Local News Archives for 2019-04

Hastings Schools millage vote is Tuesday, May 7th

Hastings Area School System leaders are asking district voters to approve .7 mills to raise $9.9 million in the May 7 election that will be paid off in 12 years. A previous .4 millage will be paid off in 2020; approval of the proposal will mean taxpayers will have a .3 mill increase in taxes.


The maximum number of years the bond may be outstanding is 12 years.


Superintendent Carrie Duits provided a list of the millage rate during the life of the bonds, if approved:


2019--0.76 mills

2020--0.76 mills

2021--0.76 mills

2022--0.76 mills

2023--0.746 mills

2024--0.724 mills

2025--0.703 mills

2026--0.643 mills

2027--0.625 mills

2028--0.606 mills

2029--0.589 mills

2030--0.558 mills



A brief listing of projects planned for improvements in all district schools buildings includes:


*At the High School, partial roof replacement, bathroom interior doors, locker and cafeteria service improvements.


*At the Middle School, partial roof replacement, bathrooms and locker room improvements.


*At Central Elementary, partial roof replacement, flooring, windows and interior door improvements.


*At Northeastern Elementary, roof replacement, flooring, windows and interior door improvements.


*At Southeastern Elementary, roof replacement, flooring, windows and interior door improvements.


*At Star School, partial roof replacement and flooring improvements.


In May, 2015 school district voters rejected a $55 million millage request, but approved a trimmed down request for $44.5 million in November that year for improvements in several areas to every school building, to demolish and replace a deteriorating a part of the middle school and build a performing arts center.


The money raised from bonds can be used only on capital projects listed on the proposal and not for day to day operating expenses such as day to day maintenance, repair, teacher’s salary and so on.


Clean up for Yankee Springs state game, rec areas set for Saturday

You are invited to meet other volunteers at the Yankee Springs Township Fire Station at the corner of M-179 and Payne Lake Road this Saturday, May 4 at 9 a.m. to take part in a trash pickup in the Barry State Game Area and the Yankee Springs Recreation Area in the township.


Supervisor Mark Englerth, who has organized the clean-up for several years, suggested helpers wear sturdy shoes, gloves, long pants and long-sleeved shirts and bring garbage bags for the effort.

Englerth is working with officials of the game and rec areas on the task of removing trash from the areas. Members of the “Dauntless Jeepers” are volunteering again this year.


Questions?  Call Englerth at 269-838-1289.


Middleville DDA welcomes new director

The Middleville Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has announced that Nichole Lyke will be its new director, effective May 13.


“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Nichole coming on board with the DDA,” said Ann Ulberg, DDA Board of Directors chair. “Her experience, skills and ability will be a great fit with the organization and our goals for the future.”


Lyke, essentially a lifelong Barry County resident, has worked for the Barry County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Alliance (BCCCEDA) for the last seven years, beginning as an intern in 2012.


“In the three years I’ve been with the Chamber and EDA, Nichole has continually grown in her skills, experience and ownership of her expanding role in our organization,” said BCCCEDA President Travis Alden. “I’ve highly valued her insight, work ethic and creativity. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with her. Luckily, she’ll still be able to be a part of Barry County’s prosperity as one of our partners in Middleville!”


 “There’s an incredible amount of potential in our downtown, just like Nichole has incredible potential as a community development leader,” Village Manager Duane Weeks, said. “I’m excited to work with her in her new role in taking our downtown to the next level of prosperity.”


“A strong organization grows leaders, and I’m very proud that Nichole’s time with the BCCCEDA has helped her develop the skills and experience to take her career to the next level,” said Don Haney, chair of the Barry County Economic Development Alliance Board. “The future is certainly bright for downtown Middleville.”


  “Between the incubator space where Left Field Café opened, the planned riverfront improvements and the significant investment happening downtown, the momentum is huge,” Lyke said. “My experience working with diverse groups of stakeholders across Barry County will be a great asset as we move downtown Middleville forward.”//


 “There truly are not words to describe my gratitude and appreciation to the Chamber/EDA organization, my co-workers and boards,” she said.  “I am looking forward to bringing my skills, drive, and experience to the Director’s position for the Middleville DDA, and am so thankful for the opportunity that has been provided to me during my time at the Chamber. I plan to still be involved with the organization as much as I can.”


Lyke attended TK schools for part of her childhood before moving to Hastings and has worked closely with numerous local businesses with recent initiatives such as the Barry County Business Team Collaborative and coordinating the county-wide Small Business Saturday passport program last fall. She’s also a member of the Middleville Rotary Club.


With a strong presence of promotional events and initiatives the last few years, the DDA is looking to increase its positive impact on the community with enhanced relationships, communication, and hands-on development projects. Broad-based support will be key in the success of these initiatives.


The Lofts of Middleville – a mixed-use development about to begin across the street from Village Hall – as well as strong developer interest in additional sites and buildings in the community – point to strong potential for significant additional investment in the community’s commercial districts.


Middleville is one of the smallest communities in the state to be Redevelopment-Ready Certified, which streamlines development processes and enhances support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.



Michigan State University Extension programs vital to Barry County community

Erin Moore, Director of Michigan State University Extension District 7, gave the 2018 annual report to Barry County Commissioners last week, outlining the many programs the extension offers to county residents.


Moore said a new health initiative, a MSU Extension Tasting Garden, raises awareness about how to grow healthy fruits and vegetables and eat healthy. Piloted in 2018, the project features four raised gardens next to the MSU office where community members watch the growing process of vegetables and can “pick and taste.”


Overall, the project can be a model for continued awareness about where our food comes from and healthy eating, Moore said.

The statistics and the highlights of MSU Extension programs that Moore provided show its value to the county.


“Through successful partnership and collaboration with Barry County, MSU Extension is able to continue its local presence and to provide vital educational resources and programming in such area as community and economic development, agriculture, land use, health and nutrition and youth development,” Moore said. //


By the numbers:


*$12,253,236 total impact on Barry County


*1,1776 youth participated in 4-H and youth development programs


*544 adults and youth benefited from health and nutrition programs


*MSU Extension website received 6,754 visits form county residents, 75 percent first time visitors


*Barry County students received $2,831,161 in financial aid from MSU.


Snapshots of MSU Programs

Farm Management:

MSU’s Farm Business Educator focuses on farm management with an emphasis on farm business analysis, business transition, income tax education, economics of technologies and return on investment.


Consumer Horticulture:

Though statewide initiatives, Consumer Horticulture’s team of experts maximize impact and deliver science-based gardening practice and provide gardeners accessibility to all of the Extension resources.


Spartan Barley:

At a Kellogg Biological Center conference the topic covered the return of Spartan barley in Michigan, brought back to life in 2016, and its comeback in the Michigan Brewery Industry. 30 Barry County residents attended.


Mental Health Awareness:

MSU Extension has a team of educators and staff dedicated to raising awareness of mental health illnesses, reducing stigma surrounding them and providing resources through evidence-based research.


MSU Water Programs:

Barry/Eaton county representation on the Michigan Water School Statewide Advisory Council works to identify, statewide and/or emerging water issues, advise its future direction, program content and where the program is needed, evaluate feedback and advocate for the program.


Healthy Eating Habits:

MSU understands the importance of creating healthy eating habits early on; one way is making sure that children are exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables.


Barry County Fair:

Nearly 900 4-H youth take part in the Barry County Fair through 45 different clubs supported by 250 adult and 70 youth volunteers. The livestock auction in 2018 generated nearly $800,000 in sales.


Ag Awareness Day:

More than 500 Thornapple Kellogg third graders spent Ag Awareness Day at the Expo Center learning about agriculture, aided by 25 4-H teen leaders bringing in their animals for presentations to the students.


Just Nature “Spin” Club:

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute and Barry County 4-H created a SPIN Club called Just Nature, where  youth learn by doing as they build, create, explore, make, discover, test, plan estimate, experiment, experience, measure, draw and more.



Culinary Arts:

MSU staff offered the Garden Row to Café table culinary arts program to 12 youth in eight learning sessions; harvesting and using vegetables grown in the culinary garden and learning about food safety, cross contamination and kitchen etiquette.


4-H Team Leadership:

Through structured 4-H projects, teen leaders gain a variety of skills to help them become successful in communication, teamwork and organization.


Science Night:

During Science Night at the Hastings Public Library, 134 youth and 91 adults learned about the life cycle of the bean seed. Participants also learned about science and how to get involved with 4-H.


 Contact MSU Extension at 269-945-1388 or by e-mail at or; on Facebook:  Michigan State University Extension or Twitter: @MSUExtension.



Hastings to find alternate to chalking tires for overtime parking violations

This week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled tire chalking unconstitutional, according to a National Public Radio report. In tire chalking, a city employee puts a chalk mark on a car’s tire and checks later to see if it has been parked longer than the posted time limit,


The judges said the practice violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling reverses an earlier U.S. District Court decision, the report said.

The lawsuit was brought against the city of Saginaw, but the ruling affects cities not only in Michigan, but Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.


The ruling affects Hastings, Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.

 “The practical effect is that we will be unable to enforce parking regulations as we had previously done. We will be determining the best way to move forward after the court ruling. Parking regulations will continue to be enforced,” he said.

The chalking method was adopted in Hastings after removal of parking meters and designed to discourage downtown employees and others from parking long term in prime spots in the downtown. Those using the court system, contractors working downtown and so on should use all- day parking lots, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


A parking overtime violation brings a complimentary free pass for the first offense, then fines.

“If the same vehicle continues to accumulate tickets for repeat offenses the fines go up quite rapidly.  This was to address people who were willing to continually pay a $5 fine simply as a cost of parking downtown,” Mansfield said.


Since the city went to the prorated fee schedule, progressively higher fees for repeat offenders, revenues from parking fines have decreased significantly. “By the way, if the offender does not have a repeat offense for a period of time, the fee ratchets back down,” he added.


From the perspective of the city, being in the parking enforcement business is expensive, costs considerably more to enforce parking time limits than they make in revenue from fines and a loser from a public relations perspective, he said.


Asked about a possible return of parking meters, Mansfield said that they hadn’t seriously looked at that.

“I have to think it would be very expensive to purchase new meters with today’s devices and we still have enforcement to deal with.  I do think that we have ways to enforce the current regulations without chalking tires.  I will defer to the chief on that.”


New Hastings superintendent picks Hastings over Ravenna

The Hastings Area School System’s Board of Education has announced that Daniel Remenap was selected as the new superintendent for the district, effective July 1, according to the school’s Facebook page. Remenap has verbally accepted the position; he and Luke Haywood, board of education president, have entered contract negotiations.


Remenap was also selected as the new superintendent of Ravenna Public Schools, he declined the offer in a letter to the Ravenna Board of Education Thursday morning.


High school principal at Allendale Public Schools, Remenap was selected over finalists Steve Wilson, superintendent of Constantine Public Schools and Jonathan Whan, superintendent of Grant Public Schools. He will replace retiring Superintendent Carrie Duits. 


Photo: Daniel Remenap, new Hastings Schools superintendent effective July 1.

Hastings spring cleanup is complete;composting area open

With the Hastings Department of Public Services spring cleanup complete, residents are reminded   that they have access to the city compost area on West State Road.. The code to open the gate  can be obtained from City Hall at 945-2468 during normal business hours.

The compost area is open for deposits every day from 7 a.m. to  7 p.m.


Hastings spring cleanup resumes Friday

On Friday, the Hastings Department of Public Services will be on North Church Street and moving west across North Broadway to Taffee Drive. Remember, the crew is done with spring cleanup south of the Thornapple River..

Hastings to follow Eaton Rapids ordinance to address vaping in the city

After hearing disturbing information about the use of vaping by very young teens, the Hastings City Council will develop an ordinance to control its use by the city’s young people.


Police Chief Jeff Pratt and City Attorney Stephanie Fekkes will use an Eaton Rapids ordinance on vaping as a model and bring a draft to the council for consideration at its next meeting.

“The ordinance prohibits possession and/or use of a vaping device for anyone under the age of 18,” Pratt said.


Liz Lenz, coordinator of Barry County Substance Task Force, along with officials from the Barry Eaton District Health Department, Community Mental Health, Hastings Area School System and Pratt spoke to the council Monday.


Their major observations were:

*Vaping has doubled in teen users in two years, probably a low estimate

*Two bags full of various vaping products were confiscated in Hastings schools this school year

*one vaping cartridge can contain the amount of nicotine in 20 cigarettes and interferes with brain development.

*thirty eight Hastings school students were caught vaping this year; the majority were 6th graders

*parents reactions when their child is caught vaping varies from shock, disbelief, to “I buy it for them.”

*schools need help from the council to find alternatives to suspension for vaping

*employers of teens find vaping by the majority of their young employees


Lenz asked the council to develop an ordinance to, “send a message to the community…data doesn’t lie and we need to pay attention to it.”


Vaping: An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that simulates the experience of smoking a cigarette by heating a liquid which generates an aerosol, or "vapor"  inhaled by the user. It is commonly called vaping.


Among youth, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. In 2015, the U.S. surgeon general reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900 percent, and 40 percent of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco, according to a report by Michael Blaha, M.D. director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.


Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive, causing a craving to smoke and causing withdrawal symptoms if the craving is ignored. Nicotine also raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline, increasing the heart rate, the report said.


The report said e-cigarettes may be particularly enticing to teens because many believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking, cost less than traditional cigarettes and have flavors that appeal to younger user like apple pie and watermelon.

With the lack of smoke and no smell, e-cigarettes reduce the stigma of smoking.



Eaton County Central Dispatch Receives Trailblazer award for adopting technology

Eaton County 911 was recognized as a ‘trailblazer’ for using the latest technology to enhance public safety.  Eaton County received the Trailblazer Award from Rave Mobile Safety.

The award was “in recognition of their leadership in public safety collaboration and advancing lifesaving technologies for improving community safety,” according to Todd Piett, CEO of Rave Mobile Safety.


“As one of the first Rave 911 Suite customers in Michigan, they have gone above and beyond to demonstrate the value of the Rave 911 Suite platform.” Eaton County 911 has successfully implemented and deployed the Rave 911 Suite, Smart911 App, Rave Prepare, Rave Alert and Rave Panic Button.

The Rave Panic Button has been adopted in Eaton County schools and has been successfully used to keep staff aware of security concerns, while also contacting 911.


Smart911 has been used to get help to residents in emergency situations by providing first responders with life-saving information before they arrive.  Rave Alert is actively used to send emergency messages to residents and visitors of Eaton County through an opt-in process and through the Smart911 App. 


“This has been a team effort.  The public safety telecommunicators here have done a remarkable job learning and utilizing technology to its fullest potential in order to save lives, 911 Director Michael Armitage said. “This technology also has improved our collaboration and communication with many sectors of the community, especially with school districts, which is vital in preparing for an emergency.”


The award was presented at the annual customer training and user conference called “Rave Summit” in Orlando, Florida in early April.


April 27 – May 4 Is National Infant Immunization Week

National Infant Immunization Week, April 27- May 4, annually highlights the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities in the United States and the critical role vaccination plays in protecting the health of our children, families, and communities, according to a news release from the Barry Eaton District Health Department.


Infants in the United States are protected against 14 preventable diseases such as polio, measles, and chickenpox when fully immunized. Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents may not have heard of some of today’s vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent.


These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. That’s why it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they encounter potentially life-threatening diseases.


The inability to pay should never prevent a parent from vaccinating their child. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program allows parents to vaccinate their child without worrying about the ability to pay for these services.


A child may qualify for free vaccines through the VFC program if they are on Medicaid, have no insurance, or are underinsured. The VFC program has helped increase childhood immunization coverage levels, making a significant contribution to the elimination of disparities in vaccination coverage among young children.


The VFC program is offered at the health department and at many doctors’ offices in both Barry and Eaton County. If parents have questions or would like to schedule an appointment for their child, they can call the health department immunization clinic at 269-798-4133 in Barry County or 517-541-2630 in Eaton County.


It is the responsibility of parents, physicians, and public health providers to make sure that all children are up to date on vaccinations. Parents should talk with their child’s health care provider to ensure that their child is up-to-date on vaccinations.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the course of a lifetime, vaccination will prevent an estimated 419 million illnesses, 26.8 million hospitalizations, and 936,000 deaths among children born during 1994-2018.

More information on vaccinations can be found at


Barry County Animal Shelter volunteer logs 689 hours in 2018

Tuesday, when several Barry County employees were awarded Certificates of Appreciation

by Barry County Commissioners for their work at the county, Animal Shelter Director Ken Kirsch made an appreciation award of his own.


He introduced volunteer Barbara Scott, “who makes every day better that she is at the shelter.” Scott has volunteered since 2015, comes in every day, morning and afternoon, transports animals to and from the vet’s for treatment, keeps records of medications and instructions, attends special events like Trap, Neuter and Release days, Empty the Shelter days, adoption events and parades.


She is in charge of the shelter volunteers for the Barry Roubaix bicycle race in the spring and also during the Founders Fall Fondo. Scott has come to the shelter every single holiday since 2015, when the shelter is closed, to care for the cats and dogs, Kirsch said.


He nominated her for Volunteer of the Year at the recent volunteer awards ceremony by the Barry County United Way. She didn’t win that, but took home the “Whole Lot of Impact Award.'.

“She said she likes the work because no two days are alike…the duties in the a.m. are often different than the duties in the p.m.  She’s always there and willing to help.”


Turning to her, he said: “It is my pleasure to work with you...thank you for your support of the shelter.”  Scott volunteered 689 hours in 2018.

Scott thanked the commission for its support of the shelter. “I really appreciate the opportunity to volunteer at the shelter. It means a lot to me.”

Kirsch said later that Scott was “really surprised” because she had no idea he was going to do it.

Farmland, open space preservation program approved by Barry County Commission

The Barry County Farmland Preservation Ordinance, as amended, is meant to preserve agricultural lands by an easement; owners selling the developmental rights to their farm land in exchange for insuring the land would be used only for agriculture in perpetuity.


The Barry County Open Space Preservation Ordinance, as amended, is meant to protect open space land by the same type of easements, to preserve the rural character and scenic attributes of the county and its environmental benefits in perpetuity.


The Barry County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved the amendments in both programs by a 5-2 vote with Commissioners Vivian Conner and Jon Smelker voting “no.” Commissioners Ben Geiger, David Jackson, Dan Parker, Heather Wing and Howard “Hoot” Gibson voted “yes.”

In an earlier meeting, Conner said the seven member board is too heavily weighted with those with agriculture interests, and Smelker wouldn’t support it because the commissioner serving on the board does not have a vote.


Questions unanswered are an estimated cost to the county of the program, because it is not known how many county farms or open spaces would qualify and also where the county would find the funding.


In the voluntary program, state certified assessors determine the value of agricultural property when used for agricultural and the value of the property if sold for development. Property owners are paid the difference between the values and guarantee that the land would remain in agriculture forever, Stacy Byers, consultant with Sheridan Land Consulting said in a special commission meeting on the subject on April 11.


Applicants for easements are scored and ranked by points with several criteria, with the top-scoring land owners given appraisals, insuring the best agriculture land is preserved. The owner keeps all personal property rights and can sell the land, but it would always have to stay in agriculture, she said.


Various land preservation plans have been around since the 1970s,  and accelerated with a development surge of the 1980s and 1990s. The major stumbling block for the present plan is the lack of funds to pay for the development rights. Byers said there are several possibilities to obtain funding for easements; the federal and state government, townships, landowners and the county.


The open space ordinance mirrors the farm preservation component, with more emphasis on the environment, and is run by the same board. There is working and non-working land; any not working, not producing a product, is open space.  “It needs to have environmental value. It has to warrant an easement,” Byers said.


The name of the board is also changed from the Agriculture Promotion Board to the Barry County Conservation Easement Board.


Barry County employees receive recognition and kudos for their work

Ten Barry County employees were recognized Tuesday by the Barry County Commission for their attitudes and work for the county.  They have seniority from five to 25 years and several personality traits came up over and over during the presentations.


The honorees are April Staines, deputy register in the Barry County Register of Deeds Office; Amanda Miller, deputy clerk with the Barry County Courts; Bill Voigt, director of Barry County Transit; Aaron Staines, IT Department network administrator and Corrections Officers Eric Vanvalkenburg, Thomas Steensma, Melinda Backus and Deputy Don Wilgus and Det. Sgt. Janette Maki, all with the Barry County Sheriff’s Office and Mary Hermenitte, office manager at the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office.


Presenting the awards, the employees were said to be positive, reliable, dedicated, professional, kind, patient, willing to help co-workers, willing to learn and knowledgeable team players witha  good sense of humor.


The commission also made decisions on several other matters.

In the consent agenda, the commissioners agreed to:

*appoint Kerri Selleck to a three-year term on the Community Mental Authority.

*appoint John LaForge to a three-year term on the Planning Commission.

*apply for FEMA Hazard Mitigation funds to update the expired county mitigation plan and issue requests for proposals.

*reassign a 2010 Ford Edge to the Planning Commission; sell a 2008 Dodge Charger to the highest bidder by sealed bid and sell a 2001 Chevy Astro for scrap.

*renew an agreement with MEI for an antenna on the radio tower at the sheriff’s office for three years for $24,500 annually.

*replace the part-time Property Records Clerk position in the Equalization Department  with a new full time Property Appraiser at Grade 6 on the pay scale and promote Ingrid Pagano to the position on April 29. Estimated salary and benefits is $57,831, an increase of $27,887 more than the salary and benefits of the Property Records Clerk.

*replace the GIS Technician/Residential Property Appraiser position with new IT Helpdesk/GIS Technician at grade 8 on the pay scale. Maximum needed for the remainder of 2019 for the position is $14,500. The estimated 2020 salary/benefits is $79,285 which may be less depending on health insurance cost, $4,316 more than the estimated salary and benefits of Grade 7.

*spend $25,000 from the Capital Improvement budget for heating/AC at the Animal Shelter Training Barn and to make necessary improvements to the interior of the barn.


Also, under items for consideration, the commission:

*authorized Fidelity Insurance coverage to Barry County Road Commissioners through its self-insurance pool.

*accepted and approved 2019 Barry County equalization values on state form L-4024.

*approved a 2918 Homeland Security grant program funding agreement between Barry and Van Buren County.

*approved spending $24,137 to replace a heating unit for the animal shelter kennels with funds from the building rehabilitation fund.

*approved Julie Jones application to purchase seven months of generic service with Municipal Employees Retirement System.

*postponed a decision for six weeks on filling vacant positions on the Commission on Aging Board. The committee of the whole last week recommended appointing Gerald Schmiedicke and Catherine Gramze to two of the three open seats. Commissioner Ben Geiger proposed the delay, saying he hopes to attract more applicants by re-advertising the positions.


Photo: Barry County employees recognized for their work for the county are (left to right) Bill Voigt, director of Barry County Transit, Mary Hermenitte, office manager in the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office, Amanda Miller, deputy clerk in the Barry County Courts, April Staines, deputy register in the Register of Deeds Office and Aaron Staines, IT Department  network administrator. 

Vanvalkenburg, Steensma, Wilgus, Backus and Maki were not available for the photo.

Hastings Council clears the way for Spectrum Health Pennock to move forward on new surgery center

The Hasting City Council Monday approved an easement on a strip of city land requested by Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital where they will build a new $12 million surgery/endoscopy center and a license for the use of 75 of the 200 parking spaces in Fish Hatchery Park for its staff.


Liability questions and Michigan Department of Natural Resources approval will be satisfied as part of the agreement. City Manager Jeff Mansfield credited Spectrum Health and specifically Emily Green for her work in “capturing the concepts we talked about,” in the agreements.


Alan Kranzo, director of Real Estate and Facility Strategy at Spectrum, said the approvals, “will allow us to get started on the parking lot.” Spectrum will pay the city’s costs associated with the agreements, including attorney fees, he said.


Securing the easement of a 30-foot strip of city property at the site will help keep costs down, saving money he said. During early planning, it was discovered that the hospital’s west visitor’s parking lot encroached on city property. Spectrum wanted to make the space two lanes to allow families to drive around to the back of the new center and park.  


Spectrum has agreed to resurface the entire parking lot, make a number of improvements to the asphalt, lighting and pathways and maintain it.  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.


The new surgical center will include three operating rooms, 15 private patient rooms, five recovery bays and two endoscopy suites.


Also Monday, Hastings Cable Access Committee Chairman Randall Schaefer returned to the council with an amended request of the committee’s planned improvements he had asked for at the last council meeting.


The council approved his request for council room microphone replacement and studio room cleanup for this fiscal year. The committee has $25,500 available to pay for the two most urgent projects that will cost $20,119.18.

Schaefer was authorized to issue a purchase order for AVI to proceed with the work. Replacing the whiteboard with two television monitors will be in a future budget, “hopefully next year,” Schaefer said.


In other business, the council approved a YMCA request to use the sand volleyball courts at Tyden Park and near the Skate Park; Hope Network’s plan to close part of some streets for an Open House May 30; and for American Legion Post 45 to hold the annual Memorial Day Parade.


A public hearing was held on the necessity of setting a special assessment district in the downtown to pay for part of the upkeep of the city parking lots. Because of a timing issue with publication of the hearing, the council set another public hearing for May 13. They also set a public hearing for May 13 to hear public comment on the draft budget for 2019/2020.


A workshop is already scheduled for April 29 for council members to discuss the draft project plan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant with Dennis Benoit of HRC.

Fire risk expected to be high in Lower Peninsula this week

Dry, windy spring weather has put much of the Lower Peninsula at high risk for wildfires, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


Areas of highest concern are southwest Michigan to the top of the northern Lower Peninsula. Fire danger also is elevated from southeast Michigan to the top of the Thumb. Some precipitation set to move in this evening is expected to help with the dry conditions.


The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for the northern Lower Peninsula as well as southwest Michigan, said Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist. The warnings are in effect until 8 p.m. today. “Conditions will be very conducive for fires to build quickly and rapidly, especially with the high winds that are predicted,” Rogers said. "Grass can be dry enough to ignite even if it looks green."


Everyone in the affected area should take extra precautions to prevent accidental fires. Wait to burn yard debris and wait to use all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery until later in the evening. In very dry conditions, heat from even a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an ATV can ignite dry grass.


A trailer chain dragging on pavement also can create sparks. To find out if it’s safe to burn, get a free burn permit online at or contact your local municipality. So far this year, DNR fire staffers have fought 46 fires that burned nearly 360 acres in the state.

Barry County Sheriff's Detective Sergeant recognized for her strong advocacy for children

Barry County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant Janette Maki was recognized for her strong advocating for children by Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Allegan on April 13.


Maki was presented the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year by the organization that provides a lifeline to victims of child abuse and neglect and helps kids just be kids. Lori Antkoviac, executive director of the center, presented the award to Maki at the 2019 Lifeline Event, an annual fundraiser.

“I was pleased and humbled to receive the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year award from Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center,” Maki said. “I have long admired and respected the namesake of this award, Trooper Ray Hoffmann, and it is my honor to accept it.

“I offer a special thank you to the Safe Harbor Advisory Committee for selecting me and of course, I want to thank Sheriff Leaf and all of the Barry County Sheriff’s Office for their continued support.  

“We are very fortunate to have Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in our community and I urge everyone to continue to support them as we work together to bring support and healing to victims of child abuse.


“Congratulations go to Detective Sergeant Janette Maki for getting recognition of her hard work,” Sheriff Dar Leaf said.

The award is named for Michigan State Trooper Ray Hoffman who, until his death in September of 2017, was a fierce advocate for abused and neglected children during his 24-year MSP career.


Aided by the Allegan County’s Safe Harbor’s leaders, a Barry County Safe Harbor was established in 2013 by community leaders. This is the second award for the sheriff’s office in consecutive years.



Photo: Safe Harbor Advocacy Center Executive Director Lori Antkoviac, left, presents Barry County Sheriff‘s Sergeant Janette Maki with the Ray Hoffman Child Advocate of the Year Award.


Eaton County Central Dispatch telecommunicators recognized for their dedication

In 1991, the United States Congress designated the second week in April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. “This is a week for us to take special note of the life-saving work done every day by public safety telecommunicators,” Eaton County 911 Director Michael Armitage said.


“We have tried to make this week extra special for them as they do a very stressful and often thankless job.  I appreciate our local public safety agencies, local organizations, businesses, and individuals who have taken the time to tell them ‘thank you’ this week.”


Eaton County Central Dispatch serves as the primary point for dispatching police, fire, and EMS responses. Telecommunicators also provide medical pre-arrival instructions; activate weather alerts, towing services, hospitals, road commission, utility, and public works department notifications; handle call-outs for specialized response teams such as search and rescue, activating medical examiners, and hazmat response teams, Armitage said,


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


Quick Facts about 911 in Eaton County:

•  26 public safety agencies served.

•  138,260 calls were answered in 2018 and 55 text sessions to 911.

•  72,965 Police Incidents, 15,177 EMS Incidents, and 6,563 Fire Incidents were dispatched in 2018.

•  In becoming a telecommunicator, individuals first participate in 80 hours of basic and advanced dispatch training within their first 24 months of employment.

•  Eaton County 911 telecommunicators maintain continuing education requirements by participating in approved courses and accumulating at least 24 continuing education hours every 24 months.

•  Eaton County offers Smart911 at no charge- visit to learn more and sign-up.


Eaton County dispatchers were to be honored April 19th at the Michigan State Capital building by Representatives  Sarah Lightner, Angela Whitwer, and Senator Tom Barrett.


Barry Conservation District expands its Tree and Habitat Sale

The Barry Conservation District annual tree sale is well known, but this year’s tree sale is so much more. Participation by several partners makes the District’s native tree seedlings, forestry advice and equipment display just the start of what is available at Charlton Park on April 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon.


Here’s a rundown:

*The Natural Resource Conservation Service--invasive species management information and advice.


*Marsh ‘N Meadow Outdoors, LLC--contract services, habitat advice.


*Pheasants Forever--native grass and wildflower seeds, grassland restoration advice.


*Pierce Cedar Creek Institute—native plant sale orders and advice


*Quality Deer Management Association—food plots, wildlife habitat advice.

Plus, attendants get a free custom soil map of their property and free habitat advice from the experts.


While at the event, consider registering for Family FUNgus Day at Jijak Camp in Hopkins May 5 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to Make and Take a mushroom-growing log. Register with Ben at the BCD by April 28 at 269-908-4134

All 30 Michigan State Police Posts to serve as medication disposal sites Saturday

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is asking residents to dispose of expired, unused and unwanted pills during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, one of two annual events held in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies.


All 30 MSP posts will participate in the one-day ‘Take-Back’ effort from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, by serving as drop-off points. All collected pills will be destroyed, with no questions asked.


Liquids, inhalers, patches and syringes cannot be accepted.


“Taking a few minutes to go through your home and discard these medications is something small that can have a huge impact,” said Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. “The devastation caused by opioid and prescription drug abuse, accidental poisonings and overdoses is real. We urge you to do all you can to help us fight this crisis.”


The State of Michigan is using every available tool to combat the opioid epidemic. The collaborative efforts of state agencies amplify Michigan’s efforts related to prevention and treatment of patients, education of health professionals and enforcement of over-prescribers.


Efforts include:

* A one-stop shop website ( with all helpful information and resources on the epidemic.

* Providing online resources for patients, health professionals and communities about prevention and treatment of opioid abuse;

* The Michigan Automated Prescription System provides real-time prescription data and resources to better assess a patient’s risk for substance use disorder;

* Assistance with proper drug disposal of unwanted medications;

* Michigan State Police posts serving as drug-take back sites and providing the Angel Program for individuals struggling with addiction.

* For more information about opioids and the additional steps residents can take to protect themselves and loved ones, visit

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is held twice a year, in April and October. During the October 2018 effort, MSP posts collected nearly 950 pounds of prescription drugs.


Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. Further, disposing of unused medicines by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can pose safety and health hazards.

MSP collection sites can be found here.


Additional collection sites across the state can be found by going to

Those unable to participate on the take back day can surrender their prescription drugs anonymously at any MSP post, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding holidays.



Easter Photos - Turning Tulips into Smiles

WBCH Radio, with help from PFCU and Spectrum Health Pennock and other area businesses, delivered potted tulips for Easter to every resident at Thornapple Manor and the Cottages, Hastings Rehabilitation, Woodlawn Meadows Retirement Village, and Carveth Village.


Here are some photos of the happy residents!



Thornapple Manor - front row: residents Mike Zimmerman, Carol Bunge, Genevieve Dobija











The Cottages -left to right, back row:  Dave McIntyre of WBCH, Carlos Zink of Barlow Florist, Mike Topoll of WBCH.

-middle row:  Cherie Hoaglin and Tracy Kushmail of The Cottages

-front row: Shirley Tobias and Ruth Doyle, residents







Hastings Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center - left to right:  Pat Louden, Sue Radant of WBCH, Rex Rockwell, Marjorie Maynard











Woodlawn Meadows - left to right:  Edith Grashuis, Becky Sassaman, Carl Schantz, Ron Stevens, Dick Groos, Phyllis Settles, Pat Reed











Carveth Village - left to right:  Evelyn Bailey, Recina Stuebicer, Arleen Stauffer 


Hastings School Board selects three finalists for superintendent position

Thursday night the Hastings Board of Education selected three finalists for the Superintendent position at Hastings Area Schools to replace retiring Superintendent Carrie Duits.  They are Steve Wilson, superintendent of Constantine Public Schools,    Jonathan Whan, superintendent of Grant Public Schools,  and Daniel Remenap, high school principal at Allendale Public Schools.

On Tuesday, April 23rd from 4:30 to 5:30 the Hastings Board of Education will be hosting a meet and greet of the candidates, followed by a special board meeting at 5:30 to interview the finalists.   


The interview schedule is as follows:

5:30 - 6:45 - Daniel Remenap

7:00 - 8:15 - Steve Wilson

8:30 - 9:45 - Jonathan Whan


This is a change to the originally published timeline.  The original date for the second round of interviews was April 25th.  

'Raise the Age' reforms approved by House committee

The House Judiciary Committee recently approved a plan to improve the way 17-year-olds are treated in Michigan’s criminal justice system.  State Rep. Julie Calley, who sponsored the plan alongside a bipartisan group of her colleagues, said Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. She said eliminating this outdated practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.


“Juvenile courts are better equipped to educate, protect and rehabilitate teens so they can grow into responsible and productive adults. Unfortunately, 17-year-old offenders in Michigan do not have access to necessary programs, because our law requires that they be charged in adult court,” said Calley, of Portland. “This reform will give prosecutors and judges greater discretion to determine the best course of action for each individual case.”


The proposal would raise the age at which individuals are considered adults for the purposes of prosecuting and adjudicating criminal offenses, allowing 17-year-olds to be treated as minors within the juvenile system in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors would continue to have discretion, allowing them to waive minors who commit violent crimes into the adult system when appropriate.


The measure also includes a funding plan to ensure local communities do not incur additional costs associated with keeping 17-year-old offenders in the juvenile system, which is administered at the local level. Funding was the key sticking point that halted similar reform efforts in the past. Calley said the proposal is expected to save public tax dollars over time. Other states that have raised the age have lowered both short-term and long-term costs.


“A tremendous amount of research shows placing 17-year-olds in prison with adults is harmful to their psychological development and hinders their ability to re-enter society and lead successful, productive lives,” said Calley. “This bill package is the right direction for our troubled youth and our state as a whole.”


House Bills 4133-46, 4443 and 4452 now move to the full House for consideration.

Home invasion under investigation in Richland Township

On Wednesday April 17, 2019 at approximately 11:47pm, members of the Kalamazoo County Sheriffs office were dispatched to the 5600 Blk of Grassymeadow Ave in Richland Twp in reference to an armed home invasion.


When offices arrived on scene it was determined that two unknown subjects, one of which was armed with a firearm, forced their way into the residence, and robbed the occupants. The suspects were last seen fleeing from the apartment towards the North.


Two of the victims that were inside the apartment were treated at the scene by Pride Care EMS for minor injuries.


Anyone that may have information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriffs Office or Silent Observer.


Suspect #1 - Black male, approximately 6'5", short hair cut, last seen wearing a blue and white jogging suit. Suspect #1 was armed with a hand gun.


Suspect #2 only described as a black male, nothing further.


Anyone who may have further information is asked to contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office at 269-383-8748 or Silent Observer at 269-343-2100.


Lansing man drowns at Thornapple Lake

The Barry County Sheriff's office was dispatched to the area of Camp Thornapple on Thornapple Lake in Castleton township at 8:23 Tuesday morning  when a boat was reported drifting approximately 200 yards off the shore with what appeared to be a life jacket floating near the boat.


Upon arrival, law enforcement launched their boat and were able to locate a male subject, who was identified by the Sheriff's office as 69 year old Edward Louis Phillips of Lansing.  Philips was fournd floating at the surface next to the drifting boat and was not wearing a life jacket. Deputies believe that Phillips had fallen overboard while fishing on the lake and was unable to get back into the boat. 


The sheriff's office stated in a facebook post that the man was deceased when officers arrived. Foul play is not suspected. 


Barry Central Dispatch and Nashville Fire/EMS assisted Sheriff's deputies and investigators.


April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month


April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. According to a release from the Barry Eaton District Health Department, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their life. These numbers may be even greater as many survivors of sexual violence do not tell police, family, or friends.


Sexual violence is any nonconsensual sexual activity and can include sex acts with an individual who is unable to consent due to force, alcohol and drugs, or age. Sexual violence can also be unwanted intentional sexual touching or verbal sexual harassment. Sexual violence can negatively impact the health of survivors, who may experience chronic pain, headaches, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more.


If you or someone you know may be a victim of sexual violence, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE can be reached as a 24/7, free, confidential resource. If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

Indecent Exposure

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office is investigating indecent exposure incidents that have occured April 3rd and April 13th in Delta township.

The suspect has approached people in public and exposed himself. He is described as a white male 5'8" tall, age  17 to 20 years old. He has short dark hair, a slim build, possibly wearing a nose ring.

Anyone with information is ask to contact the Eaton County Sheriff's Office.

Vermontville hosts Maple Syrup Festival April 26-27-28

From the official opening by Jeff Weiler Friday on the main stage at 6 p.m., the Vermontville Syrup Festival has a jam-packed schedule to please anyone and everyone. Vermontville, the home of the original Maple Syrup Festival in Michigan, starts Friday, April 26, continues on the 27th and 28th  with a full schedule of things to do and see.


Some samples:

Friday: The official opening and presentation of the 2019 Maple Syrup Festival Queen and Court, maple syrup exhibits at Maple Manor and the Vermontville Historical Museum opens, Mid-America amusement rides in the downtown, pancake breakfasts at the American Legion and Fire Station, talent show winners and fireworks at 9 p.m.


Saturday: More pancake breakfasts, 5K walk/run, Maple Valley jazz band, arts and crafts for sale, a Children’s Parade, Mid-America amusement rides, on-going main stage entertainment, several choices of fundraising dinners, petting zoo, the Grand Parade, introduction of 2019 Grand Marshals, and the Little Miss Maple Syrup Pageant.


Sunday: More pancake breakfasts, saw mill and various displays, arts & crafts, Sunday Church Services, flea market, tractor pull, arm wrestling, petting zoo, egg toss and other games.

For much more, visit


Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for maple syrup production. You can find producers staying with the most traditional methods as well as modern facilities using the latest techniques. All maple trees produce sap, with sugar maples the highest sugar content of two percent, followed by black, red, silver and ash-leafed maple with a sugar content of about one percent. It takes 40 gallons of syrup to produce one gallon of maple syrup.



Barry County Jazz Festival in Hastings is April 25-26-27

The 16th annual Thornapple Arts Council’s Jazz Festival, April 25-26-27, features a dozen venues in Hastings where residents and visitors can enjoy jazz by hundreds of student musicians and professionals  from more than 130 school and professional jazz bands and ensembles from all over the state, according the council’s website.


The festival draws some 10,000 people to the city and provides a weekend of free jazz performances and the chance for student groups to work with and learn from professional musicians.


Headliners this year are Jim Hayward with the Thornapple Jazz Orchestra on Thursday, The Four Freshmen on Friday, and Navy Great Lakes Liberty Call on Saturday.

The Four Freshmen and Navy Great Lakes group will perform in the new Hastings High School Performing Art Center that has a seating capacity of 850.



Music will be coming from all over the city, in restaurants, churches, the Spray Plaza Band Shell, Thornapple Plaza, Hastings Public Library, Barry County Enrichment Center, the HHS Performing Arts Center and more.  Jazz artists and those accompanying them will be met by Hastings Reserve Police Officers and Ambassadors who will welcome them and offer any assistance they can.


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

Follow the Jazz Festival on its Facebook page. For a complete schedule of performers and venues for the three day event, visit


Battle Creek man dies, two hurt in M-37 crash Sunday

The Michigan State Police in Hastings said a 76-year-old Battle Creek man died and his two passengers were injured in a two-vehicle crash Sunday in Barry County.  The crash occurred on M-37, south of 108th Street about 2 p.m. in Thornapple Township.


Troopers report a 19-year-old Middleville man driving a Ford Explorer lost control of his vehicle and crossed the center line, causing the collision with the Chrysler Town and Country driven by the Battle Creek man. He succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.


His passengers, a 77-year-old female and a 9- year-old girl, were transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Preliminary investigation indicates that the crash was caused by speed. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be a factor. Authorities did not identify those involved.

Troopers were assisted at the scene by Caledonia Fire Department and Thornapple Township Emergency Services.

35-year-old Hopkins man dies in one car crash

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Wayland Post report they continue to investigate a fatal one-vehicle traffic crash that occurred Sunday at about 3:40 p.m. on 20th street, north of 128th Avenue in Hopkins Township.

A 35-year-old Hopkins man driving a Dodge SUV south on 20th Street lost control, drove off the roadway, rolled over and struck a tree.  He was not wearing a seatbelt and died at the scene.

His name is being withheld pending notification of family. No one else was in the vehicle.

Troopers were assisted by the Hopkins Township Fire Department and Wayland EMS.   



Goal: Complete remediation of Little Thornapple River Drain this year

The Little Thornapple River Intercounty Drain Board has secured funding for remaining remedial work on the drain with the goal of completing it by the end of the year.


The board Friday accepted a bid for a $450,000 three-year note from Isabella Bank with 2.95 percent interest. The funds are expected to cover the remaining remediation of the damage done to the drain by excessive tree removal several years ago.


Closing on the note is set for April 17, with the first payment of principal and interest on June1.

Joseph Colaianne, senior council at Clark Hill PLC, who advised the board on the transaction, said they got a good interest rate because “there’s a lot of competition out there right now.”  Colaianne added the note is “callable” meaning the board can pay it off at any time.


Barry County is the paying agent; they will accept the funds from the bank and distribute it to the drain board. The board consists of three drain commissioners; Jim Dull from Barry, Ken Yonker from Kent County and Robert Rose from Ionia County. Brady Harrington, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, chairs the Intercounty Drain Board.


There will be a special assessment this year on property holders in each county within the drain district, according to the percentage of property holders in the district. The new parameters of the drain district determined in a study last fall and winter shows Barry County residents at 63.48 percent, Ionia County at 36.31 percent and Kent at 0.37 percent of the drain district area.


Barry County residents are scheduled to review the assessment roll on May 8, Ionia County residents on May 7 and Kent County residents on May 9.  Everyone affected will be notified by letter confirming the dates, meeting place and times.  

If a person disputes their assessment, they can file an appeal with the probate court within 10 days of the review. Those assessed can pre-pay the assessment, if they wish.




Barry County Commissioners recommend farmland preservation/open space ordinance changes

In a special meeting Thursday, the Barry County Board of Commissioners in a 5-2 vote recommended approval of changes in the Agriculture Promotion and Open Space ordinances. The issue will go to the next regular board meeting for consideration.


Stacy Byers, consultant with Sheridan Land Consulting, gave a 35-minute presentation on the concept of the preserving agricultural land by an easement; owners selling the developmental rights to their farm land in exchange for insuring the land would be used for only agriculture in perpetuity.


Byers gave some history on the effort in other places, examples of where the idea has been successful, and possible funding sources. There are social, environmental and economic benefits to Ag land preservation; it makes it easier to stay in farming, it controls urban sprawl, protects nature, animal habitats and the environment, she said.


In the voluntary program, state certified assessors determine the value of Ag property when used for agricultural and the value of the property if sold for development. Property owners receive the difference between the values, and guarantee that the land would remain in agriculture forever.


Applicants for easements are scored and ranked by points in several criteria, with the top-scoring land owners given appraisals, insuring the best agriculture land is preserved. The owner keeps all personal property rights and can sell the land, but it would always have to stay in agriculture.


Various land preservation plans have been around since the 1970s; and ramped up during the development surge of the 1980s and 1990s. The major stumbling block for the present plan is the unavailability of funding to pay for the development rights. Byers said there are several possibilities to obtain funding for easements; the federal and state government, townships, landowners and the county.


“We should move on this,” Commissioner Ben Geiger said. “It’s low risk for the county.”

Commissioner Dan Parker encouraged the adoption of the amendments, saying he has served on county and village offices and school boards and in every case, county citizens said they valued and wanted to keep its rural flavor.


Commissioner David Jackson asked why it was needed when farmers have PA116, a state land preservation program.  Byers said PA 116 agreements are for a specific number of years and offer tax credits, but not in perpetuity. Framers can opt out of PA116 by paying back the tax credits.


Commissioners Vivian Conner and Jon Smelker asked the most questions and were ultimately the two who voted against sending the matter to the full board for a decision.


In answers to questions, Byers told where the funding could come from, that her office would monitor compliance with the easements, mineral rights stay with the farm property, farmer’s property taxes could be lower by not by much and the county would be legally responsible to pay legal fees if disagreements arise.


When Conner said the seven member board is too heavily weighted with those with agriculture interests, Commissioner Heather Wing responded that farmers are the best judges of farmland, “not someone who doesn’t have a clue… farmers should pick out the best ones.” One member of the board would be a county commissioner without voting rights, something Smelker said he could never support.


The 15 to 20 people in the audience supported the plan with the exception of George Hubka who said they should not get involved with buying easements until they, “fixed the damn roads,” and cautioned that the county can levy special assessments without a vote of the people.


The open space ordinance didn’t get much debate; it mirrors the farm preservation component, with more emphasis on the environment, and is run by the same board. There is working and non-working land; any not working, not producing a product, is open space. “It needs to have environmental value. It has to warrant an easement,” Byers said.


The amendments would streamline the process and change the name of the board. Byers said the name change should, “say who we are...we purchase conservation easements.”



Hastings becomes "Bicycle City" during Barry Roubaix

Hastings was crowded with 3,500 colorful bicyclists, family and friends for the 2019 Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race Saturday. Cyclist came from all over the United States and beyond; men and women, young and not so young, lined up in waves for the different lengths of races;  the 22-mile “Chiller,” 36-mile “Thriller,” 62-mile “Killer” and the 100-mile “Psycho-Killer.”

After the races there were awards for winners and a street party.  Here’s what Hastings looked like Saturday morning at the start of the races.

The Barry Roubaix bike race comes to Hastings tomorrow

The 2019 Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race is tomorrow, Saturday, April 13. Spectators are encouraged to cheer the racers on, ring bells or blow horns to start them off. The 3,500 riders will go out in waves, starting at 10 a.m. on Green Street, with the exception of the 100 miles racers who leave at 7 a.m.


 The four race lengths are the 22-mile “Chiller,” 36-mile “Thriller,” 62-mile “Killer” and the 100-mile “Psycho-Killer.” The Fat Bikes have categories in the 22 and 36-mile races.


Cyclocross, mountain, road, single speed, fixed gear, fat bikes and tandem bicycles are all in the race with riders who come from all over the United States and internationally.


Cyclists will collect some $34,000 in cash and prizes, trophies and medals in an awards ceremony for top finishers. The Founders Street Party features street bonfires, music and food trucks, as well as the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance beer tent with kegs of Founders Ale from 11a.m. to 6 p.m. on race day


Other than Summerfest, Barry-Roubaix is probably the city’s largest annual event with the most participants and spectators. Police Reserve Officers, Ambassadors and Cadets welcome visitors, answer questions and point out parking spaces.

There are more than 2,800 free parking spaces in Hastings public and private parking lots, plus free street parking.


Vehicle Crash


Michigan State Police in Hastings were called to a vehicle roll over crash at M-179 and M-43 Thursday night at 10:25 pm.

Details and the name of the 35 year old Allegan driver have not been released at this time.

Hastings High School graduate is "Strongest Teen in the World"

Skyler Brandt graduated from Hastings High School in 2018, the son of Jana and Scott Brandt.  Brother Chase, 14, is still at home; older sister Jenny Endsley, 30, and brother Kent, 27, are on their own and both live in Bellevue. Skyler works with his dad in Brandt Logging, the family business.



Pretty normal for a kid so far. But, Skyler is one of a kind in the world.


At the age of 19, following 14 weeks of training, he won the title of “Strongest Teen in the World” in an American Powerlifting Federation Illinois competition.

Skyler now says he “is in a good place,” but it didn’t come easy.


His interest in power lifting started at the end of his freshmen year in school. He tried the other sports, hurt his knees in football more than once and none of the other sports seemed to work for him; on top of that, his freshman year was tough for him.

He began lifting at 13, starting out on equipment in the family garage; moving on to buddy’s basement and now at The Other Body Shop here in Hastings. Weightlifting is a solitary sport, but it worked for him. He went “all in” in lifting at 15 and could deadlift 700 pounds in high school.


“That’s when I truly became happy with myself.”

Mom says Skyler is extremely dedicated to his workout schedule.

“We’re very proud of his dedication. He’s just a nice, sweet kid, very social. He always says “I love you mom,” when he leaves the house. Even in front of his buddies, he’s not afraid to give me hug.”


Skyler gives thanks to special friend, Kathy Dayus, his pal Jason’s mom, for putting up with the noise and banging around in her basement for years when the boys were starting out. “She put up with a lot; she’s great,” he said. His coach, Ernest Lillibridge, Sr. has been competing for 30 years and is still competing; his two sons also compete. “My coaches are sponsored athletes, they compete for a living,” he said.  


On March 31 when he earned the title, “The Strongest Teenager in the World.”  These are stats that won him the title: 380 kg/837.7 lbs in the Squat, 207.5 kg/457.5 lbs in the Bench Press, and 335 kg/738.5 lbs in Deadlift for a total of 922.5 kg/2,034 lbs. The numbers are the highest raw total of any teenage competitor in the world. In the records books, he is now fifth in all- time records.

 “I wanted to be the best, so I reached out to the best. I can’t thank @ernielilliebridgesr and his sons for helping me so much along the way. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive of me since the start, and I’m proud to be a part of their team,” he said after his win.


He doesn’t care about crowd size at an event. His support team numbers just three, his girlfriend Jacqueline Pemberton, and best buddies Jason Dayus and Andrew Mart, who also lift.

To wind down after the competition, Skyler and Jackie ordered Chicago style deep-dish pizza in their hotel room. He credits her with keeping him on an even keel when he gets nervous before competitions, and he does get nervous.


But, when the lifting begins, there are no nerves. When he won the title, “everything came together perfectly.” His handle on his Instagram account is “The Michigan Monster,” and he’s happy with the name.  At 340 pounds at 5 feet 11 inches, he’s used to the jokes about his job in logging, “Why don’t you just pick up the logs and carry them out.”?


His diet is the hardest part of his work; to maintain his weight where it is, he gets protein and lots of carbs in five meals a day. He makes sure he’s hydrated when working out and competing.

Next in a national competition June 16 in Grand Rapids; he figures he has about 10 weeks to train for that. His last competition, as a teen, is two days before his 20th birthday on Sept. 16 in South Carolina.


He knows his powerlifting takes away from family time. He’s going to take some time off, he plans to “go on vacations with my family and Jackie. I know how much they put up with by supporting me,” he said.


With the hard work, he has gained success in something as the best in the world but that’s just the start of Skyler’s story.  He’ll be finding a sponsor and who knows, may match the accomplishments, or even surpass the success, of his mentor, coach and friend, Ernie Lillibridge Sr.


Photos: (upper left) Skyler Brandt shows emotion in winning the “Strongest Teen in the World” title.

(lower right) A more relaxed Skyler Brandt says he will take some time off from power lifting later this summer.















Freeport Historical Society receives pre-1970 ballot boxes, 1976 Presidential Election ballot

Planning is under way by the Freeport Historical Society (FHS) for a celebration of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in August, 1920.


At the Irving Township Board meeting Wednesday, the society was presented with what will be centerpiece of that occasion; two ballot boxes that a sticker on the top on one that said it couldn’t be used after 1970 which has ballots in them, and a ballot from the 1976 presidential election.

Village Clerk Shawna Hill found the treasures behind many other things when cleaning out a storage area in the village/library.


It was an unexpected discovery; typically, ballots are destroyed 22 months after an election, Irving Township Clerk Sharon Olson said.


“The centennial of  women’s right to vote should be a big deal to all women, and we need to celebrate it with the ladies of the community with at least ‘an hour to honor’ to the courageous women what worked a 72-year fight to achieve, so we ladies can vote today,” a FHS news release said.


“Many women protested, picketed, and were threatened, beaten and imprisoned and some even tortured to secure their constitutional right to vote. Today only 19.6 percent of elected officials in Congress are women and during the 2016 presidential election, one in every three women eligible to vote did not cast a ballot,” the release continued.


The plan is for a Ladies Tea at the Community Center in Freeport on the day the amendment was ratified, Aug. 18 or the day it was signed Aug. 26,  100 years before. All ladies, groups or individuals, are welcome for an hour or two of fun, cookies and cake at a casual, fun event with lots of chit-chat, fellowship, door prizes and perhaps stories about their grandmothers voting for the first time. A surprise speaker or two may be there as well at the free event.


In the sample ballot that came with the donation, the presidential contenders were Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and the names of many state and local candidates are sure to bring back memories from those who are old enough to remember.


Photos: (upper left) (from left) Sherry Graham, vice president of FHS, Sharon Olson, clerk of Irving Township, Jon Smelker, president of FHS and Colleen Smelker, secretary of the FHS pose with the ballot boxes donated to the Society.


(bottom right) Sherry Graham, vice president of the FHS shows her delight with the 1976 ballot given to the Society.

Family Promise intakes its first homeless Barry County family this week

Family Promise of Barry County will intake its first homeless family this week. Executive Director Martha Gibbons said it marks years of effort to achieve its goal; through local churches and volunteers, provide a place for a homeless family to have a safe, secure place to get their lives back together.


It gives parents a chance to look for employment and for children to be children.

A former teacher for 17 years, 11 of it in the Hastings Area School System, with stints in China and Chicago, Gibbons is excited about counseling families, listening to them, helping them get back on their feet.


She said the Family Promise name has two meanings; “It promises the community will support them and every family has promise.” The nationwide program brings shelter, meals and support services to homeless families in more than 200 affiliates in 47 states.                     


The Barry County branch was the dream of Steven Larghi who, “saw a problem and the need and led the charge for two years,” Gibbons said. “He led the charge in fundraising too, he was a blessing.”  Unfortunately, Larghi died before the facility had its Grand Opening this week, but his wife Sue Larghi in on the Promise board.


The hosting of homeless families rotates weekly among 12 Host Congregation area churches in the Network, where families are provided lodging, three meals a day and caring hospitality three or four times a year, she said.



Volunteers provide a wide range of services like cooking and serving meals, playing with children or helping them with homework, interacting with guests with respect and compassion and providing overnight security.


The Day Center is the entire second floor of Hope United Methodist Church at the intersection of M-79 and M-37 south of Hastings. It serves as a kind of home base for families from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day; families return to their host church for the evening and overnight.


The Center gives families a mailing address and a base for looking for housing and employment searches. Gibbons provides case management services. Guests look for employment, tend pre-school children, shower and do laundry. Guests set weekly goals and receive personalized coaching on ways to become financially stable and much more.


There are bathrooms with showers, a laundry room, relaxing and watching TV, area, a toy room for kids, conference room, even a quiet space for babies. A room for an office with computer will be ready soon and the outdoor, fenced in playground is open now. Some decorative touches remain, but the second floor area is ready for families.


“Hope United Methodist has been so generous,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we have received.”                                                                            


The entrance to Family Promise Day Center is on the north side of the church by the play area; signs will be added soon. For much more information on Family Promise, visit To contact them, e-mail











Photos: (upper left) Executive Director Martha Gibbons in her office at the Family Promise Day Center.

(upper right) The combination conference room and quite space for babies.

(middle left) One of two bathrooms at the Day Center in the Hope Methodist Church.

(middle right) The toy room, just for kids at Family Promise Day Center..

(lower left) A family room will help homeless families relax

(lower right) ExecutiveDirector Matha Gibbons displays the plaque honoring Steven Larghi, who was the inspiration for Family Promise of Barry County.

(below) Celebrants at the ribbon cutting and Grand Opening of Family Promise of Barry County this week.  (Photo courtesy of Barry County Chamber of Commerce)


















Barry County Commission hears COA annual report

Executive Director Tammy Pennington gave her annual report to the Barry County Commision Tuesday. She said the focus of the COA for an aging population is decreasing isolation and loneliness, improving health and wellness, increasing support to caregivers and supporting financial stability, stressing how important it is to prevent isolation among the elderly.



Pennington’s report centered on the staff and volunteers who provide COA programs.

The 32 highly qualified staff has an average of 10.25 years of service; all are residents of Barry County. Staff has in-service training annually on ethics, health safety and welfare, abuse and neglect and HIPPA privacy and confidentially, she said.


All four nurses are RN’s with up-to-date licenses; all nurses aides are registered by the State of Michigan and most have up to date certification, although it’s not required by state standards, she said. The kitchen manager and nutrition program coordinator have food manager certification and food Allergan training. One staff and seven volunteers are certified Medicare/Medicaid counseling with 60 hours of face-to-face counseling and two annual tests.


The staff has won awards for more than 10 years for their Barry County United Way (BCUW) campaigns, volunteers have won Everyday Hero awards from the Volunteer Center for the last four years and the 20 volunteers for the Meals on Wheels won a 2018 Community Impact Award from the Barry County Chamber of Commerce, Pennington said.


Colleen Acker wrote a grant from the Barry County Foundation for the Art in Action program and was selected to present the program at the National Council on Aging 2019 Conference in Washington, D.C. in June.  The partnerships the COA has with many other county organizations all contribute to their goals; for example The BCUW helps them with in-home respite care, where the demand is up. Pennington said.


The COA offers:

In-home services, senior nutrition programs, adult day services, Medicare/Medicaid assistance programs, community-based services and fundraisers that help support the COA. All of the headings have several subheadings with its programs listed; for example, in-home services has five programs within it; community-based services provide seven separate programs.


Fiscal year 2018 Quick Facts:

* 1,800 older adults served

* 63,721 meals provided

* 12, 607 in-home care hours provided

* 10,554 day service ours provided

* 188 community volunteers

* $407,606 in federal and state grants written and received

* $13,116 emergency funding or utility shut off notices, prescriptions, ramps and other necessities

* 100 percent of Barry County townships and municipalities served.


COA’s official mission statement: “To provide independence, dignity and quality of life to the aging population and their families.”



Hastings Cable Access Committee improvement plans hit snag

In a Cable Access Committee update, Chairman Randall Schaefer told the Hastings City Council of three projects they’ve been trying to get done for some time. The committee has $26,500 available to spend and has a quote from AVI for $33,037.18 to do the work. Schaefer asked for the difference of $6,537.18 to complete the projects.


However, questions were raised about this year’s committee budget for transitioning from analog to digital, which budget account would pay for the proposed work, the lack of requests for proposals or sealed bids, not following the normal process and noting the AVI offer was not a bid, but a proposal.


Councilman Don Smith suggested getting a representative of the city to determine exactly what the committee wants and the costs, for now, the next five years, the next ten years so other companies can bid on them.


Schaefer said he knew they should have done it differently, but he was learning.  City Manager Jeff Mansfield complimented him on working very hard to come up to speed on the process. “It is confusing; it’s confusing even to people immersed in it on a daily basis.”


Mansfield said Schaefer can bring AVI’s proposal for the equipment and they will write a resolution for the council to review at its next meeting. They can then authorize the projects, “in a cleaner fashion.”


The proposed work is replacing the microphones in the council room due to age and performance; studio cleanup, an ongoing project that needs to be finished, and replacing the whiteboard in the council room with two 50-inch screens, so Livestream viewers at home can see what the council sees.//


The council also Monday agreed to participate in the Barry County Resource Recovery Project. The Barry County Solid Waste Oversight Committee is not asking for money, but is seeking agreements from governmental units that staff will support and actively participate in the project.


The resolution said a recycling program is important to the quality of life and economic well-being of Barry County, needs enough recyclable material to be viable economically, there are no preconceptions about the location or nature of what results or findings might include and the city can withdraw from the agreement at any time.


Allegan County Sheriff's Office offers boating safety classes

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner and as is Michigan’s boating season.

Every year the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division offers boating safety classes to the public at no cost to instruct citizens on boating safety as well as boating laws in the State of Michigan.


To legally operate motorized watercraft in the state, the state requires

those born after July 1, 1996 to attend and successfully complete a boating safety course and possess a valid boating safety certificate while on the water.


Those wishing to legally operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must be at least 16 and born after Dec. 31, 1978, and must possess a valid boating safety certificate while on the water.  Other restrictions may apply.


Finding and registering for a Boater Safety Classes can be done online at the sheriff’s office website at:


On the webpage, select the boater safety class schedule, choose the class you want to attend and enter your information. Children less than 12 years of age may take the class however, a parent or guardian is requested to attend with them.


Below is a list of courses offered this spring and summer in Allegan County:


April 20                    9 a.m. to 3 p.m.         @       Plainwell High School


April 27                    8 a.m. to 2 p.m.         @       Allegan High School


May 7 and 8             5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. @   Wayland Schools transportation building



June 1                      8 a.m. to 2 p.m.    @      Green Lake Calvary Church


June 8                      8 a.m. to 2 p.m.    @       Sandy Pines Resort


June 19 and 20        6 p.m.  to 9 p.m.    @      Saugatuck Yacht Club


July 17 and 18         6 p.m. to 9 p.m.    @     Saugatuck Yacht Club


For more information about courses or to register, contact the sheriff’s office. Registration can be done online at the sheriff’s office Webpage.




Hastings Council approves closing on two properties

The boundary survey, title work, and environmental assessment, including a Baseline Environmental Assessment, have been completed on 3.01 acres of Bliss Clearing Niagara (BCN) property; the purchase agreement has been reviewed by legal staff for both BCN and the city and has been delivered to BCN for its final review.


The council approved closing on the property, but not before Councilwoman Brenda McNabb Stange protested not being able to see the final version sent to BCN. She argued any changes made by attorneys should be seen by the council.


She was not satisfied with Community Director Dan King’s explanation that the changes were the result of language differences with the Germen legal staff for BCN…“There were no major changes. It was just language.”


“Any impact on taxpayers should not be made by lawyers…why we are always up against the wall on these things?” she asked.  City Manager Jeff Mansfield said it was the nature of the business to be up against the wall... he argued for some flexibility, noting, “we trust the city staff to work out language differences.”


The council also approved an agreement with Advantage Plumbing and Drain for a 4.1 acre parcel of property to be purchased by the city. The survey and title work have been reviewed and accepted and the closing will move ahead.


Two reminders from Monday night’s council meeting: The DPW staff will be making a single pass through the city beginning April 15. Residents are urged to place yard waste, small branches, twigs, and leaves, between the sidewalk and curb before the pickup and do not place the piles in the street.


And, The Hastings Fire Department annual Pancake Breakfast will be May 11 at 110 East Mill in Hastings from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. The firefighters will do an extrication demonstration at the station at 9 a.m.



Prevention of child abuse is the Family Support Center of Barry County's goal

The Hastings City Council Monday recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month with a proclamation presented to Kim Metzger and Karen Jousma from the Family Support Center of Barry County.


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


Mayor David Tossava read the proclamation that said child abuse and neglect is one of the greatest risks to the health and wellbeing of Barry County children. The Family Support Center is designated by the Michigan Trust Fund to lead alongside local community-based programs to assist in expediting efforts to prevent child abuse now and in future generations through joint interagency prevention efforts.


In Barry County is 2018, 222 children between 0 and 17 were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect by Children’s Protective Services.


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


Metzger told the council they were very grateful for its support of their efforts in education, advocacy and awareness.  She said they are working to changing the culture, “so that seeking help and support is a good thing, and it’s okay.”

Jousma gave each council member a bright blue pinwheel.


The Family Support Center of Barry County will install pinwheels in the flower garden at Hastings City Hall, in flower boxes in the city and throughout Barry County. The pinwheels are whimsical; something every child should have a chance to be, Jousma said.


Hastings wins DEQ brownfield grant for former Royal Coach property

The City of Hastings has won a Brownfield grant of $63,000 from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Remediation and Redevelopment Division for assessment of the property of the former HMC Royal Coach at 325 North Hanover Street.


Community Development Director Dan King said several developers have shown interest in the property. “This is huge for marketing of that property.”

Andrea Ryswick, grant coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Grand Rapids District Office was at the meeting.


“I was very excited to finally get the news that it was approved, and we’re ready to go.”


The site was used to manufacture furniture and automotive parts but has been unoccupied since at least 2013. Two vacant warehouse buildings, a former fuel dispensing building, a former paint shop building, and a former fire suppression equipment building remain, an explanation in the council packet said.


Also, two closed industrial landfills are present on the site and were reportedly used by the former manufacturers for disposal of foundry sand, metal debris, and concrete.

Based on limited assessments conducted on the site, known environmental contamination includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and metals.


Additionally, there is a potential that perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination may be present. The additional assessment is needed to understand the extent of environmental impact, it said.


Assuring safe reuse of the property includes, but is not limited to, assessment of Phase II Environmental Site Assessment/due care investigation.

The city will submit a work plan to the DEQ for approval, make quarterly reports on the work and complete the work within two years.


The cost of maintenance of the downtown parking lots is assessed against those businesses that benefit from the used of the lots every year. The direct costs of routine maintenance this year is set at $43,650. The DDA has agreed to pay for a portion of the maintenance costs assessed to the property owners, as they have for years, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said.


This year the DDA will pay $15,962 of the cost in the assessment.

The total assessment to property owners in the downtown parking Special Assessment District for 2019/2020 will be $27,688. After required public hearings, the first set for Monday, April 22, the council will consider approving the roll on May 13..


The council also approved a special budget workshop on Monday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m.; a special workshop on Monday, April 29 at 6 p.m. to discuss Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements and a public hearing

on May 13 at 7 p.m. to take comments on the project plan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant.


The council accepted with regret the resignation of Ken Schroeder from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Schroeder served on the board for almost 14 years, but is moving to East Lansing. A letter of appreciation will be sent to Schroeder.


Hastings City Council opts out of recreational marijuana facilities in the city until May 30, 2020

The Hastings City  Council Monday unanimously approved four amendments to city ordinances that deal with opting out of allowing any marijuana establishments in the city with little to no discussion. Ordinances 567, 568, 569 and 570, are all to do with recreational marijuana and temporarily opting out of permitting marijuana facilities in the city.


The council had a first reading at its last meeting, and heard during discussion that the temporary opting out was necessary, at least for now, because the state agency setting up administrative rules would not have them ready until later this year or early next year. The opt out lasts until May, 30, 2020, unless the council extends it.


Michigan voters approved legalized recreational marijuana for use and possession of specified amounts for those over 21. Unlike medical marijuana facilities, municipalities must opt out of the recreational marijuana facilities.


All of the ordinances changes are to the Hastings Code of 1970.








One injured in motorcycle/ deer crash in Hastings

An unidentified 57-year-old Hastings man is in a hospital with a severe injury after his motorcycle collided with a deer near the intersection of Shriner and South Hanover streets in the city about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. The driver received medical care on scene and was later air lifted to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, according to a news release from Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt. 


Hastings School Board sets initial interviews for seven superintendent applicants

The Hastings Area School's Board of Education will hold initial interviews with seven candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools to replace retiring Superintendent Carrie Duits in the Middle School Commons, 232 West Grand Street, Hastings.


Community members, district staff, and all interested parties are encouraged to attend both evenings of interviews. Forms will be available for community members to provide feedback about candidates to the board..


The candidates and their interview times are:


Wednesday, April 17:

5 p.m. – 5:50 pm 
Steve Wilson, superintendent, Constantine Public Schools

6 p.m. – 6:50 pm 
Lucas Trierweiler, principal High School/Special Education director, Delton Kellogg Schools

7:10 p.m. – 8 p.m. 
Kent Cartwright, chief financial officer, Public Schools of Petoskey

8:10 – 9 p.m.

Matthew Goebel, Assistant Superintendent of Achievement, Hastings Area Schools


Thursday, April 18:


5:30 p.m. – 6:20 p.m.
Gerard Morin, director of Human Resources, Southgate Community School District

6:30 p.m. – 7:20 p.m.
Jonathan Whan, superintendent, Grant Public Schools

7:30 p.m. – 8:20 p.m. 
Daniel Remenap, principal, high school, Allendale Public Schools.



Kent County outdoor warning sirens to sound Friday, April 5

The following statement is from Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Louis Hunt:


The Kent County Emergency Management and the City of Grand Rapids Emergency Management will begin monthly tests of the outdoor warning sirens tomorrow, Friday April 5, at noon.


If you do not hear the siren testing, and believe you should have, please contact your local township or city office. The tests will continue the first Friday of each month, April through October, at noon.


The purpose of the outdoor warning sirens is to provide one of many means to alert residents of an imminent hazard and to prompt them to find shelter and seek further information. The sirens are one facet of a broad system of emergency warning that also includes weather and media apps for smart phones, NOAA radios, and local radio and television alerts.


It is important to understand that the outdoor warning sirens may not be able to reach the interior of all homes due to distance, improved housing construction and sound deadening features, or the specific location within the home such as a basement.


Therefore, redundant methods of emergency alert are recommended. The testing of the outdoor warning sirens is also an excellent time to discuss plans for severe weather with your family and in your workplace.

Small herd of cattle loose in Cooper Township in Kalamazoo County

If you are traveling in Kalamazoo County in the near future, be aware that some cattle are loose in Cooper Township, according to a sheriff's media release.


Today, Thursday, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department and Kalamazoo County Animal Services are attempting to locate the small herd of cattle that escaped a local farm in the township.

The animals are feeder cows that have had very limited interaction with humans and should not be approached if seen.


Drivers should use caution if the cows are seen in or near the roadway. If the cattle are spotted, you are asked to call 911 or Kalamazoo County Central Dispatch at 269-488-8911.

Allegan County Sheriff's Office K-9 Medo dies

An Allegan County Sheriff’s Office news release said it was with great sadness that they shared that one of their K9’s, Medo, passed away Wednesday morning. Medo would have been nine years old in July.


With the sheriff’s office since 2011, Medo, a gift from the Gun Lake Tribe and Casino when he was 11 months old, was partnered with Deputy Ben Haas.


“As with all our K9’s, they become a part of their handler’s family; our thoughts and prayers are with the Haas family during this time,” the release said. In his career, Haas and Medo were active in hundreds of cases including suspect apprehension, locating multiple missing persons and lost children, drug interdiction, and school programs from instructional demonstrations to drug searches. 


Haas said his most memorable search was in May of 2015, when they were called to locate a 2-year-old who had gone missing from his home. Medo and Haas searched for more than six hours and were able to find the boy.


“Medo was very loved by everyone that met him, especially children, and was a valued member of our office who served us well. A few years ago, he was responsible for saving the life of a small child who had wandered off from home during inclement weather.  He will be missed,” Sheriff Frank Baker said.



Photo: K-9 Medo


Allegan County Food Pantry Collaborative goal is 30,000 boxes of cereal

Because hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, the Allegan County Food Pantry Collaborative is kicking off its fourth annual Cereal Drive that  runs from April 1 through April 30, with a goal of collecting 30,000 boxes of cereal.




The drive lets the collaborative, an Allegan County Community Foundation program, offer cereal to children when school lets out for summer break. For families whose children receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch, summertime can be especially difficult with increased food costs. The goal is to provide one box, per child, per week during the summer months for those children whose families visit food pantries in Allegan County. //


Drop off sites are:

ALLEGAN: Allegan Village Market, Huntington National Bank, Allegan General Hospital, Allegan Credit Union, AAESA Administration Building, Allegan County Community Foundation, Wings Of Hope Hospice, Dollar General, Allegan True Value, Family Farm & Home, Family Dollar, Rivertown Gym & Fitness, State Farm - Dan Chilla, The Bridge Church, Allegan County Sherriff's Dept., Tantrick Brewing,

BURNIPS: Burnips UMC, Burnips Library DORR: Moose Lodge, 5 Lakes Brewery, Dick's Market, Dorr Township Hall, Dorr Library,

FENNVILLE: Wagoners Food Store, Fennville Area Fire Department, Fennville Medical Center, Forever Curious Children’s Museum, Family Dollar,

HAMILTON: Dollar General, Diamond Springs Church, Hamilton Food Center HOPKINS: Hopkins United Methodist Church,

MARTIN: JC Wheeler Public Library, Dollar General, East Martin Reformed Church, Martin Reformed Church,

MOLINE: Moline Christian Reformed Church,

OTSEGO: Mezzo Coffee, St Margaret's Catholic Church, B & C Trophy, PLAINWELL: McPherson’s Plastics, Dollar General, Plainwell Harding's Market, Four Roses Café, Repz Gym, Dance Kraze,

PULLMAN: The Linking Center

SAUGATUCK/DOUGLAS: Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Coldwell Banker Douglas, Lake Vista Super Valu, Christian Neighbors, Douglas Congregational United Church, Saugatuck Brewing Company.

WAYLAND: Windsor Woods Village, Wayland Harding's Market.


Nearly 6,000 people including 3,000 children, are served by the 16 member pantries of the collaborative: Allegan United Methodist Church, Christ Community Church, Allegan County Food Pantry, Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, Diamond Springs Wesleyan Church, Hungry for Christ, Christian Neighbors Plainwell, St. Margaret – St. Vincent DePaul, Martin United Methodist Church, Christian Neighbors Douglas, Ladders of Hope, Love, Inc. Pullman, Hopkins United Methodist Church, Christian Neighbors Wayland, Project Hope and Epiphany Lutheran Church.


For updates, visit, Facebook page and the April e-newsletter.







Barry County Ranks High in Obesity

  From 2005 to 2015, 82 of Michigan's 83 counties showed an increase in the estimated percentage of adults who were obese, according to an annual federal health survey.

In Barry County an estimated 34.2 percent of adults were obese in 2015, up 7.7 percentile points from 2005, when health surveys estimated 26.5 percent were obese.


in Eaton County and estimated 37.2 percent of adults were obese in 2015 up 9.7 percentile points from 2005, when health surveys  estimated 27.5 percent were obese.


In Calhoun County and estimated 34.9 percent of adults were obese in 2015, up 8.0 percentile points from 2005, when health surveys estimated 26.9 percent were obese.

MSP Trooper Recruit School graduates assigned to Wayland Post

The Michigan State Police 135th Trooper Recruit School graduation is Wednesday in Lansing, with 103 troopers in the 2019 class. Three of the graduates are assigned to the Wayland Post: Jamison Burress, from Hamilton; Patrick Gaudad, from Richland and Austin McKenzie from Flushing.


The new troopers will be sworn in by Col. Joseph Gasper, MSP director. The keynote speaker is Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Upon graduation, the new troopers will report to their assigned MSP posts across the state.


**City of Hastings/Barry County Airport joins nationwide system with new weather system

**The Hastings City Barry County Airport continues its upgrades as it moves into the future, adding an Automated Weather Observation System to replace the 30-year-old system there. “I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while,” said David McIntyre.

McIntyre is well known for his National Weather Service Climatological Station at his home, sending Hastings weather data out every morning, with updates during the day, for more than 35 years.


“They had been looking for weather instruments for a while too, but they couldn’t find anything that matched what they wanted that was not too expensive,” McIntyre said. “I suggested they look at the Davis system, and they took it from there…it’s another addition for the benefit of pilots who come here.”


Back in the day, the federal government paid for airport’s weather systems; no more. This one is a $1,000 gift from the Hasting Flying Association, local pilots and supporters, the latest donation in a long history of volunteer hours, donations and financial support for the airport.


The name of the airport, City of Hastings/Barry County Airport, controlled through a Joint Operation Agreement and financial support, no longer fits. Under the leadership of Manager Mark Noteboom, the facility, following an announced five year plan, has been entirely self-sufficient since 2016, no longer getting funding from either governmental unit.


Mark Anderson, vice president of the flying association, said in 1946, the airport was basically built by volunteers, and they continue to be very involved in its improvements. “The growth of the airport in the last 10 years has been phenomenal…the MDOT says it’s one of the best airport in the state,” he said.

The MDOT Aero Division is the airport’s regulatory body, its link to the Federal Aviation Administration.


When Noteboom was hired in 2009, there were 18 hanger spaces. There are now 74, with four helicopters and a jet plane housed there.  Many worked with Noteboom and airport supporters to help the airport become self-sufficient in addition to the Hastings Flying Association.

“Earlene and Larry Baum donated a lot to get the airport self -sufficient. They are absolutely an asset to the airport; they supported us 100 percent.”

He noted the airport also has good neighbors who support it. “We give special thanks to Fred Newton for negotiating the runway extension.”


Part of the growth is from plane owners from larger cities, including Grand Rapids, where pilots don’t like the fees to land; Hastings doesn’t charge to land. “We could charge fees, we chose not to,” Noteboom said. The airport has more traffic than most realize, Anderson said. “Several area businesses have their own planes at the airport; almost every business in town does business here.”


The Davis System, about the size of a home satellite dish, records the temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, rainfall, wind chill, the forecast, time and date, weather variables for the past 25 days, the weather forecast and more.


The information is on-line and relayed to a monitor in the administration building.

In the air, pilots can track weather changes by smart phone or iPad. Pilots as a rule like and use technology; most have an iPad in the cockpit, Anderson said. The system is very popular with airports; there are 1,500 of them blanketing the United States.


Those who visit the webpage, can join the system to get the information from any Davis station. It brings up pages of information on a smart phone that any pilot can view before they take their plane out of a hanger; while making plans, they can learn what the weather is like here while they are anywhere from New York to California.             


“This system this is part of the National Weather System, will get a lot more use because it is more accurate with more information. It will promote safety, which is the number one priority,” Noteboom said.


“Pilots are more confident coming here from Ohio or Indiana because they know exactly what it’s doing here, they can look it up.” The information can also be of great value to farmers managing agriculture, boaters, sports fans, those with gardens and marine and outdoor activities.


When President Trump flew into Grand Rapids for a rally last week, it triggered a 32 mile circle of no air traffic around Air Force One wherever it is in the air. To notify all pilots of the directive or other circumstances they should know of, the FAA has a Notice to Airmen network that all pilots check before taking off, where they learned of the ban on flying in this area from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the time the president was in the area.



Photos: (upper left) David McIntyre, left, and Mark Anderson, vice president of the Hastings Flying Association, examine the new Automated Weather Observation System just installed at the airport.


(middle left) Airport Manager Mark Noteboom adjusts the lighting on the monitor of the new Davis weather system.


(middle right) The Davis Automated Weather Observation System at the airport, part of a nationwide system.


(lower right) A wind indicator built by the Hastings Flying Association back in the day.

Five vehicles in chain reaction crash in Ionia County

Ionia County Sheriff’s Office deputies today were dispatched to a multiple vehicle traffic crash on westbound I-96 near South State Road, according to a sheriff's news release.


The deputies investigation showed that the driver of a commercial motor vehicle did not slow for congested traffic near the beginning of a construction zone,  causing a chain reaction crash that

damaged five vehicles and sent two people to hospitals in Grand Rapids with non-life threatening injuries.


The sheriff’s office is reminding drivers that construction season is upon us again. Motorists are advised to watch for changing traffic conditions and unexpected traffic backups.


Sheriff’s deputies were assisted on scene by the Michigan State Police Motor

Carrier Division, Berlin Orange Fire Department, Life Ambulance, Ionia County

Central Dispatch, and Reed and Hoppes.

2019 Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race is April 13

With 3,500 bicyclists registered for the 2019 Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race on Saturday, April 13, the City of Hastings will be filled with bicycle riders their friends and families.

Since the first Roubaix came to town, city officials and residents have agreed that the bikers are the most polite group of people who are part of an event, especially one that brings thousands of people to Hastings.


Serious bike racers as well as those in it for exercise and fun will be challenged by the gravel roads, a mile of rough two tracks, rocks, sand, and mud as they traverse the scenic roads of Barry County. With the date moved from March to April, the chances of icy and snowy roads are less than in previous races.


Four race lengths wait for riders of all abilities; The 22-mile “Chiller,” 36-mile “Thriller,” 62-mile “Killer” and the 100-mile “Psycho-Killer.” The Fat Bikes have specific categories in 22 and 36-mile races.


Rain, shine or fog, the largest gravel road race in the world starts in waves at 10 a.m. on Green Street, with the exception of the 100 mile test of endurance that pushes off at 7 a.m.

Instant Chronotrack Timing by Newton Timing is used and rigid handle bar number plates with timing chips are on each bike for the most accurate timing available.


Bikes like cyclocross, mountain, road, single speed, fixed gear, fat bikes or tandem bicycles are seen in the race where riders come from all over the United States and internationally.


The Barry-Roubaix course is now a year-round draw, City Manager Jeff Mansfield said. “In the months leading up to the race, there are many, many cyclists on the course each weekend – literally hundreds if the weather is even remotely nice.” Mansfield, who has competed in the race, is looking forward to working with Scott TenCate, Rick Plite, Matt Acker and others from Trail Blazer Events.

 “Rick and Scott are not only friendly, helpful and enjoyable folks to work with, they are also magnificent event coordinators.  We hear time and again from cyclists that this is by far the best run event they participate in all year, plus the whole event is great fun!” 


City staff members in the Department of Public Services, Police Department, Community Development Department and other city employees thoroughly enjoy working with MDOT, the Barry County Sheriff’s Department and Posse, Spectrum Health Pennock and many other local agencies to make the event happen each year, he said.


Police Reserve Officers, Ambassadors and Cadets welcome visitors, answer questions and point out parking spaces. There are more than 2,800 free parking spaces in Hastings public and private parking lots, plus free street parking.


Cyclists will collect some $34,000 in cash and prizes, trophies and medals in an awards ceremony for top finishers. The Founders Street Party features street bonfires, music and food trucks and other vendors, as well as the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance beer tent with kegs of Founders Ale from 11a.m. to 6 p.m. on race day


Other than Summerfest, Barry-Roubaix is probably the city’s largest annual event with the most participants and spectators.  With the now year-round draw of the course for cyclists, Barry-Roubaix related activities may even exceed Summerfest in bringing folks to the community, Mansfield said.   

The Barry-Roubaix is a participating race in the Michigan Gravel Race Series.


Photo: Bicyclists gathering for the start of another wave in an earlier Roubaix.


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