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Archive | March, 2010

How many eggs in your basket?

Community Easter egg hunt set for April 3

How many eggs will you find at this year’s Cedar Springs Post Community Easter Egg Hunt? You will need to check them carefully, like the little girl above, because you might even get a winning egg!

Please join us at this fun, family event on Saturday, April 3, at 1:00 p.m. at Red Hawk Elementary, on the Cedar Springs Public Schools campus. It will feature hunts for four different ages, eggs, candy, coins and great prizes. The Cedar Springs Fire Department, Keystone Kops, Red Flannel Queen and Court, and of course, the Easter Bunny, will all be on hand to help with the festivities. You won’t want to miss it!

Many thanks to all the businesses that have already stepped to help or make a donation. We couldn’t do this without you!

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Hay fire shuts down ramp

By Judy Reed

A semi-tractor hauling hay caught fire at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, closing down the off-ramp from southbound US131 to 14 Mile road for several hours Friday afternoon.

According to the driver, he was on southbound US131 hauling a load of hay for Hillside Farms, in Zeeland, and pulled over to let a couple of cars pass. He said the next thing he knew, he looked back and saw the hay on fire, so he pulled off on the ramp to 14 Mile.

“Fifty trips a year and this is the first time this ever happened,” he said.

Algoma, Sparta, Courtland, Oakfield, and Cedar Springs Fire Departments all assisted at the scene. According to Algoma Fire Chief Steve Johnson, it took about four hours to put out the fire and clean up the hay.

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President signs health care reform bill

By Judy Reed

President Obama signed the health care reform bill Tuesday, the first step in an overhaul mainly targeted at the insurance industry.

President Obama signs the health care reform bill Tuesday. The historic atmosphere of the signing of the bill did not keep Vice-President Joe Biden from uttering a curse word for the world to hear. Biden introduced the president, then leaned in and told him how historic of an occasion he thought it was. The slip was caught on audio and videotape.

The house passed the bill by a majority vote Sunday, with the understanding that the Senate would vote on and pass a reconciliation bill amending some of the items. The bill was strictly supported by Democrats, and only received a majority once President Obama promised to sign an executive order banning federal funding of abortion, which was in the bill. Republicans balked at Obama’s offer, pointing out that an executive order can be rescinded at any time.

Many are hailing the bill as a historic breakthrough that will provide access to healthcare for 32 million Americans that wouldn’t have it otherwise. Under the plan, insurers would not be able to reject individuals with preexisting conditions, or cancel their healthcare when they get sick.

The plan does not offer a government-run single-payer plan. Instead, the bill builds on our current system of private insurance, mandates that individuals buy coverage and gives many subsidies to do so. They will be fined if they do not buy it, which has many wondering about the constitutionality of the bill.

Employers with 50-plus employees will be required to offer insurance to employees and will be given tax credits for doing so. But they will also be fined if they do not offer it.

It’s been said that the plan will cut Medicare spending by $500 billion. However, it’s a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. According to factcheck.org, Medicare Advantage’s private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits. The bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the “doughnut hole,” a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors.

Another bone of contention has been the tax on the so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans. There will be a 40 percent tax on the value of plans above $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families, starting in 2018. The tax falls on insurers, but would be passed along to policyholders one way or another. The Congressional Budget Office believes it will boost paychecks by forcing workers to choose a less expensive plan, and that in lieu of the higher cost benefits, employers will raise salaries. But there isn’t anything saying they have to.

Most provisions in the bill go into effect in 2014, although some go into effect later this year.

A summary of House bill HR3200 and HR4872 can be downloaded here.

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Roger on the Road

RogerheaderThis is not funny

Don’t skim down for the joke. There isn’t any. But I do have a story to tell.

I’m an old guy and my kidneys have failed. Used to be, I’d die pretty quickly from that. But kidney dialysis can allow me to live a fairly normal life. Millions of people the world around are on kidney dialysis.

I started peritoneal dialysis in January after getting a catheter installed in my abdomen at St. Mary’s Hospital. With help from Audrey at Renal Advantage, Inc. (RAI) in Rockford, I learned to do my own dialysis and began to feel better. Yay!

Being old enough for Medicare, I opted for a private umbrella insurance company instead of the usual two-tier Medicare with Medigap arrangement. Medicare (“the public option”) hasn’t failed me. But the private enterprise, for-profit company, has failed me big time. Its name is Humana. Boo!

On March 1, I got a letter from Humana, canceling my health insurance retroactive to January 1. Can they do that? I sure would like to know the answer to that question.

Meanwhile, Humana’s form-letter reply to my startled inquiry said they’d get back to me in 30 days.

So I haven’t been covered since January 1. The hospital and surgeon’s bill for my catheter? Humana wants no part of it. My services at RAI? Humana wants no part of it. My four-times-a-day dialysis supplies? Humana wants no part of it. I have what’s called ESRD, or End Stage Renal Disease. Humana apparently wants no part of ESRD.

A national health insurance bill passed Congress on Sunday night. (Not a single Republican voted for it, by the way. Boo!) It’s an imperfect bill, but it’s something that we, as a nation, can work to improve in the future. It begins (but only begins) to pull some power away from the health insurance industry. I’m currently a victim of that power.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen Humana’s glossy advertising that comes in the mail to friends. And Humana’s TV ads are sooo seductive.

My kidneys and I whole-heartedly agree with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who said the other day that it’s critical that WE get the power to limit “the predatory role of private insurers who make money NOT providing health care.”

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Alleged arson causes stir

By Judy Reed

Last week’s story about Sand Lake Police arresting an alleged arsonist as he ran from a vacant building has some people speculating whether the incident really happened or whether it was staged to show the need for the police department.

If the village were disincorporated, the police department would cease to exist.

According to Sand Police Chief Ken Williams, there is nothing to the claim made by at least one person on our website, and others in the area.

According to Chief Williams, the man sat in the bar about 12 hours the day of the fire, but doesn’t seem to be connected to anyone in town.

Sand Lake Police Officer Steve Brandow and Sand Lake Police Intern Zac Gregory were on foot patrol at approximately 3:00 a.m. Sunday, March 14, when they noticed a fire in the back window of a vacant building at 20 W. Lake Street. They observed a man leaving the scene, and Officer Brandow apprehended the suspect while Intern Gregory successfully extinguished the fire.

They arrested Gerald Lee Krug, 48,  of Grand Rapids, on a charge of Arson–Preparation to Burn Property over $20,000.

Some have asked whether the police really do foot patrols. Williams said that they do. “We do foot patrols at random. We try to get out of the car at least once a night and more during the summer,” he said.

Krug waived his right to a preliminary hearing that was scheduled for Wednesday, March 24, and was bound over to Circuit Court on the arson charge.

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Trial scheduled for city councilor

Raymond Huckleberry, 30, of Cedar Springs, has opted not to appear before a jury when he goes to trial next month on a larceny charge.

The Cedar Springs City Councilor and former owner of Stein Brothers Pizza is accused of theft of property from the upstairs level of the building he did business in. A complaint was filed with the Cedar Springs police August 31, and when Huckleberry was identified as a suspect, the investigation was turned over to the Kent County Sheriff Department. In November, a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he voluntarily turned himself in.

Huckleberry was arraigned December 2 on one count of larceny over $200 but less than $1,000.
He is scheduled for a non-jury trial on April 26 at 2 p.m. before Judge Steven Servaas in 63rd District Court.

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Rotary selects essay winners

The Cedar Springs Rotary recently selected the winners of their 4-way test essay contest at Cedar View Elementary.

Each year the Rotary works with the fifth grade classes at Cedar View, and eight classes participated this year. “We couldn’t continue this program without the support and cooperation with the outstanding teachers from Cedar View,” said Rotarian Donna Clark.

All essays were written at school in 200 words or less.  Teachers chose the 2 best essays from their class, and from those 15, the 4-Way Committee, including Julie Wheeler, Carolyn Davis and Clark, chose 3.

“It was very hard to choose just three,” said Clark. “We read some great stories on the theme, ‘Setting a Good Example.’”

The Rotary 4-way test says, “Of the things we think, say or do: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

The winning students from each class were:
From Mrs. Boverhof’s Class – Christian Bird and Shyanne Burnett
From Mrs. Myers’ Class – Mariah Rios and Nicold VanSeggern
From Miss Felter’s Class –Jenna Zoerman
From Mrs. Luttrell’s Class – Moriah Alger and Alexander Douglas
From Mr. Stark’s Class –Abi Garza and Maya Ingersoll
From Ms. Mumford’s Class – Justice Guy List and Madison Mora
Mrs. Latimer’s Class – Gavin Moore and Nathan Foster
From Mr. Gates’ Class – Lisa Heintzelman and Logan Gunneson

“All have received a certificate of achievement and a personal letter from our 4way Test Committee congratulating them on their outstanding essays. It is really quite an accomplishment to be chosen from all of the students in the 5th grade,” noted Clark.

Of those students, three were selected as the top winners. In first place was Maya Ingersoll; in second place Mariah Rios; and third place Christian Bird.

Maya received $50, Mariah $25, and Christian $15, in addition to their awards.

One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary 4-Way Test. It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of the Chicago-based Club Aluminum Co., which was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company was credited to this simple philosophy.

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Honk! hits a homerun

The cast of Cedar Springs High School’s spring musical Honk! put on a great show last weekend. Full of catchy tunes and excellent acting, the story, which was based on “The Ugly Duckling,” told the story of a duck  (Ugly, played by senior Nick Bonarski), that was picked on by the other farm animals and relentlessly pursued by the farm cat (played by junior Steven Reed). Bonarski was lovable as the naïve duckling, who believes the cat is his friend, and gets lost for six months, while searching for his family. Reed was in his element as the conniving feline, and left the audience in stitches during some of his scenes, such as in the Kitty Cat snack shack, where he sang “Play with your food (before you eat it)” to Ugly, and in the old woman’s cottage, where he dresses up like Father duck come to take Ugly home, and also falls for Queenie the cat, played superbly by sophomore Kayla Ovokaitys.

Sara Sowerwine convincingly played Ida, the mother duck worried about Ugly, who never loses faith that he is one of them just different. She searches relentlessly when Ugly becomes lost, and conveys her emotions splendidly in song.

One of the favorite scenes/songs of the night was “Warts and all,” with senior Joe McKnight giving a fun performance as the bullfrog. His jolly sense of humor assured Ugly everything would be all right, and that someone would love him “Warts and all.”

All of the cast gave wonderful performances, including senior Tim Mol as Drake (Father duck), senior Nate Stein as Greylag the goose, junior Jenna Johnson as Dot the goose flight attendant, senior Charli Watson as Penny the swan and many others. Linda Martino directed, and Lindsey Magoon student-directed.

Other than some glitches with the sound, the show flowed smoothly, and the cast certainly deserved the standing ovation they received on Saturday night for their performance.

More Pictures from the performance:

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9-1-1 call centers to consolidate

by Judy Reed

Those who have called 9-1-1 in an emergency and been rerouted to another jurisdiction know the frustration of having to repeat information to more than one dispatcher. It seems like precious time slipping away, especially when someone’s life is at stake. But that will change early next year.

The Kent County Dispatch Authority (KCDA) announced this week that the 9-1-1 emergency call-taking centers would be consolidated from five to two. Both the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Grand Rapids will sign contracts to become Public Service Answering Points, and will act as one virtual dispatch center, with each backing the other up.

Under this consolidation plan, the KCDA will be responsible for providing countywide 9-1-1 answering services using a countywide Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD) and interoperable mobile computers. These systems send critical information about the emergency service request to the appropriate emergency responder. Consolidation would eliminate delayed responses due to transferring the call to multiple jurisdictions.  All 9-1-1 calls in Kent County would be routed to one of these two PSAPs. For instance, cell phone calls are currently routed through the Michigan State Police and then rerouted to the correct jurisdiction.

The change is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2011.

According to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent, the new system will enhance how calls are funneled to them, and residents can expect the same quality service they’ve come to expect. “It’s a good, positive move, part of a bigger picture, with a lot of changes happening,” said Parent.

He noted that as technology changes, it sometimes adds to the cost of running individual departments. For example, the Mobile Data Computers that the Cedar Springs Police use in the cars will have to go wireless by early next year because they won’t be compatible with the new system. “It has to do with the way data is handled between the patrol car and the dispatch center. We’ll get faster, better coverage,” said Parent, but noted that it will add about $2,000 per year to the police budget for air cards. He explained that they would be able to do more in the car with air cards, such as accident reports. “The county went to both e-tickets and e-accident reporting,” he said.

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Local student named state geographic bee finalist

On Friday, April 9, young geography whizzes across the United States and U.S. territories will participate in state-level Geographic Bees, competing for a spot in the national competition in Washington, D.C., in May. The Bee is organized by the National Geographic Society.

Jacob Hoskins, a seventh-grader at Algoma Christian School in Kent City, was notified by the National Geographic Society that he will compete as a semifinalist against the top 100 students in the state at the 2010 Michigan Geographic Bee April 9, at the Bernhard Center at Western Michigan University.

He is the son of Dan and Laureen Hoskins of Algoma Township.

Bees were held in schools with fourth through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school’s winner. School-level winners then took a qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. In each of the 50 states and territories, the Society invited students with the top 100 scores compete at the sate level.

Each state winner will receive $100, the “National Geographic Collegiate Atlas of the World,” and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals May 25-26 and the chance to be crowned National Geographic Bee champion.

First prize in the national competition is a $25,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. Second- and third-place finishers receive $15,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively. Additionally, the national winner will travel (along with one parent or guardian), all expenses paid, to the Galápagos Islands to experience geography firsthand through up-close encounters with the wildlife and landscape of the islands.

John Fahey, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, said, “National Geographic’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. Through the National Geographic Bee and our other activities, we hope to foster a lifelong passion for learning about other cultures and lands and to prepare young people to be responsible stewards of our planet.”

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