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Archive | March, 2010

Man charged with Sand Lake arson

A Grand Rapids man was arrested last weekend for trying to start a fire in a vacant building in Sand Lake.

According to Sand Lake Police Chief Ken Williams, 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, on a charge of Arson–Preparation to Burn Property over $20,000.

The building at 20 W. Lake Street is reportedly a historic building and is structurally connected to six other locally owned businesses in the downtown district. “The fire had the potential to lay waste to half of Sand Lake’s downtown business district,” said Chief Williams. “However, the keen observations and proactive patrols conducted by our officers undoubtedly prevented the heartbreaking loss of a cherished part of our community.”

Village President Kirk Thielke also had good things to say about the officers that prevented the fire. “As far as I’m concerned those officers are heroes” said Thielke. “It’s scary to think that if the village were disincorporated, as has been petioned, local police services such as regular foot patrols would no longer exist.”

Officer Steve Brandow is a three-year veteran of the Sand Lake Police Department.  Intern Zac Gregory is currently attending the police academy at Grand Rapids Community College; he is scheduled to graduate in October, 2010.

The building was the former home of Creekside Computers, and before that Sand Lake Veterinary Hospital. It may also have been a bank or savings and loan at one time.

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Ready, set, go!

Community Easter egg hunt set for April 3

Dig out your running shoes and Easter egg baskets, because the annual Cedar Springs Post Community Easter Egg Hunt is just around the corner!

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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Rockford bank bilked of nearly $1 million

From the Rockford Squire

Amanda Renee Burns

Altering documents—including audits—allowed a teller and then customer service manager to steal nearly $1 million from a Rockford Fifth Third bank over five years.

Amanda Renee Burns started taking cash from the vault at the bank when she was a teller. She admitted in federal court Friday, March 12, that from May 2005 to May 2009 she took $950,000. The most she took at one time was $10,000.

Burns still faces sentencing in the case, which could be a maximum of 30 years in prison, in addition to restitution of $885,171 after she returned $65,000 to authorities.

According to Burns’ confession, she altered documents to cover up the thefts, including audit figures over the years she stole money. Later promoted from teller to customer service manager, she began taking money she supposedly put in ATM machines. When the bank officials became aware of discrepancies, they asked Burns to look into the problem, but she said she couldn’t find anything wrong.

Her lawyer Frank Stanley told reporters the mother was trying to create a better life for her children than she had growing up. She also claimed to have been abused while in day care, so needed the cash to obtain very safe daycare for her children.

A representative from Fifth Third Bank had not returned calls from the Squire as of press time.

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City now posts expenses online

By Judy Reed

Would you like to know exactly what the city of Cedar Springs is spending its money on? The answer is now only a click away.

While the information has always been open to the public, the city is now putting their accounts payable for each month on their website, at cityofcedarsprings.org.

“Our goal is to be as transparent as possible,” explained City Manager Christine Burns.

Burns said that they kicked around the idea last year, and when Councilor Pamela Conley was elected, she brought up the idea again, and they decided to go for it.

Burns noted that there are a couple of good reasons to do it. One, they’ve undertaken a lot of cost-savings measures and want people to be aware of that. Two, someone could come up with a great idea on how they could do something better. “If we put it online, the public could see it and say, ‘I have a better idea how to do that,’” she explained. “Sometimes you get stuck in a rut and just need a fresh set of eyes to look at it.”

To view the accounts payable, go to the website and click on “minutes” at the very top. Click on that, and then choose which month you want to look at. The register shows each check number, who it was to, how much it was, and what it was for.

Several schools in the Kent Intermediate District have also begun to do this, including Caledonia Community Schools, East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Lowell Area Schools, Sparta Area Schools, Byron Center Public Schools, Forest Hills Public Schools, Wyoming Public Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.

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Lions Club donates books

The Cedar Springs Lions Club donted books to the library this week. Pictured (left to right) is Christine Fritz (library), Diane Christie (Lions Club), Art Probst (Lions Club), Donna Clark (Library) and Roger Gren (Lions Club).

The Cedar Springs Lions Club donted books to the library this week. Pictured (left to right) is Christine Fritz (library), Diane Christie (Lions Club), Art Probst (Lions Club), Donna Clark (Library) and Roger Gren (Lions Club). Post photo by J. Reed.

The Cedar Springs extended another helping hand Wednesday, when they donated 12 boxes of used books to the Cedar Springs Public Library. According to Lions Club member Roger Gren, the books were donated to them by the Veteran’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

The Lions Club is known for helping members of the community with free eyeglasses, eye exams and hearing aids. They will be holding a pancake breakfast this Saturday, March 20, and again on April 17. All proceeds will go towards providing services to those in need.

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Hometown Hero

Sergeant Cail Towns

Sergeant Cail Towns

The parents of Sergeant Cail Towns are proud to announce his induction into the Army’s highly esteemed Sgt. Audie Murphy Club. Noncommissioned officers who want to become a member of the club must be recommended by their chain of command. Additionally, Sgt. Towns’ other special achievements during his military career include Army Soldier of the Year, Army Soldier of the Month, and NCO of the Installation.

He currently is station in Fort Lee, Va., along with his beautiful wife, Stacy and their 4-year-old son, Tanner.

Sgt. Towns’ proud parents are Shannon Morris and Chuck Towns, and parents-in-law, Tommy and Doris Thompson of Cedar Springs.

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Warrant issued in chemical bomb case

Detectives from the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant from the Montcalm County prosecutor’s office charging Steven Warren Stewart, 39, formerly of Stanton, with one count of harmful devices-unlawful possession or use causing injury. The charge carries a penalty of life in prison and/or a $25,000 fine.

This warrant stems from a September 11, 2008 incident, where a chemical bomb device was placed at a home in Eureka Township, which caused injury to the homeowner. Stewart is currently being held in a federal detention facility in Ayers, Massachusetts. Montcalm County detectives are working with federal officers to arrange transportation back to Michigan for arraignment on the charge.

Sheriff deputies were assisted by agents from the FBI, ATF, and the Michigan State Police crime lab during the investigation.

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Deputies of the year at the Kent County Sheriff Department

2009  Law Enforcement Deputy of the Year: Sgt. Alan Roetman

Al began his career on February 14, 1994 at the Kent County Sheriff Department as an Emergency Communications Operator.  On October 24, 1994, Al was promoted to County Patrol Officer.  On May 11, 2009, he was promoted to County Patrol Sergeant.
Throughout his career, Sgt. Roetman was selected for numerous positions of increasing responsibility at the Kent County Sheriff Department including field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, tactical team officer, mobile command bus coordinator, and field training supervisor.
Sgt. Roetman has received numerous letters of appreciation from citizens and his supervisors.  Additionally, he received four official departmental Letters of Recognition as well as a receiving a Distinguished Police Service Award in 2004.

2009  Corrections Deputy of the Year:  Steve Springfield

Steve began his career on May 8, 1978 at the Kent County Sheriff Department as a Cadet, working part time and attending college full time. Steve was hired full time as a Corrections Officer on November 12, 1979. During his 31 years as an officer assigned to the main jail facility, Steve has worked virtually every duty station within the facility.  His responsibilities include conducting inmate searches, transfers and investigations regarding alleged incidents, admitting visitors, conducting inmate counts, inspecting living quarters, delivering prescribed medication, and assisting in the Inmate Services Program.

2009 Civilian of the Year: Michael Ensing

Michael began his career at the Kent County Sheriff Department on February 14, 1995 as a Cook II in Food Services in Corrections.  Michael’s excellent cooking skills were readily discernible in the product he produced on a daily basis, as well as being counted upon to perform many of the administrative functions associated with the position.  On July 2, 2007, Michael was entrusted by the Sheriff’s Office to temporarily fill in as Food Services Director while the process ensued to find a permanent replacement.  After the process was completed, on November 12, 2007, Michael was selected by the Sheriff’s Office to fill the position on a permanent basis.

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Sand Lake to appeal judge’s decision

By Judy Reed

The Village of Sand Lake decided Monday to appeal a judge’s decision that a petition to disincorporate the village met legal requirements.

“We just felt that the specific issue we raised in the suit was not addressed,” explained Sand Lake Village president Kirk Thielke.

Two Sand Lake planning commissioners filed the petition with Nelson Township in December. The petition states that “residents of the Village of Sand Lake, in the County of Kent, State of Michigan, respectfully petition the disincorporation of the Village, thereby transferring all its usages to the Township of Nelson.”

Sand Lake sued Nelson Township and clerk Laura Hoffman, questioning the “sufficiency” of the petition. Thielke said it wasn’t enough to certify signatures; that the clerk needed to decide whether it was “facially” defective. He maintains that since all usages cannot be turned over to Nelson, it is defective. Nelson Township did not contest the lawsuit, and decided to let Judge Dennis Lieber decide. He sided with Nelson Township that it could go for a vote.

The Village council went into closed session Monday evening to seek advice from their lawyer on whether they should appeal. After conferring with him, they came back out into open session and held a roll call vote on whether to appeal the decision. Dave Tibbe, Billie Jo Thielke, David Dewey, and Carol Simpson all voted yes; Kirk Thielke abstained because he is named in the lawsuit; Celena Rosset was absent; and Roger Towsley voted no.

“I felt like rather than spending the money to appeal, we should trust the people to make the right decision,” explained Towsley, who is against the petition. “Even if we appeal and the judge throws out the petition, there’s no reason these people can’t go and write up another one tomorrow.”

Thielke feels that spending the money now could offset more expenses later. “In the event of disincorporation, the township would not pay for the legal costs of transfer of assets. We would have to do that,” he said.

Thielke said the legal fees to fight this have already cost them $7,400, and he expects it could be $3,000 to $5,000 more. “We didn’t ask for this. Don’t we have a responsibility to defend the village?” he asked. “We are a bait shop owner, a retired school teacher, truck driver, human resource person, etc. Just regular people. We take advice from the professionals, and our lawyer recommends we take this action,” he explained.

Thielke said that they have been very diligent with the budget, and that by spending a few thousand, they might save tens of thousands of dollars.

“It takes two-thirds of a majority of electors to decide the issue. The most we ever had vote was 70. In the last election we had 24 voters. That means if only 24 voters turned out, 16 people could decide the fate for 300 electors,” noted Thielke. “I won’t let this stand to chance until we can educate the electorate on what this all means. If it costs me my job to save this town, I’ll do it.”

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“Incompatible offices” issue costs taxpayers over $9,000

by Judy Reed

According to financial information provided by the finance offices of both the City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Board of Education, they spent over $9,000 in attorney fees on the case of whether Pamela Conley could legally serve on both boards at the same time.

Last summer, Conley, who was a veteran school board member, filed to run for Cedar Springs City Council. City clerk Linda Branyan then sent her a letter, advising her that there might be a conflict of interest, since the city and school have contracts with each other. Conley said that her two lawyers disagreed, and Conley said she did not believe there was a conflict as long as she abstained from voting on issues where the school and city were both involved. She ran for election and won, forcing the city and school to have their attorneys investigate whether there was a legal conflict.

The issue was eventually sent to Prosecutor William Forsyth, asking for an opinion. Instead, he sent a letter to Conley explaining “an individual cannot avoid the incompatibility by abstaining from voting on resolutions…because abstention under such circumstances ‘is itself a breach of duty.’” He noted that her most expedient course of action would be to resign from either the school board or city council. If she decided to remain in both positions, the prosecutor’s office would then file an action in Circuit Court, and the judge would in all likelihood decide which office she would retain.

Conley then decided to resign from the school board.

Since then, bills have been coming in from the city and school attorneys. According to David Cairy, Assistant Superintendent and Finance Director at Cedar Springs Public Schools, they have spent well over $5,000. City of Cedar Springs Finance Director Linda Lehman said the city has spent just under $4,000. Both officials say they may not even have all the bills yet, which means the cost of the issue could go over $10,000—money that could have been spent or allocated toward other things.

Cairy noted that while they budget attorney fees each year, they don’t spend it if they don’t have to, and then try to allocate it toward future capital improvement items. Items that the $5,000 in attorney fees could have been allotted to include road repairs, energy repairs, resurfacing of tennis courts, resurfacing of gym floors, etc.

Lehman noted that the city cut several items this year that might have been covered by what they spent on attorney fees. For example, it would have covered two sets of turnout gear for the fire department (being proposed for 2010). It also would have covered repairs to the sidewalk in front of the Cedar Springs Public Library.

Cairy and Lehman said they expect there may be more bills that they haven’t yet received.

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