Local News Archives for 2017-04

Eaton County Animal Control hosts Pet Health Fair

On Friday,  May 5, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eaton County Animal Control is hosting a Pet Health Fair, with free distemper and rabies vaccines as well as wellness exams.

No appointments are needed, and the first 200 pets will be seen on first come, first served basis. All dogs must be leashed and cats in a carrier.

The service is provided by the Capital Area Humane Society (CAHS) only for the benefit of your family and pet.

Please note that some type of proof is required that you are in need of these services and are unable to pay: Social Security, unemployment, Bridge Card, Michigan Section 8, Military ID, (active) or college ID (currently enrolled). 

For more information, contact the CAHS at (517) 626-6060.


Bank robber being sought in Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a man who walked into Old National Bank at 6338 Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo Saturday morning and told tellers he was there to rob the bank.


He was given cash from the teller and fled the bank on foot. Authorities said the money he was given contained a dye pack/tear gas device. The suspect, pictured, is about 6 feet, 2 inches tall, wearing a black knit cap, black jacket and dark jeans. Anyone who can identify the suspect is asked to contact the sheriff’s office or Silent Observer.

Barry County Commissioners to decide on millage proposal for new COA building

The Barry County Board of Commissioners will make a decision on a millage proposal to fund a new Commission on Aging (COA) facility after an informational meeting and more research into options and costs.


The agenda for next Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting calls for a vote on the ballot language for millage to pay for a new, larger building for services for older adults in Barry County. If approved, the proposal would be technically a “special” election in the scheduled election Aug. 8 and must be submitted to the county clerk before May 2.


County Administrator Michael Brown provided an updated example of a schedule to pay off unlimited general obligation bonds of $6 million over 20 years.

With a millage rate of 0.1843, a projected 4.5 percent interest rate and using the example of a residential property’s taxable value of $50,000 with state equalized value of $100,000, the cost to the homeowner would be $9.22 a year, he said.


A two-hour Barry County Board of Commissioners meeting April 25 was designed to give commissioners options for a new Commission on Aging building or to undertake a three way shift of county offices to accommodate the facility in larger quarters.  Commissioners toured the three buildings before the 1 p.m. meeting at the COA.  Commission Chairman Ben Geiger said no decisions would be made at the meeting, but information given to help them to, “make the best decision we can.”


Bob Van Putten, from Land Mark Designs, went over the plans for a new COA building, pointing out areas where the COA has specific needs and how the building would meet those needs. The new 25,000 square foot building would be built on the existing Woodlawn Avenue site, closer to North Broadway/M-43. It would feature more classrooms, a computer center, exercise room, multi-purpose room, adult care space and offices. The current building will then be removed.


The other option would shift three county departments and upgrade each in the process.

It would move the COA to the Barry Eaton District Health Department building, move the health department to the Friend of the Court’s (FOC) building and the FOC to the former Michigan State University Extension office in the Courts & Law building.

The health department would have a 5,800 feet added to its current 13,400 square feet, a 6,000 square foot second story added to the 6,600 square feet of the FOC building with renovations only to the MSUE office. Renovation and addition costs for all three buildings involved in the relocating total $5.1 million. //


Preparing the health department building for the COA would cost an estimated $1.5 million for renovation and $1.2 million for an addition to the building for  a total of $2.7 million. To accommodate the health department, the FOC building would require $0.8 million for renovation and $1.3 for a second story addition, totaling $2.1 million.

Renovating costs to the former MSUE office in the Courts & Law building for the FOC would cost $0.3 million.


Questions from commissioners, and others, concerned millage rates, cost for a special election and loss of reimbursement from the state for FOC operating costs.


There was no disagreement on the need for an upgrade to the COA facilities. Staff said the roof was repaired several years ago for $400,000 and is again leaking. Catering food for its Meals on Wheels program is needed for lack of adequate kitchen facilities, executive Director Tammy Pennington said.  The biggest concern and the reason for the commissioners considering action, is the lack of space for its services. Demand for their programs and activities has far outpaced the room they have in the building. Pennington said.


Some questions remained. Van Putten said too few parking spaces at the FOC would still have to be considered and furniture and technology costs are not in the figures for a new COA building, or the cost of a special election. However, COA has money in its building fund they said could be used for furniture and IT, and they could also pay for a special election.

“We understand the question before us,” Geiger said then. “The status quo is not acceptable. It’s our responsibility to act.”


SWBCSWA elects officers, sets meeting dates

The Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority held its organizational meeting Tuesday, electing officers and setting meeting dates.

David Messelink, from Hope Township, was elected chair; Wes Kahler, Barry Township supervisor, vice chair; and Barb Earl, Johnstown Township supervisor, elected secretary.

Jim Stoneburner, Prairieville Township supervisor and Matt Peake, from Hope Township, make up the rest of the board.


With Messelink assuming the chair from Stoneburner, authority Administrator Mark Doster thanked him for his service, saying he thought he was, “the best chairman we’ve ever had… I appreciate your counsel.”

Board meetings were approved for the last Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. from May, 2017 to March 2018, matching its fiscal year. Because it falls the day after Christmas, there is no meeting in December


The board also approved the purchase of a 2017 Chevrolet truck, with added equipment including a snow plow and crane, for a price not to exceed $47,000.

After being assured that as chairman he has the authority to seek legal advice on authority matters, Messelink said he will consult an attorney about Doster’s compensation, an issue brought up by Barry County Commissioner David Jackson.


Jackson contends that Doster’s pay is excessive for a part-time position; Doster maintains his pay should reflect his part in the success of the system. That issue, and others involving Doster’s availability to the public, has roiled the board for some time.


In pubic comment, Citizen Barb Cichy said she has a copy of a report from Prein & Newhof on the feasibility of providing sewer service to Hickory Corners and Gilmore Car Museum. She protested a finding in the study dated April 21 that sewer service to each resident in the Hickory Corners area was forecast to be $33,437 without future growth.


The board declined to discuss the document, saying they had just received it in their meeting packets and needed to review it.

Correction: Only Kent Intermediate School District has millage request on May 2 ballot

Thornapple Kellogg Schools and Caledonia Community School  district voters will decide a 0.9 mill, 10 year enhancement millage on May 2, put forward by the Kent Intermediate School District (KISD).

The two districts, as members of 20 school districts under the KISD’s umbrella, will have its votes counted with all the other districts. The result will depend on the combined votes.


If passed, the KISD will distribute the funds to its member schools to enhance programs and services. All districts will receive the same allocation, roughly $211 per pupil. No funding goes to the ISD. Preliminary estimates are that $650,000 would go to Thornapple Kellogg annually and $1 million every year to Caledonia.


One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of state equalized value. According to Proposal A, law since 1994, only ISDs, not local school districts, can seek enhancement millage. 


Community Mental Health Authority director meets Barry County Commissioners

Richard S.Thiemkey, executive director of the Barry County Community Mental Health Authority, introduced himself to the Barry County Commission Tuesday. Thiemkey came to the authority in December 2016, bringing with him 25 years of experience in leadership roles in mental health in the private and public sector.


A full array of mental health is offered to 1,600 clients, he said.

Mission and values and a financial model are two sides of the same coin for the authority, he said. “You can’t have one without the other.”


A brochure outlining services offered by the authority lists 22 separate services, covering different facets of mental health.



Mental health and substance abuse services:

500 Barfield Drive, Hastings


Crisis: 269-948-8041

After Hours: 1-800-873-0511

Hearing/speech impaired and deaf contact telecommunications relay service at 711.


Positive Directions site:

2350 Iroquois Trail, Hastings



ubstance abuse prevention services mailing address:

500 Barfield Drive, Hastings



For much more information, visit


Also Tuesday, commissioners delayed action until the May 9 meeting on a proposed Barry County Officer’s Compensation Commission.

Commissioner Ben Geiger, chairman, said he needs to learn the details on time lines that must be met “before we start,” forming the compensation commission.


In other business, the commissioners approved:


* increases in some fees in the Barry County Clerk’s Office, mandated by the state and required in all counties.


* contracting with Mark Bishop, Quality Forest Management, to harvest all red pine trees, leaving white pines on Norris Road property with proceeds from the sale to go to the Norris Road Trees 4-H account.


* changes in the Charlton Park bylaws; having one voting member from the Historic Charlton Park Village Foundation, limiting citizen-at-large positions to 10 instead of 11, adding forfeiture of membership to those who miss three consecutive meetings without excuse, and changing its annual report to the commission from February to within six months of the new year. 


* the 2017 county evaluation values as given by Equalization Director Timothy Vandermark. Total equalized value is $2,801,583,488, up a total of 5.53 percent county wide.



Colorado man's body recovered from Kalamazoo River

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and Dive Team Tuesday reported they have recovered the body of a Colorado man from the Kalamazoo River. Michael Joseph Baird, 34, from Engelwood, CO, was visiting family in the Plainwell area when he was reported missing and  presumed to have drowned after falling into the river April 6 in Plainwell.


After an extensive search, public safety divers located  Baird’s body approximately 1.2 miles downstream from his last seen point in an area west of 12th Street in Otsego Township, the news release said.


A pathological examination will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, however at this time all indications lead investigators to believe this was an accident and that Baird succumbed to cold water temperatures and hydrology leading to his drowning in the river.


The sheriff’s office was assisted in the search by the cadaver dog K-9 team from the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office, who had assisted in the search for Baird over a week ago. 

Also assisting in the search over the last two weeks were dive team members of the Kalamazoo County Recovery Team and the Otsego Fire Department.


Lt. Governor Brian Calley to address Barry County Republicans May 10

The Barry County Republican Party is inviting the public to attend its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Wednesday, May 10, at 6:30 pm in at the Walldorff Bistro Ballroom, 105 East State Street in Hastings. The dinner’s theme is “Celebrate Conservatism” and will feature a keynote address from Lt. Governor Brian Calley.


Historically, the Lincoln Day Dinner is the county GOP’s largest fundraiser, and has brought together Republican officials from the local, state and federal levels.

Previous keynote speakers include Governor Rick Snyder, Former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra and the Reverend Keith Butler.


“This past fall, Barry County stepped up and provided support for Republican candidates from President Donald Trump at the federal level, all the way down to the county and township offices here at home.” said Barry County Republican Party Chair Bob Price.

“The Lincoln Day Dinner provides us an opportunity to reflect on our success and keep this conservative momentum going.”


Classical performing artist Elfriede (Elfie) Stern of Kalamazoo will provide the music for the evening. Stern is a graduate of the Dominican Republic Conservatory of Music specializing in classical piano.


Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased online at, or by calling Price at (269) 671-4294. A limited number of free tickets are available to local high school and college students. Interested students should visit for more information.

Cops Teachers Basketball

Final Score   Teachers 49  Cops 37 

See the posted story on this event for details.

Two suspects nabbed in thefts from garages in Eaton County

Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Delta Patrol deputies responded to the area of Webster Road near Old River Trail Tuesday afternoon on the report of a suspicious vehicle and suspicious people in the area. 

On arrival, deputies saw two people running out of a Webster Road resident's garage.   


A perimeter was formed, and during the search of the area, deputies located and arrested two males, ages 17 and 14.   Deputies investigation showed the youths had been driving a stolen car and had previously broken into several other garages.  Stolen property from those crimes has been recovered, along with illegal drugs in the possession of one of the suspects. 


The 17-year-old from Grand Ledge was expected to be arraigned Wednesday.  He has been charged with Home Invasion 1st Degree and Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile.  The 14-year-old’s identity is being withheld due to his age, but similar criminal charges have been requested for him through the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office. 


Sheriff Tom Reich would like to thank the alert citizens who immediately reported the suspicious activity and people they observed, which led to the successful apprehension of these suspects and the recovery of stolen property.  


Mock Auto Crash Drill at Hastings High School

Hastings high school students got a first hand look at what happens when you are texting while driving.

The mock crash  wednesday morning was staged in the high school parking lot that brought in a compliment of area fire, police, ambulances, even a med-a-vac helicopter that flew in to take part in the exercise. 

While one of the students was texting their car crashed headon into another car that killed one of the students and sent others to area hospitals.

the whole purpose of the exercise again was to demonstrate the danger of talking or texting on your cell phone while driving.

Drugs Marijuana

Hastings Police and Michigan State Police  were called to a local motel after the smell of marijuana was detected. Police made contact with a Delton man in a room where the marijuana and other related drug items were found.

During their investigation it was found the individual had a few outstanding warrants.  His name has not been released.

Two car crash sends five to hospital for evaluations

A two-vehicle crash at the intersection of M-37/M-43 Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. drew several ambulances and law enforcement vehicles to the scene and rerouted traffic for a time. Barry County Sheriff’s deputies report a car driven by an 85-year-old Hastings man turning left failed to yield to an oncoming car driven by a 59-year-old man, also from Hastings. The 85-year-old had no passengers; the other car carried four passengers.


“Neither driver and none of the passengers appeared to have debilitation or life-threatening injuries; however, all were transported by ambulance to Spectrum Health Butterworth for further medical evaluation,” the sheriff’s office news release said.


Deputies found the 85-year-old very confused and his family confirmed he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and had voluntarily surrendered his driver’s license to the Secretary of State in 2016.


The incident remains under investigation. The Barry County Prosecutor’s Office will determine if any charges will be filed. Assisting at the scene were Michigan State Police, Hastings and Freeport fire departments, Thornapple Township Emergency Services and Castleton Township EMS.

Fire update

Firefighters were called to a house fire Wednesday morning at 7490 south M-37 highway south of Hastings.  Two individuals were taken to the hospital, no information on their conditions. 

Hastings fire chief Roger Caris said  the house was a total loss and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Barry County Bar Association-Law Day

Monday May 1st the Barry County Bar Association will celebrate Law Day with a special ceremony  at the Leason Sharpe Hall at the Barry Community Foundation at 231 south Broadway in Hastings.

The ceremony begins at 11-am with a reception and concludes with a formal presentation of the Liberty Bell Award presented to Jan McLean, former Executive Director of the Barry Community Mental Health Authority. The guest speaker is the Honorable Mark T. Boonstra from the Third District Court of Appeals.

Cops vs teachers basketball game for Leo is Wednesday

Leo Loeks is a shy, blonde five-year-old boy who smiles a lot and proudly reports that he goes to school in Young 5s. Leo is the oldest son of Megan and Bill Loeks of Hastings, who also are parents of Woody, 3, and Archer 1. Mom is a photographer and busy with three little boys, dad is in the U.S. Army National Guard where, “he goes to work every day,” Leo  said.


Leo is going to a basketball game Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Hastings High School, where he will get to shoot for a basket and he’s been practicing his free throw technique. What he doesn’t realize is that the basketball game was organized by the Hastings Police Department officers, reserve and cadets, just for him, to raise money to give to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in his name.


Leo goes to the hospital in Grand Rapids for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosed in June, 2016. He has a port in his chest where he gets “medicine” and gets to play in the play room; his favorite activity is the race car track. He also likes puzzles and is very good at coloring.

Mom said staff at the hospital interact with the kids, distracting them during treatment. Sometimes the sessions are very long, so that helps.


Leo took a tour of the police department and Hastings City Hall Monday, met Mayor Dave Tossava and some city staff, saw a lot of police equipment and handcuffed Sgt. Kris Miller.


The basketball game involves a lot of people; teachers from Hastings schools will play the game against a group of men and women from the Hastings Police Department, the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.


The police department personnel donated money, the Cookie Company, Mexican Connection, and Kloosterman’s Sports Bar donated gift cards for their products, Sav-A-Lot is supplying water and pop, the Band Boosters will run the concession stand, hold a bake sale and donate the proceeds from the food. Laser Wash, Attorneys Tripp and Tagg, Miller Real Estate, Bail-Tek, Flex Fab, Total Health Center of Lake Odessa and Battle Creek and M-43 Auto Body also donated.

Courtside Screen Printing and Embroidery printed the tee shirts at a steep discount. Leo has a mini-tee to wear at the game, with the number 5, his favorite number, and a police badge printed on the front.


The organizers sold 123 tee shirts to raise money and are charging $5 to attend the game.

It may be well worth adding a donation to the price. Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt has said publicly that despite having “players” from all area law enforcement, and even a ringer from the prosecutor’s office, they are having trouble finding five to put on the floor. “We’re in big trouble,” he said.


Or, he may be just softening up the teachers, who have several outstanding players. It all happens tomorrow at 6 p.m. at  the Hastings High School gym.




Photos: Upper left: Leo Loeks has no trouble handcuffing Sgt. Kris Miller during his visit to City Hall.


Middle left: Mayor Dave Tossava talks with constituent Leo Loeks during his tour of City Hall.


Lower left: Mom Megan Loeks sits with son Leo at the Hastings Police Department He’s a student at Star School in the Young Fives program.



New rules apply to DAS antennas in Hastings rights-of-way

The Hastings City Council Monday adopted an ordinance  amending the Hastings Code by adding Article 4, DAS/Small Cell/Wireless Network Facilities in the Public Rights of Way. They also approved a resolution to set administrative and monthly fees and other conditions when issuing a license for requests to install the antennas.


The changes put in place what the city has worked toward for several months; a set of guidelines to control the use of its rights-of-ways when companies come to the city and ask permission to install the systems.


Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) is a way of boosting cellular coverage and capacity with the antennas, which have different styles, mounted on new or existing utility poles, street lights and traffic lights in public rights-of-way to deliver more telecommunication services to nearby areas.


A consortium of Metro Council members, including Hastings, along with non-members, contributed funding to retain an attorney to develop guidelines for companies to follow when applying for infrastructure or space to increase high speed internet capability in cities rights-of-way.


The result was a packet with a cover letter, a sample license/franchise, a Metro Act permit and zoning checklist to give companies that apply to use cities rights-of-ways. The city's  new rules now cover pole heights, a new ordinance, zoning issues, liability, application, license and monthly fees, co-locations, site plan reviews, performance bonds, safety issues, and site design.


In other business Monday, city staff was asked to identify what a city park is, and whether to designate some other areas parks bringing them under park rules.


Councilman Bill Redman asked if the Thornapple Plaza and Splash Plaza were officially city parks or if they should be named parks. Some city parks are as old as the original platting of the city, some were added and named, like Tyden Park and Fish Hatchery Park, and other recreational areas remain undesignated, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


Also, Mansfield will work with resident Jim Brown to address a developing problem of bicyclists taking short cuts across private homeowners lawns on Indian Hills Drive when entering and leaving the Bike Park.


And, the council approved amending the budget with numerous changes to accommodate costs for programs already approved by the council and other changes to shift funds in some situations such as less for winter maintenance and more for parks and maintenance by the Department of Public Services.



Special assessment set in downtown Hastings for parking lot upkeep

Following a required public hearing, where one person spoke, the Hastings City Council Monday approved a resolution setting a special assessment district to pay for part of the cost of maintenance of city parking lots in the downtown.

Tom Cramer said the parking situation in the city is, “terrible," adding he wasn’t happy to pay a $1,000 assessment for something that is “a negative.”  He said his wife parked on the street for dining and window shopping and got a warning, a courtesy the city extends for a first parking ticket.


“Warnings are not very welcoming to visitors,” he said, noting that he hears, “over and over and over that parking is very difficult.” He asked for long term planning “to come up with a better alternative.”
Cramer will meet with City Manager Jeff Mansfield and other staff and discuss possible solutions.


Another public hearing was set for May 22 to take comments on the final assessment roll. Mansfield said the total for maintenance and repair of parking spaces in the special assessment district this year totals $42,502.  The DDA will again pay the difference between the $26,540 assessments in 2008 and assessments this year, an amount of $15,962, he said.


Fund raising at Thornapple Plaza events was approved by a unanimous vote. In a letter to the council, Thornapple Arts Council Executive Director Megan Lavell said a volunteer would circulate during the events with a can to accept donations during 2017 program season, including the Jazz Festival and Hastings Live programs. With no admission charged for events, the donations, DDA contributions and other sponsors would allow the programs to break even, Lavell said.


Also, the city will enter an agreement with Co-Dee Stamping to purchase parcels B and C in city-owned property zoned industrial. The proposal fits the city’s criteria for industrial expansion and job creation. Co-Dee plans a 15,000 square foot expansion and an additional six to 10 employees at its existing plant at 1657 Star School Road, to accommodate expected future growth. They own and are in parcel A, and will expand into adjacent parcel’s B and C.


Three sustain non life threatening injures in Friday crash

The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office reports that on Friday, April 21 at about  4:30 p.m., a three-car crash occurred on eastbound I96 near the M66 exit ramp. Three subjects were injured and transported by Life EMS with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.


The injured were the occupant in a Tahoe, a 78-year-old man out of Lansing and the two subjects in the Saab, a 68-year-old woman and 69-year-old man from Muskegon. All subjects are in stable condition, officials said.


There was a back-up of traffic due to an earlier crash. A witness stated that a Saab SUV traveling down the left lane did not appear to brake before colliding with a stopped Chevy Tahoe.  The Tahoe then careened into a Chevy Express van and stopped, blocking the expressway. The driver and passenger of the van were unharmed.


Several citizens stopped to help the injured parties. The collision stopped traffic for approximately 50 minutes. Assisting the sheriff’s office with the scene were Ionia County Central Dispatch, Berlin Orange Fire Department, LIFE EMS, and Reed and Hoppes.


Jazz Festival brings vibrancy to Hastings downtown this weekend

The 14th annual Thornapple Arts Council’s Jazz Festival, April 27-28-29,  features a dozen venues where residents and visitors can enjoy jazz by hundreds of students and professional performers.




Photo: The Byron Center Steel Drum Band performs at an earlier Jazz Festival.


Headliners this year include the Thornapple Jazz Orchestra, WSG John Hill, Edye Evans-Hyde and the Gull Lake Jazz Orchestra.

Started in 2003, the Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival has grown to be the largest jazz festival of its kind matching more student groups and performers to professional jazz musicians through its clinician program than any other festival in the United States.


The jazz artists and those accompanying them will be met by Hastings Reserve Police Officers and Ambassadors who will welcome them and offer any assistance they can.


The non-competitive festival puts education and jazz promotion and appreciation at its core.  The festival draws more than 10,000 people and provides a weekend of free jazz performance for the public and the chance for student groups to come in from around the state to work with professional musicians.

For a complete schedule of performers and venues, visit:



Eaton County Sheriff's Office hosts annual 5K run/walk

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office is hosting the third annual Five O 5K Run/Walk Sunday, May 7, at Sharp Park in Delta Township. Lansing. The race starts at 10 a.m. The event promises to be a fun-filled event for the entire family.  In addition to the 5K Run/Walk, there will be an obstacle course for kids of all ages, a large display of emergency vehicles and refreshments. 


First, second and third place medals will be awarded in each age group. In past years, proceeds from the event have paid for memorial plaques at the gravesites of three fallen deputies; Rice, Foster and Platt. Proceeds have also helped many other projects: helping to fund ten honor guard uniforms, helping the Law Enforcement Unity Tour, contributing to the Michigan Law Enforcement Memorial, and other law enforcement related events. 


The event’s purpose is to raise funds to again help any law enforcement related projects including continuing support of the Law Enforcement Unity Tour and helping fund more honor guard equipment. The honor guard performs at many functions including law enforcement related funerals. Giving donations to area events or memorials that honor fallen officers will also continue.


Noteworthy sponsors include Cops & Donuts, Quality Dairy, Canteen Services, Hedlund Plumbing, Dart Bank, MSU Federal Credit Union, and Commissioners Jane Whitacre and Howard Spence.

The sheriff’s office representative said they are grateful to their sponsors and the outpouring of community support for the annual event.


To participate in the family-oriented event, visit the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office facebook page or email Jerri Nesbitt at for a registration form.  Quetions? Contact Nesbitt at 517-543-5019. 



Recycling coming to downtown Hastings

Being green will soon be easier for Hastings residents and visitors.

This spring, nine blue recycling bins will be placed at strategic locations in the downtown area, including the Spray Plaza and Thornapple Plaza, to collect mixed recyclables.


City officials stress the bins are for people who are in the downtown area to use for easy recycling of items instead of carrying them around town until they get to their vehicles.


Eco-conscious downtown visitors won’t have to look far to find a receptacle for the following recyclables:

· Newspaper and inserts, magazines and catalogs, discarded mail, fliers, envelopes, writing and typing paper, and cracker, cereal, Kleenex and other paste board,

· Aluminum foil and cans; food and beverage containers, pie tins,

· Steel cans; food and beverage containers and empty aerosol cans,

· Clear and colored glass bottles and jars; food and beverage containers only,

·  Plastic Containers #1 - #7; milk jugs, water bottle, detergent and shampoo bottles, butter tubs, yogurt cups, microwave food trays, over proof trays, plant flats, flower pots, condiment bottle, prescription bottles, peanut butter jars, pudding cups, mayonnaise jars, and syrup bottles, plastic bags #2 and #4). //


According to the EPA recycling benefits the community by:

· Reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and combustion facilities,

· Conserving natural resources such as timber, water and minerals,

·  Preventing pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials,

·  Saving energy,

·   Reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change,

·   Helping to sustain the environment for future generations,

·   Helping create new, well-paying jobs in recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States.

The bins were purchased through a mini-grant from the Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee that was matched by the Hastings Downtown Development Authority and a grant from the Barry Community Foundation matching the total of each. Les’s Sanitary Service is providing pick-up service at no cost to the city.



Second interviews set for four candidates for Delton Kellogg Superintendent

Four of the seven candidates who interviewed this week for the position of Superintendent of Delton Kellogg Schools were invited back for second interviews on May 2 and 3.  The interviews will be at the Delton Kellogg High School cafeteria. Parents, staff, community members are welcome to attend.


The schedule:


Tuesday, May 2:

6 p.m. Kyle Corlett, Elementary Principal

Three Rivers Community Schools

7:30 p.m. Maury Geiger, Superintendent

Saranac Community Schools


Wednesday, May 3:


6 p.m. Loren Vannest, Superintendent

Hale Area Schools

7:30 p.m.  Dr. Jeremy Wright, High School Principal

Plainwell Community Schools










Bring your bike on Barry County Transit at no extra charge

The City of Hastings is moving forward with the Hastings Bike Plan, developing a plan for a city-wide bicycle network and creating new and existing bike route connections. So, this is a good time for Barry County Transit to remind everyone that the transit has purchased bike racks on some of its buses.


“If this proves popular, more racks will be provided,” transit Director Bill Voigt said.

Residents may transport their bicycles anywhere in Barry County at no extra charge.


“Transit clients have always been able to secure their bicycles on board, but the time is right and the service is being expanded.  Just tell the dispatchers that you will be bringing your bike and Barry County Transit will be there to pick you up,” Voigt said.


Superintendent's Platform

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

“Even as the Hastings High School Class of 2017 prepares for graduation, Hastings Area School System has begun enrolling for next school year. 


We’re excited to meet our incoming Young Kindergarten and Kindergarten students. We currently have teams visiting preschool programs such as ours at the Community Education and Recreation Center (CERC), Noah’s Ark, Headstart, and Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). 

They share enrollment information and screen students who are ready for Young Kindergarten or Kindergarten. Tuesday, April 25, we will have open enrollment from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the administration office, 232 W. Grand St., Hastings. This is an additional opportunity for parents to come in and enroll their student in person. It’s always exciting to welcome new Saxons!


There are so many exciting opportunities awaiting our young Saxons—mostly because we have so many staff members willing to go above and beyond to provide wonderful learning opportunities outside of the classroom. A recent example is first year teacher Alyssa Fein and second year teacher Emily Thompson staring an after school club for 4th and 5th graders at Northeastern Elementary.


The club meets each Thursday after school to write a monthly newsletter that is distributed to students and their families electronically. Amy Jo Kenyon, the editor of at J-Ad Graphics met with the students to talk with them about journalism and being a reporter.

Community support and partnerships are what make Hastings Area Schools so great. Our students gain valuable recreation experiences through our ongoing partnership with Barry County YMCA. Many of our students participate in youth athletics and attend summer camp through the YMCA.

Our community also supports our Saxons through generous donations.


Monday evening the Hastings Area School System Board of Education accepted with great appreciation the following donations:

·      $9,894 from the 2nd annual Hungry Games to support the backpack lunch program.

·      $20,449.12 from the Edythe Marshall Estate in support of the FFA to be used for an animal facility.

The board also approved:

·      A resolution which allows the continued levy at the statutory rate not to exceed 18 mills on all property, except principal residence and other property exempt by law required for the school district to receive its per pupil foundation allowance and renews the millage that will expire with the 2017 tax levy. The Board’s resolution is to seek renewal of the current 17.92 mills rather than increase to 18 mills.

·      A resolution authorizing administration to implement the School of Choice plan and to process and take action on student transfer requests.

·      The personnel report which included: Appointments- Karlee Diekhoff, district wide paraprofessional; Leah Hawthorne, CERC lifeguard; Samuel Wilson, substitute bus driver; transfer/reassignment- Beth Stevens, middle school principal; leave of absence- Casey Gergen Southeastern Elementary special education teacher; Kelly Ibarra, high school counselor.”












Caledonia Community Schools employee arraigned on embezzlement charges

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports it became aware of an embezzlement complaint involving a Caledonia School District employee on March 30. Its investigation determined Anthony Jason Marsiglia, 38, Grand Rapids, was responsible for embezzling a substantial amount of technology products from the district.


The sheriff’s office worked closely with school district administration and Kent County prosecutors and, on Tuesday, April 18, charges were authorized for one count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000.

Marsiglia turned himself in to the 63rd District Court Wednesday and was arraigned on the charges

Barry County to EPA: Don't permit brine well in Johnstown Township

Barry County residents, and others, took the chance Wednesday to give EPA officials their opinion on the permitting of a brine well in Johnstown Township to dispose of fluids used in fracking wells.

The message to the EPA from every speaker was the same: “Don’t approve the draft permit.”


The meeting room at the Hastings Public Library was filled beyond capacity, with people lining the walls and others standing in the hallway, straining to hear. Steve Jann, chief of the Underground Injection Control Division in EPA Region 5 in Chicago, and Jeffrey Wawczak, a physical scientist who reviewed the draft Class 2 permit, answered questions.


Wawczk explained how the EPA makes sure injection wells do not harm drinking water and gave an overview of  the injection process before answering questions during the first half of the three-hour meeting. The Swanson 4-7 injection well would dispose of residue from two nearby operating wells some 2,000 feet underground; it could also accept brine from any other Arbor Operations wells. 


In the second half, the speakers gave their comments for the record, most applauded by the crowd at the end of their two minutes. Many read from prepared statements, others spoke off the cuff.

The crowd was polite, some thanking EPA officials for a second public comment time so they could air their concerns. Still, the opinion of all who spoke was a firm “no brine well.”


Everyone on ten pages of people who signed the attendance sheet and indicted they wanted to speak for the record, had the chance. Some clearly had done their research, asking technical questions of Jann and Wawczak. Others were more passionate, condemning the entire fracking process of injecting a mix of chemicals and sand under pressure miles underground and fracture tight-rock formations to release gas and oil.


The list of objections, as well as predictions from the skeptical crowd, was long:

Damage to the ecology, failures of injection wells, self reporting by Arbor Operations, annual site inspections of 75 to 100 wells in Michigan that has 1,400 class 2 permits, lack of EPA personnel to monitor injection wells in rural areas, proposed cuts in EPA budget and staff, and possible dissolving of the entire EPA talked of in Washington, possible lack of enforcement of violations, need for mechanical testing more often than every five years, brine fluids migrating out of the original area into a water aquifer, a possible “toxic plume for all time,” lack of core sampling, insufficient bonding, or money up front from the company to address problems, and operations being too close to residential dwellings.

Some warned of the dangers of toxic chemicals to animal and plant life as a legacy for future generations and asked who would monitor the wells in a hundred years.


For many, earthquakes were a major concern. Several gave statistics on increased seismic activity in states that allow fracking and deep injection wells. They asked for core samples of the Johnstown Township area following a 2015 earthquake to assure the ground has not been damaged and would support a brine well. A few suggested the EPA was more interested representing “big money,” than residents, and “profit before safety.”


Deb Kochin had the last word: “We don’t want to use this state as a toilet, or a drinking fountain for other states.” She was roundly applauded.


The EPA will review all the comments from the meeting, all letters and emails and respond to all significant comments before making a decision on a final permit, according to Jann. Anyone who spoke for the record or participated in the hearing, can appeal the EPA’s final decision to the Environmental Appeals Board.

Those who want to submit a comment can e-mail:, or by letter to:

Jeffrey Wawczak

U.S. EPA Region 5 (WU-16J)

77 Jackson Blvd,

Chicago, IL,60604-3590

Letters must be postmarked before midnight on Friday, April 21,  when the public comment period ends.

Hastings Police

The Hastings Police Department secured a house on colfax  street after marijuana was discovered during their investigation.  Child Protective Service was notified when it was learned a child lived there.

At the same time  police found dog feces and urine on the floor.






A Hastings resident was arrested and jailed when police came to investigate a minor property damage accident.

The driver backed out of her driveway and into a vehicle across the street. During their investigation the women's  drivers license  had been suspended,  she had no vehicle insurance and there were  two warrants against her.

County Commissioners hear Barry County Jail stats for March

In March, 2017, the staff at the Barry County Jail booked and processed 312 people, 58 of them “weekenders,” and released 247 back into the community, Sheriff Dar Leaf reported to the Barry County Commission Tuesday.

Jail staff administered 99 weekend drug screens for probationers, transported 37 people to court, and fingerprinted 138 people at the front counter, Leaf said. In the jail kitchen, 7,733 meals were prepared and served to the inmate population at a cost of $1.52 a meal during the month.


Bookings were up from March a year ago, with 185 in 2016, versus 312 this year, as were drug screens, up from 78 to 99. Repairs to the facility included $2,104.41 for plumbing and $2,003.09 for HVAV repairs.


The Barry County uniformed patrol handled 544 incidents, 95 accidents, 33 that involved deer. Deputies arrested 78 people, 35 for felonies, 70 for misdemeanors, with nine alcohol related arrests, he said. Five years ago in March, 2012, deputies handled 461 incidents, 57 accidents, arrested 63 resulting in 24 felony and 60 misdemeanor charges, and 15 alcohol related arrests.

Former Barry County probation officer sentenced for abuse of office, drug charges

Greg Kotrba,38, former probation officer in the Barry County Courts, was sentenced in a Calhoun County Court April 18 for one count of abusing his office and two counts of drug possession.


Judge John Hallacy sentenced Kotrba to three years probation on the charge of abusing his office, $450 in court costs, a $100 fine and $242.50 for crime victims, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said. On counts two and three, possession of a controlled substance and possession of analogues, Kotrba was sentenced to three years probation and a $100 fine.

He earlier pleaded guilty to all three counts.


 A juvenile probation officer, Kotrba was charged with keeping drugs, and in some cases buying them, that were prescribed for Delton Kellogg Academy students enrolled in the Juvenile Drug Court. In November of last year, SWET and the sheriff’s office coordinated a meeting for Kotrba to buy drugs from a student in a parking lot in Delton. Kotrba was pulled over by deputies at M-43 Highway and Sprague Road where he was taken into custody for controlled substance violations.


Following a Barry County Sheriff’s Office investigation, Kotrba’s case was assigned to the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s office to avoid any potential conflict of interest.


Yankee Springs Township clean up is April 29

Yankee Springs Supervisor Mark Englerth is personally inviting area residents to join him in a spring cleanup in the township on Saturday, April 29. 

Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. in the Yankee Spring Fire Station at  the corner of Payne Lake Road and M-179 Highway. He suggests  bringing gloves.

At noon, there will be food, water and pop. For more information or to offer suggestions, contact Englerth at 269-838-1289 or e-mail him at

State mandates increases in Barry County Clerk's fees

Seven fees in the Barry County Clerk’s Office will go up and one will go down, a move mandated by the state, Clerk Pam Palmer told Barry County Commissioners Tuesday. Fee changes mandated by the state are required in all counties, she said.


New applicants for concealed weapons permits will pay $100, down from $105, however, Palmer explained, the applicant is charged $15 at the sheriff’s office for the permit. Renewal applications for concealed weapons permits are $115, up from $105. Divorce packets-with children will be $23, up from $21, divorce packets-without children, $12, up from $10.


Serious or specified state minimum costs go down from $53 to $50; order of filiation fee goes to

$59, up from $49. A new mandated fee is $25 for electronic filing fees. Commissioners recommended approval to the full board.


In other business, the committee of the whole recommended:

* contracting with Mark Bishop, Quality Forest Management, to harvest all Red Pine trees, leaving White Pines for a seed source for a mixed hardwood/white pine stand on Norris Road property. Proceeds from the sale of the Red Pine, which Bishop estimates to be a minimum $9,000-$10,000, will go to the Norris Road Trees 4-H account to support 4-H youth development programs. Barry County owns the property, the 4-H “owns” the trees.


* amending minor changes in the Charlton Park bylaws, including having one voting member from the Historic Charlton Park Village Foundation, limiting citizen-at-large positions to 10 down from 11, adding forfeiture of membership to those who miss three consecutive meetings, without excuse,  and changing its annual report to the commission from February to within six months of the new year, to avoid conflicts with the commission appointing new members the first of the year.


* approval of the 2017 county evaluation values given by Equalization Director Timothy Vandermark. Total equalized value is $2,801,583,488, up a total of 5.53 percent county wide, the fourth year in a row of increases, Vandermark said.









Barry County Commission considers compensation committee for elected officials

The Barry County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to recommend reviving a County Officer’s Compensation Committee.

The county had a compensation committee until about  2003, when it was abandoned in favor of commissioners setting salaries of elected county officials.

Commissioner Ben Geiger, commission chairman, said the new committee would be an independent body that would make a determination on elected official’s salaries, except judges, that would go into effect unless a super majority of the commission voted against it.

If the commission does not act, the salaries would be effective in the first odd-numbered year after the committee’s determination.

“It is appropriate to re-establish the committee…it’s wise and responsible,” Geiger said.

Commissioner Howard Gibson, who was a commissioner when the previous compensation committee was dissolved, said the commissioners then, “thought the general public would like it better than us doing it.”

“Do you still think it is more appropriate that someone else comes up with the figures?” Commissioner Dan Parker asked.

“Yes,” Gibson said.

County Administrator Michael Brown, who also worked for the county at the time, said he couldn’t recall any specific reason for the change.

The new committee would be seven members who are not a member or employee of the legislative, judicial or executive branch of any level of government, or a member of that person’s immediate family, Geiger said.

If the commission approves the committee of the whole’s recommendation at its next meeting, the commissioners will submit names to the chairman who will select the final seven to staggered terms with the commission’s approval.

The vote to send the issue to the full board was 6-1 with Commissioner Vivian Conner voting “no,” saying she would wait for more information on the topic promised by Geiger.

Elected county officials are the clerk, prosecutor, sheriff, register of deeds, treasurer, drain commissioner, surveyor and commissioners.

New plan to repair damage to Little Thornapple Drain to go to DEQ

A meeting of county and state officials concerned with the restoration of damage caused by excessive tree removal along part of 14 miles of the Little Thornapple River Drain, all in the Thornapple River, resulted in some movement on the process.  

Barry County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull,  Deputy Director of Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, Brady Harrington, Streamside Ecological Services (SES) Co-founder Aaron Snell and Barry County Commissioner Jon Smelker met with four officials of the MDEQ in March. An update was given at a Monday, April 17 meeting.

“They reached agreement on some things,” Harrington said of the meeting. “They will allow the board to manually remove fill from (0.9 acres) the wetlands which will, “significantly reduce cost to the district.”

The DEQ required more detailed information, a formal agreement and a back-up plan if the plan does not bring the area back to near original condition.

The DEQ recommends correcting ecological loss of functioning by the dredging by placing 4,000 feet of wood in the mainstream to replace lost fish habitat and prevent erosion.

“Another 2,500 feet is impacted that is not readily acessible,” Harrington said. They will look for other sites instead. “The DEQ is agreeable to it being upstream of the westerly part…”

On the monitoring, Dull said an agreement with Snell will provide a list of things to be monitored with reports given every six months that the drain office can do, “so he won’t have to be on site all that time and save us some money.”

After an hour in closed session with the Intercounty Drain Board’s Attorney Stacy Hissong, the board returned and unnimously voted to accept the revised version made with Hissong’s input and directed Snell to submit a plan to the DEQ by May 12, detailing every activilty, justifying locations and ecological benefits.

His submission will include the “tweaking” done in closed session with the attorney.  Also, Hissong will negotiate a consent order with the DEQ. The plan has to be accepted by the DEQ and also the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Hissong said and, “will take some time…it will be months.”

In the meantime Hissong will see if the drain board, “can start on some of it,” while waiting for formal approval of the plan.

SES was contracted in 2015 by the Intercounty Drain Board to develop a remediation plan acceptable to the DEQ,  Snell submitted two plans; the first was returned for revisions. The second has been stalled since last fall.

The next board meeting will be June 7, at the Barry Central Dispatch meeting room at 9 a.m.

Three teens climb onto Thornapple Kellogg High School roof, one hurt

Three teen-age youths, all males, climbed onto the roof of the Thornapple Kellogg High School  in a non-school related activity late Friday night, according to a preliminary report from Thornapple Township Emergency Services (TTES) Captain Chad Klutman.


It is unclear how it happened, but one of the teens was hurt during the incident.  He was transported to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in serious but not life threatening condition, Klutman said.  School officials have been notified. TTES was assisted by Caledonia Fire Rescue. Barry County deputies were also on scene.

Yankee Springs Fire Department hosts state certified fire academy

In Oct. 2016 the Wayland / Yankee Springs Township Fire Department sponsored a firefighter 1 and 2 state-certified fire academy held at the Yankee Springs station, said Wayland Deputy Fire Chief Dan Miller, who administers the township fire station.


Firefighter candidates took instruction two weeknights and at least one Saturday a month.  All classroom instruction and practicals were held at the department with the exception of driver training in the parking lot of the Gun Lake Community Church.

“We’re very thankful they allowed us to use their parking lot for the driving practical exercises,” Miller said. Other practicals training were held at the Wayland Fire Department.

The state’s written exam was held in March and state practicals test on April 1.  The newly certified firefighters received their state firefighter 1 and  2 and HazMat certificates on April 7. One firefighter from Leighton Township, three from Wayland Fire Department and four from Otsego Fire Department also attended the academy.

“This raises the total number of state certified firefighters at the Yankee Springs Department to 15, after we started out with none on April 1, 2016,” Miller said. There are also 12 Medical First Responders (MFR) of Wayland Area EMS who are also firefighters out of the Yankee Springs station, he added.

“We’re very pleased with the progress that has been made for the citizens of Yankee Springs Township; those passing through, and the mutual aid given to other departments over the past year,” he said.

Miller gave much of the credit to the Yankee Springs Township Fire Committee and the Yankee Springs Township Board of Trustees. “Their assistance is greatly appreciated, and we also appreciate the MFR, the firefighters and, last but not least, their families. Without these people, we would have nothing,” he said.

MFR's responded to 222 medical emergencies from April 1, 2016 to April 1, 2017. There were 69 calls for the fire service in the same period.

Man, mother charged with first degree child abuse

The Barry County Prosecutor’s Office Thursday issued child abuse first degree charges  against Karol Daun Blanchard and John McKinzie Munro III in connection with the alleged severe beating of Blanchard’s three year old daughter, according to a prosecutor's office news release.


The child was allegedly beaten over a long period of time and sustained serious injuries which resulted in hospitalization. Blanchard was also charged with child abuse second degree for allegedly failing to protect her from Munro. He was also charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a switchblade.


The child abuse first degree carries a minimum of life in prison and the child abuse second degree carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. The other charges are misdemeanors.

Blanchard received a $500,000 cash or surety bond and Munro received bond of $1 million dollars cash or surety. Their probable cause hearings are set for April 26.


Substance Abuse Task Force update given

The stated mission of the Barry County Substance Abuse Council is to prevent, reduce, and address the consequence of existing and emerging substance abuse issues through collaborative efforts for youths and adults in the community.


To do that, the organization uses several strategies that impacts several areas; the community, media, youth, outreach and collaboration, said Liz Lenz, coordinator of the Substance Abuse Task Force, (ASTF).


Lenz gave a presentation to the Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday highlighting its priority areas of underage drinking prevention and risky adult drinking, marijuana and emerging drug trends, tobacco and prescription medicine abuse/opioids and heroin.  They are making a difference, shown by decreasing use of tobacco by youth, stable youth use of alcohol and marijuana, maintained low rate of youth use of prescription medications without prescriptions, and an overall increased awareness or presence, she said.//


Lenz listed several of the task force’s efforts and gave some emerging drug trends, or “things on our radar,”  as changing attitudes and norms relative to marijuana, marijuana  infused products, medical marijuana facilities licensing act of 2016 which will bring many changes, opioid/heroin epidemic, drug overdoses, and cigarettes and vaping.


Every law enforcement department in Barry County carries Naloxone kits to counteract opioid overdoses, Hastings Deputy Chief Dale Boulter said, as he explained how the kits are used to give overdose victims “a second chance at life.”//


Lenz listed five things to consider:

* 74 percent of Barry County 11th graders have not consumed alcohol recently. Most kids don’t drink.

* A 40 percent decrease in youth’s exposure to second hand smoke since 2012. More adults are not smoking around children.

* in today’s world, information is constant 24/7-and not always accurate. Positive adult influence is a major protective factor

* 6+4: as misuse of prescription drugs increases, safer disposal is important. There are six pharmacy and four law enforcement collection sites-resulting in 4,960 pounds collected since January 2011.

* with just 46 percent of youth viewing using marijuana as having moderate or great risk, “we need to be very concerned about the changing perceptions of the harmfulness of marijuana,” she said.


n 2011 it was 68 percent. She said they did not see a significant increase in the use of marijuana, but the perception is changing. In contrast, the perception of (potential harm in) tobacco is 90 percent.

Delton Kellogg Superintendent candidates to be interviewed April 18-19

Hartman Consulting and Delton Kellogg Board of Education trustees met April 11 and selected seven candidates to be interviewed for the Delton Kellogg superintendent’s position.

The interviews, on April 18 and 19, begin at 5:30 p.m. at the D.K. High School cafeteria. Parents, staff, community members are welcome to attend.

The schedule:


Tuesday, April 18


5:30 p.m. Lucas Trierweiler, Delton Kellogg High School principal.

6:20 p.m. Steve Scoville, Delton Kellogg Elementary principal.

7:10 p.m.  Loren Vannest, Hale Area Schools superintendent.

8 p.m. Ken Szczepanski, Hopkins Public Schools High School principal/curriculum director.


Wednesday, April 19


5:30 p.m.  Kyle Corlett, Three Rivers Community Schools elementary principal.

6:20 p.m. Dr. Jeremy Wright, Plainwell Community Schools High School  principal.

7:10 p.m.  Maury Geiger, Saranac Community Schools superintendent.

Unemployment Fraud

Hastings Police are warning individuals about an unemployment fraud that recently took place in Hastings. A Hastings resident told police someone used their Social Security Number to file for unemployment. This person told officials they are employed  and did not file for any unemployment.

The unemployment Agency, The Federal Trade Commission and the FBI have been notified.

Hastings Police are advising individuals to use all caution to protect their personal information and i-d numbers.

Beer and wine to be sold at one Thornapple Plaza summer event

“What happens this first time will tell us what to do next…what worked and what didn’t,”  Phyllis Fuller said after the Hastings City Council voted to allow beer and wine sales at the June 16 Thornapple Plaza entertainment event.

At the March 28 meeting, David Solmes, representing the Hastings Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, repeated a request denied last year by the council: allow the clubs to serve alcohol at the Plaza concession stand. The council didn’t say no, and asked for more information.


Fuller, from Kiwanis, listed the controls: beer and wine only, a two drink limit, wrist bands, two volunteers at five entry points to ID and give stamps, volunteers to make sure no one brings in something they shouldn’t or buys drinks for others and a specified area those who do not drink to separate them from those who do.

Council members argued the drinkers should have a specific area, not the non-drinkers. Fuller said they would be happy to change that, suggesting an area near the concession stand and central pathway for those with drinks, leaving the grassy area for non-drinkers with strollers, lawn chairs and blankets.


Councilman Don Smith said the sales would raise funds for entertainment acts, which are expensive. If people know the premium price of beer and wine, “kind of like at a ballgame,” would go to pay for shows, they wouldn’t mind the price. “The control measures are above and beyond,” he said. Several council members said to, “give it a try”


“We can come back after June with feedback from the community,” Fuller said, adding volunteers will get immediate feedback from the people there and council members were also likely to hear from people. Council members Smith, Brenda McNabb-Stange, David Tossava, Al Jarvis, John Resseguie and Therese Maupin-Moore voted to allow the sales; Bill Redman and Bill Cusack voted  “no.” Don Bowers was absent.

























Monday Tornado

The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids confirmed today Tuesday a tornado  struck part of Kent and Ionia Counties Monday night.

Radar first detected  the twister at 8:36 pm in southeast Kent County and moved east into Ionia County as the warning was flashed alerting the public of the tornado moving with a line of severe thunderstorms.


The tornado was determined to be an EF-1, packing winds of 90 miles and hour.  The warning was lifted at 8:41-pm. The National Weather Service issued Severe Storm Watches for a number of lower Michigan counties in late afternoon.

There were no reported injuries.



Pictures are part of the damage at Tyler Creek Golf Course and nearby structures.   

Photo's by Rick Reynalds

WOW official to attend Hastings City Council meetings, address customers complaints

Paul Cassel, WOW field Service Technical Supervisor, was at the Hastings City Council meeting Monday at the council’s request. He will attend council meetings about once a month to address problems experienced by city residents, he said.


Residents have said they are frustrated by generally poor service, frequent rate increases and no resolutions to problems. Cassel said the company has a system for consumers to complain, but admitted it takes too long for a response.

He would handle complaints at council meetings and left telephone numbers that go around the  system and will get a response for a customer complaint almost immediately, he said.


Also Monday, Mayor David Tossava proclaimed April 24-30 as Lions White Cane Week, and encouraged the public to support the Lions dedication to conserving sight and aiding visually impaired through eye examinations and eye glasses for the needy.


Hastings Lions Club members will be at Wal-Mart and Family Fare taking donations during the week to help pay for eye exams, white canes and glasses for the visually impaired. The Lions support Welcome Home for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Michigan Eye Bank, and other worthy community service projects.









Prevention of child abuse is Family Support Center of Barry County goal

The Hastings City Council Monday recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month with a proclamation presented to Karen Jousma, executive director of the Family Support Center of Barry County.

The Center is a non-profit child advocacy agency with the mission of preventing child abuse, ensuring safety, eliminating all forms of neglect, and providing education and guidance for abused/neglected children and at-risk parents.


Mayor David Tossava read a proclamation that said child abuse is one of the greatest risks to the health and well being of Barry County children. The Family Support Center, through the Barry County Child Abuse Prevention Council, leads local community-based programs to expedite efforts to prevent child abuse now and in future generations through joint efforts.


“The most precious and valuable asset of our county is our children and we must dedicate ourselves, our energy and our resources to the nurturing and protection of these most vulnerable individuals-protecting children and strengthening Barry County families is a shared community responsibility,” Tossava said.


Jousma said the council, now in its 38 year, is one of the best kept secrets of Barry County. Its goal is the same as it has always been: to build strong, healthy families to prevent violence against children. With council approval, the Family Support Center will put 75 to 100 pinwheels in a prevention garden at City Hall, to encourage people to ask what they are for, what they represent. Prevention gardens are all over the United States, raising awareness and educating people, she said.







Hastings, Birch Rural Fire Association extend pact five years

An agreement with Birch Rural Fire Association to extend its services for an additional five years was approved by the Hastings City Council Monday, prompting City Manager Jeff Mansfield to note the only differences in the new contract and the previous five-year agreement are the dates and the signatures.

“(Hastings Fire) Chief (Roger) Caris tells me it has worked well for the last five years,” he said. “And, many more before that,” Caris added.  


A public hearing was set for Monday, April 24 at 7 p.m. to receive comments and determine the need for improvements in the downtown parking special assessment district in 2017. Mansfield said the total for maintenance and repair of parking spaces in the special assessment district this year totals $42,502. The DDA will again pay the difference between the $26,540 assessments in 2008 and assessments this year, an amount of $15,962, he said.

Also on April 24, an hour earlier at 6 p.m., a workshop was set to go over the draft budget for 2017-2018.


In other business, the council approved:

* an ordinance amendment to allow the additions of balconies to downtown buildings in some cases.

* Flexfab’s 9th annual 5K run/walk on June 3 at 9 a.m.

* a Relay for Life Community Rally on May 6 at the Thornapple Plaza

* the installation of a Little Free Library at the Hastings Spray Plaza requested by the Hastings DDA, Hastings Public Library and Hastings High School Building Trades Program.

* a Very Berry Family Event at Tyden Park on June 10 from 9 a.m. to noon, for families with activities and giveaways and information from civic clubs,


The council denied a request from Justin Gulch to hold group fitness classes at Bob King Park, noting commercial enterprises are prohibited in city parks.

Hastings voters liked change in voting venue

Hastings residents voted at the First Baptist Church instead of the Hastings Middle School in the November, 2016 general election because construction at the school forced a change in the polling place.

At the Hastings City Council meeting Monday, Clerk/Treasurer Dan King recommended making the change permanent after, “very good reviews from citizens and church staff,” about the election.

King said he and deputy Clerk Tina Maurer visited church officials who were receptive to the arrangement.


“Parking was the huge issue for voters,” King said. Schools hold classes during voting hours on election day, making parking spaces scarce.


City Manager Jeff Mansfield assured the council that nothing is “permanent,” noting a 120-day notice requirement if either party wants to end the agreement, assuring ample time to find an alternate location for future elections. The vote was unanimous to change the polling place to the church on Woodlawn Avenue instead of the middle school. 

Hastings moves to bring Distributed Antenna Systems user under new ordinance

In 2014, the Hastings City Council granted a request from, a broadband service based in Lansing, to install pole antennas in its street’s rights-of-way on the mistaken information that it was governed by the Metro Act and had to be allowed or the city would face a heavy fine.


However, the council learned that the company’s request was not covered by the Metro Act, which controls equipment in the form of wires, cables and conduits and specifically excludes antennas, structures supporting antenna, equipment houses and ancillary equipment.


Now, has asked to relocate two of its eight distributed antenna system (DAS) pole antennas;  one to another location in the city and one to Rutland Township, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said Monday.


Attorney Jeff Sluggett, who has worked with both the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC) and the city on DAS issues for some time, recommended that the company be required to get the permit required under a GVMC model ordinance and pay permit fees as a condition of relocating the antennas, Mansfield said. The broadband company has agreed to Sluggett's proposal in concept, he said.

A city ordinance based on the GVMC model, with a fee schedule, had its first reading Monday, with action expected at the second reading at the next meeting.

In the meantime, Sluggett will work with on his recommendation. With an agreement, the move will bring under the new ordinance. //



A DAS boosts cellular coverage and capacity and is cheaper than the macro towers used by giant telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon. The antennas, with different styles, are mounted on new poles or existing utility poles in public rights-of-way to bring more service to nearby areas.


Hastings has working on the changing technology for more than a year, and with the Grand Valley Metro Council’s cooperation, the city and other entities paid attorneys to develop a model ordinance to guide them when companies apply to install the new technology.


Officials agree citizens want maximum capabilities for their devices and they want to provide it. But, companies plans for DAS sometimes conflict with city controls on what the infrastructure will look like, where it will go and that it doesn’t interfere with what officials and residents want and need for their communities. is the first DAS user in Hastings, but the council expects more requests from other companies for the systems, since giant telecommunication provider Sprint, has said they will deliver its services by using DAS instead of the large towers., in business since the early1990’s, serves institutional, business, educational and residential customers in 22 cities in southern Michigan, according to its website.



One injured in three vehicle crash on M-37 near Mcglynn Road

Barry County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a multi-vehicle crash Monday at 1:18 p.m. on M-37 Highway near Mcglynn Road.  The crash was reported to involve a semi tractor-trailer, multiple vehicles and multiple vehicle fires.


One person involved in the crashes was injured and transported by ambulance to Borgess Hospital for treatment.  He was conscious and alert at the scene. 

The deputies investigation showed a Ford Escape driven by a 59-year-old man from Dowling was stopped in the northbound lane of M-37 waiting for a vehicle in front of him to make a left turn into a private drive. 


A northbound Ford Econoline cargo van behind the Ford Escape, operated by a 30-year-old man from Battle Creek, was not able to stop. He attempted to swerve to avoid striking the Ford Escape, but struck the rear driver side of the vehicle and continued into the southbound travel lane. 

A semi-tractor trailer operated by a 46-year-old man from Morley, was traveling in the southbound lane of M-37 and was not able to stop before striking the van. 


After coming to a rest, the semi and van became engulfed in flames. The occupants of both vehicles were able to get out before the fires started. 


No injuries were suffered by the driver of the semi, the driver of the Ford Escape or his passenger, his 63-year-old wife. The accident remains under investigation.

Deputies were assisted by Mercy Ambulance, Hastings (BIRCH) Fire and Freeport fire departments, Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police.

National Public Safety Telecommunication week honors 911 telecommunicators

The State 911 Committee gives tribute to Michigan telecommunicators and their vital contributions to public safety. In 1991, the United States Congress designated the second week in April, this year April 9-15,  as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.


The committee is privileged to honor the men and women who serve in this role to protect the citizens of our Great Lakes State. “This week we are stopping to say thank you,” said Harriet Miller-Brown, state 911 administrator. “It is an honor to celebrate these exemplary individuals who demonstrate the highest levels of professional conduct and extraordinary performance. Their dedication and hard work touches the lives of countless people daily.”


In Michigan, 911 centers serve as the primary point for dispatching police, fire, and EMS responses. In addition, telecommunicators provide medical pre-arrival instructions; activate weather alerts, towing services, hospitals, road commission, utility, and public works department notifications; handle call-outs for specialized response teams such as search and rescue, activating medical examiners, and hazmat response teams. //


Telecommunicators receive calls through many various 911 dialing systems including wireless, traditional telephones, Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), and in some counties, via texts.

Jeff Troyer, chair of the committee, also commends the accomplishments of 911

telecommunicators across the state and said: “911 is the gateway to emergency services for residents and visitors during their time of need. Our well-trained 911 professionals in the State of Michigan answer this need almost seven million times each year. I commend these individuals for their exemplary service.” The committee is a 21 member organization that works together to promote the successful development, implementation, and operation of 911 systems across the state.


Quick Facts about 911 in Michigan:

• There are 143 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in Michigan.

• According to the 2016 annual report, of the counties and service districts that reported, the telecommunicators in Michigan answered: 6,994,127 calls to 911, 2,814 Texts-to-911, and 7,546,952 calls from non-911 lines.

• There are approximately 2,089 telecommunicators in Michigan.

• Michigan is one of thirteen states to have training standards for telecommunicators.

• In becoming a telecommunicator, individuals first participate in 80 hours of basic and advanced

dispatch training within their first 24 months of employment.

• Michigan designated telecommunicators maintain continuing education requirements in approved courses and accumulating at least 24 continuing education hours every

24 months.

• Thirty-two counties presently accept Text-to-911 calls which represents 50.24 percent of the population; many other counties are working toward accepting Text-to-911.

For a map of current text-to-911 deployments, visit the SNC website at under “Current Issues.”

Barry County Animal Shelter is part of Empty the Shelters April 29

The Bissell Pet Foundation’s next Empty the Shelters event in Michigan is Saturday, April 29, and the Barry County Animal Shelter is taking part with hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


The Grand Rapids-based non-profit will pay all adoption fees at 69 shelters and rescue organizations on that day, and will thank families for choosing adoption with the gift of an Adopt Box. The adopters will be responsible only for the license fee for the pet they choose.

Potential adopters must register by April 26 at the Barry County shelter, 540 North Industrial Park Drive in Hastings.


More than 2,000 pets are expected to find loving, forever homes in the latest effort. 

 “Many pets in shelters and rescues have never experienced a loving home and Empty the Shelters will give so many pets the second chance they deserve,” said Cathy Bissell, founder of Bissell Pet Foundation.//


Adoption events in May and October last year successfully placed more 2,800 cats and dogs in loving homes last year, thanks to the program sponsored by the foundation, according to it’s website.

Millions of pets are abandoned or released to shelters and rescue organizations each year, In Michigan alone, approximately 40,000 pets are euthanized yearly because they are unable to find new homes. Bissell Pet Foundation is dedicated to reducing these numbers through pet adoption, spay/neuter programs, micro chipping and foster care, the website said.


In previous events, 96 percent of adopters reported pets remained in their new homes three months later; 54 percent of adopters were first-time adopters and 90 percent of all adopters planned to adopt again.



Barry County Sheriff's Office: Boaters are at risk with Thornapple River at flood stage

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office is advising that while the Thornapple River is at flood stage, recreational kayak and canoe enthusiasts are taking a risk being on the river.  High water and fast current, with multiple downed trees and bridge obstructions, have caused several people to capsize today, said a news release from Sgt. Julie Jones, Barry County Sheriff’s Office, Marine Division.


Those not wearing life jackets are at risk of drowning and death, she said.


Strong currents sweep seat cushions and Type IV Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) away from the boaters. The low water temperatures pose an additional threat of hypothermia when subjects are immersed in cold water.  One subject was taken to Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital for hypothermia and exhaustion, she continued. 


Those insisting on boating in treacherous water should be highly experienced, wear a life jacket at all times and leave a float plan with a responsible person.  Rescue boats cannot reach some areas of the river where downed trees and bridges prevent passage.  


Entering the river is extremely dangerous for rescue workers due to numerous hazards, Jones said. Responding agencies in the water rescues were the Hastings Fire Department, Hastings Police Department, Michigan State Police, Life Care Ambulance Service and the sheriff’s office.


Four individuals in River

Three kayakers  wound up in the Thornapple River Sunday morning when their kayak flipped over.

Hastings Chief of Police Jeff Pratt told WBCH News their officers were called to Tyden Park  where they had been seen in their small boat. 

The three had been carried down river by the rapidly moving water, but did manage to get themselves out the river near Riverside cemetary. One idividual was taken to the hospital to be checked out after being in the icy water.

Shortly before 3:00 o'clock another kayaker ended up in the river sending emergency personnel to the river for the second time Sunday.

Hastings Police, Sheriff deputies, State Police, Hastings Fire department and ambulance personnel rushed to the scene. Police are warning individuals to stay off of the river.

The Thornapple river  is at 8 feet  and  dangerous.  A Flood Warning remains in effect.


Power Outage River Reading

Thursdays heavy wet snow  caused a number of problems  knocking out power at one time to over 10,000 Consumers Energy customers in Barry County It appears that powers has been restored to   their Barry County Customers.


The Thornapple river  remains under a flood warning. the river reading is above 8- feet. flood stage in Hastings is 7-feet. Unless we get more heavy rain the river should begin to slowly go down.

Lowell barn fire "inconsistancies" being investigated by Kent County Sheriff

Early Saturday about 2:10 a.m., the Lowell Fire Department responded to a barn fire in the 3200 block of Timpson Avenue SE finding a fully involved barn which took several hours to extinguish. The fire caused the tragic loss of 13 horses and nearly the entire barn structure, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports.


While fire fighters were extinguishing the blaze, the property owners notified fire personnel of several inconsistencies with the condition of the barn and surrounding property. Lowell Fire contacted the sheriff’s office to report the information from the owners.


Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene to begin the investigation. Initial deputies on scene also documented several concerns with the nature of the fire and requested the assistance of investigators from the sheriff’s office and the Michigan State Police fire investigator for further examination of the scene.


The investigation is currently ongoing. The sheriff’s office is requesting anyone with information about the incident contact the sheriff’s office investigate division at (616) 632-6125.

Barry County United Way lists allocations for 2017-18

The Barry County United Way Allocations Committee has announced allocations to 20 agencies in 2017-18.

“Programs that directly impact our residents will be funded thanks to the very generous contributions made by the people of Barry County,” said committee Chairman Cort Collison.  Thirty community members broke into six panels to meet with 501(c) 3 agencies that provide direct services to residents of the community.


The committee, a diverse group of volunteers representing all areas of Barry County, is charged with funding agencies that meet the community impact agenda, the mission statement of United Way and strict financial requirements.  Agencies requests ranged from $2,000 to $86,000.

The community impact areas and the amounts funded are:


Youth achieving their full potential:

Barry County 4H: $58,152.90

Backpack Program: $8,180

Barry County Substance Abuse: $17,698.72

Leadership Youthquest: $5,108.72

President  Ford Boy Scout Council: $7,328.72

Thornapple Parks and Recreation: $11,081.72

Toys for Barry County Kids: $4,731.97

YMCA: $85,913.72


Supporting families to achieve well being and success:

CASA: $9,076.52

Day of Caring: $826.54

Eaton Clothing and Furniture: $2,076.52.

Family Support Center Crib Program: $8,927.66.

Family Support Center: $40,362.52.

Habitat for Humanity: $23,041.45

Safe Harbor: $8,636.52

Great Start Readiness: $2,076.52


Helping seniors find support and maintain independence:

Commission on Aging: $17,131.05

In Home Services: $6,500

Hastings Community Education and Recreation Center: $4,631.03


Addressing urgent need programs:

211: $13,500

Food Bank of South Central Michigan: $14,037.66 

The Fresh Food Initiative: $4,731.06

Green Gables Haven: $63,529.66

Manna’s Market: $44,402.66

Project Homeless Connect and the Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Detector Program: $912.74

Mission United/Barry County Veteran’s Affairs: $3,305.10


Seventeen out-county not for profit 501(c)3 health and human service agencies were designated dollars by donors totaling $5,411.12.  Thirteen in-county agencies that did not request funds were designated dollars by donors totaling $6,278.00. //


Programs that operate within the Barry County United Way are funded through grants and other types of donations include: Car Seat Education, Dental Clinic Intake, Financial Mentoring, Continuum of Care – Homeless Prevention and Emergency Assistance including the MEAP Utility Assistance, VSP eyeglass voucher program, Veteran’s Affairs and The Volunteer Center.


“We are very fortunate that the Florence Tyden Groos Endowment Fund held by the Barry Community Foundation supports the administrative costs of the Barry County United Way. This allows all dollars donated to the annual campaign to be distributed to programs and services that directly impact the residents of our community,” Collison said.


For more on the programs and agencies funded by Barry County United Way, call Lani Forbes at 269-945-4010 or visit


Colorado man thought to have drowned in Kalamazoo River

Michael Joseph Baird, 34, from Englewood, CO, was visiting relatives in the Plainwell area when he was reported missing Thursday evening when he failed to come home after a walk in Plainwell where he was known to visit the river.  Allegan County Central Dispatch received a 911 call at 8:30 p.m. Thursday reporting a person in the Kalamazoo River calling for help in the North Street area in Plainwell, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports.


Plainwell Department of Public Safety and Otsego City Police Department officers and sheriff’s deputies responded to the call and confirmed that a man, suspected to be Baird, had fallen into the river and fallen victim to strong currents.


Rescue efforts began from downtown Plainwell to the area of the U.S.131 overpass.  Life lines and rescue devices were used, but the man was unable to grab hold. Deputies made additional attempts at rescue in the 12th Street area of Otsego Township without success. Shortly after the attempts, the victim no longer responded to officers and disappeared from view.

 Search efforts were suspended just after midnight Thursday, resumed Friday morning and into late afternoon when the operation was transitioned to recovery efforts.  Extremely high water levels, swift currents and river hydrology, natural deadfall and debris hampered the efforts.


The search was temporarily called off at 6 p.m. until weather and water conditions improve. The sheriff’s office will monitor water levels and environmental conditions daily to determine when operations can safely resume reducing substantial risk to personnel.

The cause of the incident is unknown, however, it is believed to be accidental. The sheriff’s office received a report of a missing person from the Plainwell area shortly after the incident was reported to 911.


Agencies involved with the initial rescue attempts and recovery efforts include the Plainwell Department of Public Safety, the Otsego Police Department, the Otsego Fire Department, Plainwell EMS, members of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol, Marine Division and Dive / Rescue & Recovery Team, the Allegan County volunteer Search & Rescue Team and the Michigan State Police.




Longest-serving member of Lawrence J. Bauer Post #45 American Legion in Hastings, dies

Donald Kenneth Wellfare, 93, passed away April 1, 2017, in Ionia, MI, at Heartland Health Care Center, according to this special notice provided by the Lawrence J. Bauer Post #45, American Legion in Hastings.


Don was the son of George and Gladys (Coburn) Wellfare, born on January 8, 1924 in Hastings, MI.  Don was married to Elaine M. Winslow on December 24, 1943.  They resided in Rutland Township on Algonquin Lake and on West State Road.  Don built both of their homes and lived on West State Road until his move to Oak View Assisted Living and then eventually to Heartland Health Care Center. 


Donald’s family will be served by Lauer Family Funeral Home, Hastings.  At Don’s request, a graveside service will be held on April 13 at 2 p.m., at Hastings Township Cemetery on McKeown Road.  Memorial contributions to Great Lakes Caring Hospice, 900 N. Cooper Street, Jackson, MI 40202, or a charity of your choice. //


 Don graduated from Hastings High School, the class of 1942.  He participated in track and cross country as a team captain for three years, holding a 440 yard dash record until the 1960s. He entered the Army Infantry Branch on January 21, 1943 from Ft. Custer.  He trained in San Luis Obispo and Camp Rucker in Alabama.


He served with the 35th Division Company B, 134 Regiment, and took part in the Omaha Beach, Normandy Campaign.  Don was injured at the Battle of St. Lo, and hospitalized in England for one year.  Don was discharged from Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, MI on June 7, 1945.  Don was awarded a Bronze Battle Star, European-African Middle Eastern Theater ribbon, a Combat Infantry Badge, and a Purple Heart medal. 


After his return from the service, Don worked at Tyden/Viking Corporation as a tool and die machinist and retired as a supervisor at Tyden Seal, after working for forty-four years. After retirement Don enjoyed his cottage on the Muskegon River and his home in Florida in the winter. 

He loved his family and was a proud grandparent, great-grandparent, and great-great-grandparent.  Don was preceded in death by the love of his life, wife Elaine, his parents, brother Karl, sister Beverly, and two grandbabies. 

Surviving are his children, Vicki (Jock) Clarey of Portland, MI and Sue (Steve) Allerding of Ionia, MI; grandchildren, Kelly (Patrick) Blake, John (Lisa) and Colleen Clarey, Josh and Tim Allerding, Abbie (Ken) Whorley; and great-grandchildren, Tyler (Kiley), Kelsey, Kathryn, Hunter, Chloe, Chet, Elizabeth, Brayden, Sophie, Isabella; great-great grandchildren Holden and Zoey; four nieces and a nephew; special friend Pat Leckrone. 

County Health Rankings: Barry County in top 15 percent on overall health

Barry County ranks very well on overall health, according to the just released 2017 County Health Rankings. Barry County ranked 9th out of 83 Michigan counties for Health Outcomes and 13th  for Health Factors, putting the county in the top 15 percent of counties, according to a Barry Eaton District Health Department news release.


Rankings are based on a model of population health that emphasizes the many factors that, if improved, can help make communities healthier places to live, learn, work, and play. The Health Outcomes are based on the sickness and death that a county is currently experiencing. The Health Factors are based on a variety of measures that influence future health outcomes.


The rankings provide information about what is working. Barry County is strong in the area of social and economic factors, ranking 7thThe report can be used to build on successes and mobilize community leaders to take action and implement programs and policy changes in areas that need improvement. //


For example, the Barry County Great Start Collaborative is working to increase social support to parents, reduce child poverty, and increase school readiness to improve educational outcomes. Visit for more information.


The rankings shed light on factors that are making residents unhealthy and what more can be done to make the county a healthier place.

The county is at a moderate risk for poor health when it comes to behaviors that affect health, such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, where it ranked 17th  out of 83 counties. This indicates that the county needs to do more to improve health behaviors and aspects of the physical environment that discourages physical activity.


Potential action steps include stepping up efforts for tobacco cessation and prevention; obesity prevention; improving access to dentists, mental health and primary care providers; and increasing the number of sidewalks so people have more opportunities for physical activity.


The rankings also highlight the importance of physical environment to health with the county ranked low for the physical environment, 71st  in the state. The score includes measures of air pollution, drinking water violations, severe housing problems and motor vehicle driving commutes.

The low ranking was partly driven by municipal drinking water system violations, which were appropriately reported and addressed. The example shows why there is monitoring and oversight of municipal drinking water systems by the water provider and regulatory agencies.


The rankings provide an opportunity to learn about steps being taken to improve the health of county residents:


•The B. Healthy Coalition is working to prevent and control obesity and chronic disease through policy and environmental change and to increase awareness of healthy lifestyles. For more information, visit


•The Barry County Tobacco Reduction Coalition has a strategic plan to improve the health of Barry County through reducing exposure to tobacco, cigarettes, and environmental tobacco smoke.  Contact Lauren Cibor at (269) 945-9516 ext. 624 for more information.


•The Barry County Substance Abuse Task Force is focused on improving health through reducing the negative effects of alcohol and substance misuse and prescription drug misuse. Visit their website for more information.


Everyone in the community has a stake in being healthy. Working together, Barry County residents can make their community a healthier place to live, learn, work, and play.

Learn more about the 2017 County Health Rankings at



Barry County Animal Shelter director charged with misconduct in office

A criminal charge was issued today against Billie Jo Hartwell, director of the Barry County Animal Shelter, according to a news release from the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.


Hartwell was charged with one count of misconduct in office, a felony common law offense, that carries a maximum of 5 years in prison.

The charge stems from a combination of alleged acts of misconduct, ranging from unauthorized taking of dog food to inappropriate conduct toward a Barry County Jail inmate worker. 

“Although the sheriff’s office and the animal shelter are now separate entities, the inmate worker was assigned to the animal shelter as it is a county run facility,” the release said.


The Barry County Sheriff’s Office began investigating this case after they were alerted to the alleged misconduct towards the inmate worker, it said.  The investigation is ongoing. 


Hartwell was arraigned today, Wednesday,  in District Court and is free on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.  A probable cause conference has been scheduled for April 12 at 8:15 a.m.


*Superintendent's Platform

WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight news in their districts. This posting is from Delton Kellogg  Superintendent Carl Schoessel:


“Know Your Schools.

"The most recent meeting of the Delton Kellogg Board of Education conducted on March 20 included student presentations and honors, reports about the Delton Kellogg Education Foundation and the search for a new superintendent, and awarding bids for the last projects to be done with funds from the bond proposal:

·      Student presentations – Students from the Delton Kellogg Elementary School’s Chess Club reported on their successes in recent competition with area schools and explained how the school’s character education theme of “Perseverance” helped them in the competitions.  Members of the Middle School’s Social Awareness Group explained some of their current projects, and students from the High School reported on their experiences at the Conference Leadership Summit.

·      Student honors – Middle School student Jacob Shorey won the Barry Intermediate School District Spelling Bee championship for the second year in a row, the Elementary and Middle School’s Odyssey of the mind team qualified for the state finals, and High School students Tyden Ferris and Esteban Villalobos were All-State wrestlers.

·      Delton Kellogg Education Foundation – It was reported that the Foundation is raising funds for the Delton Kellogg High School Band’s trip to Pearl Harbor upon being one of the two bands in Michigan to be selected to participate in the 75th anniversary observance of World War II.  The Foundation also will be awarding 17 $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors this year.

·      Superintendent Search – Dr. Carl Hartman of Hartman Consulting presented a progress report on the search for a new superintendent in the Delton Kellogg Schools.

·      Construction project bids – A total of $972,055 was awarded for construction projects to be completed in the spring and summer."



Family of five escorted out of home on fire by Orangeville Firefighter

A home on Bever Road is a total loss after a fire, but the family of five was safely escorted out of the house by an Orangeville Firefighter about 1:30 a.m. this Wednesday morning. The firefighter lived about a mile from the home and was first on the scene, Orangeville Fire Chief Danny Boulter said.

In a preliminary report, Boulter said the house is a total loss and no dollar estimate of loss or cause of the fire are available as yet.

Boulter said the house had working smoke detectors, but since the  fire began in the garage, it had not built up enough heat to activate them.

Delton and Prairieville fire departments assisted Orangeville.

Man punches elevator panel

A Delton man, who was upset with what took place in a Barry County Court Room, went out into the lobby and punched the elevator panel causing damage.


According to the Hastings Police report, the mans wife and the Judge had words, which the judge took issue with.


The man, who's name was not released, said he didn't intend to damage the elevator, but would take care of the damage.


The matter has been turned over to the Barry County Prosecutor.

Change in allocation formula at Barry Eaton District Health Department considered

A decades-old formula used by Barry and Eaton county officials to determine the share each paid to support the combined Barry Eaton District Health Department was difficult, if not impossible, to understand or explain, Barry County Commissioners agreed in 2016.


County Commissioners have debated the allocations ratio for several years, looking for a fair, understandable  division for each county’s contributions. In late 2016, county commissioners proposed a change in the formula based on taxable values and millage rates to one based on the counties populations.


Since then, Commissioner Ben Geiger, County Administrator Michael Brown, Eaton County Commission Chairman Blake Mulder and Eaton County Controller John Fuente have been working toward the proposal and have a tentative agreement to change the formula, Geiger said.

"The result will be “a simpler, clearer, and more efficient process that will benefit everyone,” he said. Commissioners Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker represent Barry County on the BEDHD board. “They are happy with the formula change,” Jackson said. “It will take a few months to solidify that.” “It’s very appropriate with what we’re going to do,” Parker said.


In 1966, the two counties merged its departments into a district health department and with a cost sharing formula based on the apportioned population in the counties. Over time, it was modified to become a formula based on gross taxes and millage.


Barry County ponders Gun Lake Dam options, will hold public information meeting

Barry County Commissioners heard options on what to do with the Gun Lake Dam, which was saved from collapse in May, 2015 by emergency repairs, including 200 tons of rock.

Dan Fredericks of LRE Engineers & Surveyors of Comstock Park, was hired in October, 2016 to do an engineering study of the dam. Tuesday, he gave commissioners the preliminary results.


The dam, built in 1921, is just north of Marsh Road and controls the lake level of the 2,680 acre lake. Fredericks gave three options: do nothing, repair the dam, or build a new dam. After visual inspection, topographical survey, flow monitoring and costs and, “based on our analysis of existing conditions, evaluation of alternatives and discussions with impacted stakeholders, LRE recommended replacing the Gun Lake Dam.”


The report said while the emergency repairs stabilized the structure, the dam has a fundamental design flaw which will require “further reactive repairs.” Repairing the dam would be extremely costly and leaking may still develop, which led to the recommendation for a new dam.

The estimated cost would be $300,000, excluding legal, permit, land acquisition, administrative and finance costs, Fredericks said.


Commissioner Vivian Conner asked that Fredericks, attorneys, and Drain Commissioner Jim Dull, among others, hold an informational meeting for residents around the lake to hear the details in another presentation by Fredericks and give their opinions on the direction the county should go.


The commission set a tentative date of April 25, likely at the Yankee Springs Township Hall.//

How to pay for the construction would be one of three ways; through the county, county drain commissioner and circuit court, with the drain commission setting costs and special assessment roll or, through a Lake Improvement Board by a petition to the DNR, with the lake board controlling the process and setting a special assessment district or, through the county and Barry County Board of Public Works, which would be responsible for construction, setting the assessment roll and holding hearings.


A preliminary construction schedule has engineering, establishing a special assessment district and engineering design this year with bidding and construction in the fall and winter of this year and all of 2018, Fredericks reported.


Conner said lake residents didn’t seem especially upset about a special assessment district, but everyone she talked to said: “Just get it done.”





Barry County Community Health Improvement Plan released

Community organizations in Barry County have released a work plan that will help  improve the health of Barry County residents over the next two years.


The 2016-2018 Barry County Community Health Improvement Plan outlines the steps a variety of county agencies are taking to improve health in five priority areas: Chronic Disease in Adults, Mental Health, Obesity, Smoking and Tobacco Use, and Opportunities for Physical Activity.


“The Community Health Improvement Plan really highlights local efforts that are happening to improve the health of those who work, live, and play in Barry County,” said Susan Peters, health analyst with the Barry-Eaton District Health Department.


The plan involves a variety of organizations, including hospital and health care partners, community coalitions and county agencies. It is a follow-up of the 2015 Barry County Community Health Needs Assessment, an in-depth measure of various aspects of health in the county, Peters said.


Contributors to the work plan include the Barry County Access to Care Coalition, Barry County Great Start Collaborative, Barry County Tobacco Reduction Coalition, Barry-Eaton District Health Department, B. Healthy Coalition, and Spectrum Health Pennock.


“Instead of working independently of each other, it makes more sense to work together so that we do not duplicate efforts and can have the greatest impact,” Peters said.  

Progress toward achieving the plan’s goals will be measured and reported on the health department’s website for the next two years. 


New contributions to the work plan from additional community organizations are welcome and will be incorporated into future updates of the plan.

The public is encouraged to read the report online at and provide feedback via an online survey at


“We would encourage anyone who is interested in participating in the health improvement process to become involved with one of our local coalitions; they are driving a lot of the exciting improvements in Barry County,” Peters said.  A list of local coalitions is available at



SBCS&WA upset, part two

A special meeting for March 31 was called by Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority Chairman Jim Stoneburner to “make clear all the actions that took place (Tuesday) and give Mark one last chance to have his say.”

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. When the roll call showed Messelink, Earl and Kahler absent, the meeting ended at 6:31 p.m. for lack of a quorum.


Some people left, some stayed and talked to Doster, Stoneburner and VanNiman.

Doster said his  confusion came from being “a little flustered” because the discussion was about him, and he didn’t have time to write down the three motions, one withdrawn shortly after it was made by Kahler.

“What is the meaning of a freeze? Does that mean no cuts to my salary?” Doster asked.

He said he didn’t hear the part about a time clock, and  noted he has a contract with the authority.


Doster understood that he was to be moved to hourly for 40 hours a week. He wasn’t sure of the date or where the wage was set, but if his $60,730 salary was frozen for one year, he said that would mean he would still get the same wages he gets now.

He assumed his benefits remained the same, but a proposed 2.5 percent raise would be denied by the freeze.


“I was totally caught off guard,” VanNiman said:  Some members knew all about the time clock before the information on it was passed out. As for surveillance cameras, it sounded like it was to watch the employees, not cover the outside.”

 “Mark has brought us a long ways with the plant in infrastructure,” Stoneburner said. “Others make a lot more than Mark without so many hours, he’s not high on the list of what they get.”


“We’ve had a lot of really good people on the board in the past. We all try to do the best we can.” He asked for the shows of temper to stop, and, “work on this in a professional, positive way, not the backbiting that s going on now.”


Roger Turner, chair of the authority from 2004 to 2011 and formerly on the Barry Township board, gave his personal perspective on the situation, stressing that he was not speaking for anyone but himself. “Mark is absolutely blameless in this,” he said.

In the beginning, the sewer authority was plagued with financial and legal troubles. Doster was hired in 2005 to handle its administration and did a good job, Turner said. “We recognized his role as project manager, with projects under budget and some rebates given to users.”


Friction between the authority and Barry Township over who should pay a shortfall on bond payments on a Fine Lake sewer project was the start of a  “toxic” relationship, that has continued and spread to other areas, he said.

Turner said Doster did not cause the problem but,  “the Barry Township board thought Mark was the cause of it all...I don’t know why. I have never had a problem with anything that Mark has done. It has gone from a struggling entity to an excellent entity.”


Barb Cichy, who agreed with Doster that they have been, “on opposite sides of the fence (on sewer issues) since 1994,” had a list of concerns critical of  Doster and the authority board on the day to day running of the authority, including spending $1.5 million for 2,264 users, not issuing reports to the public, allowing hunting on authority property and not explaining attorney fees or why the water system was turned over to Barry Township. “Residents expect better management,” she said.


Christie Tigchelaar just wanted “personality conflicts” to stop. “It doesn’t reflect on the community very well…attacking someone who hasn’t done anything wrong, and is doing an exceptional job. I don’t want to use the words witch hunting, but…

“Hastings works together to  make it great.. working and achieving. We’re not achieving when you have a witch hunt going on,” Tigchelaar said.


Stoneburner sees “a potential for disaster for our plant…to intimidate and bully people that we’re getting…other board members and myself all want the best for our public...but to bully and threaten us; there must be an agenda here somewhere.

“Something fishy is going on, and I don’t know what it is. Some comments from members are coming directly from a county commissioner.


“Three others knew about it ahead of time, it caught me by surprise; it caught Mark by surprise. Not enough information was given to the board, no facts, and no discussion. “We can all have disagreements, sure, I just feel to make changes from salary to hourly was just rammed through.”  

SBCS&WA board upset, part one

A serious split in the Southwest Barry County Sewer & Water Authority board was revealed last week at one board meeting and a special meeting that did not take place for lack of a quorum.

Because of the length of the account of what happened during last week, it will only be on WBCH website. A two-part story, this is part one, followed by part two on another page.


At the center of the disruption is the job performance and salary of authority administrator Mark Doster.  

At the budget hearing board meeting March 28, the board approved 3-2, to move Doster from salary to hourly at a rate of $29.20 a hour on June 1, with him verifying his hours worked with a time clock.


David Messelink, Hope Township representative and vice-chair of the board, presented the changes in a motion that was approved with Messelink, Barry Township Supervisor Wes Kahler, and Johnstown Supervisor Barbara Earl voting “yes,” and Chair Jim Stoneburner and Prairieville Township representative Richard Van Niman voting “no.”


Messelink’s figures: Doster’s annual salary, $60,730, divided by 52 weeks is $1,167.89, divided by 40 hours results in pay of $29.20 an hour.

Stoneburner earlier made a motion to approve the budget as it was presented, meaning no change in Doster’s status, which includes a 2.5 percent raise. The motion failed 3-2, with Stoneburner and Van Niman voting “yes,” Messelink, Earl and Kahler voting “no.”

Urging Doster not to take it personally as  it wasn’t his fault, “the board set your salary,” Messelink twice offered to go into closed session because it was a personnel matter. Doster declined.

 Messelink said he has received complaints from citizens about his accountability and the amount he is paid for part-time hours, a contention raised by Barry County Commissioner David Jackson at the January meeting.


Doster said his salary should be judged on the outcome of his work, not the number of hours spent in the office.

He told of the rocky history in the early years; threats of bankruptcy, shortfalls in bond payments, public protests and legal challenges designed “to destroy” the project.

“The theory is to judge you on what you do. Look at what I’ve accomplished. The authority is in great financial condition, there has not been a rate increase to users in 11 years. That’s unheard of.  

“ This amount is not excessive to other administrators in this area.  (As an attorney) I have significantly lowered your risk of legal entanglements…I think I’m worth every penny… I’ve done an extraordinary job. If I only took one minute, it doesn’t matter, if I do my job.”

Messelink disagreed.

“It is exorbitant at best. I can’t justify what you make in a very, very part time job, let alone a $1,500 raise.”

Earl said she has heard complaints. ”People said it is entirely too much for that job. From 2005 to 2009, you doubled  your wages.”

 “The problem is that you have no accountability,” Messelink said. “No cell phone, no laptop that we authorized, no personal e-mail address, just one for the whole authority. That’s unacceptable.”

Stoneburner supported Doster: “I see value in what Mark does. I see the end results.”


Jackson, an outspoken critic of Doster’s salary, brought it up again during the budget hearing.

He said that Doster started out at $25,000 a year in 2005, and in 2016 is at a level of $90,000 in salary and benefits for a eight-to-15 hour work week.

Jackson also brought up possible “behind the scenes deals” and rumors that there is an effort to “give” the proposed Hickory Corners project to the Gull Lake Sewer Authority.

Stoneburner, who also sits on the Gull Lake Sewer Authority board, replied: “I still stand where I did before….We certainly are not going to pull (the proposed project) from us and send it to Gull Lake… I sit on both boards and I work diligently on both boards.”

Jackson said he was “confused, concerned and a little miffed” by the rumors he had heard from a board member.  He said there is the possibility of conflict of interest and collusion and hinted he might see the Barry County Prosecutor.

Messelink said to Stoneburner: “We fought tooth and nail on this. Is there an effort to turn it over to Gull Lake?”

“No, there is not, ” Stoneburner said.


Doster said when hired in 2005, it was by contract for 20 hours a week. “I’ve never been a fulltime employee,” he said.

When he was made project director for sewer projects, his contract called for him to work an additional five hours a week, or up to 30 hours a week, he said. “I’m at 32 hours a week now.”


Doster said he took the administrator’s position in 2005 for $25,000 and no benefits because of its problems with cash flow.

In 2006, the bottom line had improved, and he was given a $5,000 raise, an employment agreement and benefits, he said.


In 2007, he was given the position of project manager for a specific project with a separate wage of $17,000 a year with a two-year-contract.

In 2008, he became project manager for the entire sewer authority with the positions combined and one salary, he said. His wages have gone up since then adjusted to inflation.


"There is one thing I want to make very clear,” he said. “There isn’t any taxpayer money, state or federal funds going to the sewer. It is entirely paid by the users.”




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