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Archive | March, 2010

Youth wrestlers take home regional medals

Muskegon Orchardview was the host for the 2010 MYWAY Western Regional Wrestling Championships held on Saturday and Sunday, March 13 and 14. Wrestlers from ages five to eighteen competed for the title of Western Region Champion and a spot in the MYWAY State Finals.

A total of twenty-two youth and seven middle/high school wrestlers from Cedar Springs attended regionals. Out of the twenty-two youth who competed, thirteen placed in the top six. Of those thirteen, eleven placed top four and qualified for State Finals.  The elite among those were Ryan Ringler, George Gonzales Jr. and Jordan Ringler who, this year,  were all undefeated in their weight classes in the Western Region, taking home Regional Champion medals. Youth wrestler, Cody Gott, also took home a first place finish.   Dominick Chong and Cody Oheme were  crowned champions in the high school division.  The remaining results, complete with state qualifiers, are as follows;

In the 7/8 year division, placers were Landon Demorest 37lbs/2nd, Trenton Wachter 52lbs/2nd and Aiden Bouwens 61lbs/2nd.  In the 7/8 year division, placers were Trenton Snoeyink 55lbs/2nd, Reese Gonzales 58lbs/2nd, Logan Hull 61lbs/2nd, Ricky Wood 67lbs/6th, Ryan Ringler 82lbs/1st, and Cody Gott 112lbs/1st.  In the 9/10 year division, placers were Allexis Gonzales 71lbs/5th, George Gonzales Jr. 100lbs/1st and Jeremy Wildfong 150lbs/2nd.  In the 11/12 year division was Jordan Ringler with a first place in the 65lbs class.

In the High school division, placers were Cody Oehme 128lbs/1st, Dominick Chong 138lbs/1st, Scott Vodry 163lbs/3rd, and Jeremy Stellema 192lbs/3rd.

State Finals will be held this weekend, March 27 and 28, at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, MI.  Over 2,300 wrestlers will be competing for the MYWAY State Champion title and the coveted, specially designed singlet only awarded to the top three finishers in each weight class. Each of the top four placers will qualify for national championships held in April.  Please visit the wrestling website www.cedarspringsyouthwrestling.com for the State results.

Posted in SportsComments Off

Snowman alert!

On February 20, these cute cousins, (L to R) Sarah, Ali, Caleb and Brieana, helped their mom and friend Jessica make this wonderful snowman at their Aunt Katie’s house on 16 Mile Road. Great job, kids! It doesn’t look like there will be too many snowy days left this winter!

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off

Who’s in your backyard?

Come to the John Ball Zoo’s Backyard Naturalist presentation at Howard Christiansen Nature Center on March 27 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and learn about sharing your backyard or schoolyard space with Michigan wildlife. Our special guests will (probably) be a wood duck, opossum, a local turtle and snake species (these “stars” may require “recasting”). A registration form can be found at www.kentconservation.org/hcnc. You may pay at the door.

Other upcoming events at HCNC include:

  • April 17, 9:00-3:00, Earth Week Open House (Pancake Breakfast and Book Sale Fundraiser)
  • April 23, 9:30-1:30, Home School Workshop: Wonderful, Wet Wildlife.
  • April 24, 9:30-12:00, Magic Ponds (& Salamanders) – family workshop and hike (get your passport stamped)
  • April 29, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Early Detection and Rapid Response Training: stop the next invasive plant before it invades!
  • May 8, 9:30-11:30 a.m., I Spy Cool Plants (Botany 007) – family workshop and hike (get your passport stamped)

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off

NRE, USDA confirm wolf tracks in Cheboygan County

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division today announced they have confirmed the presence of wolves in northern Cheboygan County.

First spotted by area residents, the state and federal officials were about to confirm at least two wolves in one location; however, the landowner who made the report stated he has seen three separate sets of tracks. This is the first verification of multiple animals together in what may be described as a pack.

In early February, DNRE officials requested citizens provide wolf observation information to help conduct a survey to detect the presence of gray wolves in the Northern Lower Peninsula from February 16 through March 12.

“The purpose of the survey effort was to both verify the presence of wolves where we have previously confirmed individual animals and to detect new occurrences in other areas,” said DNRE Wildlife Biologist Jennifer Kleitch. “We need to monitor the wolf population in order to make good management recommendations and this is part of that monitoring. Given the low probability of observing a wolf or tracks in the Lower Peninsula due to the small number of animals here, it is helpful to have as many eyes looking as possible. That’s why public reports are important, and in this case we were able to respond to this report and confirm tracks and other signs that there have been wolves in the area.”

The DNRE is asking the public to report additional wolf sightings to the Gaylord Operations Service Center at 989-732-3541, ext. 5901. Observation reports can also be submitted online year-round at www.michigan.gov/wolves. The Web site also contains identification information for wolves.

“It’s imperative that observations are reported in a timely manner so we can work with fresh evidence. If people find what appear to be wolf tracks, they should preserve the physical evidence and disturb it as little as possible or take a photo of the tracks alongside a ruler,” Kleitch said. “If someone has a photo or video of a wolf in the Lower Peninsula, we’re interested in that as well.”

Wolves began naturally returning to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula via Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Since that time, the population has increased and continues to expand its range. Evidence of range expansion into the Lower Peninsula came when a gray wolf was accidentally killed in Presque Isle County in 2004. More recently, the DNRE verified two wolf observations in 2009 in the Northern Lower Peninsula as a result of a video taken by Michigan citizens.

Michigan wolves are currently listed as endangered under federal law even though recovery goals have been exceeded for many years. Wolves are widely distributed across the Upper Peninsula and state officials have called for de-listing of the Great Lakes wolf population and complete management authority. The state has an approved wolf management plan that was developed after extensive public input.

The DNRE appreciates the cooperation of USDA Wildlife Services personnel in confirming the occurrence of wolves in Cheboygan County. The DNRE and USDA Wildlife Services have been working together in wolf conservation for many years. In addition, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and Central Michigan University have been partners in the wolf detection surveys in the Northern Lower Peninsula.

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Sparta Education Foundation grants meet student needs

As the Sparta Education Foundation prepares for the final fund-raiser of the school year – Retro bowl at Sparta Lanes on March 27 – the board is proud to report that over $17,000 in grants were awarded this school year. Some items funded by grants this year include document cameras for computers at Ridgeview and Appleview (Elmo projectors), Early Childhood Program DVDs for parent use, video camera and microphones for producing the Spartan News at the high school, and story books that promote school values to middle school students.

The Sparta Educatin Foundation (SEF) offers several ways for individuals, families and businesses to show their support for Sparta students. Teams and individuals can still register to bowl in RetroBowl by calling 887-9627. In addition to attending annual fundraisers, like RetroBowl in the spring and Food for Though at Downtown Trini’s in the fall, donations can be made in memory of or in honor of a special friend or family member. Engraved pavers make up the Spartan Pride Pathway in front of Sparta High School. They cost from $50 or $150 with proceeds going into the SEF endowment fund and directly benefitting our students. Spartan Pride Pathway order forms are available at the high school.

The Sparta Education Foundation board members salute the many people in the community who care about the educatoinal needs of our students and show it by helping SEF to provide the “extras” for education.

Posted in NewsComments Off

Beware of IRS’ 2010 “Dirty Dozen” tax scams

DETROIT — The Internal Revenue Service issued its 2010 “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, including schemes involving return preparer fraud, hiding income offshore and phishing.

“Taxpayers should be wary of anyone peddling scams that seem too good to be true,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “The IRS fights fraud by pursuing taxpayers who hide income abroad and by ensuring taxpayers get competent, ethical service from qualified professionals at home in the U.S.”

Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to imprisonment and fines for both scam artists and taxpayers. Taxpayers pulled into these schemes must repay unpaid taxes plus interest and penalties. The IRS pursues and shuts down promoters of these and numerous other scams.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:

Return Preparer Fraud

Dishonest return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys.  Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for return preparation services and attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. Federal courts have issued injunctions ordering hundreds of individuals to cease preparing returns and promoting fraud, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.

To increase confidence in the tax system and improve compliance with the tax law, the IRS is implementing a number of steps for future filing seasons. These include a requirement that all paid tax return preparers register with the IRS and obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN), as well as both competency tests and ongoing continuing professional education for all paid tax return preparers except attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents.

Setting higher standards for the tax preparer community will significantly enhance protections and services for taxpayers, increase confidence in the tax system and result in greater compliance with tax laws over the long term. Other measures the IRS anticipates taking are highlighted in the IRS Return Preparer Review issued in December 2009.

Hiding Income Offshore

The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers involved in abusive offshore transactions as well as the promoters, professionals and others who facilitate or enable these schemes. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through the use of nominee entities. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans.

IRS agents continue to develop their investigations of these offshore tax avoidance transactions using information gained from over 14,700 voluntary disclosures received last year. While special civil-penalty provisions for those with undisclosed offshore accounts expired in 2009, the IRS continues to urge taxpayers with offshore accounts or entities to voluntarily come forward and resolve their tax matters. By making a voluntary disclosure, taxpayers may mitigate their risk of criminal prosecution.

Phishing

Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information online. IRS impersonation schemes flourish during the filing season and can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony Web sites. Scammers may also use phones and faxes to reach their victims.

Scam artists will try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and that they must reveal personal information to claim it. Criminals use the information they get to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.

Taxpayers who receive suspicious e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any of the links in the e-mail. Suspicious e-mails claiming to be from the IRS or Web addresses that do not begin with http://www.irs.gov should be forwarded to the IRS mailbox: phishing@irs.gov.

Filing False or Misleading Forms

The IRS is seeing various instances where scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Under the scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund. Phony information returns, such as a Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits usually are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims. One version of the scheme is based on a false theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for its citizens, and that taxpayers can gain access to funds in those accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to their creditors, including the IRS.

Nontaxable Social Security Benefits with Exaggerated Withholding Credit

The IRS has identified returns where taxpayers report nontaxable Social Security Benefits with excessive withholding. This tactic results in no income reported to the IRS on the tax return. Often both the withholding amount and the reported income are incorrect. Taxpayers should avoid making these mistakes. Filings of this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.

Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets including situations where several organizations claim the full value for both the receipt and distribution of the same non-cash contribution. Often these donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can repurchase the items later at a price set by the donor. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and set new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.

Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or IRS guidance.

Abusive Retirement Plans

The IRS continues to find abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers use to avoid the limits on contributions to IRAs, as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets at less than fair market value into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity that is considered prohibited.

Disguised Corporate Ownership

Corporations and other entities are formed and operated in certain states for the purpose of disguising the ownership of the business or financial activity by means such as improperly using a third party to request an employer identification number.

Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes and even terrorist financing. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance with the law.

Zero Wages

Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS. Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme. Filings of this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.

Misuse of Trusts

For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts.  While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and to hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.

Fuel Tax Credit Scams

The IRS receives claims for the fuel tax credit that are excessive. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and potentially subjects those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.

How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity

Suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. Form 3949-A is available for download from the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.

Whistleblowers also may provide allegations of fraud to the IRS and may be eligible for a reward by filing Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, and following the procedures outlined in Notice 2008-4, Claims Submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office under Section 7623.

Posted in Business, Tax TimeComments Off

From the Pulpit

The Christian season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (February 17) and ends on the Saturday before Easter (April 3). It is a 40-day period (Sundays don’t count in the 40) of reflection and action based on our relationships with God, each other and ourselves. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week where the drama and conflict in Jesus’ life reach an ultimate point. Holy Week is often the time when theological controversies about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection surface as well.
Barbara Brown Taylor, author, preacher and former Episcopal priest, reflects on the effects of conflict in the congregation she served: “Once I had begun crying on a regular basis, I realized just how little interest I had in defending Christian beliefs. The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the Church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts.
‘Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…’
‘Behold the Lamb of God…’
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock…’
Christian faith seemed to depend on beholding things that were clearly beyond belief, including Jesus’ own teaching that acts of mercy toward perfect strangers were acts of mercy toward him. While I understood both why and how the early church had decided to wrap those mysteries in protective layers of orthodox belief, the beliefs never seized my heart the way the mysteries did” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church, 109-110).
In conflict we may retreat to beliefs or standards outside us so that we are less vulnerable to others. That is not the approach of Jesus. Holy Week begins with Palm/Passion Sunday. It is a day that recognizes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and his betrayal, arrest, trial, conviction, abuse and death on the cross.
During Holy Week we see that Jesus does not hide behind anything to protect himself in the conflict because of his deep, abiding sense of God’s presence, and commitment to love. The story leads us to another beholding part while Jesus is on the cross, a day we call Good Friday.
“Now when the centurion who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” (Mark 15:39)
Holy Week is full of divine-human drama. We experience a profoundly moving story that invites us to personally enter Jesus’ final earthly days, and behold love’s redeeming work in his death and resurrection. Logical explorations and explanations only go so far to describe God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. We are then left to wonder at the amazing grace and mercy of God. I invite you to find a way to walk through Holy Week with your home congregation or a church near you.

Pastor Jeff Williams
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave., Rockford

Posted in Church Connection, From the PulpitComments Off

Tom and Sara Thornton

25th Wedding Anniversary

Tom and Sara Thornton of Sand Lake will celebrate 25 years of marriage. Children are Thomas, Austin and Judson, and grandson Carson. They will celebrate by attending the NCAA Sweet 16 Midwest Regional basketball games in St. Louis, MO. Looking forward to a great Good Friday! Go Green! Go White! Go State!

Posted in AnniversaryComments Off

Duman-Averill

The parents of Thea Rae Duman of Flint and Matthew Glenn Averill of Grant would like to announce their wedding engagement. Thea, the bride, is the daughter of Dawna and Robert Kimmel of Flint, Michigan and attended Flint Public Schools. Matt, the groom, is the son of Beth and Ron Averill of Grant, Michigan and attended Grant Public Schools. The wedding will be held on May 8, 2010 at the CTA Chapel in Cedar Springs, MI with Pastor Doug officiating. The bridal party includes: Rebecca McClary (sister), Jessica Johnson (friend), D.J. Davis (cousin), Brittany Jones (daughter), Alela Molnar (daughter), Madelyn Averill (daughter), Kerrie Lyboult (sister). The groom’s wedding party includes: Daniel Burke (friend), Josh Averill (brother), Doe Lyboult (brother-in-law), Trenton Blough Jr. (son), Shawn Cone (friend), T.J. Averill (brother), Daniel McClary (brother-in-law). A reception will be held at the American Legion Post 287 in Cedar Springs. A honeymoon at Great Wolf Lodge is planned and the couple will reside in Pierson.

Posted in EngagementComments (1)

Thank You

Thank you for all the cards, encouragement, and expressions of sympathy received. A special thank you to all the staff of Meadowlark in Sparta and Hospice of Michigan for their compassionate care of our loved one.

The family of Raymond Petersen

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