Local News Archives for 2019-01

Consumers Energy gives "All Clear" to customers to end emergency natural gas reductions at midnight

Consumers Energy announced that its emergency public appeal to conserve natural gas is ending at midnight tonight for all customers – commercial, industrial and residential.


“There is no doubt the gas reduction efforts by residents and businesses across the Lower Peninsula played a key role in helping maintain natural gas flow in our distribution system at a time when it was critically needed,” said Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “Because of the swift action of all, we were able to continue critical services – from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the men and women of Consumers Energy, we thank you,” she said.


Consumers Energy made its public appeal to conserve Wednesday, following a morning fire that damaged equipment at its Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County. There were no injuries and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The fire reduced the amount of natural gas that could be delivered to customers from underground storage located at the compressor station. The site is a combination compression and storage field where Consumers Energy stores natural gas until it is needed by customers.


The damage to compressor equipment at Consumers Energy’s largest storage and delivery system, coupled with continued historically cold temperatures, prompted the company to ask customers to dial back their thermostats and conserve natural gas use in their homes.


Repairs at the Ray Compressor Station are ongoing, and one of the station’s three compressors is partially in service. A root cause analysis to try and determine why the fire occurred has also been initiated.

New record low temperatures

At 7:16 this Thursday morning the Hastings National Weather Service Climatological Station recorded a new record low temperature for Hastings at 16 below zero. Old record was 9 below zero on this day in 1996.

Utility shutoffs suspended during this week's bitterly cold weather

Due to frigid temperatures across the state, the Michigan Agency for Energy today is alerting utility customers that major gas and electric providers will not shut off services to customers this week.


DTE Energy Co., Consumers Energy Co., and SEMCO said they have temporarily suspended shutoffs due to inclement weather. Utilities are required to file with the Michigan Public Service Commission policies on extreme weather shutoffs.


For DTE, temperature forecasts must be below 15 degrees and/or wind chills below zero for two or more consecutive days. For Consumers, it’s actual temperatures below 15 degrees and/or wind chills below zero degrees.


“With the extreme weather it’s vitally important that Michiganders stay safe and warm,” said Madhu Anderson, deputy director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. “If anyone has trouble paying their utility bills, there are a number of options available to them, from community service agencies to low-income assistance by utilities. We urge those in need to access these critical services by calling either 211 or your local utility provider.”


Nine community agencies throughout Michigan have been designated to help distribute emergency funding through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. They are: Barry County United Way, Michigan Community Action, Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Superior Watershed Partnership, The Heat and Warmth Fund, TrueNorth Community Services, United Way of Jackson County, and United Way of Southeastern Michigan.


Individuals can call the statewide helpline at 211  to be connected to any of the providers or other social services. Anyone having difficulties paying utility bills should call their local electric or natural gas provider and enroll in available help programs.


Customers of Consumers should call 800-477-5050; DTE, 800-477-4747; Upper Peninsula Power Co., 800-562-7680; and Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp., 800-242-9137. Check utility websites for more information.


For issues with utilities, customers can call the MPSC Customer Assistance at 800-292-9555.

Customers are also warned to aware of imposters who may try to take advantage of the weather situation to scam customers out of payments.


Utility companies never call customers requesting immediate payment to keep services from being shut o?. Nor do they ask for payment by gift card, bitcoin, or money order.

If you suspect a call to be fraudulent, hang up and immediately call your utility at the telephone number on your bill and ask to speak with a customer service representative.


You may also file a consumer complaint with the Michigan Department of Attorney General by visiting, or calling 1-877-765-8388.


February is American Heart Month; promote heart-healthy behaviors

In the United States, one in every four deaths is due to heart disease.

In 2017, 124 people in Barry County and 221 people in Eaton County died of heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in both counties.


Heart disease is serious, but can often be prevented. Anyone can develop heart disease, and younger adults are developing it more and more frequently. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are the top three risk factors for heart disease, and half of all Americans have at least one of these factors.


Other factors include obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. Fortunately, addressing these factors can lower your risk.


You can take control of your heart health by:

*Not smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting can improve your heart health.


*Managing conditions. Work with your health care provider to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol. This can include taking prescribed medication.


*Eating a healthy diet. Food low in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar and salt is best for your heart.


*Staying active. At least 150 minutes of physical activity per week is recommended.


Additionally, Feb. 1st is National Wear Red Day. Heart disease is the leading killer of women in particular, and causes one in every three deaths. The American Heart Association encourages individuals observing the day to wear red clothing to raise awareness.


For more information on heart disease, visit or For information about National Wear Red Day and women’s heart health, visit



Caledonia man arrested on child sexually abusive activity

Steven DeGroot, 54, of Caledonia has been arrested by the Michigan State Police on charges of distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity, according to an MSP media release.


MSP detectives learned that a child was being enticed to manufacture and send child sexually abusive material via the internet in return for a gift card, the release said. A search warrant was executed at DeGroot’s home and digital evidence was seized. Troopers from the MSP Wayland Post assisted in the execution of the search warrant and arrest of DeGroot.


The Michigan State Police (MSP) Computer Crimes Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force investigation was initiated when an ICAC task force member in Missouri forwarded the tip to the Fifth District Computer Crimes Unit.


The MSP Computer Crimes Unit encourages parents to speak to their children about the safe use of the internet. There are many resources available to parents to assist in keeping children safe online.


The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides a comprehensive list of resources on their website at Anyone with information regarding possible child sexual exploitation, can report it to the CyberTipLine at


Veterans Expo 2019 Benefits and Tax Fair set for Feb. 14

This Feb. 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., area veterans of all eras, their friends and families are invited to get free help with calculating their income taxes and filings, get answers about a veteran’s benefits eligibility and connect with fellow veterans and veteran services organizations.


The Lawrence J. Bauer American Legion Post 45, Barry County United Way, Barry County Veterans Affairs and the West Michigan Tax Coalition teamed up to host the Valentine’s Day event at the Post at 2160 South M-37 Highway in Hastings.


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


Hastings police department shows dedication to community policing

In his year-end report on the Hastings Police Department to the Hastings City Council Monday, Chief Jeff Pratt focused on the department’s relationship with the community it serves and protects.


He said in 2018 the department, “made big strides with getting to know the community a little better,” with events like National Night Out, basketball and football games where is it is “Cops vs Teachers” or “Cops vs Cadets” to raise money for students with health problems, Halloween night on Green Street where they give out hundreds of suckers and gallons of hot chocolate, or 20 turkey dinners delivered to families that can use a little extra help during the holidays.


The department’s Police Ambassadors, Police Cadets and Reserve Officers are heavily involved in community events, volunteering and serving without pay.

“I would like to think that the Hastings Police Department can find a way to touch our citizens in some positive way with the number of people we have associated with our department and the activities that we are involved with.”


Pratt said the Barry Roubaix bike race, Macker basketball tournament, Summerfest, Thornapple Plaza events, Jingle & Mingle and all the parades as areas where the police department works with the Department of Public Services and builds relationships with the community. A liaison officer in Hastings schools is getting to know the youth of the community and has many friendships with staff and students


“It is my feeling that if the police department can build a solid relationship with the community, the community will trust the police department and actually help the police protect the life and property of the citizens,” Pratt said.


Some figures: The department has a staff of 41, the nine reserve officers have logged 1,379.5 hours, and there are eight cadets, seven ambassadors, and five new officers.

The department handled 7,041 complaints in 2018.


Chemical Financial, TFC Financial Corporation announce merger of equals

Chemical Financial Corporation and TFC Financial Corporation announced on Jan. 18 a merger of equals to create a premier Midwest bank headquartered in Detroit.


TCF shareholders will receive 0.5081 shares of Chemical common stock for each share of TCF common stock based on a fixed exchange ratio, equivalent to $21.58 per TCF share based on the closing price as of January 25.


Each outstanding share of 5.70 percent Series C NonCumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock of TCF will be converted into the right to receive one share of a newly created series of preferred stock of Chemical. Upon completion of the deal, TCF and Chemical shareholders will own 54 percent and 46 percent of the combined company, respectively.


 “We are confident that this merger will enhance our ability to deliver stronger and more sustainable growth and greater value creation than either company could achieve alone,” TCF CEO and President Craig Dahl said.  


“The new TCF will have attractive positions in both its product suite and market footprint as well as a more diversified loan portfolio and increased lending capabilities across asset classes, geographies and industry verticals.


“Through improved profitability and earnings predictability, we will be able to reinvest in the business to drive multiple growth engines, enhance our ability to compete in the next generation of banking and sustain consistent return on capital for shareholders. We believe the combined company will also create new opportunities for our employees and enable us to attract and retain top talent.”


 “With a shared strategic vision and increased scale and capabilities, our two complementary banking platforms will be positioned to better serve our customers and communities, Chemical’s Chairman Gary Torgow said.


“The combination of TCF and Chemical creates the largest midcap bank in the Midwest, poised to deliver double-digit EPS accretion for each set of shareholders, significant cost synergies, top-tier return metrics, a more diversified balance sheet and a lower risk profile. We also share a deep commitment to supporting and giving back to the communities we serve.”


The combined company will be headquartered in Detroit and maintain a significant operating presence in Minneapolis as well as Midland and Chicago.


As of Dec. 31, 2018, TCF had $23.7 billion in total assets and 314 bank branches in IllinoisMinnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and South Dakota providing retail and commercial banking services, according to its website.



Eaton County District, Juvenile courts and Friend of the Court offer amnesty programs

The 56A District Court, Juvenile Court and Friend of the Court in Eaton County announces an amnesty program for those delinquent on payments to the court.


The program offers waivers of late fees, credits and warrant cancellations to individuals upon payments of court ordered obligations. The amnesty offer is a one-time program designed to enhance collections and minimize costs to the county.


The program is effective from Feb. 1, through March 31.


The announcement does not preclude an individual’s arrest on a valid warrant prior to his/her appearance at the court. At the end of the amnesty period, no further consideration will be given and enforcement will resume in earnest for arrests on outstanding warrants.


Each court’s program has different requirements; for complete descriptions of each court’s amnesty program go to the Eaton County website at

Allegan County offers overnight warming shelters


With temperatures forecast to be the lowest in decades for several days, Allegan County offers warming shelters with overnight accommodations:



Camp Beechpoint

3212 125th Avenue, Allegan, MI 49010

Warming Center Hours:

            Tuesday 10  – Friday morning

Beds, blankets, and meals are included.

Eligibility Requirements:

            No smoking in facility

            No alcohol/drugs on premises

            No weapons

            No pets


First Presbyterian Church

200 Cutler Street, Allegan, MI 49010

Warming Center Hours:

            Tuesday 10 – Friday morning

            Wednesday free lunch will be offered as usual.

Beds, blankets, and meal are included.

Eligibility Requirements:

            No smoking in facility

            No alcohol/drugs on premises

            No weapons

            No pets


First Congregational Church

323 Cutler St, Allegan, MI 49010

Church Phone(269) 673-3139

Warming center hours:

            Tuesday 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Wednesday

            Wednesday 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Thursday

            Thursday 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday

            Thursday dinner will be offered as usual.

Beds, blankets provided.

Eligibility Requirements:

            No smoking on premises

            No alcohol/drugs

            No weapons

            No pets



The Linking Center

943 56th Street Pullman MI

Warming center hours:

            Tuesday 9 a.m. through services Thursday night

Beds, blankets and meals provided.

Eligibility Requirements:

            No smoking in building

            No alcohol/drugs

            No weapons

            No pets



First Baptist Allegan

1290 32nd Street, Allegan, MI 49010
Warming center hours:

            Wednesday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

            Thursday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Eligibility Requirements:

            No smoking in building

            No alcohol/drugs

            No weapons

            No pets


Plainwell Public Safety is opening the public safety building as a warming station from now through Saturday, Feb. 2. They are located at 119 Island Avenue (off Allegan Street- M-89 by the old paper mill). Those who need assistance getting to the warming station can call 269-685-9858.


The Saugatuck Fire District will be a temporary warming shelter 24/7 until Friday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m.


Hastings five year recreation plan adopted, council member calls for extensive corrections

The Hastings City Council held a hearing Monday to take public comments or suggestions on the five year Parks and Recreation Master Plan and passed a resolution approving it.

There was no comment from the public, but there was by Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange.

Saying she was going to be very blunt, McNabb-Stange said: “This is one of the worst documents I’ve ever seen. I would be embarrassed to send this to the state.”


She noted the document was inconsistent in format, “really, really sloppy,” She pointed out a reference to a table that sent readers to page three that was found on page nine, many typos, and said the projects identified in the plan were hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the budget. “I’m not agreeing to this.”


She also noted a list of corrections she had asked for in the draft agreement hadn’t been done.

City Manager Jeff Mansfield said as long as the content was agreeable, they could approve it and correct the errors she listed.


There were formatting and grammar that need to be cleaned up, he agreed, but if the content is what they want, they could adopt it. “It accomplishes the goal.” They have the projects they need in it to be accepted by the state and qualify for grants from the DNR and DEQ, he said. The motion to approve was 8-1 with McNabb-Stange dissenting.



David Solmes, representing the Hastings Rotary and Hastings Kiwanis, asked for approval of the agreement for the civic clubs to again operate the concession stand at the Thornapple Plaza’s 2019 entertainment events, including the sale of beer and wine.


A separate request on the serving of alcohol will be added to the agreement after McNabb Stange pointed out it was just a request that was approved and should be part of a legal agreement. Changes in the document say that wine and beer will be sold later during the entertainment and instead of a two drink limit there will be no limit.


Solmes agreed to revert to the original request without the changes if there were any problems, but said there have been no problems in the past.


In other business, the council approved an hourly pay increase for election workers from $9.25 to $15 an hour and increases the ward chairperson’s pay from $30.70 to $50, plus hourly wages, in time for the May election.


Deputy City Manager Jerry Czarnecki said the city has barely enough workers to cover elections; the change would hopefully attract more people to work the 16-hour day. Other jurisdictions were also discussing raising the pay of election workers, he said.


Also, the first hearing on Ordinance 563 affecting the operation of the Riverside Cemetery was held; several questions were discussed; the council will hold a second hearing at its next meeting and take action on it.


The council approved the use of Bob King and Fish Hatchery Park by the YMCA for spring and summer recreational activities and a Very Barry Event hosted by the Barry Intermediate School District at Tyden Park on June 8.


They also held a workshop at 6 p.m. before the regular meeting to talk about goals and objectives for the draft budget for the coming year and set a “follow up” budget workshop for 6 p.m. on Feb. 11.






Benton Harbor woman dies in multi-vehicle crash in Gun Plain Township

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office reports a young woman from Benton Harbor lost her life in a multi-car crash Sunday, and her child sustained multiple injuries that appear to be non-life threatening.


A sheriff’s deputy and a Plainwell Department of Public Safety officer responded to the crash on M-89 at 2nd Street in Gun Plain Township about 6:30 pm. to find Kalyn Ann Cole, 25, deceased, her child secured in a booster seat in the backseat, a media release said.


According to witnesses, Cole traveling east on M-89, passed other vehicles traveling in the same direction around 6th Street. However, Cole stayed in the westbound lane instead of returning to the eastbound travel lane.


Around 2nd Street, a small line of westbound vehicles met Cole driving in the wrong lane. The first westbound vehicle was able to avoid her vehicle. Trying to avoid hitting Cole, the second vehicle was sideswiped, sending it into the ditch. The third westbound vehicle was unable to avoid Cole’s vehicle and collided with it.


All of the individuals in the westbound vehicles appear to have minor and/or non-life threatening injuries, officials said.  The crash remains under investigation.


Plainwell Department of Public Safety, Plainwell EMS, Gun Plain and Otsego fire departments, Michigan State Police and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office Victims Services Unit assisted at the scene

Firefighters fight fire, snow, wind and freezing temperatures

A fire at a home in the 5000 block of West State Road in Barry County yesterday will likely result in the total loss of the structure, Thornapple Township Emergency Services Chief Randy Eaton said. No one was hurt; the owner was not home when the fire started.


The call came in at 3:15 p.m.; the first on the scene saw smoke coming from the basement.

Unable to enter the house because of heavy smoke and heat, firefighters attacked the fire through a basement window. Freeport Fire Department firefighters assisted; Hastings and Woodland fire departments provided a water shuttle.


The house was of “balloon” construction, common years ago, with no fire stops anywhere in the building, the first floor collapsed into the basement early on, he said.


There is no dollar estimate yet; they know the blaze started in the basement, but the cause has not been determined, Firefighters were on the scene for several hours andwere called back when the fire rekindled; spending a total of about 11 hours at the scene, Eaton said.


The conditions were “horrid” for fighting fire, with snow, a strong wind and sub-freezing temperatures. Equipment and clothing froze, water spilled on the ground also froze making walking difficult and the extra exertion made the work harder than usual, he said.

Superintendent's Platform ­­­

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


The start of a new year brings an opportunity to reflect with gratitude on the passing year, and to anticipate the many exciting possibilities for the upcoming year.


The Hastings Area School System was fortunate to do both at our first Board of Education meeting of 2019, on January 21.  Marking “Board Recognition Month,” students at the meeting had the chance to thank Board members directly.


The Hastings Area School System’s Board of Education Trustees volunteer countless hours of service to the Hastings community, and we are very grateful for their dedication. Middle School teacher William Renner was also recognized at the meeting for being awarded an innovation grant for his classroom.


Mr. Renner was one of only seven teachers in the state of Michigan to win this competitive grant, under which he was awarded $5,000, with an opportunity to receive the same grant for the next two years.


We also had the opportunity at the meeting to commend members of our community for their generous donations that serve our students.

First, we recognized Hastings Mutual Insurance Company for donating funds to assist with the backpack lunch program, which many of our students depend on as a key source of nutrition.


Next, we applauded the Gun Lake Community Church, which donated funds to Central Elementary principal Sarah Geukes to help her spread hope within her school.

Third, we thanked Al and Pete’s Sport Shop for donating funds to the Student in Need Fund, which provides support to students that cannot afford various basic needs.


Lastly, we recognized the Hastings Education Enrichment Foundation’s generous donation of funds to support transportation to field trips, classroom magazine subscriptions and other resources for our classrooms district-wide.


We are extremely grateful to these organizations, and to all who consistently donate to the Hastings Area School System.


The Board of Education also passed a resolution to call for a special election on May 7, 2019. Voters will be asked if they support a .7 mill bond proposal for roofs, bathrooms, locker rooms, flooring and HS cafeteria improvements. Since our debt mills are dropping, the result would be a .3 mill increase to the current levy.


Looking ahead, the new Hastings Performing Arts Center (HPAC) is set to open on February 10, 2019, with a dedication and performances from our band and choir. At the board meeting, Michael Sali, the new HPAC Managing Director, presented on the new state-of-the-art facility, which will serve our community for many years to come.


The HPAC is designed with a band shell, orchestra pit, seating for 800+, LED lighting, highly technical audio systems, and is handicap-accessible throughout the facility.


We are grateful to be kicking off 2019 with the opening of this wonderful new facility. What a great day to be Saxon with this and the many other events and activities we have coming up in our school community.



Leadership Barry County training for county board and committee members begins

A voluntary Leadership  training program for elected and appointed officials serving on various Barry County boards and committees is getting under way .Leadership Barry County Director Sarah Alden told county commissioners the first session is scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 30 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. or Friday, Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon.


The meetings are the same, giving participants a choice of when to attend. Eight people are signed up for each meeting so far, Alden said. The program, approved last summer, is intended to increase professionalism on boards and committees and benefit citizen volunteers and the county.


The first session covers framing a mindset, guidelines, nuts & bolts for elected and appointed service, boardsmanship and personal leadership, closing with reflections and next steps. Main topics each have several areas to discuss.  The sessions will offer ample time for questions and answers, Alden said.


The training includes leadership style self-assessment, leadership and teambuilding, how to navigate difficult conversations, team work and collaboration, engaging constituents and community demographics and trends. Written materials include quick guides on parliamentary procedure, the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings act.


The leadership program has more than 500 alumni.




Barry County United Way VITA program offering free Tax-A-Thon


In partnership with Davenport University and Barry Community Foundation, Barry County United Way is again coordinating the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.  This program, supported by the IRS, offers FREE tax assistance to households with an income less than $60,000.  


At several sites across Barry County, including at the Hastings Public Library, Delton District Library and Putnam District Library, IRS-certified volunteers provide FREE income tax return preparation to eligible individuals and families.  Preparers help inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Homestead Property Tax Credit and Home Heating Credit.


The 10 hour long Tax-A-Thon event will be held Saturday, February 2nd, from 8am until 6pm at Barry Community Enrichment Center at 231 S Broadway, Hastings.  Taxpayers can call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment, but walk-in appointments are also welcomed.  Attendees should bring their social security card and picture ID.


Barry County remonumentation 75-85 complete

Barry County Surveyor Brian Reynolds and Property Appraiser Rosemary Anger updated the county commission on the progress of the remonumentation of Michigan section corners Tuesday.

Section corners are on a ½ mile grid; Barry County has some 5,000 total markers with remonumentation estimated to be between 75-85 percent complete, Reynolds said.


The massive undertaking of remonumentation of the entire state was made law in 1990 and got underway in 1993. A revision of the plan in 2014 required an update of the plan. Reynolds and Anger will develop the new plan, removing section markers that no longer serve any useful purpose, some dating back to the 1850’s. “We’ll select corners to omit, that will be the biggest change in the plan,” Reynolds said.


Due in March of 2020, they hope to bring the new plan to the county board later this year.

Funding for the program comes from the $4 fee on deeds from the Register of Deeds office that goes into a special fund at the state and then apportioned back to the counties based on size. “More size, more money,” Reynolds said.


Rural areas generally do better than urban areas, and Barry County always gets back more money than they put it. Funding depends on the Real Estate market, when housing drops, so does the revenue stream, he said.


The $4 fee is scheduled to drop to $2 in 2023, and there will likely be pressure to extend it, probably for another 10 years.  When Barry County completes its remonumentation it will shift to a maintenance plan with reduced funding, with the excess going to other counties, Reynolds said.


Also Tuesday, Commissioners approved recommendations from last week’s committee of the whole meeting to buy new furniture for the county probation department for $6,600; accept a grant from the state to provide education and communication on Michigan’s medical marijuana act, accept a bid from Drug & Lab Disposal to hold Household Hazardous Waste collections and a resolution of intent to apply for transportation grants for Barry County Transit.



(left)The Barry County map shows the enormity of the task of replacing monuments on section corners. Each small square dot requires a monument.

Attorney on Indigent Defense Council list divides Barry County Commission

Gordon Shane McNeill, an assistant prosecutor in the 1990’s and Barry County Prosecuting Attorney from 2000 to 2005 is one of 10 attorneys named to the staff of the Indigent Defense Council by Chief Public Defender Kerri Selleck.


Last week, she asked the Barry County Commission committee of the whole to approve contracts for the 10, including their base pay (see list). The vote to recommend approval was 6-1, with Commissioner Jon Smelker voting no. He said there was one person he did not want on the list, not giving a name.


Tuesday, the full board considered the recommendation. During discussion, Smelker said he would vote no and had no more to add to last week’s comment. Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson said he had two calls from constituents objecting to McNeill being on the staff and Commissioner Vivian Conner said she would vote no, later confirming she was objecting to McNeill.


Commissioner Ben Geiger reminded the board they had unanimously chosen Selleck to head the department.  “I believe we should support her and let her choose her team…I don’t see this as the board of commissioners choosing who her teammates are; the question is do we trust her judgement, and I do.”


The vote was a 3-3 tie with Commissioner David Jackson absent, meaning it failed. Smelker, Gibson and Conner voted against, Geiger, Commissioner Dan Parker and Commissioner/Chair Heather Wing voted to approve. Geiger immediately asked for reconsideration of the vote, to table the question until the board had all seven members present to vote. The motion passed unanimously.


Selleck, who was at the meeting, said she had no comment. McNeill couldn’t be reached for comment.


Later, Conner explained her vote. “It isn’t about Kerri at all; it’s about protecting Barry County. I remember the controversy McNeill generated when he was prosecutor, his general demeanor, trying his cases in the press, the letters he wrote; he could prove to be very controversial for Barry County.”  When a group of people threatened to recall him, he resigned, she said. “In his letter of resignation, he said he was resigning to protect his family…that’s my line of thought. Barry County is not my family, but I’m trying to protect it. He is an intelligent attorney; he knows the law and is a good businessman. It’s what he could bring to Barry County. I don’t want to go down that path again.”


Geiger also added a comment later. "The board doesn't meddle in choosing assistant prosecutors. The board doesn't meddle in choosing deputy sheriffs. I'm disappointed politics got involved with choosing our public defender's team. We should stand behind her," he said.


Speakers during public comment also were divided; Sharon Zebrowski said it was Selleck’s decision to make and she had made it. “If there are problems down the line, they’re her problems.” Selleck is in charge, it was her job to pick a staff, not the commissioners and they should, “let her do her job,” she said.


Elden Shellenbarger said McNeill was a “loose cannon” and recommended that he be removed from the list. “He is not an outstanding person in my opinion,” he said.


Indigent defense attorneys and their annual base pay:

Jackie Baker Sturgis, $33,800; Carol Dwyer, $39,000; Shane Henry, $26,000; Kristen Hoel, $36,400; James Kinney, $39,000; Gordon Shane McNeill, $26,000; Ronald Pierce, $26,000; Kathryn Russell, $39,000; Steven Storrs, $26,000  and Kimberly Young, $33,800.


Barry County Chamber hosts annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony

The annual Barry County Chamber Dinner and Awards Ceremony held Saturday recognized the achievements of its members, from new businesses, expansions, and major re-designs to making Barry County a destination place to visit, to providing excellent customer service. 

The annual dinner is the chamber’s way of recognizing, appreciating, and thanking its members for their support and contributions.


The award winners:

- ROTH Award: Mark Kolanowski

- ATHENA Leadership Award: Julie Nakfoor-Pratt

- ATHENA Young Professional: Morgan Johnson

- Chamber Champion Award: Sheryl and Barry Bower

- Entrepreneur of the Year: Julie and Jim Fox


- BRICK Award: Hastings Fiber Glass Products

Other finalists: Thornapple Credit Union, Hastings Area Schools and Nashville Route 66 Business District.


- Member Award for Customer Service Excellence: Step N Time Dance Studio

Other finalists: Barry County United Way, Courtside Screenprinting & Embroidery, FlexFab, Grace Community Church, Hastings 4 Theater, Hastings Public Library, King's Appliances, Les's Sanitary Service, Seasonal Grille and Thornapple Credit Union


- Community Impact Award: YMCA of Barry County for B.Bus Mobile Library and Barry County Commission on Aging for Meals on Wheels program.

Other finalists: Barry County Christian School, Liz Lenz/Barry County Substance Abuse Task Force, Nashville Route 66 Business District, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, The Cove Family, and Thornapple Credit Union/Making Cents for Students Program. 


Hastings City Bank changes to Highpoint Community Bank today

“We have been working for over the past year to create a brand that better reflects the diverse communities we serve,” HCB President and CEO Mark A. Kolanowski said in a news release Monday.


“We have expanded to offer more services to more communities and our named wasn’t an accurate reflection of the organization we’ve become. The important things have not changed. We’re still the same people you know and trust and we will continue to deliver above and beyond financial advice and guidance.

“Our commitment to the communities we serve is higher than ever. We approach the future with a name that is more reflective and inclusive of the communities we have grown to serve, one that speaks positively to the type of bank we will be as we move forward and one that also reminds us of the rich traditions bound by service to customer and community that brought us to where we are today.


“This new chapter brings tremendous energy and excitement to our team of employees. We are dedicated to continuing the high standards that HCB Financial Corp. and Hastings City Bank have always represented," he said.


Highpoint Community Bank is a subsidiary of HCB Financial Corp. a single bank holding company; the bank holds state bank charter number 11, the second oldest in the state. The name change does not directly impact the financial corporation. Seven financial services offices are located in Barry, Allegan, Calhoun, Eaton and Kent counties.


“We will continue to be referred to as HCB, but now that will reference Highpoint Community Bank,” Kolanowski said. HCB is a Member FDIC, an Equal Housing Lender and can be found at .

Wind pushes garage fire into residence, nothing could be saved

A passerby stopped at a home in the 12000 block of Noffke Drive Saturday about 10: 30 a.m. and told the man who answered the door that his neighbor’s house was on fire. The man later told Thornapple Township Emergency Services Fire Chief Randy Eaton that by the time he stepped outside to look, the garage was fully involved in flames.


“The 15 mile an hour northeast wind blew the fire from the garage right into the house. When the first unit arrived, the fire was already through the roof of the house. It was already too late to save anything,” Eaton said. The one-story ranch house with attached two stall garage was a total loss. The homeowners were not home and no one was hurt.


Eaton hasn’t determined the dollar loss amount yet, and said there is so little left they may not be able to find out what caused the fire. Based on information and what the neighbor reported, it appears it started in the garage area, he said. The homeowners have insurance.  


Slippery road conditions slowed operations and tankers delivering water. TTES firefighters were on the scene for four hours. Dutton Freeport, Leighton and Caledonia fire departments assisted TTES.

Record Weather

The Hastings National Weather Service Climatological Station recorded a new record low temperature of 16 below zero at 8:45 this monday January 21, 2019.  Old record 15 below zero on this day in 1984.

Thawing pipes causes structure fire in Hastings Township

A homeowner was thawing pipes with a space heater in the breezeway/entrance area of the home at 4545 Scott Road when it caught fire. Damage to the structure owned by Sandra Mullins is estimated to be $75,000, contents $35,000. There is insurance, Hastings Fire Chief Roger Caris said.


The call came to the Hastings Fire Department at 5:37 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters were on the scene about three hours; Nashville Fire Department provided mutual aid, Caris said.

New Year's Day hunting tradition is 29, going on 30

Four Hastings area men meet every New Year’s Day, go hunting on a 192-acre property of a friend, and hunt rabbit and squirrel.


Dar Leaf, Barry County sheriff, Michael Gutierrez, a truck driver, Shawn Wernette, a respiratory technician at Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital and Don Tietz, a corrections deputy from the sheriff’s office, now retired, who comes up from Tennessee every year, were the original group.


The routine never varies. Everyone meets at Ritchie’s in Hastings at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast. They head out to Horace Hull’s place, go rabbit hunting (Mike and Shawn have beagles) for several hours, go back to Hull’s “Man Cave,” catch a bowl game on TV and usually eat pizza from Good Times Pizza in Nashville.


Hull, a friend who was on the Sheriff’s Posse, has been their host every New Year’s Day. The men met through Mike Mosteller, another posse member, who now lives in North Carolina.

The four became fast friends back in the day and found out they all like to hunt.


“Someone,” Leaf doesn’t recall who, said they should meet on New Year's Day in 1990 to do some hunting. They did and enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again the next New Year’s Day, and have done it every year since.


"t’s changing now, Leaf said. “The kids are going with us now; it’s more a family thing…” The group is not at all exclusive, the men’s sons come with them some times, a niece hunted with them once, and the friend’s friends show up occasionally as the tradition continues, and that’s fine with everyone. 


They had been meeting on New Year’s Day for all this time when this year, someone asked, “How long have we been doing this?” and the answer was 29 years. What does he expect at year 30?  “That’s kind of cool, doing it for 30 years; we’ll probably have some T-shirts made up,” he said. “It’s a big thing for us, kind of a kick-off for the new year. We keep in touch during the year; no one mention’s New Year’s Day. We all know where we’re going and what we’ll be doing.”


Why does the event endure?  “That’s simple; it’s fun. It’s 192 acres of outside, you get to be outdoors, away from the TV, enjoy nature, a river runs through there; it’s awesome. You get to listen to the beagles track rabbits, and just enjoy the camaraderie.  It’s Barry County at its best.”

Allegan County deputies nab wrong-way driver

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office was notified Thursday about 2:54 a.m. that a wrong-way driver on I-196 in Ottawa County was headed into Allegan County, according to a sheriff’s news release.


An Allegan County deputy attempted to stop the driver, going westbound in the eastbound lane of I-196, but he refused to stop. Other deputies came to the area and stopped the suspect, still traveling the wrong way on I-196.


Investigation determined the driver, an unidentified 23-year-old man, was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. He was arrested for operating while intoxicated. His name will be released after he is arraigned.


Hastings Access Cable Committee increases programming, more coming

The Hastings Cable Access Committee is committed to providing interesting programming for those who get the channel. The renewed dedication to finding and filming local events is being led by Bill Redman, president of the committee and Hastings City Council member.


One of the committee’s first large endeavors is on local industry; a crew comes into a business and shows what they do, how they do it and things unique to their business, sometimes over several days.


They just finished shoots at D&S Machine and Tom Otto Turkey Farm, with more in the line-up: T&R Machine, BCN Technical Services (E.W. Bliss), Co-Dee Stamping, Hastings Manufacturing, H&F Products, Munn Manufacturing, Ketchum Machine and H& L Manufacturing. The segments air once a day at various times for a month.


Redman said he's excited about talking next week with Hastings Schools Superintendent Carrie Duits about students interested in media who might volunteer to cover some of school sports events, concerts, plays and other events.


City council, planning commission and zoning board of appeals meetings are live-streamed by the committee. Summerfest and St. Patrick’s Day parades have been aired; the Barry Roubaix bike race, Gus Maker 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Music at the Fountain and other events in the downtown area are in their sights, he said.

A Nashville Michigan Historical Society event is in progress and several churches are discussing once a month coverage.


The committee is limited in its mission to educational and governmental interests; they can do anything in those areas. They can’t sell time, but anyone can sponsor a particular segment.

“Just call and request an event, and if we can do it, we will,” Redman said.


Redman is working on a long term goal of the committee having a full-time staff of camera operators, editors and other volunteers. He sees that happening, not for a while yet, but he thinks it can be done. “Right now, we have one full-time employee, Station Manager Dan LaClair, and six volunteers,” he said.


Redman intends to continue the resurgence of cable programming by welcoming and recruiting volunteers interested in camera work, editing or sitting on the cable access committee. He can be reached at 838-0893 or one can apply for the cable access committee at Hastings City Hall.




State Rep. Calley announces committee assignments

87th District State Representative Julie Calley, previously vice-chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, has been appointed its chair. The committee is responsible for considering legislation pertaining to elections and campaign finance laws.


“The integrity and security of our elections continue to be top concerns,” Calley said. “I’m looking forward to finding sensible solutions that deter fraud and make Michigan’s elections process operate more efficiently,” Calley said.


Calley will also serve on the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation, Health Policy, and Local Government and Municipal Finance committees.

“These issues are all of great importance to people in Barry and Ionia counties,” she said. “I’m working to build a better Michigan, and these committees are a vital part of getting that effort.”


Contact Calley via email at or call her at (517) 373-0842


Hastings man dies in one car crash on icy Richland Township road

UPDATE:  The victim of the car crash that occurred Tuesday near Richland has been identified at 56 year old Thomas Kelly Barton of Hastings.



ORIGINAL STORY:  The identity of a 56-year old Hastings man, the victim of a single car crash in Richland Township today, is not being released, a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office media release said.


The Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority dispatched sheriff’s deputies to the 10000 block of North 32nd Street in Richland Township at noon where they found the vehicle overturned onto its roof in the icy roadway.


The Hastings man, the lone occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash, which is still under investigation. Richland Fire Department and Pride Ambulance assisted deputies at the scene of the crash.


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

State grant will encourage outreach, communication, education on medical marijuana

The Barry Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) will administer a $16, 413 grant to Barry County from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for communication, education and outreach on medical marijuana.


Health department Health Officer Colette Scrimger (left) Tuesday gave Barry County Commissioners details of the grant on medical marijuana, which the health department will use to focus on reduction of marijuana use by youth in the community.

Specifically, the health department is expected to educate medical marijuana patients and others about safe storage and the dangers of driving while impaired; increase perception of risk for adolescent marijuana use and measure the self-reported use of medical marijuana.

The funds cannot be used for law enforcement.


The BEDHD will collaborate wth Eaton and Ingham counties in hosting focus groups to learn about misconceptions of medical marijuana in Barry County and use the information in a public education campaign using various media, she said.


A youth summit will be held with educational sessions on current marijuana laws, vaping and parent/youth communication targeting youth-serving organizations like schools, churches, prevention providers and others. A September media survey will evaluate the public education campaign.


Liz Lenz, community preventionist with Barry County Substance Abuse, who was in the audience, said she heard about the grant, but the wording was vague and was not clear that it was about education and prevention, did not fit their mission, so she did not pursue it.


She said she would have liked to have worked with the health department “to coordinate efforts with Colette.”  The Substance Abuse Task Force has 35 to 40 willing people at any time and since they study data and behaviors in the community, they could share resources, she said.


“I do wish I had been talked to about the grant…I would like assurances from Colette and her staff that they will not do our work…duplicate our effort or duplicate our message…”

She said they would still support the effort.//


The grant amount each county gets is based on the number of medical marijuana cards issued in that county. Barry County gets $16,413 (878 total patient cards issued and renewed). The grants range from the lowest at $589 in Keweenaw County (32 patient cards) to the highest at $496,046 to Wayne County (26,535 patient cards). The total in grants is $3 million.


In other business, the commissioners recommended approval of Drug Lab & Disposal, Inc., for a three-year contract for Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Disposal for “.89 cents a pound; collections costs vary in the range of $20,000.”

Frank Fiala, from the Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee, recommended DLD, saying they can meet the planned 2019 dates, do not charge a setup fee, has successfully provided the services for many years, provided good customer service and is responsive to requests to improve collection and traffic flow.


Changes in drain district boundaries and in percentages in cost sharing told

The Little Thornapple River Drain District and the Coldwater River Drain District boundaries have been updated using the latest in technology. Previously drawn along property lines, the lines are now based on topography.. The last time the outlines were drawn on the Little Thornapple District was in 1916; the Coldwater District in 1898.


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.


Paul Forton, project manager for the Spicer Group, brought the updated information and maps to the Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drainage Board Monday.

There will be some surprises for residents in the newly defined drain districts which will change the amount some are assessed for drain repair and maintenance, Forton said. It’s possible that part of a property will be assessed and other parts of the same property may not be in the drain district and will not be assessed, he said.


The percentage of the amount residents in each county pay in special assessments for repair and maintenance of drains has also changed.


Barry County residents, who had been paying 85 percent of the costs in the Little Thornapple River Drain District,  will in the future pay 63.48 percent; Ionia County residents were paying 15 percent will now be responsible for 36.31 percent; Kent County formerly paid nothing, will now pay 0.37 percent of the assessments. Eaton County, at 0.4 was dropped from the roles because the cost of collecting the assessment was more than the total collected.


The Coldwater River Drain boundaries and cost percentages also changed. Barry County residents were paying eight percent; that will go to 36.06 percent; Ionia County residents were responsible for 27 percent; they will now pay 46.92 percent; Kent County residents did pay 65 percent, they will see that drop to 17 percent.

Again, Eaton County was dropped from the assessment roll because the cost of collecting it was more than its 0.2 percentage


In Barry County, Deputy Drain Commissioner Tammy Berdecia and tri-county board Attorney Stacy Hissong will determine the total cost of the work on the Little Thornapple River Drain this year.

The drain commissioner in each county, using a number of factors, sets the individual assessments for the assessment roll that is subject to public review.


May 7, 8 and 9 are set aside for the public to inspect the assessment rolls, make comments and corrections if needed. If a person disputes an assessment, they can file an appeal with the probate court within 10 days of the review.


Barry County residents are scheduled for the review meeting on the 8th, Ionia County residents on the 7th and Kent County, the 9th. Everyone affected will be notified by letter of the dates, meeting place and times. The final special assessments will be levied on the 2019 winter tax bill.

No assessments were levied last year for the Little Thornapple River Drain.





Barry County Transit director to apply for grants, gives update on expansion plans

The Barry County Commissioner Tuesday recommended approval of a resolution of intent to apply for state and federal funds for expenses for Barry County Transit for the next year, an annual request from Transit Director Bill Voigt.


The resolution also appoints him transit coordinator with authorization to provide information and sign agreements. Voigt estimated income of $314,567 in federal funds, $665,261 in state funds and $794,925 locally from fare box and other local funds, with expenses estimated at $1,742,594.


Almost all of the 16 vehicles in the fleet qualify for replacement according to state guidelines, he said. The state will look at usage, number of aging buses and may authorize more buses.

“That’s up to the state, we won’t know until next year,” he said. Last year was the second highest in ridership for the transit, he added.


In an update on the planned expansion and renovation of the facility, Voigt said there will be a walk-through with contractors Jan. 22, bid opening on Jan. 31 with ground breaking anticipated in early spring.


The plans call for adding 2,950 square feet to the south side of the facility for bus storage and maintenance, adding 1,160 square feet to the dispatch center and renovation of the existing office space at a cost of $1.50 to $1.75 a square foot. The projected $1.1 to 1.3 million total cost will come from transit funds.//


In other business, commissioners recommended buying new furniture for the county probation department at a cost not to exceed $6,600 to replace the furniture in one probation office, the reception area and add an overhead storage unit.


Michelle Newton, adult probation/parole supervisor, said the furniture is pre-computer; some 20 years old, some more than 25 years old and of poor quality. Funds will come from the Capital Improvement Fund. The commissioners are expected to act on the recommendations at their Jan. 22 meeting.




Barry County recommends staffing for indigent defense in Public Defender's Office

Attorney Kerri Selleck, Barry County Chief Public Defender, is building a staff for a new indigent defense program in the county’s Public Defender’s Office.


The Board of Commissioners Tuesday recommended approval of her request to hire local attorneys she selected to represent indigents in court. They are Jackie Baker Sturgis, Carol Dwyer, Shane Henry, Kristen Hoel, James Kinney, Gordon Shane McNeill, Ronald Pierce, Kathryn Russell, Steven Storrs and Kimberly Young.


The 10 attorneys, a number determined by the size of the county’s case load, will represent indigents in cases of felonies, misdemeanors, probation violation hearing in both circuit and district courts, Friend of the Court show-cause hearings and personal protection order violations.


Selleck sent an e-mail to each member of the Barry County Bar Association, inviting interested attorneys to apply for a place on the contract list; 11 attorneys responded.


After a thorough review, she said it was her opinion that they “are the most capable of complying with the new legislation and the new requirements from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission in terms of indigent defense representation.”


The attorney’s contracts call for each receiving a share of a state grant of $350,000, based on experience and longevity of appointment. Payment for arraignment and initial interview with a client is billed by the attorney at $55 an hour.


Selleck will divide cases among attorneys on a roughly equal basis, using a table of points assigned to various cases. For example, a murder case is assigned 30 points; a type A felony, punishable by less than five years in prison, is four points.


Barry County has been preparing for months to implement the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission’s new compliance plan that has the first set of standards for indigent defense systems across the state covering training and education for assigned counsel, initial interviews, use of experts and investigators and counsel at first appearance and all critical stages of the proceedings.


The commission will act on the recommendation at its next meeting.









32-year-old Otsego woman's death appears accidental, police say

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office report a woman found unresponsive near a church just outside of Otsego apparently died an accidental death. Emergency personel responded Monday at 1:30 p.m. on a call of an individual with an unknown medical emergency. 


EMS and fire personnel arrived to find an unresponsive Otsego woman, 32- year-old Stacey Lynn Ongiyo. It appeared that she had been there for some time; she could not be resuscitated.

Sheriff’s deputies and Otsego Police Department officers arrived to secure the scene and investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. 


After an in-depth investigation and numerous interviews into the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th, no signs of foul play could be identified. This was confirmed by initial autopsy findings, however, toxicology test are still being completed.  All indications at this time lead investigators to believe that this is an accidental death.


Otsego Police Department, Otsego Fire Department, Michigan State Police and Plainwell EMS assisted Allegan County deputies.


Hastings mayor says 2018 was good for city, 2019 looks promising

Hastings Mayor David Tossava gave a “State of the City” address Monday, saying 2018 was a good year for the city and he expected 2019 to be just as good.


Tossava pointed to several popular events that drew thousands and thousands of residents and visitors to the downtown; the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race the largest of three bicycle races, bringing more than 3,000 racers to Hastings.


The 2018 Jazz Festival, the city and Thornapple Arts Council bringing more than 50 entertainers to perform free shows during the summer and the Gus Macker 3 on 3 basketball tournament, all contribute to make Hastings a destination city.


“All of these events take a lot of planning and coordinating between agencies and departments.  I would like to thank all those who are involved,” Tossava said.


In May of 2018, they started the first step in updating the City of Hastings Master Plan, and in 2019 will start the second step with completion by summer of 2019, he said.

 The five-year Parks and Recreation Plan will be also be completed this year. In 2018, the Hastings Police Department hired and trained five new police officers.


In the spring of 2018, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said he was going to retire in June of 2019. After a short internal search and interview, the council made Jerry Czarnecki the sole candidate for the post. A new clerk/treasurer was hired to replace Czarnecki and he was appointed Deputy City Manager to train under Mansfield for the remainder of his tenure.


The City of Hastings had almost 70 new addresses created in 2018, and leads the county in new home starts. Tossava pledged to continue the work on expanding and improving the wastewater treatment plant, develop a plan to improve city streets and infrastructure, and continue to improve relationships with neighboring jurisdictions.


Tossava asked everyone to do a little exercise.

Look into your car’s rear view mirror; that represents 2018, the past, he said.

“Keep 2018 in your rear view, remember it, refer back to it and learn from it.”


Then look ahead and see a wide-open clear windshield; that represents 2019, the future, he continued.

“The further we go, the clearer things get. 2019 looks very promising for the City of Hastings, and I would like to report that the State of the City is good!”


Photo: Hastings Mayor David Tossava looks down at his notes during his "State of the City" address Monday.







Hastings City Council agrees with the concept of Spectrum Health Pennock's expansion

The Hasting City Council approved the concept of an agreement with Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital (SHPH) as they plan to build a new surgery/ endoscopy center in its west parking lot.

Spectrum Health Pennock President Angela Ditmar and Sean Easter, manager of planning and design for Spectrum Health, discussed the plan with the council Monday.


City staff will negotiate with SHPH on several issues. “It’s all negotiable,” Easter said.


The hospital asked the council for a 20-year lease of 75 of the 200 parking spaces at Fish Hatchery Park for its staff. Spectrum offers to mill and resurface the entire parking lot and make a number of improvements to the asphalt, lighting and pathways and maintain it for the life of the lease.

They will also improve and extend a sidewalk to the hospital from the park and install a sidewalk along the drive from the parking lot to Green Street so pedestrians don’t share space with cars.


Council members had several questions about possible traffic problems with hospital staff coming and going at the same time; denying the public the use of the parking lot, the length of the lease, safety concerns, and how the parking would be enforced, but overall, were receptive to the idea, saying it was a win-win for both the city and the hospital.


Easter said the addition of the center will displace about 65 parking spaces now used by patients, visitors and staff.  Spectrum would use the parking spaces from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, leaving the full lot available to the public evenings and weekends when the park experiences peak use.


During the design phase, SHPH found the hospital’s west visitor’s parking lot was encroaching on city property. Easter said they needed to make the space two lanes to allow families to drive around to the back of the new center and park and asked the city to sell or lease the “sliver” of land to them. The council consensus was selling them the land was the best option. 


City Manager Jeff Mansfield checked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who originally donated the Fish Hatchery Park to the city, and learned there are no restrictions on the city’s use or sale of the property.


Hospital officials plan to present its site plan for the project at the Feb. 4 Hastings City Planning Commission meeting. Easter said they hope to start construction this April or May.

“This may well provide an opportunity for a partnership where both entities benefit,” Mansfield said, echoing what several others on the council said.



Rep. Calley to hold office hours Jan. 28 in Lake Odessa, Hastings

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley will hold local office hours and give legislative updates in Hastings and Lake Odessa on Monday, Jan. 28.  If residents have individual concerns, she will take one-on-one meetings.


Calley will meet with constituents from 11 a.m. to noon at Lake Odessa Page Memorial Building, 839 4th Avenue in Lake Odessa and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Hastings City Hall Council Chambers, 201 East State Street. Hastings.


“I am grateful to the many individuals who shared their time and insight with me over the last two years,” said Calley. “I look forward to continuing conversation.” No appointment is necessary.


Residents unable to attend office hours may send their questions and ideas to Calley at or 517-373-0842.


Hastings takes care of business that lets it do business

The Hastings City Council held its organizational meeting Monday, taking care of the various things to do with conducting city business.

The first order of business was swearing in four council members who were elected or re-elected in the November election and welcome Jim Carey as the newest council member for the 4th Ward. He replaces Bill Cusack, who did not run for re-election.


The council approved using Roberts Rules of Order and set meeting dates for the second and fourth Mondays of the month, except for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, when the meetings move to the next day.


The council approved Jeff Mansfield’s employment contract which covers salary and benefits and expires on June 30 when he leaves the service to the city.

According to the contract, he will be paid for “his services rendered hereto the equivalent of an annual (fifty two week) base salary of Ninety Five Thousand and Nine Hundred and Thirty Seven Dollars ($95,937.00) for the period January 14, 2019 through June 30, 2019 (i.e. the current 2018 salary prorated for the next six months.)”


Council annual salaries will be as follows: Mayor, $7,800; Mayor Pro-tem $2,500; council members; $2,300, and Board of Review members, $115 per meeting, the same as it has been for many years.


City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes with the Varnum law firm will receive an annual retainer of $14,500, billed at a rate of $1,208.33 a month, an hourly rate of $200 an hour for general legal services and $250 an hour for labor negotiations, tax tribunal matters, and general municipal financial services. That is the same amount for the same services as last year.


City officials remain the same with three exceptions; clerk/treasurer Jerry Czarnecki is now deputy city manager and moves to city manager/zoning administrator when Mansfield retires; Jane Saurman moves from assistant city clerk/treasurer/ finance director to hold the title as Czarnecki moves into the deputy city manager position, and Dan Kirwin, as temporary city assessor.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department will continue as the city’s Health Officer in 2020.


The city will deposit its funds at a dozen banking institutions that are eligible depositories.  Security broker/dealers to advise and assist the city’s treasurer are Comerica Securities, Detroit, Michigan Huntington Investment Company, Grand Rapids and Michigan Vining Sparks, Memphis, Tennessee.



In other business, the council:

*approved a revised joint Hastings Public Library Board agreement. The board will have representatives from the city and Rutland Township.

Hastings Township voters turned down a recent millage request for library services; if they pass a millage in the future, the agreement provides for township representatives on the board.


*heard John McCann of Viridis present the draft five year Parks and Recreation Master Plan update and set a public hearing for public comment on the Plan for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. The draft plan is available for review through a link on the meeting agenda on the city website.


*accepted the budget calendar and set a workshop for Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. to discuss the city goals and policies dealing with next year’s budget.


*approved the list of members of various boards and commissions being reappointed or filled, as well meeting dates and times of the boards. The information can be viewed on the city’s website.


Photos: (upper left) Hastings newest city Councilman Jim Cary.


Hastings City Council members being sworn Monday are (from left) Brenda McNabb-Stange, reelected to the 2nd Ward; Therese Maupin-Moore, reelected to the 1st Ward; and Jim Cary, elected to the 4th Ward. Don Smith, reelected to the 3rd Ward, was absent.

Garage Fire

The Hastings Fire Department was called to a garage fire Saturday morning at 512 Gaskill Road in Carlton Township..

The fire was contained to the garage that was attached to the house.  Inside the garage was a 2008 Chevy Impala. No reported injuries.

Short term solution for Crooked Lake flooding still being sought

In the works for a short term solution to the flooding at Crooked Lake is a plan that would have the Barry County Drain Commission purchase property owned by Daryl Jones on the north side of Delton Road, dig a retention pond area there and pump water from Crooked Lake under the road into the new pond.


“This isn’t new,” Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said, “We’ve been working on it for a couple of months.”


A buy/sell agreement between Jones and the drain commission has been in a 90-day hold while soil tests and title work are being done to determine, “if this will work for us,” Dull said. Soil borings have been done, with the results expected shortly.


“(Engineer) Brian Cenci said it looks promising, and he’ll talk to the DEQ this week about a permit,” Dull said. The hold on the agreement, which ended Friday,  may have to be extended, depending what the DEQ says, but it is possible they can go ahead.


If they can relieve the flooding in the short term, they will work on a long term fix: installing an underground drain tile from the retention pond to gravity feed the water to the Delton Drain on Pine Lake Road. Dull is talking with two property holders about an easement alongside their property for the tile that will send water to the Delton Drain.


The flooding has defied a solution since last spring, causing hardships for lake residents and frustration for county officials. Several ideas were proposed and discarded for various reasons. The County Board of Commissioners approved $500,000 in funding for the emergency in July of last year.



BEDH releases assessment and plan to improve health in tri-county area

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department has announced the release of Healthy! Capital Counties 2018, an assessment and prioritization of community-wide health compiled to encourage collaborative, data-driven decision-making and policies in the tri-counties.


The first component in the report is an assessment of the current state of community health in Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties. The second identifies regional community health priorities found by health and human service organizations and community members from the region after the assessment.


The priorities will guide local community health efforts over the next three years.

 The assessment’s health priorities for 2019-2021 are Behavioral Health, Health Care Access and Quality, Obesity, Financial Stability and Economic Mobility and Chronic Disease.


“The Healthy! Capital Counties project gathers community feedback through a variety of mechanisms to ensure that the process is community-driven,” said Susan Peters, health analyst for the Barry-Eaton District Health Department. “As the project moves forward on addressing the identified health priorities, we will continue to partner with community organizations and stakeholders to improve health for people in Eaton County and the greater tri-county area.”


To access the report, visit





Online undercover operation nabs man suspected of child pornography

An online undercover operation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office in November, 2018 resulted in an undercover officer chatting online with a man who expressed interest in sexual contact with an underage child, according to a sheriff’s media release.


Philip Paauwe, 32, of Grandville, a teacher in the Grand Rapids School District, was identified by investigators as the person they were chatting with.


Paauwe was arrested Jan. 8 after the investigation revealed he was in possession of child pornography. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday charged Paauwe with possession of child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit a crime.


He is being held at the Kent County Correctional Facility on a $5,000 bond.

The investigation is ongoing; persons with information related to the case should contact Detective Joel Siemens at 616-233-0234.


The investigating detective is with the sheriff’s office and assigned to the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force. The Michigan State Police Sixth District Computer Crimes Unit assisted with the investigation.


More aggressive enforcement promised for motorists passing buses with red lights flashing

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office is letting motorists and visitors in the county know the office is now using more aggressive enforcement in ticketing drivers who pass a school bus with flashing red lights activated



“Our bus drivers are frustrated by people passing them when their flashing red lights are on,” Sheriff Dar Leaf said. “It’s a county wide concern; there are also specific areas that will be getting more attention.”


Flashing amber lights on the bus tells motorists to slow down because the red lights will be activated next. Cars approaching or passing a bus on an undivided highway must come to a complete stop at least 20 feet from a bus until the red lights are off, according to state law.

A better safe distance to wait is 50 feet, Leaf said.


Failure to stop for a bus with flashing red lights on an undivided highway will result in a $250 fine. If a motorist hits and injures a child, they could be charged with a moving violation causing injury; if they hit and cause the death of a child, they could be charged with a moving violation in a school bus zone causing death, a 15-year felony.


Equipment being brought to Irving spillway, repairs to wait for the weather (amended)

To passersby, residents and others along the Thornapple River, seeing water levels rising and hearing repairs will soon be made to a spillway is good news after nearly a year of watching it become a thin steam of water after flooding damaged the spillway on McCann Road.


The spillway leading to the hydroelectric plant in Irving Township is almost ready to be repaired. Equipment and materials being brought in this week will be ready to go when tempatures are above freezing and contractors can go to work, hopefully in the next week or so, said Scott Goodwin, owner of Commonwealth Power of California. 


Given good weather, the repairs can be done in about three days, he said. "It looks like we may have a window of oportunity early next week, if the forecasts are right."


When a section of the earthen part of the spillway was breached by the rising river late last February, it gave way, flooding homes in the area.The backwater in front of the Irving Dam drained away, leaving dead grass and weeds and a small stream wending its way to the dam and the spillway.


People stopped to take photos of the shrinking river and some were seen walking with their children up the middle of what was the river a short time before. Traffic of canoes and kayaks at the popular landing spot on the river at McCann Road near the dam dwindled and stopped.


After repairs, the level of the river will rise naturally, Goodwin said. "A good sized storm would make a big difference."

With the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michgan Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permiting and approvals in hand, "We're very grateful to be where we are," Goodwin said.

Goodwin also owns the dam in Middleville and the LaBarge Dam in Caledonia Township.


(left) The area to be repaired is the spillway leading to the Commonwealth Power Company hydroelectric plant on Irving Road.









The Irving Dam, to the left in the photo, didn’t have water to hold back during the summer of 2018.











A photo taken where the river’s edge was in the late winter, shows the river’s size in the summer; it's the dark line on the left of the photo.











Under the roadway are three huge holes that can’t handle all the water in the rising river last February.









The backwater near the Irving Dam is starting to fill in the boat landing area in front of the spillway.

"Handle With Care" is now standard practice in Barry County schools

If any child in Barry County Schools suffers a traumatic event where a policeman, fireman or emergency medical technician is involved, that child’s school will get a “Handle With Care” notice by a secure e-mail the next school day.


All county law enforcement agencies, fire departments and ambulance services are part of the program, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf said. The emergency service involved will send the e-mail to let the school officials know that the child may be upset and to watch for unusual behavior.


“This just opens up another line of communication,” Leaf said. It can be any kind of trauma, a sudden death in the family, a domestic situation with parents getting a divorce, or any other situation involving emergency service units.


The teacher is not told the particulars of an incident and the child isn’t aware they have a “Handle With Care” notice. “This gives teachers a heads up to watch for changes in behavior or a child acting out,” Leaf said.


Delton School Superintendent Kyle Corlett said the notices will go to the principal and counselor in the child’s building, who will notify the teacher of the student.

Delton has had just one notification that was a death in the family.


“We have a counselor in every building; they know our children pretty well; they will determine if a child needs any extra care. I think it depends on the situation,” Corlett said.


The schools has an excellent liaison officer from the sheriff’s office in Deputy Marti Horrmann and Barry Township Police Chief Mark Doster, “pops in from time to time and helps us a lot,” he said.

The five school districts in the county, Hastings, Thornapple Kellogg, Delton Kellogg, Maple Valley and Lakewood all participate.

State police believe there may be more indecent exposures than reported

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Wayland Post are investigating multiple incidents of aggravated indecent exposure. The known incidents occurred in Allegan County and southern Kent County.


The suspect is in custody, but investigators believe there may be additional incidents that have not been reported. In each incident the suspect was in a blue 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer and exposed himself to the victims while he remained in the vehicle.


Anyone with information relevant to the case is asked to contact Trooper Blaine Bachman at 269-509-2106 or the Wayland State Police Post at 269-792-2213



Remote door opener for K9 will increase safety for Allegan County deputy

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office K9 handler will be able to release his K9 remotely with a special door opener thanks to a $1,000 donation from Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K, a sheriff’s media release said.

The sheriff’s office will purchase and install K9 door openers to the remaining K9 cruisers on the car door the dog uses to get in and out of his rear seat kennel and allows the handler to release his partner remotely with the press of a button he will wear.


The quick release will allow his K9 to help him in a situation that arises suddenly when he might otherwise not be able to release the dog. The door opener greatly improves officer safety by 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.


Undersheriff Michael Larsen, Sheriff Frank Baker, Deputy Ben Haas and his K9 partner Medo accepted the check from Carrie Penny from the Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K group.


For more about the Allegan Ugly Sweater 5K, visit their Facebook page or website,

United Bank's "Blanket the Community" drive nets 1,200 new blankets

"Forty percent of Michigan families struggle to afford the basic needs of housing, including energy for heat. There are many in our community who struggle to stay warm.  From young children to senior citizens, the need is real," according to a United Bank news release.

That’s why United Bank held its second blanket drive this year, taking donations of new blankets to distribute in each local bank’s area, Chief Marketing Officer for United Bank Connie Hook said.


United Bank’s 12 branches in five counties all participated.  The collected blankets were delivered to fire departments, veteran’s facilities and homeless shelters that deal with families with children, such as Family Promise in Grand Rapids.


“It’s a real solution for someone in need. In reality, it’s so much more than a blanket. It’s a way to remind our neighbors they are not alone and we care about them. It’s warm hearts making a real difference,” Hook said.


Last year, 550 blankets were donated during the first drive. This year they met their goal of doubling the number, collecting 1,200, she said.

Everyone was excited about the large undertaking. “It was all hands on deck. They all helped; it’s really wonderful the way the communities came together.”


The Gun Lake branch on Patterson Road donated a dozen blankets to the Wayland Yankee Springs Fire Department. “We appreciate the blankets,” Deputy Chief Dan Miller said. “We can bundle them up before the ambulance gets to the scene; we’ll put them in all of our units.”


Donors who preferred to shop online sent the gift of a blanket from Amazon, which sent the blankets to Family Promise, a non-profit that partners with families with children who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, by helping them get back on their feet so they can create a stable lifestyle for their children. Their donations went to several surrounding counties.


United Bank will “absolutely” hold a third drive next year, Hook said.




**Hastings Community Development Department can help, and does

**“Collaboration, imagination, enthusiasm,” that’s Dan King’s three word description of the City of Hastings Community Development program, which he directs.

If you are one of those who has enjoyed an event, benefitted from commercial or residential development, or just about any event or experience in Hastings, you probably realize it takes a lot of people working together hard  to make it look easy.


Behind the scenes, the Community Development office is working with all of those groups to help make projects run smoothly. Collaboration, defined as “working with someone to produce or create something,”  is the key for successful community development, King said.


That brings the three people on the staff into many different areas. King, director for one year this week, collaborates with individuals and groups from the city, county and state level. There are literally too many to name, and if he tried, he would leave someone out, he said.

When an idea is brought forward, from any direction, community development provides liaison, background information and quotes.


The staff goes to city council meetings, seminars and conferences and is always seeking ideas. “The more input you can get, the better,” King said. Some of the best ideas for the city have come from people visiting other communities and bringing ideas back to Hastings. The Spray Plaza idea came from the late David Jasperse who saw one in North Carolina.


Individuals with plans or questions can call community development and will be directed to the place they need go to move ahead with their ideas. “We encourage everyone to use community development as their first contact, King said. We can help you go in the right direction. We find solutions; that’s a big part of our jobs.”


King’s favorite activity is working with commercial developers, with financing and brownfield concerns and more. “It probably comes from my background in banking; I like to see it happen from the ground up.” Right now, he’s working on development of the former Moose property on Michigan Street, the Royal Coach building, a 40-unit housing development on Woodlawn Avenue, and more.


Volunteers and sponsors are critical to their efforts, and strong collaboration ties it all together, King said. “We’re a team, we’re all going in the same direction…the team effort helps the groups present events that draw thousands to the city.”


The groups who bring events to Hastings come back again and again and give generous praise to the city because they are made to feel welcome and by the work of the entire city staff, including community development.


Community Development Specialist Sandra Ponsetto handles public relations, marketing, news releases and grant writing. She also designs and programs the digital welcoming sign at the State Street entrance to the city. On the DDA marketing committee, she says there is constant brainstorming on how to best get the word out, including TV coverage promoting the city, billboards and print media.


Arts Events Coordinator Maiya Merrick is responsible for entertainment and is working on scheduling programs for the summer series of music events at Thornapple Plaza, Spray Plaza, Fridays at the Fountain and Summerfest. She talks to at least 100 contacts a year, setting up performance dates and conditions.


“If I hear about a group, I will reach out to them or they contact me.” She can recommend whatever the entertainers are looking for while in town.

“If they drive four hours, get here at 4 p.m. and won’t leave until 9 p.m., they’re looking for something to eat. I can help with that. They can focus on their show and I can help with any other things they may need.”


Ponsetto and Merrick always welcome ideas too.

“We always return phone calls,” Merrick said. Or, Ponsetto can be reached by e-mail at Merrick is at







Photo: Arts Events Coordinator Maiya Merrick, Community Development Director Dan King and Community Development Specialist Sandra Ponsetto pose for a photo at Hastings City Hall



Michigan specialized juvenile mental health courts now law

87th District State Rep. Julie Calley’s plan to create specialized juvenile mental health courts in Michigan has been signed into law, according to a Calley news release. Calley, of Portland, said Michigan’s current mental health courts successfully help struggling adults overcome their challenges through court-based treatment programs, reducing recidivism across the state.


Her plan expands the opportunity to young people who run into trouble with the law.

“If our local courts have the choice to offer treatment to adults, then our young people deserve the same prospect,” Calley said.


“Juvenile mental health courts will give young people the tools and support they need to grow up to lead healthy, successful lives.”

Michigan’s current procedures for mental health courts were established with the adult court system in mind, Calley said.


The juvenile system uses different terms, involves different entities and expects different results than the adult system. The plan uses the well-established adult mental health court system as a framework, with modifications to address the needs of Michigan juveniles.  


“These programs will focus on teaching troubled kids and their families to address the root cause of their challenges in a productive manner,” Calley said. “Helping and guiding kids through their troubles will give them brighter futures and reduce the chances of them repeating the same mistakes.”


State offers grants to counties for education, outreach on medical marijuana program

The State of Michigan is offering a total of $3 million in grants to counties to educate the communities on the state’s medical marijuana program, Barry County Administrator Michael Brown told commisioners on Wednesday.


The grants, through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) were offered the late last November, giving county leaders little time to write a grant request and submit it before the Jan.1 deadline.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department has written a proposal that meets the requirements of the grant that would be used to conduct education related to the medical marijuana program, Brown said.


Brown called LARA to ask if there could be an extension on the deadline, and was told there would be no extension. To make sure the funds did not lapse and meet the Jan. 1 deadline, he submitted the grant on Dec. 28. He said no action was required Wednesday, “I just wanted to get it out to the board and the public.”


The topic will be on the committee of the whole agenda Jan. 15, with health department officials on hand to answer questions and request formal approval of the grant. The funds would go to education and outreach, but not law enforcement, he said.


The amount of the grants to individual counties depends on the number of medical marijuana cards issued in that county. Barry County is scheduled to get $16,413 (878 total patient cards issued and renewed).The grants range from $589 in Keweenaw County (32 patient cards) to $496,046 to Wayne County (26,535 patient cards).

Former Lakewood Superintendent dies unexpectedly

Mike O’Mara, 62, died unexpectedly at his Lake Odessa home on Dec. 27. O’Mara was superintendent of Lakewood Schools, retiring in 2015.


O’Mara and Paige Brown married in 1979. She survives, as do his children Branden (Kristin) O’Mara, Gabriel (Megan) O’Mara, Wade (Liz) O’Mara, and Hannah O’Mara; mother Ruth O’Mara and grandchildren Grant, Maeve and Brenna O’Mara.


Also surviving are his siblings Patricia (Bob) Ironside, Dennis (Kim) O’Mara, Teresa (Mel) Kelly, Ed (Kristi) O’Mara, Shawn (Kathy) O’Mara and Melissa (Shawn) O’Gorman, many aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins.


O’Mara was an avid hunter an outdoorsman who enjoyed camping and traveling.  He loved athletics and sports, especially the Lakewood Vikings and MSU Spartans. Spending time with his family and friends was the most important part of his life, a Koops Funeral Chapel obituary said.


A lifetime resident and area educator, O'Mara earned a bachelor’s degree from Olivet College and a master’s degree from Michigan State University, according to

Funeral Mass was held Jan. 3 at St. Edwards Catholic Church, with burial at Lakeside Cemetery.


Memorials in his name may be given to the Lakewood Education Foundation, St. Edwards Catholic Church or Lakewood Athletic Association. Online condolences can be left at


Ionia County homeowner shoots, kills intruder. Drugs and alcohol may be factor in unusual case

On New Year’s Day, Justin Eddy, 40, of Lansing, forced his way into a home on East Musgrove Highway in Ionia County, claiming to startled homeowners that he was being chased by someone who was trying to kill him, according to an Ionia County Sheriff’s Office news release.


The homeowner armed himself and went outside with Eddy, but couldn’t find anyone or any evidence that anyone had been chasing Eddy. When they went back into the house, Eddy began acting erratically, grew angry and assaulted the homeowner, the release said.


The homeowner shot Eddy, killing him, before Ionia County Sheriff’s Deputies made contact with the people at the house. Evidence from the scene was collected, will be processed and submitted to the Ionia County Prosecutor’s Office for review.


The homeowner has not been arrested, pending prosecutor review, and is cooperating with law enforcement. There is no known connection between Eddy and the homeowners, and it is unknown why he chose that home to enter, although drugs and alcohol are suspected factors in the case, police said. //


The exact cause of what led up to this entire sequence of events is currently under investigation, and further details may be released later.  Anyone with additional information is urged to contact the sheriff’s office Detective Bureau at 616-527-5737.


The sheriff’s office was assisted at the scene by the Michigan State Police, Sunfield Fire Department, Portland Ambulance, Sparrow Medical Examiner’s Office, Lehman Funeral Homes, Ionia County Central Dispatch and Reed/Hoppes Towing.









Justin Eddy

Women hold both chair, vice chair seats on Barry County Commission

The Barry County Commission’s organizational meeting was held Wednesday, Jan. 2. The panel first elected a chair and vice chair, then unanimously approved its board rules, the chair’s committee appointments and the 2019 meeting schedule.


Clerk Pam Palmer presided over the meeting until the new chair was elected, handling nominations and the voting. The chair’s seat is by secret ballot, the vice chair is not.

Commissioner Heather Wing was selected chair and Commissioner Vivian Conner was given the vice chair’s seat.


For chair, Commissioner David Jackson nominated current chair Ben Geiger, Commissioner Dan Parker seconded it. Commissioner Jon Smelker nominated Wing, Conner seconded. The vote was 4-3 giving Wing the chairperson’s gavel for one year.


For vice chair, Geiger nominated current Vice Chair Jackson, Parker seconded.

Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson nominated Conner, Smelker seconded. The vote was 5-2, with Parker, Smelker, Conner, Gibson and Jackson voting for Conner, Geiger and Wing voting for Jackson.


“This is going to be a very cordial transition,”Geiger said. “Anything I can do to help Heather succeed, I will do.


“I’m happy to hear that,” Wing said.  “I’m going to need a great deal of help from Ben. He’s privy to a lot of things that I’m not, so I’m going to need his expertise.”


Later, Geiger, the only commissioner to serve a two-year term, added: “Barry County Commissioners have worked tremendously well together over the past two years. That’s because we’ve focused less on scoring political points and more on getting results for taxpayers. Heather Wing was instrumental to that success. Now as chairperson, she’ll lead us into a bright future. I am 100 percent committed to helping her, our board and our county succeeds in the days ahead.” //


There were no amendments to the board’s rules and no comment before approval.

On committee assignments, Wing said: “I’m happy with the present assignments,” adding she was not opposed to some shuffling of coverage, if a commissioners wants to trade with another.


A motion by Conner to add a Dec. 23 meeting to the 2019 schedule of meetings to handle any late in the month items failed for lack of a second. December meetings will be on Dec. 10 and on Dec. 17 to avoid the Christmas Eve holiday.



Photos (upper left) Incoming chair of the Barry County Commission Heather Wing accepts the gavel from the outgoing chair, Commissioner Ben Geiger.


(upper right) Barry County Commissioner/Chair Heather Wing takes the chair’s seat for the first time Wednesday. She replaces Commissioner Ben Geiger, the only commissioner to serve a two-year term as chair.



Welcome Reese Michael Pratt; first baby born in Barry County in 2019

The newest member to be welcomed to Barry County in 2019 is 8 lb. 15 oz. Reese Michael Pratt, son of Leslie and Keith Pratt of  Lake Odessa. Reese made his debut at 1:59 p.m. New Year’s Day at Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital’s  Birthing Center.



The second child of the Pratts, Reese has an older sister, Sylvia, 22 months. She understands babies and is warming up to Reese nicely, mom said.

Dad became a stay- at-home dad when Sylvia was born, and continued to work.


Now, with the addition, he will devote all of his time to taking care of two very small children. Mom will be on six to eight weeks leave from her job at Karl’s Market in Lake Odessa. “I’ll need a little help at night at first,” Keith said. Pretty typical of parents who go from one to two little ones, but he’ll do fine. “He’s pretty good at it,” Leslie said.


They are both excited about having a both boy and a girl in their family. “One of each, the best of both worlds,” Leslie said. Reese’s due date was Jan. 1. Her doctor told the couple that being born on the predicted date happens only five percent of the time. They had talked about the baby possibly being the first of the year.


“He’s a happy New Year’s Day present,” dad said.

Photos; (upper left) Leslie Pratt holds new son Reese close one day after his New Year’s Day birth.



(left) Leslie and Keith Pratt pose with their 24-hour-old son Reese.  He gained weight overnight and eats every two hours.



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