We covered many stories here at the Post in 2009. Some were amusing, some were moving, some were history in the making. Below are just a handful of the stories that shaped Cedar Springs and the surrounding area in 2009.
Accidents are most times minor, sometimes major, and often heartbreaking. In 2009 there were several fatal accidents, including a fatal drunk-driving motorcycle accident on South Main St., two fatal accidents on M-57, a fatal drunk-driving accident at White Creek and 17 Mile, and a fatal at Tefft and 13 Mile Road.
A crash that was not fatal but seriously affected families was one where four 16 year-old girls were injured when their car struck a tree in Spencer Township after a Halloween party. Two of the girls were seriously injured. Alcohol was not involved.
Please be drive safely. If you’ve had too much to drink, call someone.
We saw a lot of animals in the news this year. We found out that there are bears in and around Cedar Springs, with three separate sightings, and even some photos. Bobcats are becoming more common, and eagles even made a nest nearby. So many people went to see the eagles that it became a traffic hazard.
Be aware at all times of what’s in your backyard. And leave the wildlife alone.
Businesses came and went this year. Many people in the area lost jobs when the Wolverine World Wide in Rockford closed the tannery in April. CEO Blake Krueger said the company is likely to get out of the leather manufacturing business and move most footwear production to Asia.
The Speedway on S. Main Street closed its doors for good June 30 due to the poor economic climate. Spokesperson Linda Casey said the road construction in front of the station just pushed the closing forward. Speedway had been there since 1971, and before that it was a Checkers station. Many residents still miss having a gas station on the south side of town.
Cedar Springs Automotive Supply at Main and Maple in Cedar Springs closed after the owner was unable to pay his back taxes by the deadline, and Kent County took over ownership. They then gave the city an option to purchase the building and property, before it went up for auction, which they did.
Big addition: Meijer once again has a presence in the area. It opened up a new store on 17 Mile in Solon Township, in the spring. Several other nice shops have popped up along Main Street in Cedar Springs, too.
If we want business to hang around, we need to shop there instead of in Grand Rapids.
The comeback story of the year was fighter Troy Rowland. After three-years out of the ring, the 33-year-old fighter has slipped his gloves back on with plans to punch his way to the top. It was standing room only Saturday evening, July 11, at Boxing at the Ballpark at Fifth Third Park, as over 1,000 boxing fans filled the makeshift boxing arena set up in the stadium’s parking lot. Rowland’s fight against Dave Sanders was the main attraction and he didn’t disappoint. The fight went the whole six rounds, and Rowland won by unanimous decision, which improved his record to 25-2. This fall he fought again in Las Vegas but was defeated.
Judge Steven Servaas got a bittersweet victory after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that he could keep his job because the Judicial Tenure Commission did not have the authority to rule on a judge’s conduct. It was bittersweet because Paul Fischer, the person that brought the charges, was not censured for the way he conducted himself when he tried to force Servaas to resign.
It was the end of over a year-and-a-half of publicity, accusations and the possibility that all Servaas rulings in recent years could be invalid. It also cost the Rockford judge $56,000 personally in legal costs—on top of $100,000 in costs covered by county insurance. Servaas still believes the fiasco all came from his disagreement over whether to move the Rockford court location to a new building.
The Rockford court closed in November, and the new one opened at Knapp and East Beltline.
Crime doesn’t pay
Crime was alive and well in the northern Kent County area. Timothy Stephan, of Howard City, shocked the court when he chuckled and admitted that he killed both Robert and Norma Bean. Previously he was thought to have only killed one of them, with his partner in crime, Bobby Jay Fisk, killing the other.
Kidnapping was in the news more than once. Leon Howard Anderson, of Solon Township, attempted to abduct a Sparta woman, after stopping to ask for directions. He was later convicted. Andrew Richard Cheslek, of Algoma Township, was at a gas station on September 4, when his ex-girlfriend came in the station bound with her arms and legs bound, and asked for help. He scooped her up and ran out, setting off a manhunt. He was later arrested.
The Julia Dawson homicide was in the news again when Dateline aired her story on television.
Former Cedar Trails PTO president Bonny Lynn Holden pled guilty to embezzlement. She was sentenced to probation, $4,207.70 in restitution and court costs.
Residents were stunned when a Kent County Sheriff Deputy was arrested for stealing from an elderly man he was helping while off-duty. Keith Kazelskis, 36, of Cedar Springs, stole $1,200 from the man, reportedly because he was having trouble making his mortgage payments. The 12-year veteran was sentenced to 180 days in jail, $1,200 in restitution and other court costs.
A fraud investigation that ran cold after the police department exhausted all of their leads was solved after the Cedar Springs Post ran a front page photo of the suspect. The man had cashed just over $1,500 in stolen checks at a local gas station, and the tips called in after the story ran helped police catch the suspect.
Arts and Entertainment
The Kent Theatre has made leaps and bounds, and is now showing first run films, just weeks after they premier. Just last weekend they showed “New Moon,” the second film in the “Twilight” saga.
The Cedar Springs Historical Museum finally began construction on an addition early this year, and hope to have things moved in soon.
Algoma Township created a memorial park, complete with a monument, that marks the spot of the old Swedish Baptist Church. It is across the street from Algoma Baptist. They held a dedication on Memorial Day.
Former American Idol Bucky Covington made a surprise appearance in Cedar Springs this fall when he gave a free concert at Tractor Supply, as part of the B-93 Roofsit concert series.
The Cedar Springs Marching Band had an excellent season, culminating a performance at Ford Field in Detroit for the State Finals of the Michigan Competing Band Association. This was their first year competing in that organization.
Cutbacks in revenue sharing for municipalities, funding for schools, libraries, and other areas is a struggle all across the state. Cedar Springs city employees gave back raises to help make ends meet.
The Cedar Springs Library made national news earlier this year after several media outlets reported that they were on a list of possible projects to be funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. They did not, however, receive the funding for a new library.
But the city of Cedar Springs received good news when they found out they received $63,000 to help repave Fifth Street from stimulus funds. They also received good news regarding the White Pine Trail staging area. First they received a donation of property from the Gust family, and just recently they received news of a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust fund to help with funding. The city’s part of the match is $47,100.
Many of the churches in the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association banded together to hold our first ever joint community worship service in Morley Park last summer. It was an inspiring experience that many hope will become an annual event.
The Springs Church put their faith in action and took their service out into the community the Sunday before Red Flannel Day. Over 200 people helped their neighbors in need by picking up trash, washing windows, raking lawns, bagging leaves, scraping paint from a house, repainting a home, sealing a roof, and more.
The EnGedi Youth Center, a joint effort between area pastors and community members, received their non-profit status and now have a temporary place to meet, at the Dive, in the Springs Church. They hope to give all youth in the community a place they can call their own, a place to go for rest, recreation, mentoring, tutoring, etc.
The First Baptist church celebrated 150 years with a special homecoming service. They were the first church to be organized in Cedar Springs on February 12, 1859 with 29 members.
Besides the fire on the front page this week, another devastating fire was a wild fire that burned out of control in Nelson Township. The fire started in a wooded area and finally consumed a home on Wildwood Ct., just off 18 Mile near Coan. It was originally reported as a five-acre grass fire. Seven fire departments were called in, and four tankers of water were required to quell the blaze.
Another downtown business, Cinderella Slipper Scrapbooking on Main Street, was destroyed when it caught fire on August 6. It has since reopened in a new location.
On a brighter note, the Cedar Springs Fire Department received their beautiful new fire truck.
The City of Cedar Springs has taken some hits, with several of its employees being in the news. City Councilor Pam Conley has been in the news regarding whether she should legally be able to hold both a school board and city council seat. That question is being forwarded to the Kent County prosecutor’s office.
Another City Councilor, Raymond Huckleberry, has pled not guilty to larceny charges related to his ownership of the former Stein Brothers pizza business.
Larry Briggs, a former planning commissioner, is charged with assault in a domestic violence incident. He resigned his post after his arrest.
Sand Lake has its own worries, after the chair and secretary of their planning commission filed a petition to disincorporate the village.
Both the U.S. Post office in Coral and Cedar Springs have been hit with changes. Coral consolidated with Pierson, and CS carriers will now pick up mail from Rockford.
It was a surprise to construction workers and city workers when remnants of the old TS&M Railroad was unearthed during road construction on S. Main this summer. The old railroad bed was still under the road.
One of Cedar Springs oldest and most beloved sites was saved this summer. The flowing well behind the fire barn on Maple Street was uncapped after North Kent Well and Pump restored it. The well is thought to be the birthplace of the city of Cedar Springs.
The city received a blow, however, when the siren tower behind the library was deemed unsafe. It will most likely be rebuilt at another location in the city, such as North Park.
Long-time Superintendent Andy Booth retired from Cedar Springs Public Schools, and Assistant Superintendent Ron McDermed was chosen, after a lengthy interview process, to replace him.
Creative Technologies Academy also announced a change in leadership in December. In January, long-time leader Lexie Coxon will step down, and Dan George will take her place.
School finances have been a big problem this school year, with schools taking a large cut in per pupil funding all across the state.
News of the Weird
A Sparta man was arrested after he invaded the home of a neighbor while wearing a purple bra and boxers. Alcohol was definitely a factor.
Alcohol was also involved when a man entered the wrong mobile home in Cedar Springs Mobile Estates and would not leave. The man even chased the homeowner around outside and threatened to assault him. When police arrived, the homeowners were hiding in the bedroom and the man was banging on their bedroom door. It appears the address he was looking for may have had the same house numbers, but he was on the wrong street.