Local News Archives for 2018-11

Hastings Fire Station being looked at for upgrade, expansion

BIRCH Fire Association has partnered with the City of Hastings and Mercy Ambulance to see if its retrofit the Hastings Fire Station and add more space. Each agency gave $1,000 to pay for an architect to provide conceptual drawings for the project.


The goal is to upgrade the building thought to have been built in the 1950’s and add enough room to house all of the fire equipment used by the fire department and the ambulance service.


Hastings Township Supervisor Jim Brown and chair of the fire association thinks an emergency services complex is feasible. “The architect will give us a plan on how we can do it. We outgrew that building years ago. It has some great bones underneath it, but it does need work,” he said.


Officials from the agencies, Brown, Fire Chief Roger Caris and Rodney Palmer from Mercy Ambulance will determine how much more space will be needed and which way the expansion  should go on the site.

“There are several ways of doing it,” he said. “We just need to find the best use for that location.”


Amy Meeker, a local architect who has experience with large projects including a fire station in Grand Rapids, will develop conceptual drawings with the renovations and addition and details for the group to review, Brown said.


“Then we go back and start looking at how much it will cost,” he said. In his opinion, the expansion and repairs would make the building serviceable for the next 50 years.


A study funded years ago by the city determined that the best location for the fire station is where it is at 110 East Mill Street in the city. A second study on tearing down the present building and building new never came about, likely because of costs.


50-year-old man dies in Lowell Township house fire

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports a 50-year-old man died in a house fire in Lowell Township Thursday.

Lowell Fire Department, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, and Lowell Police Department responded to the 11:03 p.m. blaze in the 13000 block of Grand River Drive. S.E., a media release said.


The unidentified man was transported from the scene by Rockford Ambulance to Spectrum Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The fire remains under investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. The Ada, Cascade and Bowne township fire departments and Saranac Fire Department assisted deputies.

Thornapple Township mulls location for new emergency services building

The 15-year-old building that houses Thornapple Township Emergency Services in downtown Middleville will likely be used for something else in the future, according to Township Supervisor Mike Bremer.

The township board formed an ad hoc committee of seven to study the idea of a new TTES building and the township and village will work together to “find a new home” for the service, he said. Officials agree the next TTES has to be contagious to the village.


“I welcome input from the community,” Bremer said. “If you have a good idea for a location, give me a call.”


There is development of the Thornapple River area into a park-like area, planning for use of the old train depot, a boat launch, Veterans Memorial, Farmers Market and the possibility of an amphitheater to hold the Friday Night Music Series and other events, all in the strip of land between the river and emergency service building. The growth makes the uses incompatible, Bremer said.

“Ambulances and fire trucks maneuvering between people isn’t a good idea,” he said.


The building has a lot of potential, he said.  It could be a hotel with a conference center on the lower level, a community center or for almost any commercial use.  A community center could also be used as an emergency shelter for township/village residents, if needed, with a meeting room, bedrooms, showers, a commercial kitchen, plenty of room in the equipment bay and its own generator.


When they find an appropriate location and build a new building for TTES, there will be space for township offices, making township business centered in one place. The current township hall will be sold for commercial use and put back on the tax rolls, he said.

Bremer expects some preliminary information from the ad hoc committee at the Jan. 14 board meeting.





Suspected Chronic Wasting Disease

Two Counties likely will be added to the list of Michigan counties where chronic wasting disease has been found. The disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, muledeer, elk and moose.

A 2 year old buck in Carmel Township in Eaton County and a 4 year old buck in Gratiot County are suspected positive for the disease.

As of Saturday, the Department of Natural Resources has tested more that 16,000 deere this year with 20 of those confirmed positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

When harvesting a deer the DNR said hunters should have their deer checked.

To date, there have been no reported cases of the disease in people.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, show their support for those living with HIV and commemorate people who have died from AIDS. The Ionia County Health Department offers free and confidential HIV screening year-round, by



On  Friday Nov. 30 we will accept walk-ins for testing from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


HIV testing may also be available from personal healthcare providers.

World AIDS Day is an important reminder that HIV has not gone away—there is still a need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education.


Currently, more than 1.2 million Americans, including over 15,000 Michiganders, are living with HIV.

On average, HIV is spread to 50,000 people in the U.S. every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 90 percent of the new cases could be prevented by testing and diagnosis.


People with HIV who don’t know that they are infected may spread it to others and will not get the important treatment that can keep them healthy for many years.

The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13–64 get tested for HIV at least once.

Women who are pregnant should be tested to protect their health and to prevent the spread of HIV to their baby.


Those with certain risk factors should be tested at least once a year; these risk factors


*people with more than one sexual partner

*people who have contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD)

*people who inject drugs

*men who have sex with men


For more on HIV/AIDS visit

For more on World AIDS Day visit

Community Action Agency eyes Ponderosa for new center

Michelle Williamson, CEO of Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan updated Barry County Commissioners on its programs for Barry County residents on Tuesday.


Williamson said the agency is working to find funding to renovate the former Ponderosa on Market Street in Hastings to consolidate intake of its Head Start programs and other programs in one accessible location with room to expand its GED program. “It’s been empty for a few years and is an ideal location,” she said.


The cost is estimated at $600,000 for the building and to make it eligible for state licensing. Working with the owners, they have $400,000, which they will have to pay back, so are looking at fundraising through a GoFundMe page, grants and donations from individuals and businesses for the remaining $200,000.

A pancake breakfast Saturday, Dec. 1 at American Legion Post 45 in Hastings from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. will benefit the effort.


Commissioner Heather Wing represents the county on the CAASCM board and said she “has never been as excited to be part of a thing, ever,” noting Williamson has a team of board and staff members who have benefited from her mentorship. //


Williamson listed several agency programs; Utility Assistance for heating bills, Weatherization  services to reduce energy use, Foster Grandparents for seniors 55 and older with children for mentoring, Commodities, giving seniors boxes of food through the Commodities Supplemental Food Program and for those 19 and up,  the Emergency Food Assistance Program.


CAASCM also has the Head start and Early Head Start programs, providing quality education for children from infants to up to four years old. The agency has 250 staff, including 35 in Barry County. The total spent in Barry County in 2017 was $2,712,334. Its $18 million budget is a combination of federal and state funding.


Most referrals are from word of mouth, Williamson said, but they have a number (877- 422-2726) to call, and take referrals from other agencies. They serve St. Joseph, Calhoun, Branch and Barry counties.


In other business, the commission approved:

*reappointing Frank Jesensek and Douglas Klein to Citizens at Large positions on the Parks & Recreation Board for three year terms.

*reappointing Rick Moore and appoint Deana Powell to the Charlton Park Board in Citizens at Large positions for three year terms.

*an agreement with VERIPRO for Short Term Disability administration for one year.

*budget amendment B-18.

*autorization for auditors to make final year end appropriations and transfer general fund surplus funds to various internal service funds.

*a resolution opposing Senate bill 396.

*a resolution to transfer the release of a right of way from Barry County Board of Supervisors to the Barry County Drain Commission.

*adoption of MERS defined Benefit Plan amendment increasing BCCEA employee contributions.

* form K-4402 to allow Barry County to collet winter taxes.




Barry Commissioners take heat on committee selection; apology demanded

The policy on public comments at the Barry County Board of Commissioners is to listen to people speak, but not to respond. Commissioner and Chairman Ben Geiger frequently says, “This is your time to speak; it’s our time to listen.”

So, there was no response when two spoke Tuesday, chastising the commission for not re-appointing Sharon Zebrowski, the current chair of the board, to the Charlton Park board last week.


Mike Snyder, Hastings resident, watched the meeting via streaming. He said of all the applicants, “just one has many years of successful tenure with Charlton Park and has a vision and plan for the park’s future growth.”


“This applicant was not chosen. Why? Under a normal and honest interview, using nothing else other than common sense, which applicant is more qualified and should have been chosen for the board’s position?


“I smell a rat here somewhere…what would taxpayers of Barry County say if asked this question? Remember it’s their money and their park, and commissioners, you have been elected to be caretakers and to make sound decisions for the county and not your self-interest.

“I was under the assumption you were going to improve the method for interviewing applicants for committee and board positions…If this is your improved method, it may be best if you hire an outside consulting firm to do your interviewing,” he said.


In an earlier e-mail to each commissioner, Snyder praised Zebrowski for improving the education events for school students, long hours of volunteer work and dedication to the park.


Zebrowski said for the first time in years, the park board’s recommendations for the board positions were ignored. Addressing Geiger, she said: “Are the recommendations so odious that you felt compelled to explain to your cohorts what recommendations are and to tell them to ignore them?”


‘Your haughty, insulting and disrespectful remarks were both unprofessional and abhorrent. By sitting by and saying nothing, your cohorts either have the same haughty disrespect for the board you’ve shown, or they have no backbone.


“You and your merry little band of puppets owe the Charlton Park Board and specifically the recommendation committee (which I was not a part of) both a public and written apology.”

Gun Lake Tribe

Tuesday  the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) released the findings  of an economic impact study commissioned by the tribe.  The Innovation Group, a gaming and hospitality analytics firm, worked with the tribe and its subsidiaries to develop the findings of the Economic Impact Study.  The findings reveal that the tribe, Gun Lake Casino, and Gun Lake Investment contributed $1.5 billion dollars to Michigan's economy from 2011 to 2017.

Barry County community will be asked which is best investment for county

The Barry Community Foundation’s mission is to serve as a leader, catalyst and resource to improve the lives of people in the Barry County.


Foundation Executive Director Bonnie Gettys and Leadership Barry County Director Sarah Alden  have been thinking about how to invest foundation money in a way that will most benefit the people of Barry County and they’re hoping you will help them find it.


“We have some financial resources to share, but we want to share them in the best way,” Gettys said.


Gettys and Alden explained the process to village and township officials at a Vision Barry County meeting Tuesday. The first of three steps, developing a survey asking residents where best to spend the funding, is underway. The hope is to deliver the survey, one way or another, to every household in the county.


The survey has six categories based on gaps in current efforts to address them; the environment, housing, infrastructure, broadband access, economy and prosperity and ‘other.’ Respondents are asked to rate the level of importance to them as ‘not important’, ‘somewhat important’ or ‘highly important.’


With the survey results in hand, they will move on to step two; a community meeting to get more ideas and information from the public, likely with help from a professional facilitator. The Center of Michigan has knowledge and technology for such meetings, and can, “keep everything on point so everyone can get a chance to talk and keep it going,” Alden said.


Using all of the information gathered, step three is to develop grants based on the highest community need or want, issue requests for proposals and invest in it, Gettys said.

“If its affordable housing, we could do low interest loans for housing,” she said as an example.


“It’s all good information,” Alden said, “but we’ll see a difference in the municipalities’ responses.”

 “This is good for us and good for you,” Gettys told the officials at the Visioning meeting. “It helps you understand what your constituents want.”


*This article was amended to correct Sarah Alden's title.



New Barry County Jail, COA facilities contract will wait for study of existing facilities

The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday slowed down the process of approving a contract with TowerPinkster to facilitate the building of a new County Jail and COA.

Starting with Commissioner Jon Smelker, each commissioner agreed that holding up the process for a time was worth it to assure what they wanted was clear to TowerPinkster and written in any contract before they approve it.


Commissioners want the firm to examine the feasibility of using space in other county facilities before committing to new buildings for both the jail and COA.


Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson said 14 people work in the Friend of the Court’s office; Smelker said 16 people work in the Barry Eaton District Health Department building, and things like that are things that should be considered.


Tower Pinkster Senior Project Manager Eric Hackman was at the meeting to answer questions and said the present contract does not call for an in-depth look at the county facilities, rather, an update to a 2015 facilities study to look at the assessments in the recent past and see what is still of value to them.


Commissioner and Chairman Ben Geiger’s assurance that they could approve the contract and it would be taken care of was not enough to convince other commissioners.


County Administrator Michael Brown advised, “delaying this until we get it right. We want discussion and debate now and not later. TowerPinkster is in the same boat; they want to make sure everybody is clear on where we’re headed…we all want to be as clear as possible.”


Smelker summed up his feelings. “I really don’t care if it goes into next year...we need to do it right.”

Several suggestions were brought up, but after discussion of each, commissioners tabled the issue until the next regular board meeting.

MSP: Thanksgiving highway fatalities same as last year

The Michigan State Police has announced that preliminary reports indicate 11 people lost their lives in 10 separate traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the same as the 2017 holiday weekend that resulted in 11 fatalities from 11 traffic crashes.


Out of the 10 deadly crashes:

*Restraints were not used in three crashes and unknown use in three.

*Alcohol use was a known factor in two of the deadly crashes.

*One involved an off-road vehicle where a helmet was not worn.

*Two victims were pedestrians.

“These numbers are preliminary and only reflect those fatalities reported to the MSP as of 11 a.m. today,” said Spl/F/Lt. Jim Flegel, State Services Bureau.. “The preliminary numbers show the same number of fatalities from this holiday period last year. The MSP continues to urge motorists not to drive while impaired, always use proper restraints, and to make responsible driving decisions.”


The 2018 Thanksgiving holiday weekend ran from 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21, through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. //


Operation C.A.R.E. is a nationwide initiative aimed at reducing traffic crashes and fatalities on highways across the country. It began in 1977 as a collaborative effort between the MSP and the Indiana State Police.


Today, Operation C.A.R.E. is one of the nation’s longest running traffic safety initiatives and includes state and highway patrol agencies from all 50 states, as well as some American territories, Canadian provinces, and the Virgin Islands. Operation C.A.R.E. also includes participation from police agencies affiliated with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as well.

Hastings again hosts Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race

Hastings will host the Founders Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race for the sixth year with the blessing of the Hastings City Council. Scott Tencate and Rick Plite, co-race directors of the event from Trail Blazer Events have been working with city staff on the event for next spring.


City Manager Jeff Mansfield said the city is looking forward to another fantastic bicycle race which brings thousands of competing cyclists and their families into the city. “This has become a signature event for our community drawing cyclists to the area throughout the year,” he said.

Last year, the event had 3,200 racers signed up; this year’s cap is 3,500. The race and Founders after-party will be April 13, 2019.


In a letter requesting permission, the co-chairs said they felt last year’s event was so successful because of the “tremendous partnership with the city officials, city DPS team and law enforcement for their significant involvement in helping to plan and execute all the details of the event.

“A special thanks go out to Jeff Mansfield, Chief Jeff Pratt, Lee Hays and Jim James and the DPS team who spent numerous hours discussing, planning and helping to execute the event.”


A 100-mile race added last year to the 22, 36 and 62 mile races was well received, Tencate said. He noted that more than 60 local organizations work with Trail Blazer Events and 300 volunteers help put on the event. The event organizers donate to local charities every year.


Also Monday, Community Director Dan King said McKenna Associates, the city’s planning consultant, and the city’s planning commission have completed Part 1 of the Hastings five-year Master Plan update.

Part 2 focuses on four issues; dealing with strategies of business growth, housing, infrastructure, and partnership/collaboration  and produce a  work plan that will result in the development of specific action items that build on the city’s existing assets and are influenced by input from key stakeholders.  McKenna’s proposal for its services to go forward with Part 2 of the update for a total of $19,500 was approved.

A copy of Part 1 is available at



A request by Debra Sutfin, president of Barry County Grapplers Association, a club of 55 middle school age and younger wrestlers, was approved. She asked that the council recognize their club as a non-profit 501C3 to allow them to get a license from the state to hold a fundraiser. Mansfield said the council has done it before, it just confirms that the city recognizes the group as a non-profit.


A workshop was set for Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. for Rehmann’s audit report.

Exempting logging industry from spring load limits called "poor public policy"

Barry County Road Commision Managing Director Brad Lamberg Nov. 20 asked Barry County Commissioners for support of a resolution opposing Senate bill 396 that exempts the forestry industry from load limits on county roads during spring thaws.


Lamberg said the bill will increase Michigan’s already highest load limits in the Midwest. He presented a County Road Association of Michigan chart that showed Michigan’s limit of 164,000 gross weight vehicles on the roads, with the next highest North Dakota at about 120,000 gross weights.


During the seasonal weight restrictions of 110,000 gross weights, Michigan allows more weight on the local road and bridge system than any other Midwest state under normal, legal weight restrictions, according to the chart.


The bill, if passed, would give loggers freedom from any weight height and length restrictions on Michigan’s county road system. “Michigan logging trucks already get favorable load limits on the local road system,” Lamberg said.


The resolution opposing Senate Bill 396 contains the line:

“It is a fact in Barry County and throughout the northern states that all roads become soft in the spring as frost melts and applying unrestricted 164,000-pound truck loading and traffic on soft roads, whether paved or unpaved, is poor public policy that defies common sense when it comes to road preservation, and will lead to significant damage to the road system, economic damage in Barry County and increased risk to drivers in our region…”


Lamberg said the spring weight restriction in the county, usually four or five weeks, “could be worked around with a little planning by the industry.”


A Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill said if forestry vehicles traveling on gravel roads were exempt from seasonal weight restrictions, “rural counties with active forestry industry could see accelerated wear on those roads. Depending on the severity of that erosion, repair costs for counties could range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It is also likely that the counties would be unable to plan for these additional costs.”


The report notes that road commissions could require a $2,000 bond for each mile traveled, adding that the bill does not outline consequences for nonpayment of the bond.

The committee of the whole recommended approval of the resolution; the commission is expected to approve it at its Nov. 27 regular board meeting.


Holiday season is just getting started

The holiday season is officially underway and while Thanksgiving 2018  is a memory, there are still lots of events to keep the Christmas season exciting. Below are a few occasions to put in your planner, but by no means a complete list.


Nov. 29-Dec. 2, the Thornapple Players present “The Nunsense Christmas Musical” at the Dennison Performing Arts Center, Hastings. 269-945-2002.


Nov. 30-Dec. 2, Hastings Jingle and Mingle is filled with family-friendly fun; the Saturday parade steps off at 5:30 p.m. 269- 945-2454


Dec. 8-Middleville Lion’s Club Christmas Parade Saturday at 5 p.m. with visits with Santa at the gazebo. Free wagon rides and a soup supper and cookie walk at the United Methodist Church. 269-241-1170


Dec. 8-9- Of Christmas Past at Charlton Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get a glimpse of how Christmas was celebrated in the late 1800s. 269-945-3775


Dec. 14,-Thornapple Wind Band Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Hastings Middle School. 616-374-7547.


Dec. 18-Holly Trolley Christmas from 5p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Middleville. Trolley rides around town to see the lights, craft programs for kids at the UM Church, Santa in his workshop in Stagecoach Park and a Live Nativity from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. behind Fabulous Finds. 269-241-1170.

Hastings Police Department welcomes newest officer

The Hastings Police Department newest officer comes from the Newaygo Police Department, and is expected to fit right in with the department’s strong focus on community policing.


Camerin Spicer, 24, and single, attended the 36- week Law Enforcement Academy at Ferris State University. “I’ve known since I was a teenager that I was going to be in law enforcement. I never changed my mind.”


Now in the mandatory 14-week training period with the department, he said the other officers are “awesome,” offering to help any way they can. “They say ‘don’t hesitate to ask,’ they’re not going to steer me wrong.”


“I am excited to have Camerin as a part of our department,
 Police Chief Jeff Pratt said. “In speaking with his former chief  I was told about how community-oriented Camerin had been in Newaygo, and I felt like that particular trait would be very helpful here in Hastings.


“Camerin also provides some younger athletic ability which will come in handy against the Police Cadets and the Hastings teachers in our athletic fundraisers,” Pratt said.


Spicer said he enjoys foot patrol in the city and meeting people and business owners in town.

One of the best experiences in Newaygo was driving into the elementary school, he said. “All the kids come running up to the cruiser. Passing out stickers was one of my favorite parts; the kids love them. I’ve still got some in my pocket. I do like kids.”


Working with kids on their level was something he saw in Newaygo. When a little girl was hiding under a bench and wouldn’t come out, the officer laid down on the ground to talk to her. “That’s awesome police work. There is so much you can do in this field,” he said.


His explained his approach to law enforcement.

“It’s not all about jail; it’s to help people through the good times and the bad times. Not everyone has to go to jail…sometimes there are other things you can do to help, show them a different path…still it’s my job and I’ll do it if it’s necessary; some people will go to jail. In my opinion, that may even be help in a way. If they learn something, it’s help.”


Spicer plans to be in Hastings PD for a long time. “I don’t job hop, I’m ready for the long term. If I like a place I’ll stick with it.”


Photo: Hastings Police Officer Camerin Spicer.



Barry County Christian School small fire quickly put out

Tuesday morning at 8:13 a.m., Hastings Fire Department was called to Barry County Christian School on the report of a fire.


“The maintenance man had it put out before we got there,” Fire Chief Roger Caris said.


A small fire was caused by a plastic trifolder on top of a natural gas wall heater in the room they are using as a library, Caris said. The main effect was the library and gymnasium were filled with smoke. The building was evacuated following the protocol for those situations.

NOTICE: Hastings leaf cleanup delayed by broken water main, will resume Monday, Nov. 26.

Hastings Department of Public Services has suspended leaf pickup to deal with a broken water main today (Wednesday), DPS Director Lee Hays said.


Leaf cleanup will resume Monday, Nov. 26, and the crew will complete its first pass through the city by Nov. 30. 


“The DPS will make one further pass through town to collect any further compostable debris,” Hays said. “This should take approximately one week to complete.”


Keep yourself and your family healthy during the holidays

With the holidays approaching, many people look forward to holiday parties and dinners. Unfortunately, these gatherings can also have uninvited guests, germs that can cause food poisoning, caution the Barry Eaton District Health Department.


Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid sickness and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. Wet your hands with water and apply soap.


Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds, rubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Rinse well and dry with a clean towel or air dry.

Many people will bring food to meals and celebrations. To protect yourself and your family from food poisoning follow these easy steps:


*Use a food thermometer and heat your food high enough to kill bacteria; poultry, stuffed meats, and casseroles to 165°F, hamburgers and bratwursts to 155°F and pork, fish, and raw shelled eggs to 145°F.


*Keep food hot after cooking, at 135°F or above, and reheat cooked foods to 165F or above within two hours.


*Wash hands and surfaces often; hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during and after preparing food and food contact surfaces and utensils with soap after each use. Wash raw fruits and vegetables with running water.


*Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of preparation or service. Never thaw or marinate foods at room temperature and know when to throw foods out by visiting


*Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw produce and raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.  Separate meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery bags and in the refrigerator. Always store raw meats below and away from any ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator.


Signs of food poisoning can include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. These can be mild to severe and may differ depending on the germ that is making you sick.


If you think you may have food poisoning, call your health care provider. If at all possible, do not prepare food for others within 24-48 hours of being sick with vomiting or diarrhea. If you suspect food poisoning from eating at a food service establishment or a large gathering, please contact the Barry-Eaton District Health Department at (269) 945-9516 in Barry County or (517) 543-2430 in Eaton County.


For more information on handwashing, please visit For home food safety tips and information, visit





Barry County makes year-end adjustments to budget

Several year-end budget items were recommended by the Barry County Commission’s committee of the whole Tuesday.

Among them was a Municipal Employees Retirement System request to increase the required employee contributions to Barry County Courthouse Employees Association employees with defined benefit retirement programs.The rate will go up 1.5 percent from 5.99 percent to 7.49 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2019. In the recent MERS evaluation report, the employee’s blended rate went over the collective bargaining agreement of 22 percent.


That calls for the increase in the employee’s contribution to make up the difference, or a reduction in the employer’s percentage to 22.  The courthouse employees association agreed to the increase.


Other recommendations included approving the last budget amendment of the year to the general fund, showing various revenues going up and expenses going down. With the adjustments, the general fund is balanced at $16,718.231 for income and outgo.


Also, they agreed to authorize auditors to make final year end appropriations from the general fund to the Friend of the Court, Drug Court and Child Care funds to determine the amount necessary to make sure the balances stay the same.


And, to transfer surplus general funds to internal funds; 50 percent to Building Rehabilitation, 25 percent to Data Processing and 25 percent to the Vehicle Replacement Fund.

An agreement with VARIPRO to administer the county’s self-funded short term disability claims at the same cost as last year of $2.25 per month, per employee, was recommended.


More recommendations were to:

*reappoint Rick Moore and appoint Deana Powell to three-year terms on the Charlton Park Board to citizen’s at large positions. Sharon Zebrowski, who reapplied for another term, and newcomers Ben Eastman and Mark Jankovic also applied.


*reappoint members Frank Jesensek and Douglas Klein to the Parks & Recreation Board for three- year terms in citizen at large positions. Mark Jankovic and Robert Ritchie also applied.


*transfer the release of right of way for four parcels in Hope Township from the Barry County Board of Supervisors to the county Drain Commission.  Drain commissioner Jim Dull said no one knows why, when the easement was recorded it was put in the Board of Supervisor’s name (as the county commission was then named). It should have gone to the drain commission to allow maintenance of the drain and the property the easement covers, he said.


Officers elected at Barry County Republican Convention

GOP officers elected by the Executive Board at the Barry County Republican Convention Nov. 19 will serve two year terms, retiring Vice Chair Teri Enrietti said.

The elected officers are: Chair, Vivian Conner; Vice Chair, Paul Humphrey; Secretary, Larry Bass; and Treasurer, Susan Vlietstra.


“I was chair of the party some time ago, so I’m going in with my eyes wide open,” Conner said. “I look forward to continuing its great reputation and moving the party forward.”

The party meets the third Monday of the month at Barry Central Dispatch Center, 2500 Nashville Road. For more information, visit

TowerPinkster likely facilitator for Barry County Jail, COA

TowerPinkster Architects & Engineers was recommended as the facilitator for two upcoming major projects for Barry County; the county jail and the Commission On Aging.

The commission’s committee of the whole Tuesday recommended a professional services agreement with the firm for its services, not to exceed $50,000, plus reimbursable expenses. The county board is expected vote on the recommendation next week.


Administrator Michael Brown outlined the steps the firm will take following discussion and interviews with the board. They will share information with the county board and the community, but provide no financial campaign services.


“They can‘t encourage votes one way or the other, they understand that,” Brown said. Commissioner Vivian Conner asked where it said TowerPinkster would look at other county facilities that might be used by the COA instead of building new. Commission Chair Ben Geiger that it would be done during the firm’s initial fact gathering and assessment of a 2015 facilities study they did for the county.


In the facility study assessment, TP will look at the assessments in the recent past and see what is still of value to them…and confirm uses for other properties, Brown said.

Asked if TowerPinkster representatives would be at the next meeting, Brown said he would try to make sure they would be there.


According to the agreement, the project’s scope includes an assessment update on county facility costs, data gathering, facilities inspection and walkthrough, facility cost index and public information services.


For planning and public information, TowerPinkster will schedule a kick off meeting, a planning assessment, a visioning session, conceptualizing of plans, incorporating feedback from the community, informing the public of the plans and implementation services. They anticipate a steering committee of local leaders to help during the process.


The vote for the recommendation to approve was unanimous, but Commissioner Jon Smelker added,” If they don’t show up, I’m voting no.”  Conner said that was also her opinion. “I just want to make sure that everything is looked at,” Smelker said later.


TowerPinkster will provide implementation services for bond projects, (after a successful election) for design and construction services at a negotiated fee, plus reimbursable expenses.

in addition to Tower Pinkster, four other firms interviewed for the projects: DLZ, BYCE & Associates, BFK Group, and Hooker DeJong/Landmark Design.



Appraisal, MDNR grant may mean extension of Hastings Riverwalk Trail

The Hastings City Council approved obtaining appraisals for three pieces of property that would add a total of 80 acres of property for an extension on the Riverwalk Trail from Riverfront Park on East Railroad Street, east of the downtown, to Wal-Mart to the west in Rutland Township.


When the value of the property is established, they plan to apply for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land Acquisition Grant for the properties, Department of Public Services Director Lee Hays said. “The grant typically covers 80 percent of the acquisition cost, with a local match of 20 percent,” he said.


“We have had preliminary discussion with both property owners, and have established an approximate sale price for each parcel,” he said. Two parcels are on East Railroad Street adjacent to Bliss Riverfront Park and the Riverwalk Trail; the third, which fronts State Street, would run along the abandoned railroad bed in Rutland Township to continue the extension of the trail to the west.


Stacy Broersma, an appraiser of 30 years, will complete the appraisals ahead of the grant application deadline of April 1, 2019. His $3,600 fee will be paid from the Parks and Recreation budget. If the grant is successful, the City of Hastings would retain possession of the property, Hays said.


Hastings compost site to be open until first of the year

The City of Hastings West State Road compost site will be open until after the first of the year to allow residents to dispose of Christmas trees before the facility is closed until spring. Officials are waiting for Consumers Energy to install power to the site. When power is installed, the new gate openers will be fully functional.

Barry County Sheriff's Office gives statistics for October

In a report to Barry County Commissioners last week, Sheriff Dar Leaf gave the numbers for October, and some comparisons with activity from  five years ago.


The corrections staff at the Barry County Jail booked and processed 319 persons into jail in the month of October, 86 classified as weekenders, while releasing 224 people back into the community. In October, 2013, 213 people were arrested and 208 released.


Last month, staff transported 139 inmates to court, medical facilities and other counties. Staff administered 67 weekends drug screens for probationers, 94 persons were fingerprinted at the front counter. The kitchen at the jail prepared and served 9,014 meals to the inmate population for $1.51 per meal. Plumbing, HVAC and security repairs totaled $7,293.26. The daily average inmate population was 94.


The uniformed patrol logged 686 complains in October; 59 individuals were arrested on 33 felony and 34 misdemeanor charges. There were six alcohol related arrests and 54 citations issued last month.


Of the 118 accidents handled, one was a fatality and another was under the influence of alcohol. Eighty of the crashes involved deer.

The K-9 unit was called four times, resulting in quantities of drugs recovered and apprehension of individuals in criminal cases. Alcohol arrests numbered six.


The office performed 32 home checks, assisting the Swift and Sure, Sobriety and Drug Court programs. Criminal histories were run for warrant entry or warrant requests 443 times in October; 486 PBT’s were administered by court order.


Working with the DEA’s drug takeback program, the sheriff’s office, Hastings Police Department and Barry County Substance Abuse collected 409 pounds of prescription and non-prescription medicine.


Stats for October, 2013 show 502 incidents handled, 86 accidents handled, with 58 crashes involving deer. Of the 54 arrests in 2013, 25 were felony charges, 11 were misdemeanors. Four were alcohol related arrests.

Lakewood Area's 27th Christmas 'Round the Town is Friday, Saturday

Lakewood Area Christmas ‘Round the Town is this weekend, Friday, Nov.  23 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas ‘Round the Town is a community-wide sale of holiday gifts from a wide selection of handmade crafts, retail  items, baked treats, woodwork, art and much more.


Shoppers can pick up a flyer with all of the locations and a local map at participating businesses or at


“The event will have 27 stops in the Lakewood area and includes private homes as well as local businesses and organizations. There are seven new locations as well as a one that returned after taking some years off,” said Marnie Thomas, executive director of Lakewood Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Grab your friends and enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks at many of the stops. You will find affordable, unique gifts for everyone on your list,” she said. //

For more or to become a vendor in 2019, contact Thomas @ 616-374-0766 or email at There is also an extensive Facebook page with photos, Lakewood Area Christmas ‘Round the Town Craft Show.
































Crooked Lake


Home owners at Delton's crooked lake could see the worst of their lake flooding may be yet to come as winter brings more snow. The lake's levels are around four feet higher than they should be,brought on throughout  the year by heavy rains and snow.


 At the present time the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids said based on the daily reports from the Hastings Climatological  Weather Station the ground is already saturated. The ground temperature right now is 34 degrees and would not take in any more heavy rain or snow. This would impact Crooked lake and the homes already affected by the high lake levels and flooding.   The other concern is the  ground freezing up from the winter cold adding more problems to the Crooked lake home owners.

Hasting congratulates GFWC-Hastings Women's Club on 125th anniversary

Hastings Mayor David Tossava attended a special meeting of the GFWC-Hastings Women’s Club Nov. 1 and presented them with an Official Proclamation from the City of Hastings recognizing the active club for its contributions to the city and area residents in its 125 years in existence.


The GFWC-Hastings Women's Club was founded on October 23, 1893, at the invitation of Frances Wheeler Smith, to further the knowledge and self-improvement of its members and to work for civic improvement.  The club adopted as its main goal the establishment of a library, opened the first library in 1895 and continues to support the library today, Tossava read from the proclamation.


The club initiated the first senior citizens assistance programs, now the Commission on Aging, the first Hastings Camp Fire Girls Association and the first projects to beautify Hastings, he said.


The club supports youth, sponsoring the Hastings High School Senior Girls Tea and the Jump Start Your Future Scholarship for Senior Girls, donates to the YMCA for camp scholarships, and elementary schools with reading programs and donations of hats and gloves.


The group sponsors a scholarship for women in the community returning back to school in the nursing field, and supports Hastings National Night Out, Green Gables Haven, the Family Support Center, Safe Harbor and Women at Risk in Human Trafficking, the local and national food banks, and its sister states of Florida and Texas in rebuilding libraries following Hurricane Harvey, Tossava said.  


The club also supports conservation efforts for clean water and recycling in the city, townships and state and remains steadfastly dedicated to its goal of furthering knowledge and self-improvement, he said.

Scams continue; this one threatens to shut off your power

Barry County citizens should be aware of another scam that attempts to separate them from their money, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said Thursday..


In one of  the lastest reported scams, a caller says they are from Consumers Energy and they are going to shut off your power if you don’t pay them to keep it on.


“They are targeting residential and small business customers, usually in the early morning hours,” Leaf said. “If there is any doubt in your mind, give us a call, or go directly to Consumers Energy.”

There have no reported cases in Barry County so far, but it is happening in other counties, so be aware, he said.


Also, it’s the holiday season and those mailing gift cards are advised not to put them in the mailbox with the flag up, but take them right to their Post Office to mail, Leaf said. Another reminder during the holidays: “When shopping, always put Christmas gifts in your car out of sight.”


UPDATE: Delton area woman identified as victim in fatal Patterson Road crash

UPDATE: The driver who died in a traffic crash on Patterson Road Thursday has been identified by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office as Frances May Engeseth, 77, from the Delton area.


ORIGINAL STORY: Allegan County Sheriff deputies responded to a personal injury crash at Patterson Road, south of 131st Avenue, in Wayland Township late Thursday afternoon, according to a sheriff’s media release.


First Responders determined the single occupant of a Kia pinned in the vehicle was deceased. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle involved, a Cadillac SUV, suffered minor injuries and needed no medical attention, the release said.


According to witnesses, the Kia, traveling south on Patterson Road, lost control, likely due to slippery road conditions, slid into the northbound lane where it was struck on the driver’s side by the northbound Cadillac.

The Cadillac was unable to avoid the impact due to a guardrail on the northbound side and oncoming traffic in the southbound lane, officials said.

The name of the deceased woman, in her 70’s, is being withheld pending notification of family.


Michigan State Police, Wayland EMS, Wayland Fire Department and Barry County Sheriff’s Office assisted Allegan sheriff’s deputies.





Hastings leaf pickup continues Friday

The Hastings Department of Public Services leaf pickup continues Friday, Nov. 16 with crews starting at East Mill and First streets, heading east on Mill Street and then continuing north and west.

Hastings leaf pickup continues Thursday, Nov. 15

On Thursday, Nov. 15, Hastings Department of Public Services crews will be starting at Park and Clinton streets heading north to Mill Street, then moving to the north side of the Thornapple River and starting on First and Mill streets.

Hastings gets good report on drinking water samples for lead and copper

The city’s drinking water supply has been sampled for lead and copper and tested well below levels that woud require action, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said Monday.

State regulations require that the city collect at least 20 samples every three years from homes with lead service lines.


The samples taken from taps in Hastings showed lead was 5 ppb and copper was 820 ppb, well below the limit where action is called for.

Tests for lead must be below 15 parts per billion (ppb) and 1,300 ppb for copper to avoid action.


The sample at one tap exceeded the action level for lead at 26 ppb; a second test found the level at 1 pbb.  Mansfield said the tap is one that was used very infrequently and the sample should not have been taken at that location.  


The way the city treats the water prevents the lead and copper from getting into a solution in the water, then showing up in the testing, he said. “We’d like it to be lower, but it was well within the limits.”


BICRH Fire chief Roger Caris issued a reminder on burning in the city.

Residents need a burning permit that can be obtained by calling 269-205-3208.

There is no burning except for small brush without leaves inside the city, and

all open burning must be out by 9 p.m. Someone must in attendance of the fire at all times, he said.


A permit in not required to have a campfire in the city, but it must be contained in a small ring designed for the purpose, and they do not need to be out by 9 p.m.

“Again, you can only bum twigs and wood that does not have leaves on it and you cannot bum demolition product,” he said.


Also, the council got its first look at the recent recreational use of marijuana initiative passed by Michigan voters. Mansfield said it will be at least 30 days before possession of the drug becomes legal and from one to two years for the state to get the new law clarified.


He said he will do some “homework” and bring back options for the council, including opting out. Meanwhile, he will review internal policy issues to assure that the staff and public are safe. The review will include policies regarding vehicles and firearms, among others.


The city is unlikely to have many marijuana facilities because they are prohibited within 1,000 feet

of schools, playgrounds and other places, and city’s layout would prevent it nearly everywhere, he said.

Hastings files Corrective Action Plan to comply with state requirements

The Hastings City Council Monday approved the city’s PA 202 Corrective Action Plan to do with retiree’s health care benefits.  City Manager Jeff Mansfield said despite changes to the benefits in past years, the city was found to not be in compliance with the state’s recently established limits on the amount of unfunded liability and payments that municipalities are allowed to make related to health care benefits for retirees. 


The city’s conversion to Blue Care Network and Blue Care Network Advantage Plans for eligible retirees will bring the City into compliance with the state’s standards. 


However, Mansfield said that three retirees families moved out of the area and can’t find a primary care physician within a reasonable driving distance who accepts Blue Cross. A viable solution was for those retiree to buy their own coverage, paid for by the “opt out stipend” for coverage recommended by the Municipal Employee’s Retirement System Health Care Exchange, he said.  


“We don’t know the nuances in this, and we need time to figure it out,” he said. “We are confident that we can work with these retirees to resolve this matter – but it may take a few months to do so.”

in the meantime, the council agreed to let those few retirees stay on the older plans for one more year while it gets sorted out. 


In other business, the council approved a request from Rusty Blakely to host the 1st annual Wendy Jo Blakely Je t’amie 5K fund run on May 18, 2019 in Hastings.  Blakely’s wife Wendy died from pancreatic cancer this year; he is raising money for pancreatic cancer research at John Hopkins Hospital. For more, visit


The Jingle & Mingle Committee was granted permission to present its fourth annual Christmas event, "Hastings Jingle & Mingle" Nov. 30 -Dec. 2.


And, a workshop was tentatively set for Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. to receive the 2017/2018 audit report from Rehmann.



Hastings Jingle & Mingle rings in holiday season Nov. 30-Dec. 2

A magical small town Christmas is coming up in Hastings. For the fourth year, residents and visitors are invited to take part in the music and magic of Christmas in downtown Hastings on the weekend of Friday, Nov. 30 - Sunday, Dec. 2.


“Last year the weekend, particularly the parade, had a magical almost modern-day Norman Rockwell feel to it,” said Jingle and Mingle Events Director Tracy Baker. “We’re recreating that happy, joyful atmosphere again this year. Downtown Hastings is a great place any time of year, but during the holidays it is really special.”


New this year is an appearance by country singer Matt Williams during the parade on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. The parade features dozens of entries, a galaxy of twinkling Christmas lights and free jingle sticks for both the young and young at heart.


Another new event to help ring in the holiday season is a two-hour hand bell concert in the community room of the Hastings Public Library during its annual arts and crafts show.

Free carriage and trolley rides, visits with Santa, children’s crafts and activities, reindeer petting zoo, living nativity, tree lighting ceremony, broomball tournament, chili cook-off, and more round out the weekend of festivities.


Everyone is invited to take in the festivities and unique shopping and dining in the small-town atmosphere of downtown Hastings during Jingle & Mingle and throughout the holiday season, Baker said.


For more information, contact Baker at, 269.945.3550, log on to Hastings Jingle & Mingle, or text 2100 for a link to the website.



Tools, diagnostic equipment stolen from Allegan County car dealership

Allegan County Sheriff’s Deputies responded Monday to a report of a break-in at the Betten Baker-Allegan car dealership on Lincoln Road. Numerous tools were taken as well as diagnostic equipment, a sheriff’s media release reports.


The break-in occurred sometime between 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12. 

Anyone with any information about the break-in or who may have been in the area of the dealership during that time and noticed something, is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 269-673-0500, ext. 4286.


Rep. Calley to hold office hours in Nashville and Hastings

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley will hold office hours Monday, Nov. 26 in Nashville and Hastings.


Calley, of Portland, will be at the Nashville Village Offices, 203 North Main Street, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and in the commission chambers in the Barry County Courthouse, 220 West State Street in Hastings, from 1 to 2 p.m.

Calley will give a legislative update and if residents have individual concerns, will talk with them one-on-one.


“Local office hours provide both accessibility and accountability,” Calley said. “I deeply appreciate the time and input from people who attend.”  No appointment is necessary.

Residents may also send questions and ideas to Calley at or contact her at 517-373-0842.




Child predators use video games to solicit children

Here’s another reason to closely monitor your child’s video game playing.

The popular internet games children play with others on the internet on smart phones or computers are also scouting areas for child predators, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf cautioned.


Children are being solicited by sex offenders and others on line, beginning with them befriending a child and playing video games with their targets, while masking their identities.

“Pay close attention when your kids are on the games, be aware of any game they are on,” Leaf said. Kik and Tumblr are two apps that may be used by predators and games like Fort Nite and Mine Trap.


Police nabbed 24 men of various ages and backgrounds in another state who were using the internet and games to find children, Leaf said. If your child seems evasive or uncomfortable when you question him about a game he or she is playing, get a professional who can track where they have been playing games. The police would also like to know if parents have discovered a problem.


“Stop by the sheriff’s office. If there’s something there, we’ll come out and take a look,” Leaf said.

“Experts will tell you that middle and high schools student’s brains are not well-developed enough to handle all of the information on the internet,” he added.


“We tell our children not to talk to strangers in the park; the internet is one gigantic, global park,” he said.




"No good, clear answer" on Barry County's election night failure

Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer Tuesday reported to the Barry County Board on the delay on reporting results of the Nov. 6 election.


“Thing did not go as smoothly as we would have like them to go,” she said in understatement.


The good news is the integrity of the system is still in place; the print outs are accurate and the work by county clerk staff, township and city election workers was “flawless,” she said.

The pre-election tests were perfect, but on election night, some cards from precincts uploaded just fine, some uploaded partial information, some none at all, she said.


She  couldn’t call the problem just a programming glitch; "it was a failure."

Palmer, IT Director David Shinavier and Chief Clerk Karen Barnes spent Tuesday night and into Wednesday inputting results manually.


The system’s programmer, with Governmental Business Systems, got a call late Tuesday night. “He’s still scratching his head,” searching for answers, and has been working on it since then. “There is no good clear answer to what went wrong and when,” Palmer said.


The Board of Canvassers is expected to certify the election later today.

“We’re almost done to where we should have been...I just hope this never, ever happens again, to any clerk.”











Photo: Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer speaking to county commissioners.

Barry Commissioners approve employee health plan options

Barry County Commissioners Tuesday approved the Healthcare Cost Containment Committee recommendations for the county’s employee health insurance plans.


Last week, committee members Deputy County Administrator Luella Dennison and Barry Central Dispatch Director Stephanie Lehman recommended continuing with Priority Health for health insurance which means, “a little overall savings.”

Employees will pick from four health plans, with increases of 5.9 percent to 9.6 percent, depending on the plan. The county will pay an additional 1.9 percent, allowed by state law, Dennison said.


Employees will pay the difference in the cost of health premiums they select that exceed the annual state-mandated caps. If the plan they select is lower than the state cap, the difference will be deposited into their account.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offered premiums that were little lower, but premiums on its HSA’s “were considerably higher.”

The renewal date for the insurance is Jan.1, 2019. The county has engaged Priority Health since 2016.


In other business , commissioners approved:

*appointing Cindy Vujea to the Barry County Parks and Recreation Board representing the Barry County Economic Development Alliance for the remainder of a three year term and to reappoint Patti Richardson to the Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board for a one year term representing the Barry County Humane Society.


*a network security audit and vulnerability assessment review by MGT Consulting Group for $24,500, requested by IT director David Shinavier.


*a bid from Environmental Systems Solutions (ESS) in Ada to provide HVAC maintenance services for three years for $25,870 a year. The contract covers the Barry County Courthouse, Annex, Courts and Law Building, Friend of the Court, Tyden Center, Barry Eaton District Health Department, Animal Shelter, COA, Sheriff’s Office/Jail, and Central Dispatch.



Barry County employees receive service awards

Six Barry County employees were recognized Tuesday for their service and dedication to the county by the Barry County Board of Commissioners.


Each as introduced by their department head who credited them for exceptional work for the county. Central Dispatch Director Stephanie Lehman introduced three employees: Jamie Stafford, Catlyn Kellogg and Kristina Nevins.


Stafford has “a lovely electric personality” with a willingness to learn “that is amazing,” Lehman said. Her co-workers said she is creative, organized and dependable. She is a five-year employee of the county.


Kellogg, also a five-year employee of Central Dispatch, rose in the organization as a leader and problem solver. Her work on the public relations committee shows a commitment to excellence; she is creative and trustworthy, Lehman said.


Nevins, also with Central Dispatch for five years, is on the communications training officer’s team where her attention to detail, determination, dependability and thoughtful nature are assets to the county, Lehman said.


Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf introduced Michael Hanger, a five-year employee, former corrections deputy and certified mechanic. He was the natural selection to replace the former fleet mechanic when he retired. Hanger uses his great sense of humor to lighten a situation and is “helpful, adaptable and easy going,” Leaf said.


Leaf also introduced Jean Poll, who has worked 15 years in the sheriff’s office and is administrative assistant at the front counter. Jean is the first person most people meet at the sheriff’s office. Reliable, courteous and caring, she is invaluable in helping the public who have business at the jail, Leaf said.


Court Administrator Ines Straub introduced court Chief Clerk/Magistrate Cynthia White, a 20-year county employee. White quickly helps where help is needed, bringing her skills and positive attitude to day to day tasks, Straub said. Coworkers say White is a professional and friendly leader.

Photo: Barry County employees recognized for their contributions to the county are (from left) Michael Hanger, Cynthia White, Jean Poll, Kristina Nevins, Catlyn Kellogg and Jamie Stafford.



Kellogg's headquarters in Battle Creek announced the company is selling off their cookie and fruit-snack business Keebler, and Famous Amos and will focuses on its morning foods and frozen food brands in a re-organizational plan.

The company said about 30 workers in Battle Creek could be let go, leaving many Kellogg's workers uncertain about their future.. The Company employs more than 2,000 in Battle Creek.

Authorities say church fire appears to have been intentionally set

The Kent County Sheriff's Office reports it is currently investigating a suspicious fire at the Northview Community Church at 4897 Palenque Place, Plainfield Township. The fire appears to have been intentionally set.

Plainfield Township Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at approximately 10:35 a.m. The church sustained considerable damage. Anyone with any information regarding the fire is asked to contact the sheriff's office or Silent Observer.

Hastings leaf pickup pauses on Veterans Day; resumes Tuesday, Nov. 13

Hastings Department of Public Services leaf pickup crews will be in the area of Cass and Clinton streets, moving east toward South Broadway on Tuesday, Nov. 13.


REMINDER: DPS will be closed Monday Nov. 12 in observance of Veterans Day.

Barry County Jail overcrowding emergency declared

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has declared an overcrowding emergency at the county jail. The inmate population, set by the Michigan Department of Corrections at 93, is at 104 today, and has been more than the limit for the last five days, triggering the action.


The declaration is part of the process for notifying Barry County Chief Judge William Doherty, the Prosecutor’s Office and the chair of the Barry County Board of Commissioners. Leaf said he would meet with officials and jail staff to consider what options they have to lower the numbers.


Previously during overcrowding events, officials have reduced bonds for certain inmates and some low level offenders who had served a percentage of their sentences were given early release.

The last time they couldn’t bring the count down through any other means, some inmates were housed in other county jails at the cost of $35 a day per inmate, plus any medical expenses, Leaf said.


Additionally, there are 20 to 24 women in the jail, which is unusually high, Leaf said. “That’s a quarter of the population, with just 13 beds available for them. We usually have seven or eight women.”


Pennock Spectrum Hospital earns an "A" for patient safety

Spectrum Health Pennock was awarded an ‘A’ from the the Leapfrog Groups Fall 2018 Hospital Safety Grade, recognizing Pennock’s efforts to protect patients from harm and meet the highest safety standards in the United States.


The Leapfrog Group is a national organization committed to improving health care quality and safety for consumers and purchasers, assigning an A, B, C, D or F grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms among patients in their care.


“We are honored that Leapfrog Group has recognized our attention to safety,” said Angela Ditmar, president, Spectrum Health Pennock. “Spectrum Health has invested in high reliability tools across all of our hospitals to support our continuous quality improvement initiatives.”


Developed under the guidance of a National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.


“Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grades recognize hospitals like Pennock that focus on advancing patient safety. This ranking provides an important resource for patients, and a benchmark for hospitals, to determine how care at one hospital compares to others in a region,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an A Hospital Safety Grade deserve to be recognized for their efforts in preventing medical harm and errors.”


Spectrum Health Pennock was one of 855 across the United States awarded an A in the Fall 2018 update of grades. To see Pennock’s full grade details, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit and follow the Leapfrog Group on Twitter and Facebook.



Little Thornapple River Drain District boundaries being updated

A redrawing the boundaries of the Little Thornapple River Drain is in progress. Previously drawn along property lines, the drain’s lines will now be based on topography using the latest in technology.


Paul Forton, project manager for the Spicer Group, reported on the project to the Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drain Board last week.

The new technology, LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging, uses pulsed laser light to measure distances to the earth.


The difference in return times and wavelengths of the laser are used to make digital 3-D pictures of the targets. Airplanes with LiDAR fly over an area and gather information that is backed up by field work, Forton said.


The state has completed its work with LiDAR. With the final data, architects will be in the field from now until late spring verifying the lines, working around the firearm deer season. Most of their work can be done from their cars.


The LiDAR method delivers more accurate drain district lines than what officials believe was last done on the Little Thornapple River Drain in the 1930’s, Forton said.

“Now, with excellent, accurate data, we can make sure there no overlap or gaps…amazingly enough, they are not perfect, but the old figures are first class.”


The folks identified as in the newly defined drain district will be assessed for drain work, which will change the status for some, he said. They will also run into places where part of a property will be assessed and other parts of the property may not be in the drain district and will not be assessed.

“We’ll have the latest data and contour information and property information…at the end of the day, it will be accurate and correct.”


In April or May of 2019, there will be a public hearing for the public to inspect the maps; everyone affected will be notified by letter, so they will know when the meeting will be held.

Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker said the process is not unusual, it’s happening all across the state. “When they come across it, they do it as it comes up.”



Hastings crews continue leaf pickup

Hastings Department of Public Service crews will be picking up leaves on Clinton Street and South Broadway moving west  to Ann and David Drive on Friday, Nov.9.

Spectrum Health Pennock's new leader officially steps in as president

Angela Ditmar, RN, MBA, president of Spectrum Health Pennock and southeast regional market leader, officially stepped into the position Monday, Nov. 5.

Her experience and education show she is more than qualified to fill the role, but it doesn’t capture the emotions she feels starting out.


“I’m so excited and truly happy to be here,” she said.  “Everyone has been so nice, welcoming and kind.” She will spend the first 30-to-90 days “really, really listening” to the staff, the people she works with and the community.


Introducing Ditmar as the new president, Nathan Tagg, chair of Spectrum Health Pennock Board of Trustees and co-chair of the selection committee, said her “qualifications, engaging personality and record of success in other roles within Spectrum Health impressed the committee members. I believe those traits will be an asset to the employees and, most importantly, patients of Spectrum Health Pennock.”


Ditmar was instrumental in helping establish the cancer center at Pennock in 2017. “I loved working with the Pennock team…I’m so glad we can bring it to the community, so people won’t have to drive out of town for treatment.”


She follows Sheryl Lewis-Blake, who retired as Pennock’s president Oct. 1.

“She’s staying in the area, I’m happy about that.”  


Would she be calling on Lewis-Blake for advice? “Oh, I’m sure,” she said with a laugh.

She and husband Ron have a blended family of five and plan to relocate to Hastings.


Photo: Angela Ditmar, RN, MBA new president of Spectrum Health Pennock and southeast regional market leader.

Hastings crews begin leaf pickups

Hastings Department of Public Services crews will be on Church and Clinton streets heading south starting leaf pick-up Thursday morning, Nov. 8.

Unofficial Barry County election results for Nov.6, 2018

The mid-term elections were held Tuesday in what was expected to be a near record turnout of voters. Below is a rundown of offices up for election. See related stories on how Barry County voters had their say on all of the offices and issues on the ballot.

The voter’s choices for local, state and federal officials who will represent the citizens of Barry County sometimes matched the state and federal offices, sometimes not.



Governor/ Lt. Governor:

Bill Schuette (R)/Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R)…15,573

Gretchen Whitmer (D)/ Garlin Gilchrist II (D)…9,685


Attorney General:

Dana Nessel (D)…8,460

Tom Leonard (R)…16,404


Secretary of State:

Mary Treder Lang (R)…15,730

Jocelyn Benson (D)…9,804


U.S. State Senator:

John James (R)…16,260

(I)Debbie Stabenow (D)…9,857


3rd Cong. District:

(I) Justin Amash (R)… 16,260

Cathy Albro (D)…8,730


87th District State Rep:

 (I) Julie Calley (R)…17,369

Shawn Winters (D)…8,582


19th State Senate:

John Bizon (R)… 16,036

Jason Noble (D)…9,016


BARRY COUNTY JUDGES: (25 of 25 precincts reporting)

District Judge Michael Schipper…20,517

Probate Judge William Doherty…20,925


PROPOSALS:  (25 of 25 precincts reporting)

Proposal 1: A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers:  yes…13.593   no…13,205


Proposal 2: A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years: yes…13,871  no…12,488


Proposal 3: A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and postelection audits to the Michigan Constitution: yes…15,335  no…11.155.




Nov. 6 election, Barry County Commission, City of Hastings, school boards

This is a continuation of the Nov. 6 ballot results with offices for Barry County Commissioners, the City of Hastings and school boards.


BARRY COUNTY COMMISSION: (5 of 5 precincts reporting)

District 1: City of Hastings, part of Hastings Charter Township

(I)Howard “Hoot” Gibson (R)…1,982

Cathy Young Gramze (D)…1,389


District 2: Thornapple Township precincts 1 & 3; Yankee Springs Township, precinct 1

(I)Dan Parker (R)…3,299


District 3: Barry and Hope townships, precinct 1 Rutland Charter Township

(I)David Jackson (R)…2,151

Nicholas Hannar (D)…1,223


District 4: Irving Township, parts of Carlton, Thornapple and Rutland townships

(I)Jon Smelker (R)…2,825

Samantha L. Jones (D)…1,187


District 5: Castleton, Woodland townships, Village of Nashville in Maple Grove Township, and parts of Hastings Charter and Carlton townships. (4 of 5 precincts reporting)

(I)Ben Geiger (R)…1,527

Ben Eastman (D)…858



District 6: Prairieville and Orangeville townships, precinct 2 in Yankee Springs Township (2 of 3 precincts reporting)

(I)Vivian Lee Conner (R)…1,573

Tonya DeVore Foreman (D)…831


District 7: Assyria, Johnstown, Baltimore townships, Maple Grove Township, excluding the Village of Nashville.

(I)Heather Wing (R)…2,849



First Ward:

(I)Theresa Maupin-Moore …686


Second Ward:

(I)Brenda McNabb Stange…290

Terry Stenzelbarton…247


Third Ward:

(I)Don Smith…514


Fourth Ward:

Jim Cary…382

Jordan Brehm…317


Board of Review:

Donald Tubbs…2,257



Delton Schools

Board of Education: four year terms, vote for three

Robert Houtrow…2,330

Sarah Austin…2,832

Rodney Dye…2,427


Hastings Area School System     (15 of 16 precincts reporting)

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Elden Shellenbarger…2,590

Valerie Slaughter…4,725

Louis F. Wierenga, Jr…4,154


Thornapple Kellogg Schools

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Matthew C. Powers…4,416

Sarah Alden…4,747


Maple Valley Public School (4 o5 precincts reporting)

Board of Education: four year terms, vote for four

Mark Rushford…508

Kimberly Wilkes (Brandt)…617

Kristen Miller…775

Robert Franks…431

Jeff H. Zank…430

Christopher Ewing…491

Craig Lackscheide…473

Garry Patrick…400


Lakewood Public School

Board of Education: six year terms, vote for two

Steve St. Laurent…493



Nov. 6 election: villages, township offices and millages

This is a continuation of the Nov. 6 ballot, with offices for villages, townships and township millages.


Prairieville Township:

(1)An increase of .4087 mills for three years to support police protection, which will raise an estimated $55,617 the first year…yes 722    no...797.


(2) An increase of .4087 for three years, to hire a third full time police officer for protection in the township, which will raise an estimated $55,617 the first year. ..yes 672   no...853.


Woodland Township

(1)A renewal of 2 mills for the period of 2018 through 2021 for road maintenance, raising an estimated $147,000 the first year.  yes… 590   no… 320.


Hastings Charter Township:


Timothy B. McNally (R)…1,001


Prairieville Township:

Parks Board:

Judith Risdon…1,157


Rutland Township


Matt Spencer…1,448


Thornapple Township:


Curtis Campbell (R)…2.846


Woodland Township:


Gabriel Steward (R)…645

Jerry Engle (D)… 429


Yankee Springs Township:


Larry Knowles (R)…1,870




President, Bill Andrews…144

Clerk, Shawna Hill…143

Trustee, John Raymond…136



President: Charles Pullen…1,055

Trustee: vote for three

Amanda Fisk…762

Ed Schellinger…501

Maria Gustinis…498

Mike Cramer…691




Tanett Hodge, partial term…399

Open partial term…

Hank Felder, full term...338

Ryan Willacker, full term…325

Open full term…



President: Ronald L. Martin…127


Betty Carpenter…96

Galen Kilmer…57

Laurie Duits…124

Lyle Sandbrook, Jr...89


Spectrum Health Pennock invites community to join celebration of National Rural Health Day

Spectrum Health Pennock welcomes the community to visit its Family Medicine rural health clinics for cider and donuts during business hours Thursday, Nov, 15 as they recognize the innovation, quality of care and dedication of rural health care providers. On National Rural Health Day.


On the third Thursday in November each year. the day recognizes the efforts of those serving the health needs of over 60 million people across the nation. As part of the celebration, Spectrum Health Pennock Family Medicine offices in Hastings, Gun Lake, Lake Odessa, Middleville and Ionia will provide cider and donuts to patients and visitors during regular business hours.     


“Providing access to quality care close to home is a top priority at Spectrum Health Pennock,” said Regional Division Chief Douglas Smendik, MD.

“We continue to recruit physicians and advanced practice providers for family medicine offices throughout Barry County, expand services offered through telehealth program MedNow and streamline services. We are proud to stand alongside our rural health clinic providers and colleagues on November 15 as we celebrate the dedication provided to the communities they serve.” 


West Michigan and the surrounding area have 29 Spectrum Health Rural Health Clinics, including those in greater Barry County, providing 370,800 visits annually, including almost 8,000 mental health visits annually. 


National Rural Health Day provides the opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” and educate others about the challenges while highlighting the innovation and collaboration used by health care provides to improve quality of care.


The public is invited to visit one of the following Spectrum Health clinics during business hours Nov. 15 to join the celebration.

*Family Medicine – Gun Lake

12851 W. M-179 Highway 


*Family, Internal & Pediatric Medicine – Hastings

1108 W. State Street, Suite #3


*Family Medicine – Ionia

2776 S. State Road


*Family Medicine – Lake Odessa

4294 Laurel Drive


*Family Medicine – Middleville

490 Edward Street 


*Obstetrics & Gynecology – Hastings

1009 W. Greet Street, Suite #301







Annual Veteran Day Program

Delton Kellogg High School's Annual Veterans Day Program will take place this Friday November 9th.

The program is to honor all active Military, Veterans and Falling member of the  Armed Forces.The program begins at 1:30 in the high school gymnasium. The public and all active duty and vets are invited to attend.

The high school band will perform several selections they played during the 2017 Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii.

The guest speaker  Is retired Lt.General Richard Burpee  United States Air force and Delton's class  of


Pennock Hospital in Hastings will also  Salute Veterans with a special program on  Monday November 12th at 11:00 am

Barry County IT systems to get independent security audit

The Barry County Board of Commissioners committee of the whole Tuesday recommended a network security audit and vulnerability assessment review by MGT Consulting Group for $24,500, requested by IT director David Shinavier.


The audit will be from the outside in and the inside out, he said. MGT staff will be on site to look at the county policy, bringing their own equipment to scan the county’s equipment looking for openings. They also try to breach the county’s system from their offices.  They will recommend fixes for anything wrong that they find, and a short time later, do a follow up to assure any deficiencies have been fixed, Shinavier said.


The review will cover the edge, (where the county IT system meets the rest of the information network), the county’s network and the system’s security and access management.

The audit is held for two reasons, Shinavier said: To meet the county’s policy of regular independent security audits and compliance with the new Michigan State Office of Child Support Independent Security Audit requirements.


The commission also recommended a bid from Environmental Systems Solutions (ESS) in Ada to provide HVAC maintenance services for three years for $25,870 per year. Tim Neeb, building and grounds supervisor, said ESS was the low bidder of eight bids received.


The contract covers the Barry County Courthouse, Annex, Courts and Law Building, Friend of the Court, Tyden Center, Barry Eaton District Health Department, Animal Shelter, COA, Sheriff’s Office/Jail, and Central Dispatch. Funding comes from the budgets of building and grounds, the sheriff’s office, COA, BEDHD and Central Dispatch.


Two appointments to county boards were recommended: Cindy Vujea to the Barry County Parks and Recreation Board representing the Barry County Economic Development Alliance for the remainder of a three year term and to reappoint Patti Richardson to the Barry County Animal Shelter Advisory Board for a one year term representing the Barry County Humane Society.

Commissioners are expected to act on the recommendations at its next meeting.

Allegan K9 team gets remote doggie door opener thanks to Holland Kennel Club

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office K9 team has received a charitable donation from Holland Kennel Club of $1,000, an Allegan County Sheriff’s Office a sheriff’s media release said. 

The donation will be used to buy and install a K9 door opener on the police car door for the K9 to get in and out of his rear seat remotely with the press of a button.


The handler will be able to release his partner to assist him in a situation that arises suddenly and the handler might not otherwise be able to access the dog.

The door opener greatly improves officer safety, eliminating the time it would take the officer to get to his partner or possibly needing his partner and not being able to get to him, the release said.


The door opener from the Holland Kennel Club will go on Deputy Mike Martin’s K9 patrol vehicle for his partner, K9Lajki. “K9Lajki was purchased with a generous donation from the Holland Kennel Club in the spring of 2017.  The sheriff’s office is grateful for the Holland Kennel Club’s continued support of the K9 team,” the release said.


Holland Kennel Club Board members with Deputy Mike Martin and K9 Lajki.

(photo courtesy of Ben Haas)


Kent County Drain Commissioner sanctioned for violating county policy

Kent County Drain Commissioner Ken Yonker has lost the privilege of taking a county vehicle home for one month when, against county policy, he used it while handing out information on a political issue. Yonker took responsibility for the error. “I misused the county’s vehicle,” he said.


The brakes froze up on his truck, and a volunteer with their group said they would pick him up to pass out the leaflets, he said. “But I said it was okay, grabbed a handful and passed them out. I know better, I was just thinking of getting it done.” 


Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt issued the following statement Oct. 31:

“I spoke with Drain Commissioner Yonker yesterday after receiving the resident compliant and he immediately apologized and took full responsibility of his actions, which he explained were not planned, but spontaneous.


"While this was an error of judgement, the gravity of the situation required a formal response as County policies prohibit employees, including elected officials, from using county resources to influence the outcome of an election.


"Therefore, he received a formal notice from the County that his privileges of taking a county vehicle home would be rescinded for one month, beginning Nov. 1, 2018. Ken understands why the action is being taken and has assured me this would not occur again. As such, we now consider this matter resolved.”


The information on the leaflet was in opposition to Caledonia School’s Nov. 6 ballot request for renewal of the 18 mills non-homestead levy, plus an additional 1.5 mills to restore the Headlee Amendment rollback and possible future rollbacks.




Barry County EDA Summit

The Barry County Economic Development  Alliance will host the Annual Economic Success Summit on Wednesday, November 7th from 1-pm to 4-pm at the Flexfab Training & Conference Center in Hastings.  This year's Summit keynote presentation is a panel discussion featuring individuals who are "moving the needle" on housing development in Ottawa County, utilizing strategies that could be implemented with similar success in Barry County communities.

Travis Alden President Barry County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Alliance stated, "the lack of housing,  ranging from workforce houseing to multi-family apartments to larger executive type residences has begun popping up as barriers to growth when speaking with area employers."


DEQ consent agreement anticipated by Little Thornapple River Drain Board

The Little River Intercounty Drainage Board has approved a proposed consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, covering the remediation work on the Little Thornapple River drain.


The Intercounty Drain Board consists of drain commissioners from three counties; Jim Dull from Barry, Ken Yonker from Kent, Robert Rose from Ionia County and Brady Harrington, chair of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.


Harrington was not enthusiastic about the process of reaching a consent agreement with the DEQ. “We are at the point where it is as final as it’s going to get. It seems like I’ve been talking to them forever. Every time we make a change, it’s another six months…the proposed agreement is good enough for our purposes,” he said.    


The drain board has been working on the remediation that has been underway since 2015, and has about 75 percent of the work completed with the expectation they would get a DEQ consent agreement. Dull said they will submit the agreement to the DEQ, hopefully have it approved, signed and back to the board by its Dec. 11 meeting.


The plan outlines repair of what angry property owners along the drain and trout stream called excessive clearing of trees in 2014 that caused erosion along the river banks and left parts of the 14-mile long inter-county drain looking like a war zone.

Streamside Ecological Service, contracted by the Intercounty Drain Board, developed the remediation plans that were submitted to the DEQ.


Attorney Stacy Hissong advised the board to take several steps; provide a $600,000 bond, ask that Streamside Ecological Service complete all actions by the board to do with the project and approve Streamside hiring Paul Forton, engineer with the Spicer Group, to consult with the Barry County Road Commission on a required road crossing.

The board also agreed that Hissong, Aaron Snell from Streamside, and Harrington will work together to make sure the requirements are done in a timely manner.


In other business, the board began preliminary discussion on consolidating the Little Thornappple River Drain and the Coldwater River Drain. A benefit would be with more property owners in a consolidated district, assessments would be spread over a wider population base and the assessments would be smaller.


Helping with the cost of repairing the East Street Bridge, east of Freeport, damaged by fallen trees blocking the bridge was talked about, with no definite answer given to Freeport resident Russ Yarger.


Yonkers said it would set precedent and they would not be able to deny any other applicant who asked. The other commissioners were unsure if was their responsibility.

Forton has looked at the bridge and said repairs would be fill, fabric and stone, with no work required on pilings.









Turn clocks back Sunday, Nov. 4

Daylight saving time ends Sunday, Nov. 4 so remember to set your clocks back one hour before turning in Saturday night.

Started during WWI to save money in energy costs, experts do not agree if that is the case or not.


Several states have forwarded proposals to stay on daylight saving time year round, but most efforts stalled. Only the states of Arizona and Hawaii, as well as American territories overseas, are on daylight saving time all year. Daylight saving time will return on March 10, 2019.

Former St. Rose Church Priest resigns

Father Richard Altine a former pastor at St. Rose Catholic Church in Hastings resigned as pastor of five southwest michigan churches amid questions about possible misuse of funds.

The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo launched an investigation into suspected financial irregularities at the five churches located in Dowagiac, Decatur,  Berrien Springs, Silver Creek and Buchanan.

Father Altine resigned as pastor and withdrew from public ministry on October 22nd.

In a statement from The Diocese of Kalamazoo, the Diocese said,  "they take very seriously the protection of the financial gifts entrusted to its parishes."

Two men suffer non-life threatening injuries in Gaines Township shooting

The Kent County Sheriff’s Detective Bureau continues to investigate the shooting of two men who sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to a sheriff’s news release.


Deputies were called to Grand Village Mobile Home Park on South Division Ave in Gaines Township at 8:30 p.m. last night to find two men inside the residence who were hit by bullets that were fired from outside of the home.


Anyone who has any information on the incident is encouraged to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at 616- 632-6125 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.


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