about the things he has emphasized during his campaign; the lack of effective management and supervision at the sheriff’s office. “I want to make a difference for you guys,” he said to a round of applause; the first of several during the event.


In answers to questions, Jordan said he would keep one armored vehicle painted with sheriff colors and identified as a sheriff’s vehicle and get rid of all the rest of the military equipment at the sheriff’s office.

Some of the changes he would make include body cameras for every deputy, strong emphasis on community policing, improving relations with other law enforcement in and out of the county, working collaboratively with other county departments and the courts, developing a Citizen’s Academy, possibly an Citizen’s Ambassador group to help with searches and community events, and working with the Hastings Police Department to expand its Cadet program.


He supports the idea of increased police coverage to townships and villages by contract, specialized courts programs like the drug, sobriety and veteran’s courts, and diversion programs for the mentally ill.


There should be a liaison officer in every school in the county to work with young people. He believes police interacting with young people in schools and community policing is effective and results in better community relations now and later. Officer training would be required to help them deal with all the facets of the public, he said, and promised every phone call to the office would have a response, either he or another official would return calls if they were not readily available.


Jordan spent some time talking about the sheriff’s budget and financial management;  its growth over the last ten years and possible ways to trim costs. Supervision on all four shifts would be required in his administration and he would sign every overtime slip before it goes to payroll and hire an undersheriff who, “has roots and lives in Barry County.”


He compared Leaf's his career path with his own.  Leaf was a road patrol deputy, school liaison and then sheriff, he said. “I’m an administrator; I was a sergeant, then lieutenant, then captain, and soon-to-be sheriff,” he said to applause. His pledge to “bring efficient and effective management of law enforcement” to the sheriff’s office brought more applause.

He received a standing ovation as the meeting ended.


Photo: Captain Robert Jordan, Eaton County Sheriff's Office and candidate for Barry County Sheriff.

Gun Lake Tribe, State of Michigan reach partial settlement in compact dispute

The  Gun Lake Tribe has reached a partial settlement agreement with the State of Michigan that is a short-term resolution to a compact dispute that arose from expansion of online sales by the Michigan Lottery and video lottery terminals at social clubs, leading to the tribe witholding revenue sharing payments to the state, according to a tribal news release.


The tribe escrowed the withheld state revenue sharing payments of  $21,739,350.52 million. Under the agreement, this sum will be split equally between the tribe and state: 50 percent to the state; 35 percent  to the tribe; and 15 percent to GLIMI. The distribution formula will be maintained until the parties reach a final settlement, but the 35 percent to the tribe remains disputed under the terms of the agreement.


The agreement is a partial settlement of the compact dispute and resume’s the flow of revenue sharing funds pursuant to the compact. //

The state’s 50 percent will go to Michigan Economic Development Corporation for economic development programs to create new jobs. The tribe’s 35 percent will be used to create the D.K. Sprague Education Endowment Fund to give financial assistance to both tribal citizens and high school graduates in the local area, instead of the funds going into an escrow fund.


The 15 percent will fund non-gaming economic development under a new business named GLIMI, a subsidiary of the tribe’s Gun Lake Investments that will have both tribe and state oversight.  

The tribe and state are committed to reach a permanent settlement by amending the compact, which requires ratification by the federal government, the release said.


 “This agreement is a win for all stakeholders due to the substantial benefits provided to tribal citizens, area high school students planning to attend college, and the public at large through economic development programs,” said Chairperson Leah Sprague-Fodor.

“This creative solution to the revenue sharing impasse recognizes the legitimate position of both respective governments, and we applaud the state for negotiating with the tribe to reach this agreement.”


“We appreciate the willingness of the tribe to reach a partial solution on this issue,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “Dedicating a funding source for statewide economic development efforts benefits many communities that will see businesses and jobs grow because of these efforts.”


In 2007 a tribal-state gaming compact established local and state revenue sharing procedures. The tribe is no longer obligated to share revenue with the state if certain state-sanctioned games of chance expand within the tribe’s nine county zone of exclusivity, or the tribe’s state revenue sharing obligation is reduced by 50 percent if certain state-sanctioned games of chance expand anywhere within Michigan’s borders.


 In 2015, the tribe began to withhold state revenue sharing payments after the state began offering Michigan Lottery games via the Internet, and authorized certain social clubs to operate electronic gaming devices. The tribe has continued to make local revenue sharing payments which to date total $17,317,691.36.  The Gun Lake Casino opened Feb. 10, 2011.


Charges, denials aired at Barry County Board meeting

The Barry County Board of Commissioners was chosen as the forum July 26  for a series of accusation and denials of unsubstantiated charges by unknown people as well as back and forth charges of who was lying and who was truthful.


Since none of the talk during public comment time had anything to do with commission business and this is the political season with the primary just a week away, WBCH will not try to determine if there are any facts in this situation, instead urging people to do their research on the candidates and vote their preference next Tuesday.

Arrests made in July 5 Eaton County homicide

An Eaton County Sheriff’s Office detectives investigation has led to the arrest of two suspects in the July 5th homicide of 78-year-old John Abraham of Oakcrest Drive in Delta Township.

The death was deemed a homicide because of the nature of the injuries.


In the early morning hours of July 22, a 26-year-old man and a 25-year-old-woman, both from  Lansing, were arrested by detectives. They are lodged in the Eaton County Jail; both have been charged by the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office.


Their names will not be released until they are arraigned, which was expected to be Monday in front of  56th District Court Judge Julie H. Reinke.

“I am very pleased with the tremendous effort of our detectives in this murder investigation resulting in the arrests of these suspects,” Sheriff Tom Reich said.


The rest of the story at Hastings City Council meeting

Reports on Hastings City Council center on action items and why the council voted they way it did. But, much more usually happens at a typical meeting. Often what goes unreported can impact citizens as much as what makes the news.


All of this happened at the July 25  council meeting:


*City Clerk Tom Emery reminded Hastings voters that they will be voting at the Hastings Baptist Church on Woodlawn Avenue at both the August primary and November general elections this year. The Hastings Middle School, where they normally vote, will be in the midst of reconstruction and unavailable.


* Police Chief Jeff Pratt said the department will provide a liaison officer at Hastings Schools one day a week, likely Fridays. He hopes to add more days, if things go well. Previously, the city and schools shared the cost for five day a week coverage, but when, “the economy went south,” liaison officers were cut to save money.


*The police department received a letter from a Hastings business owner praising Deputy Chief Dale Boulter for his professional handling of an investigation of a stolen handgun to a successful conclusion with a confession and an arrest, Pratt said.  He also noted that a 37-year-old woman’s life was saved by Hastings officers administering Narcan when she overdosed, and, the woman “is doing okay.”


Pratt said every organization has highs and lows, and right now police departments across the country are facing difficult challenges. “Our department is committed to protect and serve while building a strong relationship with the community,” he said.


*The council received a letter from a Gun Lake couple thanking the city staff for their prompt, courteous and professional response to their earlier letter pointing out the need for more parking at Thornapple Plaza events. More parking may be provided by the city leasing a small portion of Ace Hardware’s parking lot during events.


*Mayor Frank Campbell said the Baum Family Foundation is transferring Thornapple Plaza ownership to the city. The foundation contributed more than a million dollars to build the Plaza on city property and is now deeding it to the city. Campbell said if you see the Baums, thank them for their contributions to the community.


*Campbell also said Hastings is a Purple Heart City and he will try to get a monument honoring Purple Heart veterans similar to the one from the Blue Star Highway organization to add to the monuments at the new Veteran’s Monument at the Tyden Park entrance.


*Councilman Don Smith, coordinator of volunteers working on the veteran’s monument, is looking for more volunteers, including veterans, to help with the effort. Those interested in helping out can contact Smith through the city’s webpage or DPS director Lee Hays.


*City Manager Jeff Mansfield and the council recognized the efforts of the Reverend Randall Bertrand from Woodgrove Brethren Christian Parish, commending him for his help in building and mentoring the development of the Hastings Skate Park since it was built.

“Without this man, there would be no skate park,” Mansfield said.

Bertrand was honored by the city in 2014 for his dedication to the young people of the community. “I can’t believe I’ve been burning hot dogs for them every Wednesday for ten years,” Bertrand said.

Barry County Courthouse will get expanded security

The Barry County Commission on July 26  agreed to go ahead with the contractor bidding process for circuit court room improvements for an estimated $308,000, with $40,000 coming from the diverted felon’s fund and the remainder from the county building rehabilitation fund.

The initial plan was to cost $300,000. But, after further research, a revised plan called for more extensive security measures for $456,000.

Working with Bob Van Putten, architect/owner of Landmark Design Group, on the third plan, the commissioners proposed delaying two improvements and using those funds for the expanded security work in the second floor and courtroom.


The vote was 5-2 with Commissioners Jim Dull and Vivian Conner voting “no” and Commissioners Jon Smelker, Ben Geiger, Craig Stolsonburg, David Jackson and Howard Gibson voting “yes.”

Conner was concerned that the jury would enter the room walking in front of the public seating area. Dull said anything beyond security for officers in the courtroom was, "a waste of money."


“I'm pleased Commissioners chose to bring a 122 year-old courtroom up to the task of meeting today's security challenges,” Geiger said after the meeting. “The plan approved today is within our budget, but more importantly, better protects our constituents, staff and law enforcement.”

The revised plan includes:

Item                                             Cost                  Status


Parking Lot Replacement           $ 147,000         Not Selected


Exterior Entry Improvements      $57,000           Not Selected


Ground Floor Renovation            $81,000            Selected


Second Floor Holding Area         $167,000           Selected


Renovated Judicial Toilet/Jury    $ 20,000             Selected


Circuit Courtroom                        $ 40,000            by County


Total estimated cost:                    $308,000


County staff will do the majority of the inside of the courtroom work, moving the jury box, the witness stand and the clerk/recorder to the other side of the courtroom, with subcontractors doing wood finish/millwork and carpets. According to the revision, the carpet and public seating in the courtroom will stay. //




In other business, the commissioners:


*  heard an annual report from Drain Commissioner Russ Yarger and a presentation from Director Travis Alden highlighting the Barry County Economic Development Alliance (BCEDA) and the Chamber of Commerce's structure, goals and initiatives.


* approved the 2017-2019 Region 3B Area Agency on Aging proposed plan with goals, services and funding for older adults in Barry and Calhoun counties.


* approved a resolution in support of the Stepping Up Initiative, to reduce the number of mentally ill people in jails. Additional grant money for jail diversion initiatives are tied to support from the commission.


* approved a state emergency management performance grant agreement to pay $31,454 of Barry County Emergency Management Director Jim Yarger’s salary and benefits, and also to approve the county as sub-grantee for the Region 5 Michigan Technical Rescue Team equipment and training purchases for $65,000 during 2015.


* approved the Barry County Trial Court replacing a 2009 Dodge Caravan with a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan through Mi-DEAL for $23,048. The capital budget allows $20,000 for replacement of the van, and amend the budget to cover the difference of $1,048.


* appointed Commissioner Vivian Conner as Officer Delegate and Commissioner Ben Geiger as Officer Delegate Alternate to the Municipal Employee Retirement System 2016 annual meeting. Jeffrey Nieuwenhuis will  be Employee Delegate with Karen Barns as Employee Delegate Alternate.



Parking, noise level concerns at Hastings Thornapple Plaza could be solved

With 500 to 700 people attending musical performances at the Thornapple Plaza in Hastings, finding a parking space was difficult, but city officials may have found a way to ease parking during events at the city’s newest entertainment attraction. The city attorney is working with Ace Hardware on conditions to lease a small portion of its parking lot during entertainment events, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said July 25.


Also to do with the Plaza, North Court Street resident Al Sherry thanked Mansfield for hearing his concerns, keeping in contact with him and doing something about his earlier complaint on the sound level of a concert at the Plaza.  


Sherry had said the sound traveled down the river, the band sounded like it was in his backyard and urged city staff to set decibel levels for future events. Mansfield said there were no specific numbers, but the level had to be “reasonable.” Readings he took were between 80 and 100 decibels.

Sherry said the second concert could barely be heard at his house. “I’m happy with that. We can live with 80 to 100 decibels.” Mansfield said he will continue to work with the sound people at the events.


In his report, Police Chief Jeff Pratt said he took decibel levels sitting in the audience at the Plaza which read in the mid to upper 80s. The readings went down as he walked down North Mill Street to the Post Office until the level was in the 50s, and  traffic sounds were higher than the concert.

“I found they were in the acceptable range,” Pratt said.


In other business, the council:

* approved the Downtown Business Team holding its annual Christmas celebration, Jingle and Mingle, from Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.


* approved the Woodgrove Brethren Church, Barry County Substance Abuse Task Force, with support from Hastings Manufacturing, to make improvements to the Hastings Skate Park.


* approved an ordinance to allow residential use in the B1 zone, with conditions, but denied a request to rezone a parcel at 1550 North Broadway from R-1 One Family Residential and R-S Suburban Residential to B-2 General Business District that would allow commercial development. The council followed the planning commission’s recommendation in both cases.


* appointed Clerk Tom Emery as officer delegate and police Chief Jeff Pratt as alternate officer delegate to the Municipal Employees Retirement System meeting in September.


* approved engaging Rehmann Robson for an independent audit for fiscal year ending June 30, for fees not to exceed $19,000 in the fifth year of a five-year contract.

Public asked to help ID suspects in Delta Township Wal-Mart robbery

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in identifying  three men accused in what began as a retail fraud, and turned into a robbery at the Delta Township Wal-Mart. At about 5:47 a.m. on July 25, a group of six subjects entered the store and selected a large amount of merchandise, the sheriff's office reports.


When the group attempted push the merchandise out of the store without paying for it, they were stopped by a group of employees. The suspects fought with the employees and pepper sprayed them. Four employees were injured and one was hospitalized with injuries.


The suspects left in a 2009 Teal Saturn Outlook with Michigan license plate CLP4763. Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the vehicle or can help identify the individuals, is asked to contact Sgt. Jim West at (517) 816-8209.

Homicide/suicide investigation update

Michigan State Police Troopers from Hastings were dispatched to a 911 call of a domestic disturbance at a home at 2502 East Vedder Road in Lake Odessa at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24.


When Troopers arrived at the residence, they were met in the driveway by the suspect, 52 year old Timothy Stanley Hunt, who immediately took his own life with a firearm while seated in his vehicle.  Troopers found the victim, Leigh Ann Hunt, 46, inside the home, dead as a result of an apparent gunshot wound, authorities said.


As a result of their investigation, Michigan State Police detectives have determined that Timothy Hunt murdered his wife Leigh Ann Hunt and attempted to flee from their residence until he was confronted by Troopers when he took his own life. 


Autopsies will be conducted at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.




The Aug. 2 Primary Election is next Tuesday. Be sure to vote.

After an active primary election campaign by Barry County politicians, the election will be held next week. What follows are the names of the offices and candidates for county and Middleville offices as well as millage requests on the ballot.


County Commission:

District 1: Howard R. Gibson, Jerry Sarver

District 2: Dan Parker, Nick Wake

District 3: David Jackson

District 4: Jon Smelker

District 5: Ben Geiger, Bob Vanderboegh

District 6: Vivian Lee Conner

District 7: Heather Lynn Wing


Other elected county officials:

Sheriff: Dar Leaf, Robert Jordan

Register of Deeds: Barbara D. Hurless

County Clerk:  Pam Palmer, Craig Stolsonburg

Prosecutor: Julie Nakfoor-Pratt

Drain Commissioner: Russ Yarger, Mark Doster, Jim Dull

Treasurer: Susan Vandecar



Township officials


Supervisor: Mike Timmons

Treasurer: Elizabeth A. Miller

Trustee: Eugene Waterbury, James Miller

There are no candidates for clerk.



Supervisor: Jeremy Miller, Chad VanSyckle 

Clerk: Penelope J. Ypma

Treasurer:  Anna Miller, Melissa L. VanSyckle

Trustee: Gerard R. Ypma

Dowling Public Library Board of Trustees: Roxanne E. Frey, Laura S. Kingma, Jennifer J. McKeever



Supervisor: Wesley Kahler

Clerk: Dawn M. Crapo, Debra Knight, Charity Frie, Ingrid Pagano

Treasurer: Judith E. Wooer, Anthony Crosariol

Trustee: Teresa Schuiteboer, Lee Campbell, James Alden, Ricky Lawrence.



Supervisor: Brad H. Carpenter

Clerk: Michele Erb

Treasurer: Kris Slagel, David Yonker, Rhonda VanOoy, Terri Geiger

Trustee: Cary Smith, Gary VandeCar.


Castleton: Supervisor: Cheryl Hartwell

Clerk: Marcia Scramlin

Treasurer: Joy E. Mulder

Trustee: Earl M. Wilson, Michael Trahan.



Supervisor: Jim Brown

Clerk: Anita Mennell

Treasurer: Jenee Phillips

Trustee: Ron Mennell, James M. Partridge II,  Keith A. Murphy and William J. Wetzel.


Hope: Mark S. Feldpausch, Mark Brandli

Clerk: Deborah Jackson

Treasurer: Arlene Tonkin

Trustee: Matthew T. Peake, Ken Chandler, Alice Hunt, David Messelink.



Supervisor: Jamie R. Knight

Clerk: Shelly Lake, Sharon Olson

Treasurer: Lynnette Ann Wingeier

Trustee: Michael Buehler, Dean Bass, Larry Brummel Jr., Mike Wright



Supervisor: Barbara J. Earl

Clerk: Sheri M. Babcock

Treasurer: Karmen K. Nickerson

Trustee: Deana Powell, Jeffrey T, Warren, Roy W. Thunder, Robert Dirmeyer, Jr., Blake W. Griffin and Twilla Gibbons.


Maple Grove:

Supervisor: Jeff Butler

Clerk: Susie Butler

Treasurer: Ginger Cole

Trustee: Larry Hook, Steve Gauss, Doug Westendorp.



Supervisor: Thomas J. Rook

Clerk: Janet Browneye and Melody Risner

Treasurer: Michelle Ritchie

Trustee: Robert Perino, Heather Foreman-Colthurst, Linda Ribble, Jodi L. Patrick, Karmin Bourdo.


Prairieville: Supervisor: Jim Stoneburner, Chris Khoury

Clerk: Ted DeVries

Treasurer: Judy Pence

Trustee: Richard Van Niman, Breanna Borden

Parks and Recreation Board, Deb Young, Kevin Louden, John H. Hoek, Scott Kuebler.



Supervisor: Gerald Schmiedicke, Larry Watson, Curt Cybulski

Clerk: Robin Hawthorne

Treasurer: Sandra Greenfield

Trustee: Sandra L. James, Marlin Walters, Michael Hallifax, Brenda Bellmore.



Supervisor: Michael T. Bremer

Clerk: Cindy Willshire

Treasurer: Debra K. Buckowing

Trustee: Ross DeMaagd, Jake Jelsema, Andrew Lindemulder, Curt Campbell, Sandra L. Rairigh.



Supervisor: Jeffrey S. MacKenzie

Clerk: Nancy Stanton

Treasurer: Shawn Durkee

Two trustee spots are open.


Yankee Springs:

Supervisor: Paul Heystek, Mark Englerth

Clerk: Janice Lippert, Thomas Wallace

Treasurer: Alice M. Jansma

Trustee: Roger Rottschafer, Jacob M. Welch, Shannon VandenBerg, Patrick Jansens.


Barry County-wide millage: Charlton Park asks for new additional millage for operation and maintenance of Historic Charlton Park Village, Museum and Recreation Area of 0.3750 mills for 10 years, which would raise $767,476 the first year, $755,298 which would be disbursed to Charlton Park.


Township millage requests:

Barry Township asks for renewal of 2 mills for fire protection, 2016-2019, which would raise an estimated $230,200 the first year,

And, renewal of 2 mills for police protection for 2016-2019 which would raise an estimated  $230,200 the first year.


Carlton Township asks for renewal of a full 1.5 mills for 4 years, 2016-2019, for fire protection raising an estimated $100,000 the first year, of which a portion will be disbursed to Freeport Fire Association, Woodland Fire Association and BIRCH Fire Department.



Castleton Township seeks a 1 mill renewal for emergency medical services for five years, 2017-2021, raising an estimated $61,178 the first year.

And, a renewal of .5 mills for five years, 2017-2021, for fire department housing and equipment, raising an estimated $30,589 the first year,

And, a renewal of .2 mills for five years, 2017-2021, for emergency medical housing and equipment, raising an estimated  $12,236 in the first year.


Freeport District Library asks for renewal of  a .5 mills for 10 years, 2017-2026, which will raise an estimated $88,700 in the first year.



Hope Township asks for renewal of 1 mill for fire protection and cemetery maintenance (.75 mill for fire and .25 mill for cemetery) for four years, 2016-2019, raising an estimated $124,622.29 the first year, 

And, renewal of  1 mill for four years, 2016-2019, for road repair, maintenance and operating expenses, which would raise an estimated $124,622.29 the first year.


Irving Township asks for renewal of 1.4804 mills for fire protection for four years, 2017-2020, which will raise an estimated $157,00 the first year to be disbursed all or in part to Freeport Rural Fire Association, BIRCH Fire Department and Thornapple Township Emergency Services.


Maple Grove Township requests renewal of 1 mill for four years, 2016-2019, for fire and ambulance department equipment, housing and operating which will raise an estimated $45,000 the first year.

And, renewal of 1 mill for four years, 2016-2019, to provide dust control and road maintenance, raising an estimated $45,000 the first year,

And, renewal of 1 mill for five years, 2017-2021, for emergency medical service raising an estimated $45,000 the first year.


Orangeville Township seeks renewal of 1.5 mills for road improvements from 2017 through 2020, raising an estimated $198,599 in the first year.


Thornapple Township asks for renewal of 1.5 mills, plus additional 0.2526 mills for a total of 1.75 for four years, 2016-2019, for fire protection, emergency services and equipment which will raise an estimated $472,000 the first year.


Putnam Library asks for 1 mill, of which .5 mills is a renewal and .5 is new additional millage, for 10 years to fund district library purposes, which will raise an estimated $106,606 the first year.


Martin Public Schools asks approval of a $17.6 million bond proposal for building and site purposes. Voters are advised that the full text of the proposal may be obtained at the school’s administrative offices.


Pennfield Schools ask for approval of an $8.2 million bond proposal for building and site purposes. Voters are advised that the full text of the proposal may be obtained at the school’s administrative offices.


NOTE: Some townships are asking voters to approve restoring the Headlee Amendment reduction, as well as the renewal, thus bringing the millage up to the amount stated on the ballot.


Aldi Store

Construction on a new Aldi Grocery Store in Hastings got underway this past week as  equipment was moved in to begin work on the new discount grocery chain.

The store location in Hastings is west state street and cook road.

Aldi has more than 1,500 stores across 34 state including Michigan.

Like Trader joe's, Aldi's offers mainly its own private-label brands.


Just a short distance west construction on a new Family Dollar Tree seems to be moving along nicely.

And no additional information on what will be developed at a former used car center at the junction of west M-37/M-43 near Tractor Supply.

Nashville area man charged with criminal sexual conduct

A Barry County Sheriff’s Office investigation of a criminal complaint involving the distribution of child sexually abusive material has led to the arrest of Cody Patrick-Michael Hagon, 25, of the Nashville area.


The investigation revealed that a sexually abusive image was sent to an acquaintance of Hagons in East Lansing. Subsequently, a criminal complaint was filed in Barry County, where Hagon lives.


Further information was uncovered that suggested Hagon engaged in sexual contact with a second minor child from Hastings. He is charged with criminal sexual conduct, distribution of child sexually abusive material and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.


Authorities are concerned that Hagon, who works in Battle Creek, may have other instances of criminal sexual behavior that are still unreported.  Anyone with information that may be pertinent to the case, or that might suggest Hagon was involved with other victims, should report that information to Detective Jeff Nieuwenhuis at 269-948-4801.


Photo: Cody Patrick-Michael Hagon


Barry County 911 dispatcher recognized for using Smart 911 to aid woman calling for help

Barry Central Dispatch 911 dispatcher Erik Godbey was recognized for his outstanding effort to aid a citizen using Smart911, the county’s enhanced 911 service. Director Phyllis Fuller presented Godbey with the ‘SmartSave Award,’ that honors 911 dispatchers for dedication and excellence while responding to a citizen emergency. 


On June 1, Godbey received an abandoned 9-1-1 call from a mobile phone. When his attempt to call back went to voice mail, he texted the caller through Smart911Chat.  After minutes of silence, the caller responded and confirmed that she needed help. She said her husband had been drinking and was becoming violent.  When Godbey asked if he could try calling again, she insisted they continue communicating via text for her safety.


The 911 team, Michelle James, Kristina Beach, Scott Putnam and Godbey worked together to get the woman’s location, and deputies were immediately dispatched to the scene and removed the intoxicated man from the home.


 “This is a great example of how Smart911 delivers more tools to ensure residents are getting the help they need.” Fuller said. “The ability to use Smart911 helped in two ways, first to provide location information quickly, and second, to gain knowledge as the situation progressed so officers responding were aware the male subject could be easily agitated.”


The entire 9-1-1 team will be treated to a pizza party on July 22, courtesy of Smart911.


Smart911 is a national service available to all residents and travelers in Barry County that provides the option to create a free Safety Profile for one’s household, including any information they want 9-1-1 and first responders to have in the event of an emergency.


Their profile will immediately display on a 9-1-1 dispatcher’s screen if the individual makes an emergency call.  Residents are encouraged to create a free Safety Profile at The information is kept private and secure, and becomes available only to emergency responders when 9-1-1 is dialed.






Photo (top) Dispatcher Erik Godbey.


Photo (bottom) The 911 team, from left, dispatchers Kristina Beach, Michelle James, Godbey and Scott Putnam.



Barry County Courthouse security improvements sent back to the drawing board

Barry County Commissioners will get new cost estimates, time lines and drawings for security improvements at the Barry County Courthouse.


Bob Van Putten, architect/owner of Landmark Design Group was at the July 19  committee of the whole meeting to offer commissioners changes to consider. After discussion and questions, the commission decided to defer work on the entrance area; the new parking lot, storm drainage system, canopy and decorative screen wall, that would save $147,000.


The estimates and drawings will include increased security inside the first floor, the second floor and the circuit courtroom, and be ready by next week.  Beckering Construction will provide estimates for two separate holding cells; one each for men and women; separate halls for court staff and prisoners, limiting public access to the judicial area, installing a window between court staff and the public, adding a prisoner/attorney conference room and a private entry to the judicial bathroom.


Commissioners are also considering county building and grounds employees doing some of the inside courtroom work; moving the jury box to the other side of the room, installing a new judge’s bench, replacing existing seats with benches, and moving witness, clerk and jury areas to meet Michigan Courthouse Planning Standards and barrier free accessibility.  Building and Grounds Director Tim Neeb will supply those figures. //


Original plans called for two holding cells, one each for men and women; separate halls so court staff and prisoners do not share a walkway, relocating screening and improvements to the lower level entrance for a total cost of $300,000.


On July 5, Van Putten offered revisions to the second floor and circuit courtroom plans to increase security after months of discussions with Judge Amy McDowell, Barry County Deputy Gary Pearson, and County Administrator Michael Brown.


The revised plans included limiting public access to the judicial area, installing a window between court staff and the public; adding a prisoner/attorney conference room and providing private access to the judicial bathroom more separation of prisoner, jury and court staff by installing a new judge's bench, replacing the seats with benches and other smaller changes that would increase the price to $456,000.


Some commissioners wanted to go ahead on July 5 with the expanded plan; others did not. They moved the issue to this week for more study.


Also Tuesday, the commission appointed Commissioner Vivian Conner as Officer Delegate and Commissioner Ben Geiger as Officer Delegate Alternate to the Municipal Employee Retirement System 2016 annual meeting. County employees voted by secret ballot to send Jeffrey Nieuwenhuis as Employee Delegate with Karen Barns as Employee Delegate Alternate. The meeting offers municipalities continuing education on their pension systems and to elect board members, Brown said.


In other business, the commissioners recommend approval of:

*  the 2017-2019 Region 3B Area Agency on Aging proposed plan with goals, services and funding for older adults in Barry and Calhoun counties. CEO Karla Fales gave a presentation with the details. The plan will be submitted to the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging for final approval by the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging.


* a request by Jan McLean, executive director of Barry County Mental Health Authority, that  the commission support a resolution in support of the national program,  the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail. Additional funds for jail diversion initiatives are tied to support from the commission, McLean said.

Jail Diversion Program Manager Ashley James provided data and answered questions about the program.


* the state emergency management performance grant agreement to pay $31,454 of Barry County Emergency Management Director Jim Yarger’s salary and benefits. Yarger said the work agreement for the grant is signed and all grant requirements are up to date.


* a second request from Yarger to approve the county as the sub-grantee for Region 5 Michigan Technical Rescue Team equipment and training purchases for $65,000 during the grant period of fiscal year 2015.


* the Barry County Trial Court to replace a 2009 Dodge Caravan with a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan through Mi-DEAL for $23,048. The capital budget allows $20,000 for replacement of the van; the budget will be amended to cover the difference of $1,048.



UPDATE Police release names in fatal crash in Grattan Township

UPDATE: The Kent County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of those in a one-vehicle fatal traffic crash in Grattan Township on July 15. They are the driver of the vehicle, Mara Kay Moore, 46, from Clarksville; her passengers, Makayla Rochelle Cefalu, 19, from Lakeland Florida, who died in the crash; Rosa Lee Moore-Cox, 20, from Clarksville;  Haley Marie Tomlinson, 6, from Hastings; Hunter Lee Tomlinson, 8, from Hastings; and Dixie Lynn Tomlinson, eight months, from Clarksville.

Deputies report Moore, Moore-Cox and the three children suffered minor injuries and were transported to Spectrum Health Butterworth in Grand Rapids by Rockford Ambulance.


ORIGINAL STORY: The Kent County Sheriff’s Department will not release the names of those involved in a one-car crash July 15 where a 19-year-old Florida woman died until all families have been notified. Deputies responded to the scene at 6457 Gavin Lake Ave N.E. in Grattan Township at about 4:30 p.m. where a Chevrolet Blazer driven by a 46-year-old Clarksville woman crashed into a tree.


Officials said there were five other passengers in the vehicle; the woman from Florida, a 21-year-old woman and three children, ages one, seven and 11, all from Clarksville. The 21-year-old sustained non-life threatening injuries and all three children were treated for minor injuries and released from Spectrum Health Butterworth in Grand Rapids.


The crash is still under investigation. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

Nashville woman seeks to win 2016 Miss You Can Do It title

Jennifer Curtis, 27, from Nashville, is working on a dream and needs a little help to get there. Jennifer has cerebral palsy and has already proved you can achieve almost anything if you are willing to work hard for it. She graduated from Maple Valley High School in 2008 and earned an Associate’s degree from Lansing Community College.

Jennifer works full time for Peckham in Lansing as a call center agent for the Defense Logistics Agency, taking phone calls from military and government personnel, helping them order their supplies. She lives on a small hobby farm near Nashville with her parents.  

  Jennifer Curtis


Jennifer is seeking donations to try to raise $1,500 by July 25 so she can compete in the National Miss You Can Do It Pageant  on July 30 at the Civic Center in Peoria, IL.


The Miss You Can Do It Pageant is for girls and women with various disabilities. Jennifer hopes to compete in the People's Choice Awards category with the goal of winning the title.

She is collecting funds through Gofundme or by gifts to her home address.  

Gofundme’s website is: Her address is 10581 East M-79, Nashville, MI 49073. Checks can be made payable to Jennifer Curtis. //


Jennifer has a psychiatric service dog Icey, a 5-year-old whippet, who helps her handle anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder, and would travel to the pageant with her.  

“She and I have been working together for almost a year. She has allowed me to find independence to achieve dreams like traveling by myself or overcome anxiety of being at the pageant and competing.”


The contestants compete in Private Interview, Casual Wear, Formal Wear, On Stage Question, People’s Choice Awards, Congeniality or Photogenic competitions. On pageant day, each girl gets to feel like a princess, getting hair and make-up done before the pageant, meeting Disney’s Cinderella, receiving cool gift bags and being escorted onto the stage by gentlemen in tuxedos, she said.


If she wins? She wants to be a keynote speaker to mentor and encourage other individuals, with and without disabilities, to reach for their dreams. “If you have a dream that you truly want to achieve there is almost always a way to accomplish your goals if you work hard enough,” she said.  Winning 2016 Miss You Can Do It would open up many doors to her, putting her in the position to be a keynote speaker.


If she loses? “Losing is always very hard whether it’s in a pageant, sports competition or a job interview.  This year will be my fourth year competing in the pageant and I have not won yet. After each pageant I have taken time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses to help me find that extra spark that will push me to the top next year. After having experienced three previous pageants, I believe that 2016 will be my best year yet.”


Civil War Muster at Historic Charlton Park July 16-17

Historic Charlton Park hosts its annual Civil War Muster July 16 and17 with interpreters and craftsmen in the village with demonstrations, a lantern tour of the village, live music and dancing and cannons firing over the Thornapple River.  Battle reenactments will take place at High Meadow on Saturday and in the village on Sunday.


There will also be infantry, cavalry, medical and artillery demonstrations. A pancake breakfast is 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday and a food vendor will be onsite. Sutler's Row vendors offer reproduction and handmade civil war-era goods, clothing and toys. Sunday morning, the Carlton Center Church will host a traditional worship service.


General admission is $6 for those 13 and up; $4 for children five to 12 and free for children four and under. For specific events and times, visit







Photo: A confederate charge is reenacted on the village green at an earlier Civil War Muster at Charlton Park.

Missing Man Found Dead in Barry County


A South Haven man identified as 39 year old Matthew Ahmed Morin  was found dead Tuesday in Barry County. He had  not been seen since the weekend

Morin's body was found on Pine Lake road in Delton.

Police say a person of interest is in custody on unrelated charges. However some residents who live on Pine Lake road told WBCH News they are still concerned for their safety even though that person of interest is in jail. 

Morins death remains under investigation by South Haven Police and the Michigan State Police.

Barry County political debates, part one, County Commission

A debate by Barry County politician’s running for elected office filled the community room at the COA July 12 with potential voters. This part is on county commissioners, other segments are on the county clerk and drain commissioners.


Those running for offices that had contests, the county commission, drain commissioner and county clerk answered questions from moderator and host Fred Jacobs, CEO of J-Ad Graphics.

A brief introduction by the candidates was followed by questions from Jacobs and closing comments from each candidate. There would not be enough time for questions from the audience in the roughly two hour meeting, Jacobs said.


Incumbent Ben Geiger and Bob Vanderboegh are running in District 5, Dan Parker and Nick Wake are competing in District 2 and Incumbent Howard Gibson and Jerry Sarver are running in District 1. Wake and Gibson were not at the debate. Gibson suffered a fall last week and was unable to attend.


During introductions, Geiger said he’s a lifelong native of Hastings who wants to improve county government and streamline county on-line services. Opponent Vanderboegh points to a lifetime of experience in business, subdivision development and housing. He is on the county planning and housing commissions.


Parker has served on the commission for one term, was on the TK Board of education for 12 years, Middleville Planning Commission for eight and said he works well with a team approach.

Sarver has lived in Hastings for 50 years, was a Hastings police officer for 33 years, and chief for 25, before he retired and works part time in substance abuse prevention.


Asked about any issues with the commission, Sarver sees a shortfall in communication from the commission, and is concerned that TOST may not in the best interests of the people. Vanderboegh said his issue is the TOST regulation of the local health department, and the commissioners who approved it in 2007 violated the U.S. Constitution.


Geiger called for continuing to pay down the county’s pension debt, now at $15 million, and enhancing county on line services. Parker said commissioners have good guide lines to follow with its facilities plan, hired MSUE financial experts for budget advice during the recession, and now need to work with each other as a team.


All four agreed courthouse security is the number one priority, especially in light of the shooting death of two courtroom bailiffs in St. Joseph. //


Sarver, Vanderboegh and Parker questioned the just released pay and classification study, with Sarver and Parker asking if Barry County employees pay and classifications were compared to a like county. Sarver said the comparison should consider population, property values and SEV with others and this one did not.


Vanderboegh agreed with Sarver. Parker asked, “Is it a true comparison or is it not?” He said commissioners need to ask questions and get to the bottom of things before acting.

Geiger was on the committee working with the company that supplied the study. “It’s really two reports… it is just data for commissioners to contemplate and decide where we want to be,” he said.

Barry County political debates, part two, County Clerk

A debate by Barry County politician’s running for elected office filled the community room at the COA July 12 with potential voters. This segment is on the county clerk’s post. Other parts cover the county commission and drain commissioner debates.


Incumbent Pam Palmer and Craig Stolsonburg are running for the clerk’s seat.

Palmer was employed by the Siegel Hudson law firm for 18 years and judicial secretary in Barry County Circuit Court for 19 years. She was appointed to fill out a retiring clerk’s term on Jan. 1, 2015. Being clerk is a huge learning experience and she still learns something every day, she said.


Stolsonburg was on the county board for eight years, chairman for five. A Realtor for 18 years, Stolsonburg said he has been in public service in civic organizations for many years, has wide experience in administrating budgets and people, and the necessary skills to lead by example.


Budgets, with increasing wages, benefits and decreasing income from state and local sources, is a concern for both candidates. Palmer said she got quotes for a new jury system, but could not justify the $60,000 to $72,000 expense for six or seven trials a year, instead, she found a company that would do the task for $1,700 a year.


Stolsonburg said the county board found dozens of ways to cut spending during the recent economic downturn; an example was going to the committee of the whole system and reducing commissioner’s pay from about $20,000 to $12,000. //


Digitizing county records is a goal for both; they agree it must be done one step at a time.


Palmer said with her law background she is a strong candidate for clerk. She likened the debates to a job interview to let people know more about her and she would appreciate their support at the polls.


Stolsonburg said he was “born to serve,” joining the Middleville Rotary in 2005 to give back. He never intended to go into politics but, “my hardworking nature and ability to see all sides to build consensus” makes him a good candidate. He pledged to, “put Barry County people first.”


Barry County political debates, part three, Drain Commissioner

A debate by Barry County politicians running for elected office filled the community room at the COA July 12 with potential voters. This segment is on the drain commissioner candidates, other parts are on clerk and drain commissioner candidates.


Incumbent Russ Yarger, Mark Doster and Jim Dull are running for the post.

Yarger, drain commissioner for almost eight years, said the commissioner’s work is complicated with extensive work with the public, an intercounty board making decisions on many issues, and the DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency providing rules and regulations local officials have to abide by.


Most of their work is repair of drains to reduce flooding and considering petitions for drain improvements from citizens. “It’s meetings and number crunching; and it’s going to get way worse with the EPA rules and regs,” Yarger said.


Doster, chair of the Southwest Barry County Sewer and Water Authority for 11 years, said he learned a lot while in that position; he would balance drain work with tourism and recreational interests and protection of the environment with erosion and storm water control.


Dull, an excavator since the early 1980s, said he works on an overall project by understanding of all the moving parts. “I deal with the DEQ, it’s a little slower, but typically they are easy to work with.” Daily hands on inspections to prevent mistakes by others and being accessible to the public are important, he said. //


All three said the public is part of the solution.

The public needs to know what is being done for the commission to be effective, and they need to “pull together,” Dull said.

Success “comes when you come up with a plan with people who have the same feelings,” Doster said.

“Any success was from people pushing you up from behind and pulling you up from above,” Yarger said.

Dull had the last word: “Any one of us would do a heck of a job for you. Vote”


Eaton County Deputies reverse two overdoses with Narcan

In the past week, Eaton County Sheriff’s Patrol deputies successfully resuscitated two overdose victims with Naloxone (Narcan) opiod drug overdose reversing kits.

In the early morning of July 9, a man in an apartment complex in Delta Township overdosed and was not breathing. Deputy Dan Anderson administered Narcan to the 22-year-old victim, who then began breathing on his own.


On July 5, Deputy Andrew Jenkins used a Narcan kit on another man, also in Delta Township, who was unconscious after taking unknown pills. He was also revived.  In both cases, the Delta Township Fire Department EMS took over emergency patient care upon arrival and transported the patients to the hospital.


“As the first emergency responders arriving at these scenes, our deputies again used their training and Narcan medication kits to reverse life threatening overdoses and I commend their quick actions to protect life,” Sheriff Tom Reich said.

Public comment biggest part of Barry County Commission meeting

With just two items of business and paying the bills, the July 12 Barry County Commission meeting had more public comment than county business.

Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor-Pratt said she is “absolutely heartbroken” by the recent shootings of police officers.

“I appreciate our law enforcement in our community, if they are on-duty, in administration, detectives or courthouse security; I want to publicly say how much loved and appreciated they are.”

Also, Nakfoor-Pratt said she has no opposition on Aug. 2, but she will be at the debate tonight and invited the public to see the other candidates who do have opposition explain why they should be elected instead of the other person. It’s a chance to ask and answer questions face to face, she said.


Also in public comment, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, choose the same venue where he announced he would not debate Robert Jordan in the run for sheriff after one of his supporters brought up a private medical issue about one of his family in a public forum. He said  he wanted to make it clear that he would not debate.

J-Ad Graphics scheduled a debate between him and Robert Jordan in late July.

 “No, I will not be doing a debate… I hate to put it so bluntly, but how many of you commissioners think Fred Jacobs would give me a fair shake?”


Also, John Resseguie issued the same challenge he gave the public at the Hastings City Council Monday. He has been active in the Barry County United Way’s Fresh food Initiative for some time and wants to make sure there is a turkey on every table for the needy at the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

So, he will match every dollar donated for the thanksgiving dinner up to $500. To answer his challenge, send donations to BCUW,  231 South Broadway, Hastings, 49058 with “turkey dinner” in the memo line.//


In county business, the commissioners approved the amended by-laws for the Barry County Agricultural Promotion Board, and an amendment to the Barry County Farmland Preservation Ordinance on membership of the promotion board.


Also, they authorized the Hastings City/Barry County Airport Commission to complete an extension to the runway at the Hastings City/Barry County Airport and amend the budget to increase the donations line item from zero to $763,500 to pay for the work. Hastings,  joint owner of the airport with the county, has already approved the change.


Hastings provides extra funds for veterans monument, construction to start first of August

The Hastings Veteran’s Memorial at the entrance to Tyden Park has an infusion of funds from the city and is on tract to get underway the first of August and completed close to the end of September.

A budget amendment to allow the city to add funds to make up a shortfall for the construction of the monument was approved by the council July 11.  The council approved the idea in May; amending the budget is required to account for the funds.


Mayor Frank Campbell said he will be raising funds through donations and expects they will increase when the project gets started and people can see the progress. The entire project will have an estimated value around $62,000 when done with the city putting up $26,000, Department of Public Service Director Lee Hays said.


A donation of $1,500 in seed money that was donated for earlier veteran’s project that didn’t get off the ground will go to the project. There are donations of $4,500 for materials and labor amounting to $28,200 for a total of $32,700. The city's $26,000 allocation includes city labor and equipment and project materials.


In other business, Deputy City Manager Jeff Pratt was asked to develop a policy on when to waive fees for use of city parks. Councilman Bill Redman asked for flexible rules. but with “a firm set of guidelines.” Typically, the registration fee is waived when requested by applicants, usually non-profits, but not clean up fees for larger groups. Mansfield suggested requiring a deposit for the clean up to be refunded if the city doesn’t need city employees to do the work.


Redman also spoke during council comment, stressing that the council was not, “throwing dirt in the face” of Larry Baum. After the refusal of the council to permit the sale of alcohol at events at the Thornapple Plaza, the city’s latest entertainment venue funded by the Baum Family Foundation, Larry Baum made that remark to a reporter.


“No one on this board intended that,” Redman said. “It was not a vote against the Larry or Earlene Baum or the Baum Family Foundation.” Redman said he wanted to make it very clear that the denial to sell alcohol was not a vote against Baum or his family, but in response to the council’s constituent’s desires.


Jean Gallup

Hastings mayor urges working together to stop violence against police officers

Mayor Frank Campbell read the following message to the community before Mthe July 11 Hastings City Council meeting:

“As you are aware, this past Thursday night a gunman in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded seven others. And, now today, we have leaned that two additional law enforcement officers in Berrien County were cruelly gunned down by an inmate at the Berrien County Courthouse right here in our own back yard in St. Joseph, Michigan.

“We cannot and must not let the sacrifice made by these brave officers go unnoticed. Our hearts break for the families of these courageous individuals who must now go on without those they loved so dearly. Those engaged in law enforcement here in Hastings and across the country put their lives on the line each and every day.


“They do so without regard for their own personal safety, bravely placing themselves in harm’s way whenever they are called to do so. Pease join me in recognizing their efforts in making this world a better place for all of us to live.

“Please take the time to say thank you when you see them on the streets and to acknowledge their service to our country and our community. Let’s all work together to make sure that the tragic events in Dallas, St. Joseph and elsewhere come to an end.” Campbell led a minute of silence to honor the fallen officers and members of their families.


In city business, Public Service Director Lee Hays told the council that Andre Randal is the new Utilities Superintendent for the city water and wastewater plants with Mead and Hunt replacing Casey Rose/George Holzworth.

Randal, who started on July 5, worked for the City of Lyons for 20 years and has the licenses required for the operation of both facilities. He and his family will relocate to Hastings.//


The council had a first reading of an ordinance that would allow first floor residential units in the rear of buildings State Street B-1 Downtown Business District with some conditions.

And another first reading of an ordinance changing zoning of a parcel of land at the Hastings Country Club, 1550 North Broadway, from single family residential (R-1) and residential suburban (R-S) to B-2 commercial to be sold for commercial development. The Planning Commission has recommended denying the change. Both ordinances will be brought up for action at the next council meeting.


The council also approved:

* Michigan Avenue Church of Christ using the Tyden Park pavilion for a worship service and family picnic on Aug. 7. with about 30 attending, and waive the fees.


* Barry County Road Commission holding a company picnic at Bob King Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 4 or 5 and waive the fees.


* a request from Renae Feldpausch to use city-owned green space behind the old city hall for a one hour at 3:30 p.m. performance by a traveling Theatre Troupe Aug. 27, during Summerfest. She will coordinate the activity with the Barry County and Summerfest Committee.


* a YMCA request to use of Fish Hatchery ball fields Friday nights in September and October for men’s and coed fall softball games, and also permission for another group to hold a softball tournament on Aug. 6 at the park.


* a request from Dairy Queen owner Tyler Guernsey to hold a one mile fun run fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network on July 28 which will occur mainly in Fish Hatchery Park.



Information sought on Ionia County cold case

The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information from the public to help solve a cold case from 2002.

Sunday, June 16, 2002 at about 10:15 p.m., a hit and run fatality occurred in Berlin Township. Gordon W Cozat,70, of Coleman, was stopped on Jordan Lake Road south of the intersection of West David Highway attempting to get directions from a vehicle that was stopped directly behind him.


As he was standing at the driver’s window speaking with the driver, Cozat was stuck and subsequently killed, by a northbound vehicle, described as a “light” colored 1994-2000 GMC truck, Yukon or Chevrolet Suburban. After the truck struck Cozat, it was last seen traveling westbound toward the Village of Saranac on West David Highway at a high rate of speed.  The fleeing truck would have had minimal damage to the right front of the vehicle, with a missing or broken right front marker light.


Since the time of the crash very few leads have been generated on the case. The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office is urging anyone with information on the case to contact Detective Brent Denny at 616-527-5737 or Silent Observer at 616-527-0107. A $5000 reward is being offered leading to the arrest and prosecution of the driver.











More Parking for Thornapple Plaza Coming Soon.

More parking is coming soon to the Thornapple Plaza as a local citizen is looking to purchase Hastings Manufacturing warehouse 80 and turn it into a parking area next to a nearby walking bridge.

One individual who lives near the warehouse told WBCH News he is concerned about the environmental issues of the building and what will be done to protect  area citizens when the warehouse  is demolished. 

In talking with Hastings City Manager Jeff Mansfield, he told WBCH News, before the building is taken down environmental specialists, health officials and all working on the project will make sure it is done safely.

Right now the invironmental studies are being done.



Man, girlfriend faced with assault with intent to commit murder, kidnapping and more

The man and woman suspected in the kidnapping and assault with intent to commit murder of his mother are in Barry County Jail, and face several charges, the Barry County Sheriff’s Office reports.  Corey Louis Wagner, 27, and Tiffany Chanthavong, 21, were extradited to Barry County from Winnebago County Jail in Rockford, Illinois.


Wagner and Chanthavong are both charged with Assault with Intent to Commit Murder, Kidnapping, Extortion, Motor Vehicle Theft and Credit Card Fraud with bonds set at $800,000, according to a news release.

The situation began at 8405 Huff Road in Assyria Township on July 4 when Wagner asked his mother for money so he and Chanthavong could leave the state to get away from problems with the law in Michigan.


When his mother refused, police allege that Wagner and Chanthavong severely beat her, threatened her with a knife, bound her with duct tape, tied her to a chair and locked her in a bathroom, taking her car and credit card when they fled. The 66 year-old woman was eventually able to call 911 for help. She was transported to Bronson Battle Creek Hospital.

The couple was arrested by Rockford, Illinois police on July 5 and the vehicle recovered.

Photos: Corey Wagner, (top) and Tiffany Chanthavong.


Public invited to watch Barry County office seekers debate

A chance to see the candidates for Barry County Commission, Clerk and Drain Commissioner and hear what they will work to do if they are elected, will be Tuesday, July 12 at 7 p.m. at the Commission on Aging,  320 Woodlawn in Hastings.


There are three commission seats contested; District 1: incumbent Howard Gibson versus Jerry Sarver; District 2: Dan Parker versus Nick Wake and District 5: incumbent Ben Geiger versus Bob Vanderboegh.

The other commission seats have no challengers. They are David Jackson, District 3; Jon Smelker, District 4; Vivian Conner, District 6; and Heather Wing, District 7.


The clerk’s position is a race between incumbent Pam Palmer and Craig Stolsonburg. The drain commissioner’s post is a three-way contest with incumbent Russ Yarger, Mark Doster and Jim Dull.


The debate is hosted by J-Ad Graphics and moderated by CEO Fred Jacobs. A second debate with the candidates for sheriff, incumbent Dar Leaf and challenger Bob Jordan, is planned for July 26 at 7 p.m. at the COA.

Middleville man injured in motorcycle crash in Rutland Township

A 47-year-old Middleville man was airlifted by Aeromed to an area hospital after he lost control of his 2014 Indian motorcycle and crashed in Rutland Township at about 11 p.m. on July 8.

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office reports the crash remains under investigation, but preliminary findings indicate the man was traveling northbound on Whitmore Road, south of Upton Road when he lost control of his bike and crashed in the roadway.


He was not wearing a helmet; it is unknown at this time if alcohol, drugs or speed were factors in the crash. The man’s condition is unknown. His name is being withheld. Michigan State Police/Wayland Post, Hastings Fire Department, Mercy Ambulance, Aeromed and Barry County Dispatch 911 assisted deputies.









Get ready to Make some Memories at the Barry County Fair

This year’s Barry County Fair, July 18 through 23, has the theme “Making Memories at the Barry County Fair”

Attractions include the midway rides, barns full of animals and kids, a wide variety of food vendors, horse drawn wagon rides, antique tractor parades and grandstand shows including a mud run, off road derby, tractor pulls, professional rodeo, motocross, and a figure-8 and demolition derby


Kids will enjoy Farmer John’s barnyard show, the pig races, Barnyard Express, the Animal Oasis, birthing tent, and much more. Free entertainment is presented in the community tent: a youth talent show, the Veteran’s and Senior Day brunch, Ladies Day and musical acts,  Be sure to take in the 4-H small animal, horse, and livestock judging, and the non-livestock displays in the Expo Center.


July 16 and July 17, mini-horse pulls, harness racing and draft horse pulls are free events. Improvements include asphalt paving from the Expo Center to the horse barn. 

It all happens at the Barry Expo Center, 1305 North M-37 Highway. For a complete listing of special offers, events and times, visit











(upper left) Horse drawn wagon rides are the easy way to take in the sights of the fair.

(lower left) Kids love to be scared on the midway rides.




Look for bulldozers soon at the Aldi site in Hastings

All of the pieces to be taken care of before Aldi could bring its store to Hastings were done systematically by the numbers with nothing skipped, Hastings Charter Township Supervisor Jim Brown said. The new store will be at the former location of the Chrysler dealership on M-37/M-43.


The approximately 76-acre piece of property with the car dealership in front, and wedged between the City of Hastings and Rutland Township, was in Hastings Charter Township for many years. When offering the property to the city, Brown said it was a mistake made years ago that had never been corrected.


In a complicated series of agreements for the transfer, sale of part of the property that was privately owned,  provisions to provide city services, deeds, documents and other legal steps, the property was donated to the city. Hastings will provide city services to Aldi and the property taxes Aldi pays will be shared with Hastings Township, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


“Everyone wanted this to happen. We laid it out so everything went smoothly; some things can’t be done out of sequence,” Brown said. However, sometimes they could get "ahead of the curve," doing the surveys and environmental study and getting the site plan tentatively approved while paperwork was being drawn up and signed.

It has taken time and cooperation from several units of government to finalize all of the issues, but Brown is confident that Aldi will be turning dirt by the first part of August.

 “I can almost hear the bulldozers,” he said.

County Commissioner Gibson comes to meeting despite broken pelvis

Barry County Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson got an emotional message from his son Brian Gibson at the Tuesday commission meeting. Hoot Gibson, who attended the meeting in a wheelchair, took a fall down a dozen steps breaking his pelvis while campaigning to retain his seat.

Brian Gibson said his dad was named after the old-time cowboy star Hoot Gibson, and was a strong as his namesake, who John Wayne once called, “the toughest man I’ve ever seen.”


Brian said he was proud of his dad, commending him for his 12 years on the county commission, his strength, wisdom and leadership. His father showed "True Grit" and caring while at his bedside when he was deathly ill, Brian said. “He’s my hero.”


In regular business, the committee of the whole recommended:

* approval to amend the bylaws of the Agriculture Promotion Board to better align with the ordinance, and to amend Section 4 of the Barry County Farmland Preservation Ordinance to make all members of the promotion board voting members.


* approval of a City of Hastings Barry County Airport runway extension and amend its budget to allow a donation of $767,000 to pay for the extension. The city and county jointly operate the airport. The Hastings City Council has approved the change.


Photo: Commissioner Howard "Hoot" Gibson


Death of Eaton County man, 78, investigated as a homicide

Eaton County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating the apparent homicide of John Abraham, 78, of Oakcrest Drive in Delta Township. A family member reported finding Abraham unconscious and not breathing with an apparent injury on July 5 about 8 p.m.


 Deputies who responded to the EMS assist call, notified sheriff’s detectives when they learned that Abraham was deceased. The Michigan State Police crime lab assisted Eaton County detectives and crime scene investigators. No further details can be released at this time.


Anyone with information related to this incident should contact D/Sgt. Josh Ivey at 517-543-3512 extension 5447.


Red Cross issues emergency call for blood and platelet donations

The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelets, urging all eligible donors to give now to replenish an extremely low summer blood supply.  "Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which is why we are making this emergency request for donations," said Todd Kulman, External Communications Manager of the Great Lakes Blood Services Region.  "Donations are urgently needed now to meet the needs of hospital patients in the coming days and weeks.  If you've thought about giving blood and helping to save lives, now is the time to do it.  It's the blood donations on the shelves that help save lives when an emergency occurs."  To schedule an appointment to doante, use the free Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-733-2767.  The Red Cross is extending hours at many donation sites to allow for more donors to make an appointment and give.  Upcoming Blood Donation Opportunities: 

July 7th in Nashville, 12pm -5:45pm, Grace Community Church,8950 East M-79hwy.

July 12th 12pm -5:45pm at Ionia Center, 250 E. Tuttle, July 18th at 10am-3:45pm Ionia Fairgrounds, 317 s. Dexter Street.  July 25th 12:30-6:15pm Saranac, St. Anthony's Church 3070 David Hwy.

Barry Conservation District offers confidential, free testing of personal well water

The Barry Conservation District will screen private water well samples if they are dropped off at the Ionia Conservation District office, 1611 South Hanover Street in  Hastings on July 15 from  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There is no fee for the service and all results are confidential. The screening is open to everyone who uses a personal well for drinking water. A one-ounce sample of water in any small, clean jar is sufficient.


To collect a good water sample:

* Collect samples just before bringing them to drop-off. Samples must be less than 48 hours old for a valid nitrate test. 
* Fill out the water sample information sheet. The form will be available when samples are dropped off. A printable form is available at
* Pick a tap that supplies water that has not run through any treatment devices (water softener, carbon filter, etc.). An outdoor faucet often works well. 
* Run the water for 20 to 30 minutes before collecting the sample to give the pump time to flush the water pressure tank and plumbing so you can collect a valid sample. Disconnect any hoses before collecting the sample; do not sample through a hose. Rinse the sample bottle and lid thoroughly in the water to be sampled, and then fill and cap the bottle. 
* Using a waterproof pen, label the bottle clearly with your name, sampling date and well name (cottage well, mom's well ). Put the sample information sheet into a waterproof bag, and then seal the water sample and the information page into a second waterproof bag. 
* Keep the sample dark and cold, on ice or refrigerated, until it is dropped off. //

There is a limit of three samples per household.  Participants will be mailed a copy of results in eight to 10 weeks, with information on what they can do if the concentration of nitrate or nitrite is too high. 

The service is for private drinking water wells only. Do not bring samples from public water supplies as these are already tested regularly, or non-drinking water sources.

Major sources of high nitrate levels are runoff or leaching from fertilizer use, sewage leaking from septic tanks and erosion of natural deposits in the aquifer. When high nitrates enter the blood, its ability to carry oxygen can be severely and negatively impacted. This condition can be especially dangerous in young babies less than 6 months old, pregnant women and those with conditions that impact their blood’s ability to carry oxygen


For more information, or copies of submission forms, contact the Barry Conservation District at (269) 908-4135.


45th celebration of antique iron at Charlton Park July 8-9

The Charlton Park Gas & Steam Engine Club hosts its 45th annual Gas & Steam Engine Show on July 8 and 9 from 9 a.m. to dusk. Displays of tractors, stationary engines, steam engines, farm machinery, the 1884 Westinghouse Traction Engine and other rare antiques are planned.


A garden tractor pull is Friday. A pancake breakfast, farm tractor pull, kid’s pedal pull and ice cream giveaway and the Park’s Historic Village is staffed with volunteers, all on Saturday.

Look for food vendors, tractor parades, a swap meet, tractor and steam engine games and a flea market on both days; a spark show will be both evenings at dusk. The park’s 1895 Corley Sawmill is in operation during the event. 


Registration and camping is still available for vendors and exhibitors. Admission is $6 for those 13 and up, $4 for children five to 12 and free for kids four and under.

Charlton Park is at 2545 South Charlton Park Road. For all the events and times, visit, or Facebook.


Photo: Walt Eavey, of Middleville (upper left) takes part in the 2015 tractor pull at Charlton Park


Barry County Courthouse may get more security than first planned

Barry County Commissioners will take a closer look at proposed changes in the original plans to expand Barry County Courthouse security after hearing changes advocated by the circuit court judge and county deputy.

Bob Van Putten, architect/owner of Landmark Design Group was at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting to explain the proposed changes. After the original floor plans went to the county commission, other security issues were discussed with Judge Amy McDowell, Deputy Gary Pearson and County Administrator Michael Brown with an eye to more improvements to courtroom security, Van Putten said.


Originally, plans called for a holding cell for each sex, separate halls to keep judges and prisoners apart and to relocate security screening and improve the lower level public entrance. The estimated construction cost was $300,000.


The revised plans add improved separation between prisoners, juries and judicial staff; limited access to judicial areas with a window between staff and public; an attorney/prisoner conference room; a private entrance to the judge’s bathroom; moving the jury box across the room, a new judge's bench and replacing the seats with benches. The cost for the revised plans is $456,000.


Commissioner Jon Smelker said they should go ahead with more security. “If we're going to have a courtroom, we need security…if we have a shooter, you’re giving up two people right now." Commissioner David Jackson said they should do the work now to get the benefit of planning so they don’t have to come back in five years and spend much more for what they can get now for $1,500 more. //


“The courthouse is a beautiful old building built in 1892, but they didn’t have the problems we have now…we’ve taken training in court security. It’s a reality now. We plan for the future to be prepared,” Pearson said.


Commissioner Jim Dull made a motion to make minimum improvements to just the circuit courtroom because the court may be moved into the Courts & Law building in the future. He withdrew his motion during discussion.


A new reconfigured parking space and storm water drainage system and decorative screen will cost an estimated $147,000; however the parking lot is not included in the initiative and is separately funded, Van Putten said. If the commission approves the revisions, he said they could do the preliminary work in a couple of months, and the circuit court would be relocated to the Community Room for three or four weeks while the improvements are being done.

Barry County Classification and Compensation study will take time to examine

Studying a massive comprehensive Position Classification and Compensation Program report and deciding what parts to implement and how to do it, or what parts not to use, will be decided by Barry County Commissioners much like the only way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.


The commissioners heard a 20-page report, leaving many questions to be answered by the 60-page full report with all the facts and figures to do with county’s employee classification and compensation, or pay, study.


Elliot R. Susseles, senior vice president at Segal Waters gave the results of the first study of compensation and classifications of Barry County employees since 1998 at the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday.

After an hour long presentation and questions from commissioners on the report, the consensus of the commission was to ask Administrator Michael Brown to compare some basic costs of the current pay structure and the new structure from the report and bring it to the next committee of the whole meeting in two weeks.


On total compensation, base pay, employer health benefits, social security participation and retirement plan contributions, Barry County’s market position is 87 percent of the overall market average. Ninety-five to 103 is considered competitive.


Susseles and Brown preferred not to talk specific figures, since much depends on many variables the commission will have to decide, what to implement, how to pay for it, possible union negotiations, consideration of other groups, and factors not known until the full report is studied.


Susseles did say to bring employee compensation up to 100 percent of market position would involve an employee pay hike of 20 percent on average. Brown said that the cost of employee pay increases would be $600,000 a year, without taking into account health insurance, pensions and other benefits. //


Reclassification involved seeing if titles and descriptions of 89 job titles covering 216 employees was accurate and consistent with similar positions: Segal Waters found descriptions of responsibilities were outdated, not reflecting the real nature or level of responsibilities and with inequities between similar positions in the county.


The report includes new classifications, based on equity and requirements of today’s employees.The compensation study measured overall pay and benefits of county employees and compared them with similar positions in the public and private sector in West Michigan:

They found that Barry County’s pay is lagging behind the market average at the minimum, midpoint and long range maximums, Susseles said.


Commissioner Ben Geiger said the study presented by Segal Waters has two of the most through, in-depth studies that the county has ever taken part in and are a road map to promote internal fairness and competitiveness in employee pay.  However, the studies are not recommendations, they are tools to make decisions. The board will have to carefully consider employee pay that does not jeopardize the financial health of the county, he said.


Questions from commissioners included if comparing taxable values of property of Barry County with the other units such as richer Kent County and Kentwood was used; Commissioner Jim Dull was told that it was.


Other questions included about comparing Barry County’s average income of $52,186 with the others; how county employee wages compared to other county residents; if it was known how accurate the presented figures from other sources were; why the percentage of time needed for each task in a classification was not included and how the report would handle the funding of increases.

An intangible that can’t be measured was brought up by Commissioner David Jackson; if Barry County residents would want to commute to work in surrounding counties, even with more money but losing time with their families. Dull brought up what Brown said at his last evaluation and raise. He did not take all of the raise offered because the budget was tight, Barry County was his home and he was happy to work and live here.


The study compared Barry County figures with those in Kent, Ionia, Eaton, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Cass, Montcalm and St. Joseph counties, the cities of Kalamazoo and Kentwood, private companies and three non-profits.





Campaign Signs being stolen caught on video

The Michigan State Police are looking for the individuals involved in stealing a Robert Jordan Campaign Sign taken from 7100 Whitneyville road Middleville. Jordan  is running for Barry County Sheriff on the August 2nd primary ballot.  Several of the Jordan signs have been taken from throughout Barry County.

A video is available on the  Facebook website "Not So Silent Observer" of the sign being taken.

If you have information that will assists the State Police contact Trooper Brian Roderick or Detective Sgt. Terry Klotz at 269-948-1906.



Golf Shipley

Hastings Golfer Gabrielle Shipley failed to make the cut on saturday playing in the Symetra Tullymore  Golf Classic at Canadian lakes.   Shipley shot a 74 both Friday and Saturday ending up at plus 4.

The three day tournament ends Sunday.


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