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Archive | November, 2009

Metron holds Veteran’s Day event

N-Veteran's-Day-ZOOM-INVeteran’s Day was celebrated in style last week at Metron of Cedar Springs, when a new flag was dedicated at the nursing home as residents looked on.

“Our first annual Veteran’s Day event at Metron of Cedar Springs was a success!” said Olivia Flanders, Life Enrichment Director at Metron.

On hand was the Cedar Springs High School marching band to play the National Anthem, as the American Legion Color Guard rose and dedicated a new flag. The Color Guard also performed the folding of the flag as they read the meaning of the thirteen folds.

“Residents were able to join us around the flagpole in the sunshine for this ceremony,” said Flanders.

Following the flag ceremony, they gathered everyone in their dining room for special guest Raphael Trujillo, who spoke about a soldier’s oath of enlistment.

They also had a reading of the names of veterans at Metron. They include William Annable-Air Force, Kenneth Beardsley-Marine, Rex Morris-Army, Vander Merritt-Navy, and Therese Momber-Air Force and Navy Reserves.

To close the event Martin Zyla, a member of Senior Singalong, performed special music while punch and cookies were served.

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Post to collect toys for needy

N-Toys-for-Tots-poster-2009Would you like to do something special for families in need this Christmas? You can partner with us, The Cedar Springs Post, to provide toys for needy children in Kent County. The Post is participating in the Toys for Tots program this holiday season, as a drop off site for toys.

Toys for Tots is a volunteer organization whose goal is to collect new, unwrapped toys for kids 0-16, and distribute them to children who would not otherwise receive a gift during the holiday season. According to Julie Buehler, coordinator for the north end of Kent County, toys for teens are especially hard to come by. “People just don’t seem to give those,” she said.

The program runs now through December 24. Just bring a new, unwrapped toy to our office at 36 E. Maple Street in Cedar Springs, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Together we can make this Christmas special for many children!

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Old broads hold pajama party

by Cliff And Nancy Hill

Last Friday evening we had just settled down for a quiet evening of reading. Around 8:30 the phone rang and a guy named Larry tipped us off to a loud and boisterous party going on in a residence in Rockford. Thinking there might be a story there, we headed out to check it out.

Pulling into the driveway of the address given, we found ourselves at Grandma’s House, the bed and breakfast owned and operated by Rockford Mayor Janice “Chi Chi” Rogers and her husband Larry. (Yes, he was the caller!) We could hear loud laughter coming through the walls.

Wondering if we should really be there, we were just about to leave when the front door flew open and Chi Chi beckoned us in. We quickly found out Chi Chi was hosting a pajama party, of all things, for four of her closest friends. Now here’s the best part: they weren’t just any women—they were the mayors or mayors pro-tem of Cedar Springs, Rockford, Walker and Wyoming.

(Pictured left to right) Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets, former Cedar Springs Mayor Linda Hunt, Walker Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara Holt, Cedar Springs city councilor  Pat Capek and Rockford’s Mayor Janice “Chi Chi” Rogers enjoy a first-ever Lady Mayor’s PJ Party.

(Pictured left to right) Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets, former Cedar Springs Mayor Linda Hunt, Walker Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara Holt, Cedar Springs city councilor Pat Capek and Rockford’s Mayor Janice “Chi Chi” Rogers enjoy a first-ever Lady Mayor’s PJ Party.

The lady mayors had met earlier for dinner at Rockford’s Reds on the River, where, we were told by the others, Chi Chi had “worked the room” like the consummate politician she is. After dinner, the get-together moved to Grandma’s House for a first-ever sleepover. These twice-annual get-togethers had usually been dinner out and good conversation. This year was different, because Mayor Carol Sheets of Wyoming and Mayor Linda Hunt of Cedar Springs were both retiring from political office after many years of distinguished public service. So the idea of a pj party in celebration was hatched. Other than the two retirees, and along with Chi Chi, city councilor Pat Capek of Cedar Springs and mayor pro-tem Barbara Holt of Walker were part of this tight group. (Capek has served as mayor pro-tem in the past.)

Obviously this is a close group of friends who over the years have developed a strong personal and professional relationship as a result of a common shared interest in city governance. They are dedicated and talented women and extremely proud of their combined 89 years of public service.

With a self-deprecating sense of humor, the ladies described themselves as “old broads.” They were seated around the dining room table in the evening’s designated attire. In evening attire from t-shirt tops and “red flannel” pajama bottoms to satin lounging pajamas, they were a sight to behold and immensely enjoying themselves.

Yes, they were talking politics and for that matter anything that struck their fancy. No subject was off the table. We would love to report on what we heard that night, but we were sworn to secrecy and told everything uttered was “off the record.” (It was priceless stuff!)

We spent a couple of hours doubled over in laughter while enjoying a libation or two, took a group picture, and bid our adieus.

As we left, we asked “First Husband Larry” what his plans were for the evening. He replied, “I’m out of here,” and so were we. Party on, ladies!

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Hawkins fired from township

Jeffrey Shawn Hawkins, 40, the assistant clerk in Plainfield Township, and Plainfield Township Firefighter that was arrested last week on charges of accosting children for immoral purposes, was fired from both positions.

The Kent County Sheriff Department began investigating Hawkins after a complaint of soliciting a child for immoral purposes. The solicitation occurred online while the individuals conversed via Facebook.  Investigators do not believe the suspect ever had any physical contact with the 15-year-old children involved in the case.

N-HawkinsPlainfield Township Supervisor Bob Homan was originally quoted as saying that Hawkins had been suspended without pay and that he thought it best to let the legal process play out. He also said that the township has no policy regarding individuals on the Sex Offender Registry in regards to employment with the township. Hawkins was convicted of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree with a victim between the ages of 13 to 16 on June 3, 1997 in 17th Circuit Court.

According to a statement released by Scott Harvey, Clerk of Plainfield Township, he terminated Hawkins from his position as assistant clerk on Monday, November 10, after previously suspending him on Friday, November 6.

A memo from the Plainfield Fire Department also said that Hawkins was terminated effective Monday, November 10. The memo explained that Hawkins had been employed with the fire department for 16 years as a paid on call firefighter, and that following his prior conviction, steps were taken to limit or eliminate the possibility of him being alone with a minor child. They said they felt at the time that with proper safeguards, he would not be a threat to the public, and that his current activities took place outside his employment as a firefighter, but were still grounds for termination. They also noted that he did not attend the Fall Festival at the East Oakview Elementary School on October 23, with other Plainfield Firefighters, as they previously reported.

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Rockford court closes doors

 There was no delay in taking down the sign in Rockford that read 63rd District Court.

There was no delay in taking down the sign in Rockford that read 63rd District Court.

It was already determined that Rockford legally must have a court presence, but with the Rockford 63rd District Court closed for remodeling before a magistrate moves in part time, city officials and residents are wondering when that will happen.

The city of Rockford is appealing a decision that said Chief Judge Sara Smolenski has the right to decide what sort of arrangement will satisfy a judge’s ruling that Rockford will maintain a court presence there. With the Rockford court closed for business on Monday, November 9, the lack of services already upset officials and northern residents used to the location.

On Tuesday, November 10, resident Judge Steve Servaas held what might be his last arraignment in the court. With video links to the Kent County Jail disabled at the Rockford location, accused Jeffrey Hawkins was brought in for an in-person arraignment at the courtroom. At the time, staff was packing up the last of the files, equipment and personal belongings of the court they have called home.

 Morey Butler is frustrated he can’t pay a ticket at the Rockford court on Wednesday, November 11. His wife Joanne forgot to hang her handicapped sign in her car and received a ticket. “We live in Howard City. It is inconvenient that we will have to drive to Grand Rapids now. We don’t like this at all,” Morey said. “I’d like to say to the judge that I am proud of him. He is a good man. I admire him, you bet I do.”

Morey Butler is frustrated he can’t pay a ticket at the Rockford court on Wednesday, November 11. His wife Joanne forgot to hang her handicapped sign in her car and received a ticket. “We live in Howard City. It is inconvenient that we will have to drive to Grand Rapids now. We don’t like this at all,” Morey said. “I’d like to say to the judge that I am proud of him. He is a good man. I admire him, you bet I do.”

Dawn Kolenbrander, who worked in the courtroom from 1979 to 1988 and again for the last four years, said it is a sad day for Rockford and the northern communities to see the court close. She especially will miss the personal style of doing business at the court. “It’s really a community here,” she said. “This is the perfect location for our demographics, for the people we serve,” she said. “For the northern people, this is the place for the court to be.”

N-Court-closed1-ServaasJudge Servaas said he still hopes the case will eventually be decided in the Supreme Court and the services for the northern half of the 63rd District Court will be reinstated in the Rockford location. He is surprised more media have not taken up the curious timing of his being accused of misconduct just as he opposed the courts consolidation to a location on the East Beltline, completely outside the northern court boundaries. “It is a really interesting story here, right from the beginning, how I happened to get thrown to the Judicial Tenure Commission,” he said.

Servaas said he was originally agreeable to the move when it appeared there would be a third judge to accommodate and that the new location would at least be at the juncture of the northern and southern district on Four Mile Road. “If it was going to save the taxpayers money, I was for it,” he said.

When state financial conditions deteriorated and plans for a third judge in the immediate future dissolved, Servaas made vocal his disapproval of the move. A public falling out between the two existing judges, Chief Judge Sara Smolenski and himself took place. He believes there is plenty to prove that the county was behind an attempt to have him removed. If he were, there would be no contest to the court consolidation. One example of some inappropriate and suspicious behavior was that at the hearing over Servaas’ misconduct—of which he was cleared—was that a Kent County attorney was assisting accuser Paul Fischer.

Now that Servaas has been cleared of wrongdoing the question of the extent and timing of the new court presence is first and foremost. Serving his last term due to age limits, the issue goes beyond Servaas and to what a court presence will consist of.

Currently, a judge ruled there must be a court presence in Rockford, but failed to define what that court presence must be. It is the county’s contention that Chief Judge Sara Smolenski has sole discretion in determining the amount of presence that fulfills the ruling, as well as creating a timeline for those services. It is expected either party—the City of Rockford hoping for a full court presence including a judge; or Kent County, believing a part time magistrate will suffice—will appeal to the Supreme Court.

City Manager Michael Young, along with Servaas, wonder why the County decided to close the building, move out staff, and begin remodeling before the case is decided. “They act like there is a fire under this,” said Servaas.

Young said it puts law enforcement in a confusing situation. “If our police need a warrant signed, they have to go to Grand Rapids,” he said. “We are supposed to have a court presence here, but now the court is closed. How do the police plan for that?” Last year, the union members of the Kent County Sheriff Department voted unanimously against moving services from the Rockford location. They believed it was a safety issue to have northern-serving law enforcement out of their territories longer to conduct court business so far away.

Kent City, Cedar Springs, and Solon and Oakfield townships all passed legislation opposing the move, Young said. “This isn’t just a Rockford issue,” said Young. “This is a northern Kent County issue, that’s for sure.”

Rockford City Council went into closed session following their regular monthly meeting on Monday. November 9. The session was to discuss terms of transfer of the courthouse to the City of Rockford. According to Rockford’s Mayor Chi Chi Rogers, the proposed contract was four or five pages long and was too complex to take action on immediately.

Rogers said the deliberations over the document took council about an hour, and will be addressed at the next monthly meeting. Regardless of the outcome of the transaction of the property, Rogers said she is disappointed in the County’s refusal to wait until the suit is settled to close the Rockford court.
“It’s a sad day. The court has been established in Rockford and people depend on it. It’s a shame with that building not costing very much to maintain. We all love Judge Servaas, but Judge Servaas has nothing to do with the court staying in Rockford. It’s not only for Rockford residents. Sara can move to any darn place she wants. I don’t care if they build a courthouse on every street in Grand Rapids; just leave the Rockford court here. It’s a travesty.”

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What will this winter bring?

N-Winter-forecastOld weather lore tells us that “Flowers bloomin’ in late Autumn, A sure sign of a bad Winter comin’,” and that “A warm November is the sign of a bad Winter.”

Last week The Post printed a photo of some flowers blooming in November when they shouldn’t be, and everyone agrees that we’ve had a warm November, hitting the 50s and 60s for a couple weeks. Does that mean a hard winter is coming?

The Post has learned to rely on the forecasts from WOODTV8 Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen. For the 2008-2009 forecast, he definitely got the part right about above average snowfall. “I wasn’t quite high enough on the totals but I don’t think I’d ever forecast 100-plus inches in a mid-fall forecast,” he explained in his most recent winter forecast.

He said that snowfall this winter will be above average, but less than the totals reached the previous two years, and that the temperature will be one to two degrees cooler than average. He’s predicting about 83 inches of snow for the Grand Rapids area, with more for the lakeshore (closer to 100 inches).

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2010 predicts the winter to also be about a degree colder than average, and for snowfall in the western lower lakes area to be above average. They also predict a snowstorm around Thanksgiving, and other snowy periods during the first and last parts of December, late January, late February and mid-march. They predict the coldest periods the second week of December, pretty much all of January and mid-February.

According to Steffen, the latest information he has pushes the snow to Sunday, November 29. (It was expected earlier in the week.) “I still think we are snowier/colder for the period between Nov. 29-Dec. 31 and maybe beyond,” Steffen predicted.

Steffen noted that we have never had a November in Grand Rapids without seeing at least a trace of snow. “There have only been six Novembers when we had just a trace of snow. The last time that happened was in 2001. That year we had only a trace of snow in November, then 2.2″ on Dec. 14th, which quickly melted as temperatures shot back into the 40s. Then from Dec. 23 to Dec. 31 we received 51.7″ of snow!” he said.

According to the National Weather Service, Michigan’s temperatures for the 2008-2009 winter season were below average across the state and the coldest since 1993-94. The past winter ranked as the 20th coldest winter on record for Michigan, with several locations, including Flint and Marquette, recording a top 10 coldest winter. The most extreme arctic cold occurred January 13 -18, when lows dipped below zero across most of the state including the metro Detroit area.  During this time, it was also windy leading to dangerous wind chills of 30 to 40 below.  This five to six day stretch of arctic air was the longest and coldest string of days since January 1994. Snowfall and precipitation were again above average, especially across Southern Lower Michigan and the lake effect snow regions of the state, with snowfalls reported in the top 10 for many locations.

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Conley question to go to prosecutor

By Judy Reed

The attorney for the city of Cedar Springs has recommended that the question of whether newly-elected city trustee Pamela Conley can serve on both city council and the local school board should be turned over to the Kent County prosecutors office to investigate.

Last Thursday, November 12, the Cedar Springs City Council met for their regular monthly board meeting. They swore in incumbent Charlie Watson, and then before swearing in Conley, Jeffrey Sluggett, of Law Weathers, gave his opinion to council on why he felt that Conley sitting on the two public boards constituted a breach of public duty, under the Michigan Incompatible Offices Act. He said that a long list of attorney general opinions have ruled that a trustee may not sit on both boards when entities have contracts with each other.

“There is a long list of agreements or contracts that the city and school have with each other,” noted Sluggett. He listed some examples such as the football field at Morley Park (Skinner Field), the collection of school taxes, the crossing guard, parks and rec programs, and the fact that the city administers school elections.

“The council member can be sworn in, but it is our opinion it would create a breach,” said Sluggett. “The option we recommend is to turn it over to the prosecuting attorney and let them conduct an investigation. It’s up to the school board whether she vacates the school board seat.”

Conley was then sworn in to city council.

According to Cedar Springs City Manager Christine Burns, Sluggett’s recommendation of turning it over to the prosecutor was a surprise to her. “That was the first I’d heard of it,” she said. Burns told the Post that they are now working with Sluggett on how to proceed.

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Ron McDermed said that they have contacted the school’s attorney for an opinion on the matter, and asked to have it before Monday’s school board meeting.

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Dickens’ classic performed on Kent Theatre stage

Everybody loves a good story and nothing gets a person into the holiday mood more than a good Christmas story. And this year, you can hear live on the Kent Theatre stage a reading/telling of the beloved Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.”  Called “theater for the ear,” this Reader’s Theater version has all the wonderful characters telling the story, transporting you back to old London and that fateful Christmas Eve night.

Mark your calendars now. Three performances are scheduled on Dec. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee on Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are only $8 and are available at the box office before all performances, the Cedar Springs Public Library, or by calling 616-696-0949.

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Let it Snow Reading Club

ENT-Let-is-snow-reading-cluWarm up to a good book with the Kent District Library’s “Let it Snow Reading Club” for adults, sponsored by the KDL Alliance of Friends. This year’s “Let it Snow” program will run from December 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010. The more you read, the more great prizes you can win!

When you sign up at your local KDL branch, you will receive a bingo card with squares representing various types of books. Play bingo while you read and enter to win exciting prizes like a gift card to Schuler Books & Music or Meijer. If you get two bingos, you’ll receive a “Let it Snow” ice scraper to get you through the long winter! All completed bingo cards will be entered in the final drawing on Wednesday, March 31 for a $50 gift card to the Gilmore Group restaurants.

For more information, please stop by a Kent District Library branch, call 784-2007 or visit us online at www.kdl.org.

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Roger on the Road

rogerheaderKeep on truckin’

If all the cars and all the trucks in America were on the road at once, we’d have a backup across the entire country. Your experiences on I-96 may lead you to think this has already happened.

Trucks sometimes seem to out-number the cars, although they don’t. In the U.S., 500 million passenger vehicles roll the roads but only 85 million trucks. It’s inconvenient and sometimes scary to share the highway with enormous semis, but we all depend on them. Nowadays, they transport most of our needs.

If the internal combustion engine had been invented before the steam engine, we might never have had trains in this country. But steam engines were invented about 100 years before the gas engine and water and coal were handy. (When oil was discovered in the U.S., people wanted it for lamps.)

Railroads and steam propulsion developed separately, and it was not until the one system adopted the technology of the other that railroads began to flourish.

Building railroads was expensive so the federal government gave the railroads land. Some was sold to the public and some was offered to immigrants for their labor on the railroad. America didn’t have a real labor force; most men farmed and some ran small shops. As a result, we attracted a lot of immigrants to work on projects such as railroads.

The railroads spanned the country before we had any highways. They moved heavy loads cheaply. In my long lifetime I’ve been able to observe the steady expansion of highways and truck transportation and the steady decline of the rail system.

And now we’re stuck with a need for more oil to keep the trucks rolling, not to mention our cars.

This brief history lesson is brought to you at no extra charge because I know you need the money for gas.

A joke I forgot

This was intended for our Halloween issue but somehow escaped my memory:

Two men were walking home after a Halloween party and decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery just for laughs. Right in the middle of the cemetery both were startled by a tap-tap-tapping noise coming from the misty shadows.

Trembling with fear, they spotted an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones.

“Mister,” said one of them after catching his breath, “you scared us half to death. We thought you were a ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?”

“Those fools!” the old man grumbled. “They misspelled my name!”

Last words

A termite walks into the bar and asks the first guy he sees, “Is the bar tender here?”

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