Local News Archives for 2018-10

Public input brings lots of ideas for Hastings parks and recreation plan

Hastings officials will have a clear idea of what its citizens want in parks and recreation when they study the results of a public input session held last week.


John McCann, landscape architect with Viridis Design Group, led the session. He gave a short overview on updating the city's five year Parks & Recreation Master Plan. The 20 to 25 participants at the session divided into groups at a half dozen tables and brainstormed ideas in four areas of interest in parks and recreation in the city.


To question one, how the city could improve its parks and recreation system, the first three items listed were trail connections between parks, camping for bicyclists and campers and an awareness campaign. In the 19 responses, they also asked for more playgrounds, way-finding signs, a sports complex and year-round facilities.


Question two, on what new and innovative park amenities the city should add to parks, the top three ideas were restrooms at all parks, lighting and an “adopt a sign” program by local businesses. Other wants in the list of 21 ideas, included universally accessible playground equipment, food forest/community gardens, keep parks open at night and add lighting, and new playground equipment.


Question three asked what cultural/historical based recreational amenities would interest them. The top three of 13 ideas were interpretative signs to tell the history of parks, campground, a Native American Center as well as additional support for Charlton Park, shuffleboard, climbing wall, cross country skiing and food market.


The last question, asking for three long term goals the city could focus on for parks and recreation drew two dozen responses, with the top four, a sports complex, security, lighting and cameras, smart phone apps and design for sensory needs. Also noted were being the center of a regional trail, enhancing Sweezy’s Pond, collaborations with businesses/special interest groups and a community scout team to visit other parks for ideas.


McCann outlined the process to a final Parks & Recreation Plan; evaluate the facilities, set a timetable for capital improvements, set goals and objectives on grants and develop an action plan and capital spending schedule.


A draft plan will then be developed for the council to review, followed by a 30-day period for citizen’s review and comment with a Feb. 1, 2109 deadline for the final document.

The public input meeting was part of information gathering which includes an on-line survey at:


Survey respondents so far have identified the top five needs in recreation as fitness programs, winter sports, fitness classes, arts and dance and summer camps. The five most used recreational activities named in the survey are mostly provided by the YMCA. McCann noted that an updated five year master plan is required to apply for federal and state DNR grants.










Photo: (from left) Dave Tossava, Rick Moore and Lee Hays pick the suggetions they feel are most needed for parks and recreation in Hastings.

New York woman dies in two-car crash in Orange Township

A young New York woman was killed and a St. Johns man injured in a two-car crash at 6:04 a.m. tuesday morning at the intersection of David and Keefer highways in Orange Township, according to an Ionia County Sheriff’s media release.


Preliminary investigation revealed that a 2008 Honda Civic driven by a 20-year-old woman from New York was traveling north bound on Keefer Highway when she disregarded the stop sign at David Highway.


A Dodge Ram 2500 pickup driven by Kevin Coffman, 28, from St. Johns, was westbound on David Highway; his pickup struck the Honda on the passenger side. The 20-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Coffman was transported to Sparrow Ionia Hospital for his injuries.   


The identity of the woman is not being released at this time to allow family to be notified. Seatbelts were in use at the time of the crash; alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor. 

Berlin/Orange Fire Department, Ionia County Central Dispatch, Portland Ambulance, Lehman’s Funeral Home, and Reed and Hoppes Towing assisted sheriff’s deputies on scene.


Committee formed to build ice rink, recreation complex in Hastings

The Hastings Area Recreational Complex Advisory Committee has been formed and continues work started toward an ice skating rink and complex for the community to use for recreation and family and business events at Tyden Park for 365 days a year.


Proposed by Hastings Councilman Bill Redman, he researched permanent roofed ice rinks and has put the wheels in motion for an ice skating rink on the basketball courts at Tyden Park that could also be used in the summer for tennis and basketball, weddings, reunions, birthday parties, business meetings and, “any other group activity the community wants.”

In the winter, any day it’s below 45 degrees, they can make ice for skating. “I’d like to see a hockey team here,” he said.


The total cost is an estimated $6.5 million. Redman has a pledge of $200,000 from an anonymous donor, “when we reach $1 million, there will be another $300, 000,” he said.


“We have a lot of hurdles to go over, we have to be incorporated and get 501c3 status,” Redman said. “When we get them back, we can go full bore. This is for all county residents; we’ll hold meetings for the public to let them know this is a county effort; this is yours, too.”


After the facility is built, there will be moderate fees to pay for expenses. Every city he visited with an ice rink broke even on expenses, he said. He found there were 100 covered ice rinks in Michigan.


The committee will keep the public up on its progress by social media, ads, and the city’s website and public service announcements. Also, they plan on fund raisers and donations. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation may have grants available; if so, those funds will be administered by the City of Hastings. Other funds and donations raised will be administered by the Barry Community Foundation, he said.


Committee members are Redman, president; Julie Fox, secretary; Courtney Stonehouse, treasurer; Carl Schoessel, Mike Moyle, Jon Sporer and Travis Alden.

Hastings Cops vs. Cadets football game cancelled, will be rescheduled

The Hastings Cops vs Cadets flag football game,scheduled for saturday was cancelled due to inclement weather and additional injuries to the cop’s roster, Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.

The game will be rescheduled when the cops are healthy and the weather cooperates a bit more, Pratt said.

Hastings newest police officer part of department's commitment to community

Hastings newest police officer, Julissa Kelly, has three years experience and comes to Hastings from the Kalamazoo Township Police Department. Now in a 14-week training program that is part of a year’s probation, Kelly lives in Middleville with her accountant husband, Tim.


Kelly decided to switch her career path in college when she determined that aerospace engineering was not her calling, that policing better fit her, “personality-wise.” A graduate of the police academy at Kalamazoo Community College, she never re-considered the decision. “I knew what I signed up for. Our class was large, 32 people; only two dropped out.”


Areas Kelly is interested in applying for after probation are working with kids in school liaison, or as an instructor in field training, fire arms, or defensive tactics. “We’ll try to match our needs and her desires," Chief Jeff Pratt said. “She has to fall into a regular schedule of hours and shifts…we’ll find something.”


Kelly already fits in with department’s commitment to community policing. Hastings is more community-oriented than her last position with more activities available, she said. “I like watching people; they’re very interesting…I like the atmosphere here; the city is well run and well maintained. I used to hang out here…and I have family in the area.”


On the job since Oct.10, she has already been recruited to play in the Cops vs. Cadets flag football game this Sunday.


Part of her training will be learning the Hastings Police Department’s ways, Pratt said. “Every police department is different, our systems, procedures, the streets.”

Kelly said she’s ready. “I have a year on probation to learn all I need to know.”


Photo: Hasting’s newest police officer, Julissa Kelly


Barry County Sheriff's Sergeant Stevens to serve Middleville

Thornapple Kellogg High School graduate Sgt. Tim Stevens from the Barry County Sheriff’s Office has been assigned to serve Middleville residents, according to Sheriff Dar Leaf.


“We have a contract with Middleville for police protection, a full time sergeant is part of that,” Leaf said. “We like to keep sergeants there for some time for continuity."


Stevens will be out and about in the community, work with village officials and manage road patrol deputies who work in the village for varying lengths of time. He replaces Sgt. Rob Horrmann who has served the village for two years.




  Sgt. Tim Stevens

RV's, mobile home, vehicles, boat at South Division businesses set on fire

Arson fires set at four locations along South Division this morning started at 7:24 a.m. at 6150 South Division and ended at 8:11 a.m. at 7144 South Division, a Kent County Sheriff’s media release said.


The fires began at Preferred Mobile Homes with a modular home started on fire that did not sustain significant damage before being extinguished.


Then, two vehicles were ignited at Big Ray’s Oil Change and both appear to be complete losses.


Next, a boat was lit on fire at Cutlerville Small Engine Repair at approximately 7:54 a.m. and finally, the back of an RV was burned at Veurink’s RV at 8:11 a.m. that caused significant damage.


An apparent lone suspect described as a white man with short hair wearing a maroon jacket, dark pants, and a blue backpack is a person of interest in the fires.

There were no injuries reported and residents are asked to remain vigilant as the suspect is still outstanding.

Anyone with information is asked to call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.


Assistant clerk/treasurer/director of finance hired in Hastings

Jane Saurman started this week as assistant city clerk/treasurer/director of finance for the City of Hastings.

“I was looking for something more than just a job, I was looking for a team, more than a position…It’s awesome when you get the perfect job and the perfect staff. After the first interview, I was sure I had found it. Personally, I’m a collaborator.”


“I love Hastings. My girls were in Jazz Fest; we’d come to town, wander the streets.  It’s a nice town that needs to more publicity to show it off.” Saurman said she feels welcomed by the Hastings city team; she has connections to City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Police Chief Jeff Pratt and Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki, either through family members, professional contacts or college. She plans to end her career here.


She is friendly, open, smiles often and seems relaxed stepping into a job about as complicated as it gets, clerk/treasurer/director of finance, likely because she has an extensive background in all the facets of her new position.

Not intimidated by the stacks of papers piled high where she is working at Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance Jerry Czarnecki’s desk and overflowing on the tables behind her, she smiles and said she will develop her own style of document management as she goes.


A West Michigan native, Saurman comes from a family where her mother and father directed their children’s education in math and computer skills to possible careers. Father was a teacher; mother a stay-at-home mom who opened her own business when the children went out on their own.


Her husband, Phillip, is a CPA. Four children; two girls, two boys, all college graduates, complete their family.


A governmental auditor for municipalities and schools for 25 years, she said the first task this week is for her, Czarnecki and the staff, to fill out a single-spaced page and a half of questions from the city auditor. The process is easier if you give the auditors complete answers to all of their questions, meaning there will be no follow up questions to be answered, she said.  With her knowledge and confidence with audits, her coming in this week, “diffused any stress for the financial staff,” she said.


Her focus when dealing with taxpayer dollars is simple. “My philosophy is to protect it, it’s their money.  I consider myself to be a good steward of taxpayer’s money; I try to improve office procedures to save money, maximize the dollars… get the biggest bang for the buck.”


She earned degrees in business administration from Grand Rapids Community College and Lake Superior State University. Her first position was as treasurer of the City of Kentwood. For seven years, she was Firm Administrator and Governmental Auditor in her husband’s firm before becoming a Senior Governmental Consultant at Hungerford Nichols CPA & Advisors from 1998 to 2017.


From 2017 to now, she was Chief Financial officer for Kent District Library. A member of several state and local financial associations, she also holds offices in several community organizations.


According to the timetable on a letter of agreement with the city, Saurman will be Assistant Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance until January 14, 2019, when she is expected to become the Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance.


On the same day, Czarnecki, will be appointed Deputy City Manager/Special Project Coordinator and will work with City Manager Jeff Mansfield until his resignation, effective June 30, when Czarnecki will become Hastings City Manager.


Photo: Assistant Clerk/Treasurer/Director of Finance Jane Saurman

Eastern Equine Encephalitis found in deer in Barry County

Earlier this month, a white-tailed deer with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) was identified and euthanized in Barry County, the second deer found in the state in 2018.  The Barry Eaton District Health Department said the disease is not easily spread between animals or between animals and humans, but humans can get EEE through the bite of an infected mosquito.


Most, 95 to 96 percent of cases of human EEE, do not cause any symptoms, and less than one percent develop serious illness. However, it is potentially serious and symptoms include fever, weakness, and muscle and joint pain. Anyone who experiences the symptoms should seek medical attention and contact a healthcare provider.


More severe illness can cause swelling of the brain and surrounding tissues. Anyone can be affected by EEE, but persons over age 60 and under age 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease.


Those who spend time outdoors can protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long pants and sleeves and using DEET repellent. Remove buckets or other items outside your home that can hold standing water where mosquitoes breed.  Inspect window screens and repair any holes to keep mosquitoes out of the home. Mosquitoes can survive until there is more consistent frost.  


The first infected deer was found in Cass County in September; there has been one human case of EEE in Michigan in 2018, in Allegan County.


For more information, visit Also, domestic horses can be vaccinated by a veterinarian. Anyone who sees a deer exhibiting strange behavior or appears to be sick should avoid handling or consuming the animal and visit to report the observation.


For questions on sick domestic animals such as horses, livestock, or pets, contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture at 517-373-1077.


Look for ghosts and goblins at Charlton Park's All Hallows Eve

Grab your favorite costume and join the staff and volunteers at Historic Charlton Park for an afternoon of family-friendly fun at All Hallows Eve, Saturday, Oct. 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Visitors can enjoy trick or treating in the Historic Village (please bring your own treat bag), an autumn-themed maze on the Village Green, pumpkin painting, balloons, and more. 


Prizes are awarded for best costume in a variety of categories. Take a wagon ride and view the Park in its fall splendor.  Refreshments will be served, including popcorn balls, donuts & cider. 


“During All Hallows Eve, our goal is to provide fabulous fall fun for all ages in a safe environment. If you love Halloween and costumes of all sorts, we hope to see you next Saturday,” Park Director Dan Patton said.  “Community outreach events are one of the park’s strategic initiatives and we look forward to hosting an afternoon of celebration for our local residents.”


The cost is $4 for those 13 and up. Children 12 and younger are free, but must be accompanied by an adult. Plenty of free parking is available.  For more, visit  Historic Charlton Park is located between Hastings and Nashville, north of M-79 at 2545 Charlton Park Road. 















 A winning Halloween costume at an earlier All Hallows Eve.


Barry County Transit starts $1 to $1.3million in renovations, improvements

The Barry County Transit is moving ahead with a major improvement project that includes a 2,950 square foot addition to the bus garage, a 1,160 square foot addition to the dispatch center, renovation of existing office space and expanded parking lot with the total cost of $1 to $1.3 million to come from transit funds.


Transit Manager Bill Voigt said soil borings are scheduled for Oct 31. After that, he plans to look at final design renderings with Bob Van Putten, president of Landmark Design Group. Voigt said the plans are to break ground in early spring of 2019 and complete the project in the fall of the year.


“A lot of these are things we would have to do anyway,” Voigt said, “but, I’m excited to be moving ahead.” Voigt had led the transit into several new areas of service and said he will continue to look for more ways to serve the public. “We’re happy to be part of the Barry County community.”


In May, he sought permission from county commissioners to make the improvements.

However, commissioersn had just started planning for a new county jail and needed an appraisal of the property the transit shares with the jail before they could move ahead, and tabled his request. Commissioners approved moving the project forward last month.



Yard debris pickup starts in Hastings next week (amended)

It’s that time of year again! 

The city crews will start our annual compostable yard debris cleanup on Oct. 29.  Since the leaves are slow to fall this year, we will start by picking up small brush and limbs.  Please place your materials on the grassy area immediately behind the curb.  Please do not place them in the street where they can create a traffic hazard. 


We will begin picking up leaves as soon as the majority of them have fallen from the trees.  We start leaf pickup as early as possible each year to try to get them all collected prior to the first snowfall.  We will make additional passes through town to collect material, if weather permits.  But please get your leaves out by the street as soon as possible.      


There will be an announcement on WBCH radio each weekday morning telling citizens where the work crews are located and the area that will be covered that day, as well as the tentative area crews will cover the next day.


The city's Compostable Materials Site, 1303 West State Road, accepts grass clippings, leaves, flowers, small limbs under 3 inches in diameter, and brush. The materials must come from properties located within the city limits.


Compost Materials Site hours:

Monday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Tuesday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Wednesday: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Thursday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Friday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

First and third Saturday: 7 a.m. – 11 a.m.



Barry County Commission: Failure to communicate or communication failure?

A scolding of Barry County Commissioners by a Crooked Lake resident Tuesday may have been unearned. Deb Englehardt  blasted commissioners for ignoring her e-mails asking them to attend a meeting on the flooding on the lake. Englehardt said Commissioner Heather Wing responded, saying she would be unable to attend and Commissioner David Jackson did attend.


“He thought it was important enough to come,” she said. “Shame on you,” she said to the other commissioners. "You didn’t come to a meeting (on what) you called a crisis months ago.”

However, commissioners may have been victims of computer problems. The ones that didn’t respond to her said they didn’t get any e-mails from her to respond to.


With a little research, Commission Chairman Ben Geiger found a likely cause for the problem. “Due to system upgrades, commissioners had limited or no access to official email accounts for a period of time,” he said.


The missing e-mails weren’t the only negative comments the panel heard Tuesday.

Two frequent critics of the commission, Elden Shellenbarger and George Hubka, called the commissioners to task over last week’s meeting where tempers had flared.  Hubka said the meeting topped a reality show and Shellenbarger likened commissioners to spoiled kids in a sand box acting like babies.


UPDATE: Suspect arraigned on charges in July crash that killed newlyweds

A suspect in a July 17 traffic crash that killed a young newlywed couple and injured another man has been arrested and arraigned, according to an Allegan County Sheriff’s media release.


Jacob Scot Damron, 21, (left) with no address listed, was arraigned Tuesday, Oct. 23.The Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office issued charges of operating while intoxicated causing death and reckless driving causing death for Logan Allbaugh, the same charge for Hannah Kwekel and a third charge of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury and reckless driving causing serious injury to Duane McDonald.

Damron is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon.



ORIGINAL STORY: Young newlyweds die in three car crash in Allegan County

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate a three-car traffic crash that caused the death of a young Holland man and his wife of two weeks, according to a sheriff’s new release.


Deputies and Medical First Responders report the newlywed couple, Logan Thunderland Allbaugh 24, from Holland, and his wife, Hannah Mae Kwekel 22, from Zeeland, were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of another car suffered minor injuries, the third driver was uninjured.


Through witness statements and preliminary reconstruction, officials learned that a single occupant vehicle westbound on 128th Avenue failed to yield for the stop sign striking the northbound vehicle with the young couple, sending it into the southbound lane of Lincoln Road, where it was struck by another vehicle. 


The crash occurred Tuesday (July 17) at 3:45 p.m. at the intersection of 128th Avenue and Lincoln Road (M-40) in Heath Township in Allegan County.


Michigan State Police, Hamilton and Saugatuck fire departments, AMR, Ottawa and Eaton County sheriff’s offices and the Holland City Police Department assisted deputies.


Snow is coming, so is Hastings ban on 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. parking

Winter in Michigan features lots of snow and the task of keeping city streets clear for vehicles.

In anticipation of the usual winter weather, the Hastings Police Department will start enforcing the ban on parking on city streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov 9,, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter said today.

“Right now we’re handing out little yellow ‘keys to the city’ on cars. They’re not citations, they’re just a friendly reminder that it’s going to happen,”  Boulter said. “On Nov. 9, the keys will turn into citations.”

Dates to remember for area residents

Lots of things are going on in the next week or two. Here are a few:


Saturday, Oct. 27, the Hastings Police will be at the front door of Walgreens in Hastings for a takeback medicine event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Black out the name and other identifying information on containers of unused or out-of-date medicine and give it to the police who will dispose of it properly. Some medicines are generally not accepted at an event; needles, asthma inhalers, mercury thermometers, illicit drugs (including marijuana) or medications obtained illegally. Check with the officer at Walgreens.


Sunday, Oct. 28, the annual Cops vs Cadets flag football game is set for 1 p.m. at the Hastings High School football stadium.



Tuesday, Oct. 30, public opinion is being sought at 6 p.m. meeting at the Barry County 911 community room on current and future recreational facilities in the county. Officials are looking for ideas and suggestions for the Charlton Park and Barry County Parks & Recreation five year Master Plan. The plan is required by the DNR to qualify for state and federal grants.


Wednesday, Oct. 31 (Halloween) the city will close Green Street again to have a safe and secure place for kids to threaten homeowners with “Trick or Treat!”

The Hastings Police Department will again pass out hot chocolate and other goodies for the kids.


Saturday, Nov. 3, Hastings City Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for those who qualify to apply for absentee ballots so the city has time get them in the mail and to the voters. You may also vote right at city hall, Clerk Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki said.


Sunday, Nov. 4, clocks will be turned back one hour, leading to darkness at about 5:30 p.m. Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt asks drivers to be aware of the earlier nightfall and watch for others who are out and about.


Tuesday, Nov. 6, don’t forget to vote in the mid-term election.


Hastings residents are reminded that burning in the city requires a permit and to call Fire Chief Roger Caris before you burn



Hastings Cops vs Cadets football game is Sunday

This Sunday, Oct. 28, the Cops vs. Cadets flag football game will be played at the Hastings High School Football stadium with kick off at 1 p.m.


Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said it would be a grudge match with some anger issues, probably because the police officers lost to the Hastings Police Cadets last year and would not reveal the results of any prior games.


Sgt. Kris Miller, who has a non-football related rotator cuff injury, won’t play this year, instead will be the officers Mark Dantonio on the sidelines. Pratt speculated they may have lost last year because Miller did not play up to par, but that’s not what Miller says.


For his part, Pratt, who says he probably should be on concussion protocol, will direct the kick off and then take on the huge responsibility of toting the water bucket. The cadets and cops enjoy a friendly rivalry over the game, with the cadets bringing it up several times during the year, Pratt said.

“Over and over and over, they bring it up…But, really, it is fun and we always invite any current or past cadet to play in the game. We’re all looking forward to it.”


Barry County ad hoc committee to look at Barry Eaton District Health department budget

An issue that caused angst, raised voices and criticism of Barry County Commissioners last week (see last week’s story), was unanimously approved this week with just one comment.


At issue was a proposal from Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson to set up an ad hoc committee of three commissioners to look into the finances of the Barry Eaton District Health Department and the feasibility of establishing a separate Barry County Health Department.


The motion was to form the committee with Commissioners Dan Parker, Heather Wing and Jon Smelker to talk to the health department about its budget, allot $6,000 for professional help like a CPA if they needed to, and report back to the board in writing by Dec. 31.


Commissioner Dave Jackson, who spoke against the plan last week, said it would be a good opportunity for the committee to learn about the health department, but wondered if they would have enough time to get answers they needed if they had to hire someone before the end of the year and with the holidays coming up. He suggested they give the committee past the end of the year to continue working.


“We have no authority to appoint any committees; we can only take actions before our terms end (after the Nov. 6 election) Commissioner and chair Ben Geiger said, because sitting commissioners cannot bind future commissions to any actions. “If the committee needs more time, the new commission would have to reappoint the committee.”//


Several volunteers to county committees and boards were approved:

*Joe Sancimino was selected to serve on both the Agriculture Promotion Board as well as the Parks & Recreation Board for partial terms ending Dec. 31, 2019.

*Sarah Nelson, representing the Conservation District, will sit on the Parks & Recreation Board for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

*Jerry Czarnecki, from the City of Hastings, and Steve Essling (reappointed), from the recycling industry, will serve on the Solid Waste Oversight Committee until Oct. 31, 2021.

*Jack Miner will serve on the Planning Commission for a partial term ending March 31, 2021.

Commissioner Vivian Conner objected to not having the candidates vote results in the minutes of last week’s meeting. Commissioners voted with slips of paper on a magnetic board and, “there’s no record saying who got what… it should reflect the vote for the record.” Geiger said it was a consensus of the board and the motion at the end of the appointments was sufficient.


The commission also approved;

*Fiscal Year 2019 grant contracts for the court’s specialty programs; Adult Drug Court, 56B District Sobriety Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Office of Community Corrections and Juvenile Drug Court.


*a Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation (PA 116) request from Boyd and Lydia Endsley for property in Section 18 of Castletown Township.


*the Barry County 2018 Apportionment report with the local tax rates to allow collection of taxes.


*a request from county employee Robert Horrmann to buy one year of service with Michigan Employees  Retirement System foe $25,846 to meet early retirement requirements.



Two hurt in intersection crash in Ionia County

Ionia County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a two-vehicle personal injury accident Monday about 3:51 p.m. on East Tuttle Road at Kelsey Highway, a sheriff’s media release said.

Deputies report a 46-year-old Lansing woman driving a Honda Accord did not stop for the stop sign on East Tuttle Road and proceeded westbound through the intersection.


A 46-year-old Saranac man driving a Chevrolet Silverado northbound on Kelsey Highway struck the Honda as it went through the intersection. The drivers of both vehicles were taken to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries.


The Ionia Department of Public Safety, Life EMS, Reed and Hoppes Towing and Ionia County Central Dispatch assisted deputies.













Photo of damaged vehicle courtesy of Ionia County Sheriff’s Office




Hastings Council deals with zoning, land use issues

The Hastings City Council Tuesday approved an ordinance to rezone five parcels along and near Woodlawn Avenue from AO-Apartment-Office, R-1 and R1A One Family Residential to A-1 Apartment. A request from Ravenna Holdings to the planning commission to rezone a parcel at 600 East Woodlawn Avenue for multi-family development was broadened to reflect land development patterns in the area.


In a land use decision, the council granted a request from Steven and Jeff Storrs for an extension of Country Club Drive and a cul-de-sac at the northern end of the street to provide fire department access. The Storrs agreed to grant a 66 foot right-of-way across the southern part of the property that would allow for city utility work and street extensions.


Storrs brought drawings of the area that showed “the city has owned the ROW since 1988,” but Mansfield said city records don’t show that they own it  and they would like to get it legally cleared up as soon as possible.


The drive is gravel and without city services so property owners would be responsible for upkeep of the road. The Storrs plan to build two houses on the property.


In other business, the council:


*awarded a contract to Pure Fence for $56,643 for fencing and installation as recommended by the Riverside Cemetery Advisory Board. Public Services Director Lee Hays said they reached out to the public for their opinions, and they wanted the fence back, so he recommended the contract.


*awarded a contract to CSZ Services for $6,000 for contracted assessing services as recommended by Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki. With city Assessor Jackie Timmerman unable to come into the office, the city is paying the firm to work with the assistant assessor for November and December and in the interim, will try to figure out what direction they will take after the first of the year.


*went into closed session to consult with an attorney in about litigation to do with the Hastings Dog Park


Hastings Council approves emergency transitional housing

The Hastings City Council Tuesday approved an emergency and transitional group housing ordinance in most zoning districts near the city’s downtown by special use permit. Planning Commision Chairman David Hatfield was at the meeting, as he was at the last meeting, to answer questions.


Originally to permit temporary housing for qualified inmates being released from Barry County Jail, it was broadened by the commission to include other forms of temporary group housing for others facing other needs or emergencies, Hatfield said at the first reading.

With special uses, the commission can establish conditions and controls for each facility and its use.


Hatfield said as they were working on the ordinance since the original request from Judge Amy McDowell about six months ago, they were creating too many specifics, so developed general guidelines.


As a special use, they can look at specifics on any proposal. Each applicant will be specifically judged on the merits of the specifics by the planning commission, he said.

Rebecca Harvey of McKenna provided a memo addressing several of the concerns which came to light for the second reading.


Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange, who questioned  the special use procedures at the first reading, said she appreciated the information provided.”It was just what I wanted.” 


Councilman Don Bowers asked Hatfield said there are all kinds of former inmates and asked if neighbors would be notified if a child molester was moving in. There public hearings as one of the steps by the commission, but safeguards are in place to prevent anyone that would not be compatible with the neighborhood, Hatfield said.


“The commission will look at every proposal … and if they propose a certain population, they can’t change it after they get in” he said. City Manager Jeff Mansfield pointed out there were many other uses and types who might apply, but the commission will put conditions on each one.

Councilwoman Therese Maupin-Moore asked how they would verify compliance; Hatfield responded: “We do whatever we need to; we have several ways to oversee.”


Some of the special use provisions are to maintain the appearance of a one-family dwelling with nothing to identify it as transitional or emergency housing, approval by a building inspector, no activities that would be detrimental to neighbors, the right to review on-site management, the number of people to occupy the dwelling at one time, the size of rooms, and all applications are submitted to the police and fire departments for review and comment.




DEQ to hold public information meeting on Bradford White's withdrawn mixing-zone requests

Bradford White Company, a Middleville based water heater manufacturer, withdrew its requests for calculation of mixing zone-based groundwater-surface water interface criteria, and the DEQ cancelled the formal public comment period, David Wierzbicki, with the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division said in a new release.


However, due to the interest expressed by the public, the DEQ will host a public information meeting regarding the requests on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Thornapple Kellogg High School Auditorium located at 3885 Bender Road, Middleville,” Wierzbicki said.


The meeting agenda includes one-on-one discussions with DEQ staff at 6 p.m. followed by the 6:30 p.m. public information meeting. Also, copies of documents from the DEQ's site will be available to the public at the Thornapple Kellogg Community Library at the High Schooll


Boil Water Advisory lifted in Vermontville

Residents of Vermontville are being notified that the recent boil water notice has been lifted.

It is no longer necessary to use bottled water or boil water before drinking it. 


No coliform bacteria have been detected in follow-up testing of the system’s water. This, in addition to treatment made to the system, indicates that the water is now safe to drink.

This was done as a precautionary measure;  the system did not contain any form of bacteria at any time.


Thank you for your patience as we worked through our system failure and the completion of the repair. Customers with questions or concerns about the water should contact Village of Vermontville Department of Public Works at 517-726-1444.



Barry County Jail, COA projects moving ahead

Earlier this year, the Barry County Board of Commissioners committed to bringing the community together to build a new county jail and COA building, the first step toward replacing the inadequate facilities.


Tower Pinkster Architects/Engineers has been selected by commissioners as consultants to facilitate the building project. The next step is for county Administrator Michael Brown and Tower Pinkster officials to draft a consulting Services Agreement for commissioners to approve.


Tower Pinkster proposes developing a detailed space utilization program to find the needs of the jail and COA for years to come, develop planning documentation, budget information, and engage the community for support of the initiatives through bonding and work with the county through the voting process.


Tower Pinkster developed a Master Facilities Plan for the county in 2015 (see related story), and recommended the county build a new jail and COA. Tower Pinkster’s process is similar to the earlier facilities plan. They will review the information they have on file for the jail and COA before on-site visits.


The county will appoint a steering committee of community leaders. Working with the steering committee, county staff, administration, and with public input, Tower Pinkster plans to develop options for the projects for county officials, “that will show a clear vision forward.”


The firm will gather data, update the assessment report, inspect the facilities and do walk-throughs, and compare the cost of modifications and renovations against the cost of building new.

The steering committee and officials will be involved in meetings, tours of the facilities and visioning sessions.


Tower Pinkster will provide concept site plan options for both facilities; the options will be reviewed and a final concept selected. The firm has outlined an information campaign on a bond plan to fund the projects that includes community forums, use of social media and frequently asked questions.



A look back: Tower Pinkster's jail, COA recommendations in 2015

In 2105, Tower Pinkster was hired by Barry County to develop a Master Facilities Plan for a long term plan for the buildings it owns. The firm studied 12 county buildings and produced a plan and facilities assessment, delivered to the county commission in April, 2015.


The assessments and recommendations taken from the 2015 plans are on the jail and COA building only.


Tower Pinkster said the jail was in poor shape, with systems beyond their useful lives, antiquated security systems and hardware difficult to maintain. The building was sound, but did not allow for modifications or flexibility for any future use.


Work stations were undersized and overall space of staff was undersized for programs, services, kitchen, laundry, warehouse, commissary, maintenance and housekeeping.


Lines of sight for monitoring inmates were compromised in several areas, as was the parking lot from the front desk. Daylight and air quality are inadequate, the 2015 report said.


As for a location for a new jail, the report said the present site’s size and location is an asset for future development; they did not recommend using a county owned piece of property on M-79 and Nashville Road. The premier operational location for the jail is to be attached to the courthouse, the assessment said.


A new jail should have 60,000 sq. ft. for administration, law enforcement and 150 inmate beds, and a 14,500 sq. ft. detached garage. The layout was mindful of energy efficiency, staffing operations and maintenance costs, the largest expenses of a jail. Built as a lock-up in 1970, the facility has had miscellaneous additions.



Tower Pinkster recommended building a new COA building adjacent to its present site. Built for a different purpose, deficiencies, improper drainage and functional obsolescence has led to deterioration to the structure and foundation.


They recommended an increase in adult day care space from one room to three, expanding the dining area to hold 50 people, more room for arts and crafts and the large meeting room and providing a staff break room and workshop area. 

A 20,000 sq. ft. single story COA facility was recommended, using the existing parking and adding more to the north after the present building is demolished.


In 2015, the cost of a new jail was set at $24.95 million; a new COA building, $4.55 million.

Municipal bonding backed by voter approved millage would be required to finance a new jail and COA.

Ionia County Courthouse to close from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 26 for employee training

The Ionia County Courthouse complex will be closed on Friday, Oct. 26 from noon to 4 p.m. for a staff training exercise. The courthouse will be closed to the public during that time.


Those who would like to file their write-in campaign registration may file it at the Ionia City Hall at 114 North Kidd Street. Those with any other emergency matter that needs to come before the court may go to the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office at 133 East Adams Street and they will make contact with the court for them.


“We appreciate your cooperation in allowing this time for our staff to train. The courthouse will re-open at 4 p.m. for public business,” an Ionia County spokesperson said.

Caledonia attorney allegedly forged court documents

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a forgery complaint involving the actions of a Caledonia attorney, according to a media release.


The sheriff’s office received a complaint in September alleging that Attorney Timothy David Vandenberg, from Caledonia, had served several documents that were allegedly forged and presented as authentic court documents to litigants, the release said.


Vandenberg is accused of forging documents relating to parenting time and divorce cases. These documents were then fraudulently presented as legitimate court orders.


The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for Felony Forgery on Vandenberg on Oct. 12.

He has been arrested and arraigned in 63rd District Court and is free on bond. The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the sheriff’s office or Silent Observer.

Barry Commission interview volunteers for committees, hears more about health department

The Barry County Commission committee of the whole recommended several citizens who volunteered to serve on county committees and commissions Tuesday.


Citizen Joe Sancimino was selected to serve on both the Agriculture Promotion Board as well as the Parks & Recreation Board for partial terms ending Dec. 31, 2019.


Sarah Nelson, representing the Conservation District, will sit on the Parks & Recreation Board for a partial term ending Dec. 31, 2020.


Jerry Czarnecki, from the City of Hastings, and Steve Essling (reappointed), from the recycling industry, will serve on the Solid Waste Oversight Committee until Oct. 31, 2021. Jack Miner will serve on the Planning Commission for a partial term until March 31, 2021.


In other business, the commission recommended the full board:


*approve the Fiscal Year 2019 grant contracts for the court’s specialty programs; Adult Drug Court, 56B District Sobriety Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Office of Community Corrections and Juvenile Drug Court.


* appprove a Farmland and Open Spaces Preservation (PA 116) application for Boyd and Lydia Endsley for property in section 18 of Castletown Township.

* approve  the Barry County 2018 Apportionment report with the local tax rates, to allow collection of taxes.


In the final public comment time, several spoke on the earlier discussion and action by the commission on the Barry Eaton District Health Department.


Cathy Young-Gramze said a visit to the BEDHD website showed of the last seven events, three were for Eaton Rapids, three were with Lansing-Tri County and one for Barry County, the emergency Hep A inoculation program.


Young-Gramze said 50 years ago, even 20 years ago, Eaton and Barry counties were similar. Eaton County is now a bedroom community for Lansing, Barry is mostly rural.

“The interests of Barry County have diverged from Eaton; we really do need to investigate the feasibility of having our own health department,” she said.


Jim Enrietti said he had heard the insinuation that there were a handful of people “stirring the pot” about the health department. “If you think there are only seven people, get out into the townships.”

Commenting in the previous discussion, he said: “Maybe some of us are glad we haven’t marked our ballots yet.” The health department is not on the front burner yet, but it’s on the back burner and its bubbling, he said.  


Larry Bass said in his experience, it’s like pulling teeth to get information from the department about the department. Freedom of Information Act requests are, “flat out denied,” or have exorbitant fees attached; one that comes to mind is $3,273, he said.


Demographics are vastly different; Eaton is 70 percent urban, and dominated by Delta Township, Barry is 78 percent rural, Bass said. The three Barry County Commissioners were advised to look at it more objectively and stop looking at the department as if it is a “sacred cow.”

“All we want from the health department is answers; we want to get answers, otherwise, it will continue on the front burner.”


Citizen Jack Miner echoed Bass, saying “All we want is good solid answers with number attached.”  He predicted if they get answers, “it will not be on the back burner, it will put it in the back yard.”

Sparks fly, advice given at Barry County Commission meeting

The Barry County Commision meeting Tuesday was routine until the last agenda item; Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson’s request for a study of the Barry Eaton District Health Department to look at its budget and the feasibility of establishing an independent Barry County Health Department.


“When I saw they had $100,000 in mileage, it got my attention. If we had one of our own, it would be half as much," Gibson said.


An ad hoc committee of three commissioners was appointed to look into Gibson’s request, but not before sparks flew and personal comments were made. Commissioners David Jackson and Chair Ben Geiger argued against using staff time and resources to study the proposal when they already have the jail and COA projects on their plates.


Gibson said an ad hoc committee had minimum costs and worked well with the officer’s compensation study.


“it goes against common sense,” that they are qualified on their own to deal with the huge scope of the health department’s unfunded liability, budget, staffing requirements and health department programs, Jackson said.


Jackson said the department is financially stable, its budget increased just $10,000 in the last ten years, yet some commissioners, “continue to hammer away at the health department like it’s failing, that they’re not doing their job…it’s a nationally credited health department.”


Gibson started to say he wasn’t looking forward to spending a million dollars on mileage when Geiger gaveled him silent.

“This issue is emotional,” Geiger said, “and I’m trying to contain my disappointment for using the health department for political reasons.”

He would work with those who wanted to save money, “maybe next spring when the jail thing is behind us...” he said.


Visibly agitated with his voice rising, Geiger continued: “But, those who want use the health department as a political punching bag before November 6, we have more important stuff to do.”


”What I’m not going to do, if I’m sitting in this chair next year, I’m not putting together a kangaroo court  to come up with a political solution to the health department. That’s not what we’re elected to do and I’m not going to go down that road.”


Gibson said “So you're  saying…” to be gaveled into silence again.

“I’m saying I’m talking” Geiger said, “to put this behind us until the staff is in a position where they can do something….”


“There is only one person on this board with political aspirations and we know who it is,” Commissioner Jon Smelker said to Geiger. ”You just remember that.” //


Commissioner Vivian Conner objected to Geiger: “You gaveled Dave and Hoot’s conversation because it is too emotional and then you go on and accuse people of doing it for political purposes before the November 6 election. Then when they tried to talk, you gaveled them again,” she said.


“I was finishing my statement,” Geiger said.

“But, you gaveled them again,” she said.

“I thought the discussion was going off the rails,” he replied.


Conner persisted: “That’s what we do here, we discuss is emotional; we know it’s out there…it’s not a political thing, it’s out there, people are talking about it.”


Commissioner Dan Parker, who sits on the Health Board with Geiger and Jackson, said there might be ways to save taxpayers money.  “But there’s a matter of trust here and it’s because people are not going to the health board and asking direct questions and getting direct answers. “If they are not getting direct answers, then I’d like to get involved with it.”


Conner thanked Parker for the “constructive, kind and fair way,” he gave his views.

She then turned to Jackson and Geiger. “You two are always throwing out little jabs, personal pet peeves; you guys are the leaders; when our constituents come to us and ask us what’s going on, we have the right to do it, it is not micromanagement. You have to be professional too, and not use those little tag lines…”


Commissioner Heather Wing said she hears about the health department at every township meeting she attends. People ask when she is going to look at it, and, “it’s not always hostile.”  The commission should, “not kick the can down the road... we should look at it,” she said.


Geiger agreed to find an independent firm to look into it after Tower Pinkster, the consulting company for the new jail and COA, has a schedule set.


Conner suggested that Geiger, “use the gavel a little more fairly, not just to silence someone who disagrees with you.”

“Okay, this is getting too emotional,” Geiger said. “But we have consensus that we are going to look at what’s best for our taxpayers, but now is not the time.”


Smelker made a motion for three commissioners (Wing, Parker and himself) to look into the health department budget and report back to the commission before the end of the year. The motion passed 6-1, with Jackson dissenting.


Geiger later apologized to Gibson and Conner if he had come on too strong.

“Thank you for that,” Conner said

“I’m used to it,” Gibson said.

UPDATE: Caledonia woman seriously hurt in traffic crash with cement truck

UPDATE: The Kent County Sheriff’s Department has identified those involved in a 1:47 p.m. crash yesterday between a car and a cement-mixing truck. Colleen Koetsier, 51, of Caledonia was driving the Buick; Corey Hunt, 63 from Grand Rapids was the driver of the Advance cement-mixing truck.


ORIGINAL STORY: The Kent County Sheriff Department was dispatched to a serious personal injury accident at 92nd and Kalamazoo Avenue.S.E.  today, according to a sheriff’s news release.

Preliminary investigation showed that a 2002 Buick was westbound on 92nd Street and either stopped or rolled through the stop sign.


A northbound cement-mixing truck swerved in an attempt to avoid the collision, however, it did strike the westbound  car. The driver of the Buick sustained serious injuries and was transported to Metro Health via AMR Ambulance. The cement mixer rolled over and the driver sustained minor injuries.


The sheriff’s department was assisted at the scene by Michigan State Police Motor Carrier, AMR Ambulance, Life EMS, and Dutton and Cutlerville fire departments.

NOTICE: Vermontville residents under a Boil Water Advisory

The Village of Vermontville's water system lost pressure and bacterial contamination may have occurred, so residents are being told to boil their water before using it.


Residents are advised to bring water it to a boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, making ice, washing dishes or preparing food.  Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.


Residents should continue using boiled or bottled water until further notice, likely several days. The village will inform residents when tests show no bacteria and the water is safe to drink and there will be no need to boil water.


Village officials ask that those who get the notice share the information with other people who drink the water, especially those who may not have received the notice directly; people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses, They also may post the notice in a public place or distribute copies by hand or mail.


Measures are currently being undertaken to correct the situation. The loss of water pressure in the water system was caused by a water tower inspection and two water main breaks on Oct. 15.


Pressure has been restored, and Department of Public Works staff will be taking other remedial actions such as flushing and collecting bacteriological samples from around the system to determine that the water quality meets the state drinking water standards.


They anticipate resolving the problem within three days when testing from the DEQ is received. Bacteria are generally not harmful and are common throughout our environment, however, whenever a water system loses pressure for any significant length of time, precautionary measures are taken.


For more information, contact the DPW at 517-726-1444 or 194 South Main Street. P.O. Box K, Vermontville MI 49096.


General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1(800) 426-4791.

Report: Protection of Barry County computer data paramount

David Shinavier, Barry County information technology (IT) and geographic information system (GIS) coordinator gave county commissioners a report on the state of the county’s information technology system last week.


Led by Shinavier, the staff includes Rose Anger, half time GIS tech, half time appraiser; Aaron Staines, network administrator and Matt Ward, desktop technician.

Computers came to the mapping department in 1991, hiring an IT/GIS coordinator in in 1999. From the mid- 2000’s the computer service expanded to other county agencies “with good steady growth,” including the sheriff’s office, county courts, COA, transit, Charlton Park, animal shelter, central dispatch and in 2017, the road commission.


The computer system has about 650 devices it supports, Shinavier said. The county website, was outsourced to in 2016, with a five -year agreement and redesign at the end of the contract.


The website is visited about 600 times a day, Fetch about 300 hits a day and the clerk gets some 76 visits a day. Telephone/Internet service is provided by MEI for $600 a month, standard telephone service by AT&T for $1,800 a month and PRI internet by Iserv for $420 a month.

Protection of the computer system is paramount.


“This is what keeps us up at night,” Shinavier said: disaffected employees, viruses/malware, remote access, fire, water, sabotage, data loss, data integrity, public embarrassment, and loss of production.

The system as several levels of security, employee training and use policy, e-mail spam and virus filters that take out 70 to 85 percent of spam coming in, along with firewalls, endpoint scanners, subnetting, and security and backup policies.


“Foreign companies bombard our system…just twenty percent of the traffic is business,” he said.
They keep upgrading equipment and are always looking for upgrading standards.

Shinavier said the department had several points of emphasis: employee education/training, network security, incident response/mitigation, improving application stability, and increasing productivity.


The IT/LIS department is funded by the data processing fund; planned major projects include phone replacement in one to two years, new service to the jail and COA, a new server cluster in three or four years, backup drive in three to four years, and cloud apps and security enhancements, he said.

The county has a “significant investment” of $600,000 in computer assets in equipment right now, Shinavier said.



Armed gas station robbery foiled by manager, Allegan County deputies

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call from the Village of Martin of an armed robbery at the Clark gas station about 8:40 p.m. Monday, according to a sheriff’s news release.


The robbery suspect showed a handgun and held the clerk and manager at gunpoint during the robbery.When he left the station, the manager chased after him and when he got into a vehicle, the manager followed in his car until the suspect was stopped and taken into custody.

He was arrested on several felony charges. His name will be released after he is arraigned.


The sheriff’s office was assisted by Plainwell Department of Public Safety, Michigan State Police and Otsego Police Department.


Gun Lake Casino Straws

As of this coming November 1st the Gun Lake Casino will be free of plastic straws. The casino said they plan to replace the straws with a certified compostable straw, which will join several other organizations in the effort to limit plastic waste.  With an output of over 3 million straws per year through the casino's three bars, two restaurants and other beverage services, the company said they also plan to work on replacing other disposable items with compostable products in the near future.. While these straws are biodegradable, they will still look and perform similar to other straws.

The Gun Lake casino will be the first tribal casino in the state to announce the removal of plastic straws.

Rep. Calley welcomes summer reading winners to Capitol

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley welcomed four summer reading program winning students and their families to the Capitol as junior representatives for a day and experience the life of a Michigan state representative. 


During their day in Lansing, the students took an oath of office, learned about the responsibilities of being a state representative, participated in a mock committee meeting, met the Lieutenant Governor, and toured the Capitol.


“There are two things that I hope they will remember,” Calley said. “First, literacy is an essential foundation for success. Second, diversity enriches any decision-making body. No matter which professions they choose, public service is an option. The junior representatives were extraordinary. Hosting them at the Capitol is one of my favorite days of the year.”


Fourth-grader Lucas Halanski, from Lakewood Elementary School, received special recognition for reading 1,704 pages, the most over the summer. The four students read 40 books, totaling more than 3,890 pages.


Ellen Craig, a second-grader at Alto Elementary School, read 1,163 pages; Anna Halanski, a second-grader at Lakewood Elementary School, read 794 pages; Lucas Halanski, a fourth-grader at Lakewood Elementary School, read 1,704 pages; Jacob Rogalski, a first-grader at Saranac Elementary School, read 230 pages. Mhairi Johnstone, fifth-grader from St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Hastings, was unable to attend the day.


Calley said she was honored to welcome the remarkable group of students, their families, teachers, and librarians to the Capitol. Students entered the contest by reading books, filling out a bookmark with the books they read, and returning it to their library.







Photo: Joining Rep. Julie Calley at the Capitol are (from left) students Ellen Craig, Anna Halanski, Jacob Rogalski and Lucas Halanski.  Mhairi Johnstone  was unavailable for the photo.


UPDATE: Body of man missing in Saugatuck found in Kalamazoo River

UPDATE: The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports the body of Justin Brown, missing since October 13 in Saugatuck, was found this morning in the Kalamazoo River near the area where he was last seen. The investigation into the incident is ongoing by the sheriff's office.


ORIGINAL STORY:The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public for help in locating Justin Michael Brown, 39, from the Grand Rapids area, missing since Saturday night.


Family and friends told deputies Brown was last seen in a bar in Saugatuck around 1 a.m. They said he has no health or mental concerns and this behavior is not normal for him.  


Brown was wearing a gray Columbia jacket, dark color baseball hat, and blue jeans.  Deputies, family and friends searched the area extensively and could not locate him.


There has been no activity on Brown’s cell phone; the last known location of the cell phone was still in the Saugatuck area.


Anyone with information about Brown is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 269-673-0500 or Silent Observer at 1-800-554-3633.



Hastings asks feedback on future recreation plans for the city

Hastings area residents interested in recreational activities in the city and in its parks will have an opportunity to let officials know what they would like to have for recreation in the future.


The City of Hastings is holding a public meeting in the Hatchery Building in Fish Hatchery Park on Thursday, Oct. 25, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. to take feedback and discuss the needs and desires for the parks and recreation system in Hastings in the coming years.  The meeting will help guide future plans and development.


Hastings residents are encouraged to fill out an online survey available at  that will provide more information and help shape decisions on future recreation in the city.


Hastings City Council retreat "should be fun"

The Hastings City Council will go on a retreat Thursday, Oct. 18 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the YMCA Camp at Algonquin Lake.


The event gives the council a chance to meet in a more relaxed atmosphere and brainstorm with no agenda. The topic will be strategic planning, but the evening, organized and planned by Hastings City Planner Rebecca Harvey, includes games and exercises just for the fun of it.


“This is an open affair,” Mayor David Tossava said. “The public can stop by. It should be fun. Rebecca is excited about it; we’re looking forward to it.”


Work to ease Crooked Lake flooding continues

Reports to Barry County Commissioners on the flooding on Crooked Lake, Delton did not bring reassuring news. County Drain Commissioner Jim Dull updated them Tuesday, and engineer Brian Cenci sent in a report Oct. 2.


Dull reported on several attempts to find a solution to lowering the lake level, but water has to go somewhere and residents approached on nearby lakes are reluctant to add to their high lake levels. One promising solution was withdrawn by the property owners after a DEQ permit had already been issued. Another didn’t get that far when residents reconsidered their consents, Dull said. 


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has been very helpful, but there probably won’t be additional help from state of federal agencies, he said. “We’ve tried several different approaches…it’s challenging.”


Several unusually large rain events this fall have added to the problem and the pumping onto wetlands on M-43 stopped Sept 19 when it was within an inch of the maximum height limit allowed on M43. The emergency pumping had pumped about 250 million gallons of water into the wetlands east of M-43.


Cenci included charts in his report showing Watson Drain/Upper Crooked Lake pumping analysis, the daily rainfall at the lake and a drawing of a possible solution they are working on, involving an open air storage area for excess water that would infiltrate into the ground.


He said he and Dull don’t have time to reasonably compile and report on everything they are working on. “We only want to report on updates to firm or very promising progress, …but rest assured, not a day has gone by where Jim, I or someone from our respective offices have not been working vigorously to facilitate additional emergency short-term relief plans, or develop the long-term solution.”

36th Annual Barry County CROP Hunger Walk

This year's Barry County 36th Annual CROP Hunger walk will be held in  Hastings hosted by Emmanuel Episcopal Church,  315 W. Center Street, Sunday, Oct. 14th rain or shine with registration at 1:30pm and the Walk at 2:00p.m.


Church World Service deifines  CROP  to mean, Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty both locally and globally. Church World Services raises money through CROP Hunger Walks to provide food, Medical Care, disaster relief and self help developement for families in need throughout the world.


 Barry County Churches and community members will come together to make a difference.  You are invited to be a walker or sponsor..Donations for the Barry County CROP Hunger walk can be given online  


Last Year The Barry County CROP Hunger walk gave $625.00  to each of  the  following programs; Barry County Cares, Good Food for Freeport, Hastings Community Food Pantry, Maple Valley Community Pantry Shelf and Middleville Food Pantry. 


For more information contact Nolan Hudson, 517-852-1821

Crooked Lake flooding still eludes solution

Crooked Lake resident Sharon Ritchie Tuesday told Barry County Commissioners the water flooding her and neighbor’s homes is higher than it was this summer. After several months of dealing with the flooding, residents are “very weary and feeling overwhelmed mentally, physically, emotionally and financially,” she said.


Nine months ago, county officials visited their home, and recognized the rising waters were a concern for public health and safety; eight months ago, the commission declared the lake a flooding crisis and allocated $10,000, she said.


She stressed that Crooked Lake residents appreciate the help they have received and are sad other lakes are also contending with high water issues, “Yet, I request that your efforts, resources and time is dedicated to Crooked Lake Delton since we have been told that our crisis is your priority.”


Ritchie said more homes are in crisis now than when  Engineer Brian Cenci’s  report last summer said 63 homes were seriously impacted by the flooding, 193 homes had flooding issues and just 24 homes were unaffected by flooding. Sump pumps are wearing out from use and being replaced and residents have been told a sand bagging service is no longer available.


“It has been four months since Chairman (Ben) Geiger stated: ‘Hang in there…help is on the way.’”

“I am asking you: Where is the help you said was on the way…What exactly am I to hang onto?”


Geiger later said he would talk to Barry County Emergency Management Department to see if they could offer any help.


Hastings won't vacate street, allows easement for access

A request to grant access to a graveled area for parking at a parcel on the West Mill Street Right of Way (ROW) between Washington Street and the Thornapple River was approved by the Hastings City Council 0n Monday.


Doug and Sharon Vickery asked to vacate the street was turned down in September; council members would not consider vacating the property because of the storm sewer and its proximity to the Thornapple River and Tyden Park.


The couple asked for reconsideration this week. They are close to selling the property, he said,


A driveway, a ranch-style building and a three-unit apartment building and a city storm sewer line are in the ROW. Vickery said the buildings are likely non-conforming.


They didn’t know about the situation with the ROW when they purchased it 34 years ago, Vickery said. They learned about it years later, and didn’t want to leave the problem for the next owner, he said.


The easement won’t affect the sale of the parcel; it has no time limit, unless the city needs it for some purpose, and is transferable from one owner to the next. The non-conforming structures can stay, but cannot be rebuilt if they burn down.







Transitional/emergency housing ordinance topic at Hastings City Council

Two ordinances had first readings by the Hastings City Council Monday. Council members get information on an issue at the first reading and have until the next meeting to learn more before it’s brought up at the second reading, when action is expected.


Ordinance 561 would allow emergency and transitional housing in most zoning districts near the city’s downtown by special use permit. Originally to permit temporary housing for qualified inmates being released from Barry County Jail, it was broadened by the commission to include other forms of temporary housing for others facing other needs and challenges.

With special uses, the commission can establish conditions and controls for each facility and its use. Planning Commision Chairman David Hatfield was at the council meeting to answer questions from members.


Hatfield said they have been working on the transitional housing ordinance for about six months since the original request from Judge Amy McDowell.

When the commission was deciding on the ordinance, they “were creating too many specifics; it got convoluted,” he said.


So instead, he said they backed away, and gave general guidance and would look at specifics under the special use permit

As a special use, they have the right to look at specifics on any proposal. Each applicant will be specifically judged on the merits of the specifics by the planning commission, he said.


Some of the special use provisions are to maintain the appearance of a one-family dwelling with nothing to identify it as transitional or emergency housing, approval by a building inspector, no activities that would be detrimental to neighbors, he right to review on-site management, the number of people to occupy the dwelling at one time, the size of rooms, and all applications submitted to the police and fire departments for review and comment.


When Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange said it looked like the planning commission was making law, Hatfield noted that City Planner Rebecca Harvey wrote the ordinance.

There will be more discussion to make sure everyone is “on the same page on the second reading.”//


The second ordinance would rezone five parcels along and near Woodlawn Avenue from AO-Apartment-Office, R-1 and R1A One Family Residential to A-1 Apartment.

A request from Ravenna Holdings to the Planning Commission to rezone a parcel at 600 East Woodlawn Avenue for multi-family development was broadened by the planning commission to reflect land development patterns in the area. The planning commission recommended approval of both ordinances.


In other business, Clerk/Treasurer Jerry Czarnecki was appointed to a three year term on the Barry County Solid Oversight Committee at the request of Mayor Dave Tossava. He will replace City Manager Jeff Mansfield whose term expires the end of October. Also, Tom Wiswell was approved to serve on the Joint Planning Committee to fill Tom Wilt’s seat after his resignation.





Audits, brownfield assessments, pensions on Barry County Commission agenda

The Barry County Board of Commissioners first denied Barry County Sheriff’s Office employee Robert Horrmann’s request to purchase one year of generic service credit with the Municipal Employees Retirement System for $26,846 that would allow him to qualify for a full pension.


A motion to allow it was tied 3-3, with Commissioner David Jackson absent, so failed.


Reading from Roberts Rules of Order, Commissioner and Chairman Ben Geiger said in this particular case, the board could reconsider its decision.


Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson said it has been done in the past for others, “Why not now?” Commissioners Jon Smelker and Heather Wing wanted more information, leading to an agreement to table the issue until the Oct. 21 meeting.


It will be a closed hearing at Sheriff Dar Leaf’s request since it is a personnal matter. The request was sent to the full board by the committee of the whole last week.


In other business Tuesday, commissioners

*approved applying for an EPA assessment grant to fund environmental assessment projects for potential brownfield redevelopment sites in the county,


*approved contracting for auditing services from Gabridge & Co. for a fee not to exceed $26,060 a year for the next three years, with option for an additional two years at the same cost.


*set a public hearing on the proposed 2019 budget and to recommend its approval on Oct. 23 at 9 a.m.

Barry County Career Exposure kicks off tours

Barry County high school students will learn first-hand about manufacturing and health care careers as a Career Exposure tour starts this week.


The Career Exposure Tours are organized by the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance (EDA) in partnership with West Michigan Works.

With local unemployment rates at historic lows, the demand for talent is increasing, meaning outstanding opportunities for county youth, particularly those graduating in the next few years.

Bringing those opportunities to the forefront is the primary goal of tours this month throughout the county.


 “We routinely hear from local employers – large and small – that workforce is their number-one concern,” Travis Alden, president of the Chamber & EDA, said...

“Getting local students into these companies to see the great career opportunities that exist right in their backyard is a crucial part of addressing Barry County’s current and future workforce needs.”


The first week of October is national Manufacturing Week, with communities across the country celebrating America’s manufacturing strength and highlighting career opportunities in that sector; showing students and educators what manufacturing is like in the 21st century.//


“Most students are completely unaware of the innovative products produced right in their community and sold all over the world,” said Craig Stolsonburg, Business Solutions representative with West Michigan Works.

“It’s incredible to see the lightbulbs go on in their heads, as they tour these amazing facilities only a few miles from home.”


“Exposing students to – and educating them about – what local companies do is just part of the picture,” Alden said. “Showing them the myriad of career opportunities available at these firms, and the paths to get them there, is a key goal of these events.”


“We want local students to explore the numerous career opportunities available under the manufacturing umbrella including production, sales, purchasing, engineering, maintenance, and more,”  Director of Training & Development at FlexFab Andrew Walsh said.


“Our goal is to help students understand that their career path does not need to be linear. The direction of their careers depends on their interests, aptitude and goals.” Area educators echo the importance of that goal and underscore the unique experience this is for their students.

“Students are amazed to find out that there were so many different career opportunities within each business, including accounting, IT, research and development, engineering, CNC, CAD, programming and more,” said Ed Domke, director of Hastings High School’s Career & Technical Education.


“Add in the healthcare sites that we’re visiting this year and it’s an extremely valuable experience for our students.” “Our job is to prepare our students to be college and career ready, and these opportunities help students to learn more about the options that they have and how to prepare for their future,” Thornapple-Kellogg High School Principal Tony Peterson said.  “We are extremely grateful to all of the participating companies for opening up their doors to our students.”


Students from all Barry County schools; Hastings, Thornapple-Kellogg, Maple Valley, Delton-Kellogg and Barry County Christian, will tour 13 sites: Bliss Clearing Niagara, Hastings Manufacturing, Hastings Fiberglass, Tri-Clor, Flexfab, Spectrum Health Pennock and Thornapple Manor in Hastings; Advanced Stone Fabrication, Bradford-White, H&L Manufacturing, ChemQuest, and Middleville Tool & Die in Middleville and TnR Machine in Dowling.


“Manufacturing is the top employment sector in Barry County, at about 33 percent of our local labor force, so naturally we feature manufacturing firms,” Alden said.

Health care is second-highest sector in terms of employment in the county, so they included a couple of those employers, and hope to expand that in the future, he said.

As students learn about opportunities throughout the career areas, emphasis is also on pathways to achieve success in these careers.


“Seeing local folks on the job and asking questions may be the beginning of discovering what students want to do for their career and make a plan,” said Barry Career Access Network Coordinator Margie Haas.

“As they plan for their post-high school education or training, we want them to visualize what they may be doing for a career, ask how people in that profession got started and understand how their classwork and training will apply to success in their career field.”


The tours are geared toward 10th and 11th grade students, but each school selects students who participate, based on the capacity at each company.

The tours in the county began in 2015 with a single company – Flexfab – grew to three in 2016, six in 2017 and 13 this year.


 “That growth speaks to the importance of this experience for our local employers, students and educators,” Alden said... “The best part? We have slots for nearly nine hundred student experiences. “That is almost double last year. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the commitment of our local companies and schools. I sincerely thank them for making this possible.”



Tower Pinkster picked to facilitate new Barry County Jail project

The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to hire Tower Pinkster to facilitate the building of a new Barry County Jail. With the decision, Administrator Michael Brown will send a Letter of Engagement to Tower Pinkster.


The five companies interviewed were Tower Pinkster, Hooker/Delong/Landmark Design Group, BKV Group, and Lifespan Design Studies with BKV Design, BVCE & Associates and DLZ/Granger.


Discussion began at last week’s meeting and continued Tuesday. “We cannot continue to deliberate on this the waywe have,” Commission Chair Ben Geiger said.


He favored taking the top two scoring companies commissioners ranked during interviews and make a decision on one or the other; Tower Pinkster or Granger.  


That started the discussion for the next two hours, when commissioners discussed several more options, and discarded each for a variety of reasons. 


All had good points, but also drawbacks; BKV had a good presentation, but is an out of state company, some commissioners thought Barry County residents would prefer someone in the state. 


Tower Pinkster are excellent architects and engineers, but couldn’t do the actual construction. 
A proposal to take the top three companies and re-interview them was talked of, but was also dropped. One company had no experience with building jails, some would be involved in the money raising, and other firms, not as much. 


Uppermost in the discussion was how to pay for the jail, with millage the likely route, but with intense public education on what a new jail would look like and what they would be getting for their taxpayer dollars.


“If we don’t get millage, that would cause a real problem; this would be an expensive farce, an expensive farce.”


Geiger said several times he did not want to bring a millage request to voters more than once. “I want to do it once and do it right… I have too much respect for voters.” 


Resident Cathy Young Gramze cautioned the commission that they will have to show the community exactly what they would get for their money. “Barry County people won’t buy a pig in a poke,” she said.


Resident Larry Bass reminded the board that at least two school districts would be asking for millage in the near future. “You have competition…stick with needs, not wants.”.”


Resident Bob Vanderboegh recommended commissioners use a plan already paid for, the Master Facilities Plan of 2015. It calls for moving the Friend of the Court office to the Courts & Law Building. They could then move the Barry Eaton District Health Department office into the FOC space and renovate the health department building for the COA.


Considering the COA and the jail the same time was also brought up.  If they did the moving of offices to different spaces to make the health department building available, maybe they wouldn’t need a millage for the COA, Geiger said.

Middleville water heater company drops pollution exception request

A request for a pollution exception by the Bradford White Company in Middleville being considered by the DEQ has been dropped by the company in response to written comments to the state agency. As first reported by the Grand Rapids Press, company officials said they wanted time to listen to employees, residents and others interested in the Thornapple River,


David Wierzbicki, project manager, DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division in Grand Rapids in an interview two weeks ago said the DEQ was getting “a good number” of written comments by the public.


Wierzbicki said then he had been working on the issue with Bradford White for quite some time. “There is no actual dumping of active chemicals into the Thornapple River to the best of our knowledge,” he said. Bradford White was asking for a mixing zone in the river that would dilute groundwater contaminatoin when it went into the river.


Chemicals in two ground water plumes are flowing west and south from the plant toward the river; monitoring wells are between the plumes and the river. A routine schedule of sampling the monitoring wells showed contamination near the river,” Wierzbicki said.


“We have been studying this quite a while to find out what and where it is and at what levels, and whether there is a risk to the public.”


The contamination is thought to originally have come from two concrete tanks 50 feet apart that held degreasing chemicals used to clean metal used in water heaters.

If, when or how the leakage may have occurred from one or both tanks is unknown; use of the chemicals stopped around 1985, he said.


He said trichloroethylene, which breaks down into ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are the volatile organic compounds identified as carcinogens, or probable carcinogens, by the EPA that were used as degreaser solvents in the past, They are no longer in use.


The contamination was believed to first been discovered under the water heater plant in the late eighties or early nineties. Remediation started in 2004 and continuing today, has removed 90 percent of the contamination, Wierzbicki said.


If levels of contamination detected in the monitoring wells as it approaches or enters the river do not exceed the calculated mixing zone based criteria, it is determined that there is no risk to the public and environment, he said in the interview.


“The mixing zone is the area where the groundwater mixes with river water at the bottom the river. The flow rate of groundwater going into the river compared to the flow rate of the river itself is used to calculate the mixing zone base criteria that will be protective of public health, the environment and for all the uses of the river,” he said.


“Bradford White has been very cooperative with me for the entire time to do with the work they need to do to comply with state statutes. It’s on ongoing process, I think most people understand that,” he said then.


Skateboarder hurt in collision with mini-van

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office today responded to a pedestrian/vehicle injury crash on South. Division Avenue under M-6, according to a sheriff’s news release.

The investigation revealed a man in his early 30’s was riding his skateboard on the southbound sidewalk when he fell into the southbound lane of vehicle travel.


The man was stuck by a Chrysler mini-van and dragged a short distance. He was pinned under the vehicle and was freed by pedestrians and first responders. The unidentified man was transported to Metro Health Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries via AMR.


Speed and alcohol/drugs do not appear to be a factor. The driver of the Chrysler, who was not cited, and occupants of the vehicle, were uninjured. Cutlerville Fire Department also responded.

Large bull on the loose wandered into subdivision in Grand Rapids Township

Friday afternoon Kent County Sheriff deputies and Kent County Animal Control were dispatched to the area of Michigan Street and Quail Ridge Drive in Grand Rapids Township on reports of a large bull on the loose, according to a sheriff’s news release.


The bull was wandering through a subdivision. Attempts were made to corral the bull back to its pen but were unsuccessful. The bull wandered into a wooded area, still near the subdivision. The owner of the bull did not have a way to get it back to the farm and requested that deputies put it down.


There was a concern for the children that were coming home from school and Michigan Street also had to be closed to prevent anyone from hitting the bull if it ran back across the road. When the bull was in a safe location to be put down, a deputy fired a single round and killed it instantly. The owner of the bull is making arrangements to remove it from the wooded area.  No one was injured in the incident.

Notice:Public health advisory for Jordan Lake lifted

The Public Health Advisory for Jordan Lake issued by the Ionia County Health Department on Oct. 4 has been lifted as of 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5. Water sampling performed by the Lakewood Wastewater Authority on Oct. 4 revealed levels of E. coli that are considered safe for full body contact, according to the health department. Residents and visitors may resume normal activity in and around Jordan Lake.

For more on E. coli in surface water, visit

For more on sewage overflows in Michigan, visit

Stealing political yard signs is a crime, but not unusual

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the first report of political yard signs being stolen during the lead up to the Nov. 6 election. Sheriff Dar Leaf said his office has just started an investigation into the charge. “These kinds of thefts are not uncommon,” he said.


Theft of political signs is a crime in all 50 states. In Michigan, the consequences of stealing or defacing signs can include a large fine or even jail time. Stealing or defacing signs is a misdemeanor that can carry a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or imprisonment of up to 90 days, according to state law.



The Lofts of Middleville holds "groundbreaking" celebration

It’s been part of downtown Middleville since the late 1800’s. Still structurally sound, the three-story tan brick building at the corner of Railroad and Main streets has held many businesses. Some remember Liebler’s, a clothing store, some can remember further back and other businesses.

Most remember its years as the village Post Office and for a time, a variety store.


It’s showing its age, and needs extensive repairs, but is still sound and after years being vacant and neglected, is ready to be of use to the community again.

At the celebration of the project’s “groundbreaking” Monday, Zoning Administrator Brian Urquhart said he often looked out the front window of the village hall and wondered if it would ever have tenants again.


“This is the result of years of hard work,” he said. The Lofts of Middleville is an investment of three-quarters of a million dollars, mixed use development. In addition to interior improvements, the exterior will have major repairs, with bricks and masonry upgrade, new windows added to the third floor,  windows and doors replaced, new siding on the front and a closed stairwell in the rear for renters, he said.  “This will be a catalyst for Middleville and with the community development status, prime for development.”//


Joanna Schlientz, the owner with husband Chad, explained the plans. Each of the three stories has 3,000 square feet, for a total of 9,000 square feet. The upper floor will hold four apartments, the first floor a combination of retail and possibly a restaurant, the lower level will be retail and offices. ‘We’ve been working on this for two and a half years,” she said. “We hope to have it done and ready for showing in six months.”


In his remarks, Chad Schlientz said they appreciated all the people working with them, helping them with their “vision of getting things to come together and help us out…the village and the township helped us along the way...this is a fantastic building.”


MEDC Executive Vice President Greg Tedder said all the background work done to get to where they are today is paying off. “This will have a huge impact on Middleville,” he predicted. An MEDC grant for $352,850 will help fund the Lofts; the Middleville DDA put in $27,000 for a new façade.


“Middleville has so much to offer,” 87th District State Rep. Julie Calley said. “Jobs are here and they are in close proximity to many opportunities. We value what Middleville offers. Businesses want to be in Middleville, making it the place to be.”


“101 E. Main Street was the focal point for activity for Middleville community for decades,” Village Manager Duane Weeks said. “After its rehabilitation, this building will reclaim its previous place and even more moving forward. The resulting renovated historic building will invigorate activity and a sense of place into Middleville and throughout the community.


“In one’s professional and personal lives you find opportunities that transform the future through steadfast effort or involvement in a project such as The Lofts of Middleville. The renovation and repurpose of 101 East Main Street is one of those opportunities for the Village of Middleville.”


















Student count in Barry County area schools mixed

All public schools in Michigan count the number of students attending their schools twice a year, in October and February. In Barry County area schools this year, the student count was mixed, without large shifts either way. Count information is critical to school districts, because each student translates into state funding.

The calculation schools receive is based on a blend of both winter and fall student count data during the same calendar year.


Area schools unofficial student counts on Wednesday, Oct. 3: 


*Thornapple Kellogg’s student count stood at 3,156, up 25 from last year. 


*Delton Kellogg Schools student count this year is 1,251, down 30 from last year.


*Caledonia Community Schools counted 4,847 students this year, down 19 from 2017.


*Wayland Union Schools reports its student count is 3,059, up 21 from last year.


*Maple Valley Public Schools have 994 students enrolled this year compared to 1,069 last year, a 75-student drop.


*Hastings Area School System’s student count is 2,660, down three from last year.


** Lakewood Public Schools count was not available for the 5 p.m. news. 


October is Fire Prevention Month: Look, Listen, Learn, Be Aware

“Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.”

Michiganders are urged to look for places fire could start in their homes and fix any potential fire hazards; listen for the sound of the smoke alarm, and learn two ways out of every room by developing and practicing a home escape plan.


“We’re working to educate people about how to reduce the likelihood of having a fire in the first place, and if they do have a house fire how to escape safely, “said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.


“This includes having working smoke alarms on each level of their home to provide early notification and then exiting quickly can literally make the difference between life and death. In many instances there’s a much smaller window of time for people to escape a home fire safely – as little as one or two minutes from the time the smoke alarm sounds -- largely due to more plastics and furnishing burning faster, producing large amounts of toxic gases and smoke. Knowing two ways out of every room will help people use that small window of time wisely to escape fire, Sehlmeyer said. //


Tips to make a home more fire-safe:


*Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area. Check them every month by pushing the test button.


*Never smoke in bed. Keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.


*Never leave cooking unattended. Keep stoves and burners clean and free of grease to avoid the potential for a small kitchen fire that can get out of hand quickly.


*Never leave candles unattended. Place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces at least a foot away from anything that can burn; curtains, bedding, furniture, carpeting.


*Have fireplaces, chimneys, and both wood and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary.


*Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.


*Use caution when using space heaters. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface. Never leave them unattended.


*Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords. Plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at time. Plug major appliances directly into a wall receptacle.

*Keep clothes and other items three feet away for your gas water heater that can ignite items when the water heater comes on.


*Clean the dryer lint screen after each load as lint is extremely flammable.


*Have a fire extinguisher in the home and know how to use it.


*Develop and practice a home fire escape plan that the entire family knows that includes two ways out of every room.


*Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.


*Sleep with bedroom doors closed to limit fire spread. Closing the door can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into sleeping areas.


*Make sure you close doors behind you as you escape a fire.


“Fire can happen to you,” Sehlmeyer emphasized. “With a few practical and essential preventive measures, people can eliminate fire hazards in their home, and be better prepared to expect the unexpected if a fire occurs in their home.”


For more on preventing fires and staying safe:

For more on fire safety:


NOTICE: No body contact of Jordan Lake waters recommended

The Ionia County Health Department is recommending no body contact in Jordan Lake, due to high levels of E.coli after a sewage spill from a creek that flows into the lake.


On Oct. 2, the Lakewood Wastewater Authority experienced the sewage overflow; water testing by the LWA that day revealed high levels of E. coli in the creek. Additional testing will be conducted until E. coli levels return to normal the health department said.

Register to vote before Oct. 9 to vote Nov. 6

If you aren’t already a registered voter, you have until next Tuesday, Oct. 9, to register to vote in the “midterm” election Nov. 6


U. S. and Michigan representative and senate seats will be decided, as well as house and senate seats in Michigan. Voters will pick Michigan’s next governor, attorney general and secretary of state as well.Ballot issues on legalizing recreational marijuana, rights to certain voting laws and political gerrymandering will be approved or denied by voters.


There are several places to register; at any county, city or township clerk’s office, any Secretary of State’s branch office, or by mail. For more information on registering to vote, visit the Secretary of State’s website at,4670,7-127-1633_8716---,00.html



Free smoke, carbon monoxide detectors still available

The Barry County Fire Association (BCFA) and Barry County United Way are reminding residents that the free smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector program is still going on throughout the community.

“This program can provide the first alert to getting out of a home when fire is eminent,” said Delton Fire Chief Gene Muskovin.


A grant from Spectrum Health Pennock Foundation, Hastings Kiwanis and Southside Pediatrics make these detectors available free to qualifying households. Applications are available at all local fire departments, or on-line at or

When the application is filled out and returned to Barry County United Way or the local fire department, firefighters will call to set a time to inspect your home for smoke detector placement.


While there, firefighters will install additional smoke detectors as needed and check the batteries on current detectors. The firefighters will leave information with the home owner explaining how to set up a fire escape plan. 


“The smoke detector will provide the first alarm, but knowing how to get out and where to go are just as important,” said Freeport Fire Chief Jim Yarger. “We have been surprised by the number of homes with one or less detector,” said Executive Director of the Barry County United Way Lani Forbes. 


Since the inception of this program, 1,279 homes have been inspected, 2,695 devices installed.  Thirty percent of the homes had no working detector. These are much larger numbers than anticipated when the grants were applied for,” Forbes said. 


“It’s great that we received these grants to provide this program. If we can save one life it will be wonderful!”  Orangeville Fire Chief Matt Ribble said.

According to the NFPA, the vast majority of fatal fires, 60 percent, occur in homes without smoke alarms. A majority of deaths that occur in homes with smoke alarms are a result of dead or missing batteries.


The BCFA, Bellevue and Lake Odessa fire departments would like to also remind you of a few other fire-related issues: With heating bills soaring this winter there is a concern about using alternative heat sources that are not safe. Make sure that any alternative heat sources that may be used are rated for use indoors and are properly vented. 

When turning clocks back on Nov. 4, don’t forget to change the batteries and test smoke detectors. It can save your life.


Barry County to apply for brownfield assessment grants

“Go for it,” Commissioner Dan Parker said when the Barry County Commission was asked to apply for $300,000 in brownfield assessment grants.


Casey Smith, project manager with SME, said the next round of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfield grants offer $300,000 over three years to fund environmental assessment projects for potential redevelopment sites in Barry County.


Two possible brownfield sites are the property where there was a small engine business in Middleville and where Hastings Manufacturing removed a riverfront building.

Some 25 brownfield sites have already been cleaned up in Barry County, resulting in $11 million in investments and jobs, Smith said.


“We will write the grant at no cost to you,” he said. Travis Alden, president of the Barry County Chamber of Commerce: “We’re being proactive on brownfields to spur development in Barry County.” The request moves to the full board for action next week.


Also Tuesday, commissioners recommended hiring Gabridge & Company for auditing services for a fee not to exceed $26,060 a year for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020, with the option of a two year extension at the same price.

“To better coordinate auditing services and take advantage of economies of scale, the county, Thornapple Manor and Barry County Transit issued a joint RFP,” Administrator Michael Brown said.


Thornapple Manor has an offer of $10,940 a year for a total of five years, and the transit has a $6,400 bid for each of five years,

Both issue separate financial audit reports and will enter separate agreements with Gabridge & Company, Brown said. Gabridge & Company was the lowest of five bids received. For the last six years, the county has hired Rehmann of Grand Rapids for audits.


In other business Tuesday, commissioners also recommended:


*setting a public hearing and adoption of the 2019 budget at 9 a.m., October 23.


*approval of Building and Grounds Director Tim Neeb to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) to buy two boilers for the Courts & Law building for up to $70,000. Neeb said one boiler is leaking; both were installed when the building was constructed and are beyond their life expectancy. Payment will be from the building rehabilitation fund.




Barry County earns Moody's Investors Service Aa2 credit rating

Barry County has been notified it has earned a credit rating of Aa2 from Moody’s Investment Service.  In a report issued Sept.14, Moody credited the high score to Barry County for its very strong credit, robust financial position, small debt burden, healthy economy, tax base and its management.


“The Issuer Comment Report is intended to provide investors with a consolidated source of current credit metrics, including updated economic demographic and financial information for Barry County,” Administrator Michael Brown said. “It also provides investors with a rating or grade and I am very pleased that Barry County was assigned a rating of Aa2.”

Barry County Board meeting dominated by budget matters

The Barry County Commission’s committee of the whole spent the morning Tuesday talking about budget matters; first an overview of the proposed 2019 budget, then appeals from departments whose requests for increases were denied.


County Administrator Michael Brown said the focus, “was on budgeting revenues at realistic levels, not underestimating them, but also not falling trap to overestimating them, to avoid having to make financial choices about reducing services, if required. The recommended budget shows both general fund revenues and expenditures are expected to be $17,101,947; the entire budget totals $48 million.


The proposed budget has figures from 2016 forward with projections for 2020 and 2021.

Several commissioners said they appreciate Brown’s expertise in budgeting, with Commissioner Dan Parker urging Brown to, “stay in the conservative window that makes economic sense for the county,” Commissioner David Jackson agreed they “should maintain a conservative focus as we go forward. The budget reflects clear thinking.”


The appeals included a Parks & Recreation Board request for $3,510 to move its administrator from .2526 time to .375 time. It was approved.

“We have some dedicated people here…it’s use it or lose it…we should think about what it could cost if we don’t do it,” Parker said.


No action was taken on a request by the Barry County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Matt Houchlei for an additional sworn deputy to work in court security at a total cost of $70,389.80 a year. Current staff is inadequate to cover the increased hearings in all four courts, leading to overtime or call-ins every morning, and constant shifting of staff.


Tthere was also no action on the request from Register of Deeds Barb Hurless, for two part-time indexers for three to four months to manually remove inoperative, unneeded numbers in their archives caused by several months of computer malfunctions. She also asked for another full time abstractor to help with the work load and provide coverage during vacation, sick time or other absences of the one abstractor in the office.


The computer situation is complicated and so difficult to understand that the commissioners need more information before making a decision. Both Houchlei and Hurless’ requests will likely be discussed at the next board meeting.


Also to wait for more information are a request from Commissioner Vivian Conner for an increase of $1,000 for maintenance of a vehicle to be used on a three-county invasive species eradication program by the Barry Conservation District, and Commissioner Heather Wing’s request for funding for an administrator for the Agriculture Preservation Board.



Autumn Honor Flights

Talons Out Honor Flight will depart Kalamazoo on October 27th to take Michigan World War Two and Korean War Veterans on their final mission to Washington DC.

American Legion Post 45 will hold a benefit car and motorcycle event, silent auction and dinner Saturday October 6th to raise funds for the Talon Out Honor Flight.

The event offers a scattered run, where stamps must be collected on a passport at stops in seven counties; Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Eaton, Kalamazoo, Kent and Ionia. It will conclude at the Lawrence J. Bauer American Legion Post in Hastings at 3:00 pm where dinner will be served.

It is estimated 500 veteran from these two wars die each day and less than 10,000 remain in Michigan.

Missing Girl Update

16 year old Michelle Winchell who had been missing since September 10th has been located and reunited with her family. Winchell was dropped off in Kalamazoo on September 9th to visit friends and failed to return for pickup on September 10th. Again Michelle Winchell from Barry County's Baltimore Township has been located and reunited with her family.

Barry County Transit ride passes now available at more locations

The Barry County Transit is easier to ride than ever, transit Manager Bill Voigt said Monday.


As always, riders may still purchase rides or passes online, or pay the drivers with correct change. 

But now, ride passes are also available from the Freeport District Library, Delton District Library, Putnam Library in Nashville and Middleville Village Hall.

“Now, many of our riders can purchase passes closer to home. We hope this makes things easier,” Voigt said. 


Barry County Transit serves all areas in Barry County every day except Sunday.

For more information, call 269-948-8098 or visit

Rebuild of entire manhole at Market and Green delays street re-opening

 The Hastings Department of Public Services crew found the work at the Green and Market street intersection was more of an undertaking than was initially planned, DPS Director Lee Hays said  Monday. They had to rebuild the entire manhole from the base up, about 14 feet, which takes substantially longer than fixing a few pipes and backfilling a hole, he said.


“We have to wait for the mortar that is holding the assembly together to cure.  The large amount of rain on Sunday caused the gravel in the hole to collect water,” he said. “As soon as we can ensure the proper compaction in the roadway, we will get the street re-opened to traffic.”



Divorced couples can exchange custody of children in Hastings City Hall parking lot

The Hastings City Hall parking lot is  a secure place for divorced parents to exchange children according to their custody agreements, Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said. City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes asked Pratt, Judge William Doherty and the Family Court to work on finding a safe and secure site for parenting exchanges.


Parents now meet in many different places in and around Hastings to exchange children and there have been some conflicts, Pratt said.

Doherty, Referee Vicky Alspaugh, Fekkes and Pratt agreed the Hastings City Hall parking lot was a good exchange location, since the parking lot has monitoring cameras and a call box to contact police.


“The issues involving parental exchanges for parenting times has been a longstanding problem.  No matter where these exchanges take place there is always a potential for issues to arise,” Pratt said.

“Often times the relationship between the parents is not strong enough to provide the exchange to happen at their perspective residences so there needs to be a neutral site. A neutral site may not be needed long term but it does provide a chance for emotions to calm down.”


“Parenting time exchanges have often taken place in the parking lot so this will be nothing new, however, I would expect to see an increase in people using our parking lot for a safe and secure exchange location,” he added.


Barry County Road Commission Looking for Vandals

The Barry County Road Commission is turning to the public for help in finding vandals who have left sexually explicit symbols on several roadways and stolen signs over the past month.

The commission has been dealing with vandals for the past month who have spray painted signs misleading motorist, then began taking and spray  painting phallic images across roads in the northern part of the county.  Anyone with information that will assist the road Commission in this matter is ask to contact the police.


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