Local News Archives for 2016-09

Barry County Sheriff Office lobby closed during new floor installation

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office lobby will be closed from Tuesday, Sept 27 through Friday, Sept 30 while a new floor is being installed. Visitations will be suspended for the rest of the week.

Those seeking gun permits are asked to mail in the applications or come in Monday, Oct. 3.


Barry County Commissioners veto look at TOST by an attorney

The Barry County Commission Sept. 20 voted 3 to 2 against Commissioner Jim Dull’s request for an attorney’s opinion on the Barry Eaton District Health Department regulation on time of sale of transfer, or TOST. Dull asked for a legal opinion from county Attorney David Stoker, from Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, to determine if the commission can exempt Barry County from the Barry Eaton District Health Department TOST regulation and also to determine the process for the county to withdraw from the joint health department.

Dull’s request is the first call from a commissioner for separating Eaton and Barry County in the administration of the health department.


TOST calls for on-site water and sewer system inspection by health department certified evaluators at the time of sale of transfer of a property in both counties and repair or replacements are ordered if a system is found deficient.


Commissioners Craig Stolsonburg, Jon Smelker and Ben Geiger spoke against it and voted “no,” Commissioners Dull and Howard Gibson voted “yes,” with Commissioners David Jackson and Vivian Conner absent.


Dull said despite resolutions calling for rescinding the ordinance by the Barry County Farm Bureau and veterans’ and Republican groups, “nothing has been done.”

Basic health department information has never been explained, conflicting and incomplete information from health department officials on how budgets are determined and how the affiliation was formed all need to be answered, he said.


“This is good start to figure out answers to questions…but we stick our heads in the sand. No one has done anything, no one makes a motion or anything…they asked us to do something and we just sit on our thumbs and say we don’t know.”


Geiger objected to the request, saying it was a waste of money and the way to handle any problems lies in working with the department. Stolsonburg said the regulation has recently been improved with easing of the rules. “They recognize that not all septic tanks with a leak need to be replaced….”


Smelker said commissioners had not done their due diligence and advised them, “to get the paperwork and study it on our own” before involving an attorney.


Citizen Larry Bass, a frequent critic of TOST, said commissioners should look at a group of counties in the Kalkaska area that have a similar regulation; of the 10 counties in the group, just two  mandate the regulations, the other eight leave it optional. He said TOST has caused financial and emotional distress to Barry County residents. “As a taxpayer, I feel we’re being taken advantage of.”


Barb Cichy, from Commission District 3, said: “If you can write and enforce ordinances, you can repeal it…you have all the figures and have had them for years. It didn’t do what you expected; just rescind it.” //



On July 1, 2014, health department Attorney John McGlinchy, who had researched the regulation at the commission’s request, reported that TOST can’t be easily changed or amended.

After hearing McGlinchy’s report, Dull said he got a lot of feedback from the public unhappy with TOST and asked for the okay to talk to county Attorney Dave Stoker to see if, “there is a way to get out of it.”  He wanted to rescind the regulation or make it optional.


Stolsonburg said the health department attorney had explained every option available, including how to rescind it or repeal it. “In my view, the regulation begins and ends with the board of health, period,” he said. “A major change to TOST would have to be voted first out of the board of health and ratified by the two counties, or to repeal TOST the same thing would have to happen…one county can’t opt out of a thing unilaterally.”


“I’m not in favor of bringing in a lawyer to give us answers to question we already know the answers to,” Geiger said in 2014.


“I know you said you were not in favor of TOST and Ben would like to restrict it and so would I, and yet no action has been brought up to the board of health,” Dull said to Stolsonburg.


Smelker said he appreciated Dull bringing it up because many of his constituents are not happy with TOST either and, “with three (Barry County) commissioners on that board, something will be done.”


Critics have long argued that health department officials sometimes ignored what its evaluators reported, the regulation is too expensive for residents and may be unconstitutional. The basic argument is that the health department exceeds the scope of the regulation with arbitrary and capricious decisions and forces replacement of existing systems producing clean water to bring all water and sewer systems up to present day standards.


Since 2007, when residents of Barry County complained of uneven and arbitrary enforcement, most Barry Commissioners said the program is a good rule with the right intent, but did say they were concerned about the costs and the administration of the rule that was sometimes questionable.


Some spoke against it.

In 2014, outgoing Commissioner Joyce Snow advised a review of the regulation which she said began as a way to promise clean water. “To my knowledge, to this date, there is no data to suggest that any activity of this regulation has provided any improvement in the public water supply,” she said.


In January, 2010, then Commissioner Joe Lyons, a registered TOST evaluator before he took his name off the BEDHD list, said the idea of the program is sound, but the fees are too high and evaluation results are unevenly applied.

“With fees for the inspection, testing fees, permit fees and funds put into escrow, if there is a failure and a new septic or water well is needed, the amount will be in the hundreds and could be up to thousands of dollars just for permits and fees,” he said.

The goal of TOST is not to bring all wells and septic up to today’s codes, he said, “but, if you have a stab well or shallow well--inch and a half or inch and a quarter--well, you can bet it’s going to be replaced.” 


The health department maintains the regulation protects the quality of water resources, on-site water supplies and the natural environment and protects the public health by providing an evaluation and maintenance program for sewer and water supply systems in Barry and Eaton County.


In July of  2015, in response to the feedback from the public, the evaluations were changed from pass/fail to: no action required, action required and action recommended. There was also a renewed emphasis on communication between the public and health officials.

BEDHD Health Officer Collette Scrimger told commissioners public response to the changes has been positive.


Utility assistance is still available from Barry County United Way

Don’t wait until it turns cold to get help with your electric bill or deliverable fuel.

If you are still struggling with a past due balance from last winter or are at 25 percent or below on your propane, there may be help available if you are a Barry County resident. MEAP utility assistance dollars are still available at Barry County United Way.


“We were fortunate to have been granted over $158,000 to assist with utility issues from the Michigan Energy Assistance Program,” Barry County United Way Program Coordinator Pattrick Jansens said. “To date we have assisted 180 households with $135,636 in energy assistance dollars but we still have more to expend by the end of September.”


To qualify, you must be at 150 percent of poverty or below; for a family of four, this generally means under $45,468.75 per year of earned income. As with many state grants, there is paperwork that is required by the state to qualify also, Jansens said. Driver’s license or photo ID for each adult over 18, Social Security Cards for each member of the household, a copy of the rental agreement or mortgage, verification of income and a completed MEAP application also must be submitted.


For more information, call Barry County United Way 269-945-4010.


Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil shows up in Kent County

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that its office has seen three cases over the past two weeks where heroin has likely contained the opiate carfentanil.

Carfentanil,10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is typically used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals.


“This substance could lead to tens-to-hundreds of overdoses in a short amount of time within

the same geographic region,” the release cautions. Administering Narcan, which is commonly known to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to someone that has ingested carfentanil may not be effective and additional doses may be required.


The sheriff’s office advises anyone who comes across an unknown substance and chemical to use extreme caution as people and animals can absorb carfentanil and fentanyl through skin contact, inhalation, oral exposure or ingestion.

Disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest, typically occur within minutes of exposure. Incidental contact with carfentanil, a Schedule II controlled opioid, can also be lethal.

Barry County United Way 2016 campaign, Day of Caring launched

Barry County United Way kickoff of the 2016 with the theme, “I Live United, Do You?” was a rousing event, with information about what a donation, even the cost of a cup of coffee a week, or a night out once a month, can do to help Barry County residents to a better quality of life.


“It doesn’t take a lot,” BCUW Executive Director Lani Forbes said. “We need to do it together, it takes a little from all of us.” This year’s goal is $600,000, which will equal last year’s efforts, which resulted in 79,609 requests through 36 programs. The goal set for businesses and corporations that have completed their campaign drives was $100,000. Forbes announced the goal was met and surpassed, realizing $102,325.


A centerpiece of the event was a stirring four-part performance of “Home of the Brave” by the Hastings High School Marching Band led by Director Spencer White. The prayer was delivered by Pastor Mark Payne; guest speaker was Wes Vanderwilk, a Thornapple Parks & Recreation volunteer. Immediately after the kickoff Sept. 15, hundreds of volunteers fanned out in the county for the

Day of Caring, assigned to work on a wide variety of community improvement projects.


Photo (top left) Guest speaker at the BCUW kickoff was Wes Vanderwilk, volunteer with the Thornapple Area Parks & Recreation Authority.



Replacing the grout at the entrance of the Lakeview Cemetery mausoleum in Nashville are volunteers (from left) Mike Lake, David Blair and Sally Ledbetter.











Day of Caring volunteer Neil Wendorf mans the power sprayer cleaning the approach to the Lakeview Cemetery mausoleum while fellow volunteers, Paul DunKlee scrubs with a brush and Brian Gordon supervises.








The Hastings High School Marching Band puts on an awesome performance of its four-part presentation of “Home of the Brave” at the United Way Campaign Kickoff.








A line of drummers facing the crowd at the BCUW Kickoff set a rousing tempo for the Hastings High School Marching Band’s performance.





Last Hastings crosswalk replacement to begin Sept. 20

The Hastings Department of Public Works crew is scheduled to start work on the last downtown crosswalk replacement Tuesday, Sept. 20. The road will be closed on the south side of the State/Jefferson street intersection until Sept. 26.


Scott Sprague named chairman of Gun Lake Tribe

Scott Sprague has been sworn in as chairman of the Tribal Council of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe).


“This is one of the proudest moments of my life not only because I am now the leader of a sovereign nation, but also because it’s a continuation of many generations of my family leading this Tribe,” Sprague said.

“I will work every day to move the Tribe forward, while also maintaining our commitment to being a first-class employer, and a responsible government-to-government partner with our counterparts at the federal, state and local levels.”


Sprague is married and the father of four, with four grandchildren. Born in Battle Creek and raised in Kalamazoo County, he is the son of Dick Sprague, a former council vice chairman.

Gun Lake Casino Facility Director since March 2012, Sprague managed the mechanical systems of the gaming and entertainment facility. He was previously elected to the Tribal Gaming Commission, served as council secretary since 2014, and sits on several tribal committees.//


Sprague has an AS in engineering technology, a BA in business management and MBA with a finance specialty. He spent 30 years as an engineer, senior buyer and project manager in the power industry which included management of multi-million dollar projects for an engineering company.


Two new members, Jeff Martin and Jodie Palmer were also sworn in to the council.

On August 23, the tribal electorate voted four individuals into office, which did not include the former chairperson, Leah Sprague-Fodor. The council, therefore, had to select a new chair to fill the position. Council members are: Chairman Scott Sprague, Vice Chairman Ed Pigeon, Treasurer Bob Peters, Secretary Jeff Martin, Phyllis Davis, Jennie Pearl Heeren and Jodie Palmer.


Photo: Gun Lake Tribal Chairman Scott Sprague


Barry County man arrested, charged with open murder

A 50-year-old Barry County man has been arrested and charged with open murder, according to the Barry County Sheriff’s Office. On Sept. 12 at 12:07 p.m. deputies responded to 5494 Lindsey Road, Delton, on the report of a deceased individual and found the body of Karinsa Lyyn Wisniewski, 39.


As a result of an investigation, Douglas Allen Wortinger, 50, the victim’s boyfriend, was arrested and has been charged with open murder by the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.  He is alleged to have killed Wisniewski at 5494 Lindsey Road, Delton. An autopsy confirmed that the woman suffered multiple physical injuries, authorities said.


Wisniewski and Wortinger had a physical confrontation at the Fish Lake boat landing near Guernsey Lake Road  on Sunday, Sept. 11 and the sheriff’s office believes there may have been other witnesses to the event.


They are asking anyone who was in the area Sunday between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. to contact Detective Jeff Nieuwenhuis at 269-948-4801.












Photo: Douglas Allen Wortinger




Hastings remembers 9/11, salutes local emergency services

Hastings Mayor Frank Campbell on Sept. 12 led a brief recognition of the contributions of emergency services personnel on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, and also saluted local police, fire and ambulance personnel for their ongoing dedication to the community.


Hastings Fire Department assistant Chief Rick Krouse, Hastings Police Officer Brian Hansford and Mercy Ambulance Director Joe Huebner represented emergency services during the recognition of the 9/11attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and a Pennsylvania field 15 years ago.

More than 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York and Washington D.C. including more than 400 police officers and firefighters..


“Hastings remembers that tragic day and reflects on the thousands who lost their lives then,” Campbell said. “We also take this occasion to honor our police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel for their devoted service to the community.


“I want to thank you all for what you do for our community,” he said, adding that the community appreciates and supports the agencies that serve and protect them during emergencies. 

"I can tell you, with these departments we have here, we are safe as any town in the United States. I’m asking now for a moment of silence for all of those we have to remember.”



Shooting at Eaton County apartment complex may be drug related

Eaton County Sheriff's deputies responded to a likely drug-related shooting of a 28-year-old man at 8:34 p.m. on Sept. 13 at an apartment complex at Mall Drive West and Elmwood Road.

What started as a suspicious situation call changed when other citizen calls reported sounds of gunfire.


Deputies located the shooting victim who was transported by Delta Fire EMS to a local hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries. Witnesses reported a male suspect fled the scene in a red or maroon SUV, possibly an older model Ford Explorer, that was last seen in the area of Arden and Willow Highway.


The initial investigation indicates the incident was probably drug related and not a random act, deputies said. Detectives are investigating the shooting and request that anyone with information contact Detective Rick Buxton at 517-323-8480.



Two Barry County budget appeals approved, two stay the same

In a budget hearing following the regular Barry County Commission meeting Sept. 13, commissioners considered four appeals of recommended budget appropriations.

Two increases were approved, two remain as projected in the 2017 budget recommended by Administrator Michael Brown and deputy Administrator Luella Dennison.


The Agriculture Preservation Board request for $2,950  to cover its expenses was approved.

The Equalization Department will get a part-time employee for 25 hours a week for $14,658 to help in the department and have someone in the office when staff is doing field work. The new hire also could handle the work done now by contract for $17, 500, helping to reduce the cost. The original request was for a 30-hour position for a total cost of $42,878.


The Parks & Recreation Board request for an additional $20,400 was denied with commissioners noting that the board had a boost of $20,000 up to $34,175 last year. The appropriation for 2017 will stay at $34,175.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department request for an additional $18,427 for a total $459,653 in funding for operations was debated, but the appropriation will stay as recommended at $441,266. After discussing the request at length, commissioners agreed the health department has a healthy enough fund balance to supplement its additional needs.


The commission also approved a one-time payment of $15,000 for Career Technical Education through the Barry County Economic Development Alliance. The increases come from the contingency fund that was at $121,059 and now is $88,451.//


During discussion of the health department appeal, Commissioner Ben Geiger asked  Brown to work on a solution to a too complex, “wacky, antiquated” funding percentage formula, which fluctuates during the year, and develop a workable and understandable basis for Eaton and Barry counties to share the cost of running the combined health department. Geiger advised a monthly rate indexed to inflation, but in any case, the current formula, “is not working and has got to stop…I want it to be fair and predictable for both counties.”


At the regular board meeting Sept. 13, the commission approved hiring Beckering Construction as project manager of the Barry County Courthouse renovations as recommended by president of Landmark Design Group, Bob Van Putten. Beckering’s cost is $47,575, included in the total renovation cost of $306,962.


As the only “no” vote, Commissioner Jim Dull again strongly objected to the move, saying the work should be put out for bid, there were other companies that would bid on it, and he was “not impressed” with Beckering’s work on the community building.


The commission also approved:

* an agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation for 2017 and to allow Barry County Transit Director William Voigt to authorize MDOT/ Barry County Transit projects.


* state tax form L-4029, allowing the county collect winter taxes, required by the end of September.


* Title IV-D Cooperative Reimbursement Program contract for a five-year renewal of funding for the Friend of the Court for an estimated $5,166, 881.75 over the five year span.


* entry into the state Farmland Preservation Program, commonly called PA 116, for Joshua and Megan Chase for 97 acres in Section 34 of Carlton Township.


* a contract renewal with Iserv Company to provide telephone and internet service for three years, beginning Sept. 13 with no increase in cost.


* budget amendment B-16 containing a large number of adjustments to the income and expenditures in the budget.


BCUW 2016/2017 Campaign Kick Off is Sept. 15

The Barry County United Way 2016-17 campaign, “I Live United, Do You?” kicks off Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 a.m. at Barry Expo, midway between Hastings and Middleville.


“Join us as 8 a.m. as Campaign Chairman Matt Goebel challenges us to learn about how, with your help, the dollars raised in our community continue to change lives in the area of education, health and income,” said BCUW Director Lani Forbes. “I Live United, Do You?” is the theme for this year’s campaign.  Wes VanderWilk, a Thornapple Parks and Recreation volunteer who has direct experience with the impact that one act of giving can create, will speak at the kickoff.

Businesses and organizations that have already completed campaigns will report, the musical talents of the Hastings High School Band and a continental breakfast will complete the morning.


Right after the kickoff, more than 300 volunteers will work on a wide variety of indoor and outdoor projects for Day of Caring, taking place Thursday and Saturday, Sept. 17. Volunteers are still needed for both days. To help, call Morgan at 945-4010.

This year’s campaign goal will exceed $600,000 based on the requests of currently funded programs. //


Last year over $565,000 was raised and 100 percent was distributed to programs and services in Barry County and the agencies designated by the donors. “We are very fortunate that the Florence Tyden Groos Administrative Endowment Fund, held by the Barry Community Foundation, assures that 100 percent of dollars raised go directly to programming.” Forbes said.


Forbes explained what kind of a difference the price of a cup of coffee a week can make.  A gift of $5 a week through BCUW can buy 80 cases of soup for a food pantry, 26 winter coats, 29 containers of baby food or 32 sheets of dry wall for a Habitat for Humanity house. Last year, residents of the community used the services of Barry County United Way and 21 partner agencies 79,000 times for some of just some of those purposes, she said.


More than 70 percent of BCUW funding comes from employee payroll giving and 12 percent comes from employers matching the employee’s gifts.


A weekly payroll contribution of $1 a week purchases 48 jars of baby food at Manna’s Market, $2  a  week will buy a crib for a safe place for a child to sleep through the Family Support Center, $5 per week provides maintenance for a medical transport van through American Red Cross, $10 a week provides three youths with the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Youth Quest program and a $20 per week can provide 360 nutritionally balanced meals for a homebound older adult.


Thirty four programs in Barry County rely on the support of the United Way. Family Support Center Executive Director Karen Jousma said: “Through the support of Barry County United Way and the Barry County community the Family Support Center has positively impacted the lives of over 30 families a year to ensure infant safe sleep environments, over 200 adults and more than 130 children a year have participated in Family Workshops and gained knowledge in becoming better parents, and annually over 240 mandated reporters are trained to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

“When we unite in providing better safety nets for our families, we can’t think of better partners than Barry County United Way and the community partners we work with.” 


BCUW invests in four specific areas:

1) Helping youth achieve their full potential: agencies including 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Thornapple Park and Recreation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Leadership Youthquest, and the YMCA received over $211,372 to help youth achieve their full potential.


2) Addressing urgent and emerging needs: more than $166,000 was invested in 211, American Red Cross Disaster Support, Food Bank of South Central Michigan, Green Gables Haven, Manna’s Market, the smoke and carbon monoxide program, and Project Homeless Connect last year.


3) Supporting families to achieve well-being and success: $114,000 was invested in CASA, Family Support Education and Crib Program, Eaton Furniture and Clothing, Habitat for Humanity, and Safe Harbor. 


4) Assisting senior adults find support and maintain independence: $65,000 was invested in programs such as American Red Cross Medical Transportation, Commission on Aging Meals on Wheels and In Home Services and Veteran’s Affairs. 


Barry County United Way also looks at emerging needs of the community and addresses those issues through partnerships with our agencies and businesses. Donors designated $9,001 to United Ways outside of Barry County. Last week United Way’s partnership with Hastings City Bank and several others, provided 384 donated backpacks filled with school supplies for K-12 students. “This program helps ease the financial burden of families that are struggling just to pay rent and mortgages,” Forbes said.


Volunteers for Day of Caring are invaluable. “According to the Independent Sector, each volunteer hour is worth $23.07, therefore the hours put in by these volunteers is equal to over $35,500 to our community. Thornapple Valley Church has combined their Blitz Day with United Way to show the value of partnerships throughout the community. This enables us to partner with many individuals and families that are not available during the work week,” Volunteer Center Director Morgan Johnson said.

For details, call Barry County United Way, 269-945-4010.






Hastings, Police Labor Council agree on contract terms

The City of Hastings and the Police Officers Labor Council have reached agreement on a new three-year labor contract which includes a two-percent salary increase for each of the three years, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said after a closed session following the regular council meeting Set. 12. The only other changes are minor changes in language that both sides agreed on, he said.


During public comment at the meeting, resident Al Sherry again asked the council to do something about the noise levels of concerts at the Thornapple Plaza. Sherry said the sound is so loud that it disturbs the peace. He said some acts use amps, “as big as refrigerators,” and asked for a decibel level ordinance.


The Summerfest  musical entertainment was so loud it echoed off the buildings and down the river, Sherry said. Normal speech is 60 to 70 dBs and sustained 90 to 95 dBs can cause permanent hearing loss, he said. A garbage truck is 170 dBs, and a rock concert is between 120 and 150 dBs. “I’d like someone to do something. Why does it have to be so loud?”


The council also heard from Hastings High School students that that the Homecoming Parade will change it’s route this year, traveling down State Street then back to the high school, to offer more involvement by the community.

Update on Hastings crosswalk work

The concrete in the downtown crosswalk replacement at State and Church streets requires a five day cure before being opened to traffic, Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays said.

They will be placing asphalt Thursday morning, Sept. 15.

State Street will be open Thursday after the asphalt is placed. Church Street will be open on Friday.


Barry County Transit earns national Outstanding Rural Transit System award

The Barry County Transit has been awarded the Federal Transportation Administrator's award for the ”Outstanding Rural Transit System,” Director Bill Voigt told Barry County Commissioners to a round of applause. “It’s very humbling and rewarding to receive the award, based not only on improvement in ridership but service for those with disabilities,” Voigt said Sept. 13.


During 2015, The transit’s ridership increased by 30 percent overall, including a nine percent increase in senior rides and a 20 percent increase in rides for those with disabilities. The increase was due to awareness presentations and the decision to access the outer areas every service day rather than to assign individual days of the week, Voigt said. They also extended service hours until 7:30 p.m. on some routes.


The Michigan Department of Transportation, Office of Passenger Transportation, nominated the transit back in April, which Voigt said in itself was an honor. “We were the only one in Michigan to be nominated. We are just a reflection of the great support of the entire community.”


Voigt thanked those in the “collaborative effort,”  the clients, agencies and departments and the oversight board made up of WBCH’s Ken Radant, and Barry County Commissioners Howard Gibson and Jon Smelker. Voigt will travel to Ashville, North Carolina to accept the award at an Oct. 3 presentation.


Photo: Barry County Transit Director Bill Voigt.

No evidence found of reported loud explosion in Hastings

Hastings police are asking anyone with information about a reported load explosion in the area of the city’s 2nd Ward Park Sept. 11 at 9:07 p.m. to contact the department.

Police Chief Jeff Pratt said officers checked out the area and found no one or anything to indicate an explosion had taken place.


They did talk to a person who said immediately after the explosion they saw a younger man carrying a back pack  running south on Montgomery Street. Another search of the area resulted in no contact with the person. The Hastings Police Department can be reached at 269-945-5744, Silent Observer’s number is 1-800-310-9031.



Hastings DPS director winner in pie throwing contest

The 120th anniversary celebration of the Hastings Public Library drew some 250 people to the Thornapple Plaza on Sept. 10, Library Administrator Laura Ortiz reported to the Hastings City Council Monday. Ortiz said a good time was had by all, with a fundraiser the centerpiece of the event. She publicly thanked the eight people who volunteered to have people try to hit them in the face with a pie, for a price.


The effort raised $645 for the library coffers, showing if you give the public what they want, they will come. Ortiz announced the top two pie recipients, with the big money winner Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays and the runner-up Councilman David Tossava. Tossava also had the distinction of making the most money in the shortest amount of time. In five minutes, he raised $145.


Hays, who said earlier that he was “so nice people wouldn’t want to hit me in the face with a pie,” quickly learned differently. He was the first place money winner bringing in $150. He was rewarded with a cheesy trophy, which he held aloft like a true champion,  and the thanks of the library staff for being a such a good sport to benefit the library.


New policy with MiDeal brings new trucks to Hastings DPS every year

The Hastings City Council on Sept. 12 authorized the purchase of four new trucks for the Department of Public Services through MiDeal for a total of $156,607.85. The cost is under the amount budgeted for in the capital budget, DPS Director Lee Hays said.


Under the new policy, the city buys the smaller trucks annually and sells them after a year’s use for about the same amount they paid for them. The new trucks are covered under warranty, so the city has a new fleet of trucks and no maintenance costs, Hays said.


Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange voted to approve the purchase, but objected to setting the auction reserve price at $1,000 less than the purchase price, saying someone will get a good deal at the taxpayer’s expense. City Manager Jeff Mansfield said the reserve is just the starting point and they expect the bidding to be higher than the reserve. Hays said the city came out $1,500 ahead last year; he will get the figures from this year’s transactions for McNabb-Stange.


Also at the Monday meeting, the council:


* approved Kisscross Events holding the second annual Founder’s Fall Fondo bicycling event starting and ending in Hastings on Oct. 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mansfield called it a great fall event expected to bring 500 cyclists into town. Rick Plite and Scott TenCate from Kisscross requested permission for the event.


* approved holding Girls Night Out on the evening of Oct. 6.


* amended the language in the park code to eliminate specific references to “religious” or “political” meetings.


* approved Dale Krueger III serving the remainder of Jerry Horton’s term on the Local Development Finance Authority/Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.


* heard Hays say the Clinton Street project will be completed in the beginning of October and East State Road open to traffic by the end of September.


* approved traffic control orders 217 and 218 mandating the changes in bus parking at the Hastings Middle School. Working with school officials, Police Chief Jeff Pratt developed bus parking along sections of Park and Broadway streets only to accommodate construction at the Middle and Central Elementary schools for the next year or so.


And, the council has been invited to Middleville for Mayor Exchange Day on Friday, Oct. 7. beginning at 8:30 a.m.



Eaton County deputy has a close call

Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Doug Sharp was sitting behind a stalled semi on the ramp from north I-69 to westbound I-96 in the right travel lane in Delta Township Sept. 8 about 9:30 a.m., according to a news release from the ECSO.


Deputy Tim Daust was there to help slow traffic down at the very dangerous location when a white Dodge pickup passed him at a very high rate of speed. The driver swerved to avoid Sharp’s patrol car, striking another northbound car before fleeing westbound on I-96.


Deputy Nabil Kanazeh, further down I-96, was able to stop the pickup near Grand River. The driver was found to be intoxicated with alcohol in the vehicle. He was arrested and lodged for OWI, leaving the scene of an accident and multiple other infractions.  No one was injured in the crash.


“This type of incident only highlights the dangers faced by deputies on the roadways, even during normal weather conditions,”  the release said.

Overall recreation in Barry County needs a vision from 10,000 feet up

Hastings Charter Township Supervisor Jim Brown thinks it’s time for one parks and recreation board covering all of Barry County, with everyone who has an interest in recreation in the county represented.


“It’s time to get back together, sit down and come up with a plan,” he said. His idea is to bring all of the recreational interests under one umbrella, instead of myriad, limited efforts from townships, villages and Hastings, each with its own boards and funding concerns.


The economic benefits of recreation in Barry County are huge, he said, and the more you consider it, the more interests impact it: Charlton Park, the county Parks & Recreation Board, McKeown Park,  the Paul Henry Trail and numerous township and village parks and recreation groups, committees and authorities.


Brown said it’s essential that supporters of an overall examination of recreation in the county take a wider view; look at the county from 10,000 feet up; ask what’s best for everyone in Barry County.

“We need a package built from a vision from 10,000 feet up,” he said. “The focus will be on not just what we want to do, but what it costs and what it returns.”


The model is out there, he said, it’s been talked about several times, but no one has brought it all together. “We can’t have this millage thing every two or three years; we have to have something better; there may be a smarter way to fund this, and a more equitable way to spend it.” His outline starts with forming a group with representatives from the general public, the county, townships, villages, Hastings, and economic development. He sees a seven member board: “We don’t need a 15 person board.”


Hopefully, a board can be formed by the beginning of the year and start work on an outline of its goals. He plans to bring the concept to the County Commission for its input.


“If you have a big project, don’t go it alone is good advice,” he said. He expects the committee to use the expertise others already have; bringing special interests into the process and asking them to contribute.


Brainstorming ideas will be a big part of the committee’s work, he said. However, “Good ideas are just a distraction if you don’t act on them.”

FBI finds no fraud in death of Barry County deputy, says case is closed

When an FBI agent and representative of the Office of the Inspector General came to the Barry County Sheriff’s Office in March of 2014, it set off months of rumors and speculation.

The agents were collecting information for investigation of  possible fraudulent activity in connection with the death of Barry County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Yonkers, with the focus on attorneys for the Thin Blue Line and Workman’s Compensation Bureau and the state arbitrator, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said Sept. 8.


“FBI agent John King told me the case is closed. He told me they found no fraudulent activity by anyone…there was ‘no smoking gun,” Leaf said. “When the FBI was here, they asked me not to talk about it. I kept it hush-hush because it was not Barry County’s case and it’s not appropriate to talk about another agency’s case while it’s still under investigation,” he added.


Though the FBI had a search warrant, Leaf said they didn’t need it. “I signed a consent form giving them the records and paperwork of our internal investigation. There were no computers taken from the office, contrary to rumors at the time.”


“I wasn’t worried about the case and I was not surprised by the outcome…with the case closed, we can finally let the families have closure and move on with their lives.”  //


Background: Yonkers was assigned to the Southwest Enforcement Team (SWET)., a unit that carries out undercover drug investigations.


In October of 2008, he was killed in a collision with a car while riding his motorcycle on East M-43 near Usborne Road. The driver of the car, Justin Malik, was tried and convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol/marijuana causing death, and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison in June, 2011. He was released in June of this year.


Conflicting accounts by law enforcement surfaced following Yonkers’ death. A major issue was if Yonkers was on duty, working undercover when he died, or if he was on personal time.


If working when he died, his family would receive considerable federal and state death benefits paid when an officer dies in the line of duty.


Leaf said they first thought Yonkers was working undercover.  “After the funeral, we found out some other things, so we did an internal investigation. We don’t know what he was doing at the time of his death,” he said.

The FBI became involved after the Thin Blue Line challenged the sheriff’s office response and took the complaint to a state arbitrator, who ruled it was a workman’s compensation issue.


The Thin Blue Line is a non-profit organization that exists to provide help in financial, legal, benefit recovery issues and much more to disabled or deceased members of the emergency services community, including police.


The issue has been argued in several different courts since Yonkers’ death. To his knowledge, Leaf said, the Yonkers family has not received any compensation from federal, state or local agencies for benefits regarding an in the line of duty death.


When contacted for a comment, the media coordinator in the Detroit FBI office said he would look into the case and release any information he could, however nothing has been forwarded for several days.

Barry County department's budget appeals heard

One of the steps in the budget process in Barry County is the opportunity for department heads to appeal County Administrator Michael Brown’s projected appropriations for the next budget year.

Commissioners did not make any decisions Tuesday, but listened and asked questions; they will address the requests in depth at a special session after the regular board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13.


Equalization Director Tim Vandermark asked for funding for a part time employee, saying the staff has struggled for the past year, and when they are out doing field work, the office is closed. A 30-hour per week clerk would be paid $13.02 an hour for a salary of $20,560.80 annually, with benefits of $22,214 or less, depending on benefits the employee receives.


The commissioners will be looking for ways to reduce the benefit costs at the meeting. Vandermark said with a clerk, staff would be freed up to do the work they now contract for $17,500 and that amount to lower the cost to $25,172.


Catherine Getty, of the Parks & Recreation Board, asked to restore a previous amount of $20,400 for the board to be able to award $5,000 grants for various recreational projects for schools, villages and townships around the county. Also, more funding is needed to add hours for the part time administrator. Getty reminded the commission that the county’s strategic plan calls for making Barry County a premier recreation destination. “We’re working to do that,” she said.


After an explanation of the budget process, Paul Wing and Larry Neil from the Agriculture Preservation Board requested $2,950  to cover its expenses.


Collette Scrimger of the Barry Eaton District Health Department requested an additional $18,427 for department operations. The health department requested $459,653 in funding, the budget recommendation is $441,266. //


In other business Tuesday, the committee of the whole recommended:


* approval of a resolution verifying the commission’s approval of the Master Agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation for 2017 and allow Barry County Transit Director William Voigt to authorize MDOT/ Barry County Transit projects on behalf of the commission.


* approval of a request by  Equalization Director Tim Vandermark to approve the tax form to allow the county collect winter taxes. The State Tax Commission requires Form L-4029 be approved by the board by the end of September.


* approval of Title IV-D Cooperative Reimbursement Program contract for a five-year renewal of funding for the Friend of the Court for an estimated $5,166, 881.75 over the five year span, the amount set by the Office of Child Support.


* approval of a request for entry into PA 116, a state Farmland Preservation Program, commonly called PA 116, for Joshua and Megan Chase for 97 acres in Section 34 of Carlton Township. The request was reviewed and recommended by the Planning Commission.


* approval of a request by IT Director David Shinavier to accept renewal of a contract with Iserv Company to provide telephone and internet service for three years beginning Sept. 13. Shinavier said Iserv, based in Kentwood,  has been a “solid telecom provider,” that had asked for the  renewal since the county is changing the service address from the courthouse to the community building. The monthly cost remains the same, he said.


* approval of budget amendment B-16 containing a large numbers of adjustments to the income and expenditures in the budget, explained by Administrator Michael Brown. The net result is an increase of $189,490 in revenues and also in expenditures and does not change the bottom line.



You can help break a world record just by eating ice cream

The Village of Nashville invites the public to help build the “Worlds Longest Ice Cream Sundae” down the village’s main street on Saturday, Sept. 17.

After the creation is completed by volunteers, and hopefully gets into the Guinness World Records, everyone gets to dig in at noon and enjoy the ice cream treat.


Pack the minivan, tell your family, tell your friends and get there early to park behind the village businesses at Nashville Baptist Church, or catch a shuttle at the Church of the Nazarene, Grace Community Church, Maple Valley High School, Fuller Elementary or Daniels Funeral Home.

Shuttles will run continuously from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pick ups and drop offs will be at the north and south end of the village.


Rain time is 6 p.m. If necessary, shuttles will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Souvenir color-changing spoons to eat the masterpiece are for sale, pre-sale price is $2 and $3 the day of the event and are available at most Nashville businesses and some in Hastings.


For more on the event, visit Nashville Route 66 Business District page on Facebook.


Beckering Construction recommended to manage Barry County Courthouse project

Bob Van Putten, president of Landmark Design Group, told Barry County Commissioners Tuesday that he is finishing the design phase of the County Courthouse renovations of the  ground level, second floor, circuit courtroom and jury room.


Van Putten asked commissioners to approve Beckering Construction as project manager of the courthouse project, based on the company’s managing of the former library building improvements, budget and schedule.


“That has gone very well…we’re happy with their work,” Van Putten said.

He said Beckering would help with additional tasks, including the bidding package, bid opening and evaluating subcontractors and would assume all sub contracts and provide the county with a single, overall contract and an umbrella bond to cover all subs.


The total $306,962 cost listed in an August 17  letter from Van

Putten to commissioners with the recommendation, includes $47,575 for project management by Beckering. The drawings will be ready for bidding by general contractors by the end of September, he said.


All of the commissioners but one voted to recommend approval of the hiring by the full board. The exception was Commissioner Jim Dull, who said, “I can’t imagine why anyone would move ahead with this…I think is it asinine…” He said $50,000 was too much to pay for a construction manager, “others will come forward,” he said, adding that he  was not impressed with the work on the community building. “They missed a window, the architects or manager should have caught that. I’m just not impressed.” //


In other business, the committee of the whole recommended approval of a request from Office of Community Corrections Administrator Dawn Karfonta to resubmit the department's grant application to the state with updated figures. Because of budget cuts and fewer enrollments, the GED program will be discontinued on Oct. 1.


The Cognitive Behavior Group will take the program over and pay for eligible offenders who participate. The state Office of Community Corrections recommended eliminating the program; it is expected to approve the amended application, Karfonta said.




Yankee Springs Township to hear progress report on Wayland emergency services partnership

The Yankee Springs Township Board will meet at the Payne Lake Fire Station Sept. 8, and hear a report from Wayland’s Deputy Fire Chief Dan Miller.


"The township board has asked for an update since we took over April 1," Miller said. He has worked part time at the station since the partnership was formed. “I’ve got things pretty much in order now. Presently, we have eight firefighters going into an academy to get certification. I think it will start Oct. 1 and complete in May, 2017,” he said.

“We have 16 Firefighters from the immediate area who respond to the Yankee Springs Township Fire Station; eight certified firefighters, eight probationary firefighters, one paramedic, two EMTs, three Medical First Responders (MFR) and five waiting to take their MFR National Registry exam are among our total personnel,” Miller said. “All of these personnel are the backbone of the department.”

Since the partnership or merger, the department has responded to numerous medical emergencies. They  have had no structure fires “which is great.” Power lines/trees down, traffic crashes, watercraft accidents/fire, alarms, public relations programs and mutual aid are some of the responses the department has been called out on.


“We all were very pleased with the response from the public at an Open House in June and the cooperation from the Yankee Springs Township Board in getting their fire department up and running,” Miller said. “It's great to keep that transparency and let the public see what the fire department has available to respond with when needed.”


At the board meeting, Miller plans to introduce seven new MFRs who have just completed the four month class through Wayland Area Emergency Medical Services. The department is still recruiting firefighters and MFRs.

Applications can be picked up at the Yankee Springs or Wayland fire departments.



Update Drowning victim recovered, identified by authorities

UPDATE: On Sept. 5,  the combined efforts of the Kent County Dive Team, Marine Patrol, and Caledonia Fire Department recovered the body of Nijaz Mulac from the Thornapple River near 68th Street.


ORIGINAL STORY: On Sunday morning about 10:30 a.m.,  Kent County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a possible drowning at Ruesh’s Park (Kent County Park) at 7602 68th Street S.E. in Caledonia Township.

A 45-year-old man from Kentwood was fishing with his 14-year-old son in the Thornapple River just south of the 68th Street Bridge when the son saw his father in distress in the water and then go under, according to a Kent County Sheriff's news release.


Deputies along with personnel from Caledonia and Cascade Fire Departments searched the area both on the water and along the shoreline without success. The Kent County Dive Team and Marine Patrol Units responded to the scene to start a recovery effort. The effort has been suspended for the night and will resume in the morning.

All day, outdoor fun for kids at Youth Day is Sept. 10

A fun, skill-building, educational and entertaining event for area families will be at Charlton Park Saturday, Sept 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Barry County Youth Day gives families an easy way to take a break from video games and let youth from toddlers to teens try their hands at more than 30 hands-on outdoor activities.


The Youth Day mission is to get kids outdoors and inspire future generations to enjoy and protect the natural treasures.  The event is run by local outdoor enthusiasts who want to help kids get the same exposure to outdoor sports that they had as children.


The event is free and kids get a free lunch.

For details, visit or



BCUW Campaign Kick-Off, Day of Caring is Sept. 15

The Barry County United Way Kick-Off and Day of Caring is set for Thursday, Sept 15 at 8 a.m. at the Barry Expo Center, 1350 North M-37 Highway.


The annual Day of Caring highlights “What we can do when we live united.”

Following the kick-off, more than 500 volunteers, go to work on 50 projects, give more than 2,000 hours of their time to benefit the community. Those who would like to volunteer for the Day of Caring are asked to call 269-945-4010.

Eaton County deputies nab four with help from citizens

Eaton County Sheriff’s deputies got some help from citizens Thursday morning. About 8:30 a.m., Eaton County Central Dispatch received information from Onstar that a 2012 Chevy Malibu reported stolen from Lansing earlier was in the 4800 block of West Saginaw in Delta Township.

Deputies located the stolen car in front of a gas station on West Saginaw and took the driver into custody, but three passengers fled from the car on foot.


Several Eaton County deputies and Lansing policemen responded to assist and gave chase;  citizens in the area reported seeing the young men running in the Ivan and Ivy streets area. Deputies checking the area located all three suspects hiding in a dumpster behind Sushi Moto in the 400 block of Elmwood. The 17-year-old driver from Lansing was lodged at the Eaton County Jail on multiple charges. The three suspects who ran were released to parents pending further investigation.


“We are very grateful to the community members who alertly called and reported the fleeing suspects in their neighborhood which assisted in their apprehension. This is one of many instances of our alert community members joining with the sheriff’s office to increase public safety,” Sheriff Tom Reich said. //


Also, at about 9:40 a.m., the drivers of two vehicles in a traffic crash at the intersection of M-43 and Oneida Road were taken to local hospitals for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.


Sheriff’s deputies, Grand Ledge Police Department, Grand Ledge Area Fire Department and Benton Township EMS responded to the two-vehicle crash in Oneida Township.


Deputies preliminary investigation showed a box truck traveling southbound on Oneida failed to yield the right of way to a westbound Chevy Tahoe. Both vehicles came to rest in the middle of the of the intersection causing traffic issues for about an hour. The crash remains under investigation.


Security cameras, donated, installed at Thornapple Plaza

Security cameras have been donated to the City of Hastings and installed at the Thornapple Plaza by Riverside Integrated Systems, Inc. of Grand Rapids.

Tom Kramer, president of Riverside, said he decided to donate the security system because he was impressed with how Thornapple Plaza has brought the community together.


 “I was very impressed to see how individuals worked with the community to create the plaza and make things happen,” he said. “I am from the big city and it’s really great to see people in smaller cities come together to support music and the arts, which make communities thrive.

“Hastings had security needs and I thought, I can help, why not be a part of what is happening?”


“The City of Hastings greatly appreciates Riverside’s donation,” said Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt. “The Hastings system will help protect a valuable asset to our community.”






August a Wet Month

The month of August 2016  turns out to be a record month for rainfall.  The National Weather Service Hastings Climatological Statiobn recorded 12.46 inches of rain for the month.

The month was also a hot one as well.  Highest temperature of the month was on the 11th when the temperature reached 92 degrees.  91 degrees was recorded on the 10th and 90 degrees on the 4th.



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