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Archive | June, 2011

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Disaster training brings emergency to life

First responders drill for worst-case scenario
by Beth Altena

No one ever hopes to use the skills they develop under federal guidelines by the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), but if the worst happens, they will be ready. Area first responders—police, fire, paramedics and more—fight explosions, toxic disasters, potentially fatal injuries and other potential catastrophies to be ready for anything.

Sue Barthels arranges the volunteers and rescue personnel who have been rotating through potentially dangerous industry locations for years. She said it is a chance to practice skills and review protocols in potentially hazardous materials situations. “It is the equivalent of running a drill,” she described.

Kent CIty/Tyrone Township fire and rescue

Kent City/Tyrone Township fire and rescue participated in the training at Reisters in Sparta last month. Photos by B. Altena.

This year’s spring practice was held at Reisters Grower Services in Sparta. Barthels said the practices are required by federal mandate and are taken very seriously. She said every site in Kent County that houses potentially hazardous materials has been evaluated and has an emergency plan in place should a disaster occur. Reisters provides farm chemicals and so qualifies as a potential hazardous material site.

LEPC conducts the drills once a year and has been since 1989. This spring’s drill took place in May and included 110 people, including 10 volunteer “victims.” The victims are coached prior to the incident, and include make-up and “injuries” consistent with the disaster scenario. Barthels said the training has come in use in the county for several hazardous materials incidents, including issues with refrigeration ammonia that resulted in no injuries. In Kent County there are 243 locations that have extremely hazardous materials, and LEPC has a plan for every one.

The Hazardous Materials Response Team operates out of Grand Rapids but different groups participate in the scene to hone protocol. Depending on location, local agencies participate as they would should a real incident occur. Incident training has taken place at Ten Mile Road and Alpine Avenue, and the Sparta Airport. Volunteer emergency personnel, such as members of the Civil Emergency Response Team (CERTS), The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) and others have also participated, as they would in a real emergency. “What is important here is a rural fire department got a chance to practice,” said Tom Boyle, Assistant Director of Engineering for Kent County, who was present as a LEPC board member.

The 247 hazardous materials sites in the County do not include the City of Grand Rapids, which has its own training process. Boyle said hazardous material could be anything from the sulfuric acid in a hi-low battery to chemical suppliers. “The practice helps us learn to know each other and what to expect from each other,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in practice, practice, practice.”

Boyle said he was very impressed with the operation, from the Walker Fire Department Decontamination tent to the efficient actions of fire fighters who worked quickly to clean “vicitms” of their chemical exposure. “These guys really have their act together.”

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En-Gedi searches for new director

The En-Gedi Youth Center, based at Red Hawk Elementary School, is seeking a new youth director. Pastor Tom Holloway, director and co-founder of the center, is stepping down as director after recently being named senior pastor at Solon Center Wesleyan Church. Holloway, currently youth pastor there, will replace Pastor Doug DiBell, who is moving from the area.

“I would like to remain on the En-Gedi board but my primary focus will be on my new responsibility as Senior Pastor,” explained Holloway.

A search committee has been created to find a replacement for Holloway, who has served as director since the youth center first opened its doors last August,  with regular support from his wife, Kim, his parents, and several area volunteers.

In other En-Gedi news, the special event “Come be refreshed” was a rousing success. Robert Frostick, Special Event Chair and Board Treasurer, reported on it during their June meeting. “Our primary goal was to share information about En-Gedi and let the community know how our young people are utilizing the Youth Center. Our second goal was to host a Special Event that would both identify new volunteers and earn some much needed operational funding. This year’s event raised about $6,000. I believe the “Come Be Refreshed Special Event” was a huge success in meeting all our identified goals,” he said.

Ruth Reed

Ruth Reed

Attendees bid on 115 donated items from residents and businesses through a silent auction, and also enjoyed the dessert/buffet cook-off. Ruth Reed, owner of Ruthie’s Delights, received the most votes for her delicious cupcakes earning the “2011 Best Dessert Cup” trophy for a one-year reign. Runner-up for the Best Dessert was Mary Edison, owner of Tasty Temptations.

The youth center began summer hours on June 13. They are Mondays and Wednesday from noon-3 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.–noon but will be closed July 4-6.  All students entering grades 6-12th grades next year are welcome  to attend free of charge. All community members are invited to stop in to visit! Fall hours at the Youth Center will begin in September so watch the paper for details.

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Hometown Hero Rafael Arriaga

Rafael Arriaga

Rafael Arriaga

Rafael (“Rickers”) Arriaga has been promoted to Chief Petty Officer of Electronics and will be serving on the North Carolina, a two-year-old attack sub, in August. He will be stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Rafael is a 2001 graduate of Cedar Springs High School. He enlisted while in high school, and entered boot camp in June 2001. He served as electronics technician on the U.S.S. Maryland, a boomer sub, and was stationed in Kingsbury, Georgia until 2011.

He is the son of the late Rafael “Ralph” Arriaga and Darlene (Cisler) Arriaga, of Cedar Springs, and is the husband of Sarah (Knippel) Arriaga, of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

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Cars collide on Main Street

Two people were hurt Friday afternoon, June 17, in a two-car accident on Main Street in downtown Cedar Springs.

Main Street accident in Cedar Springs Michigan

Two vehicles collided at Elm and Main Street in Cedar Springs Friday, sending two to the hospital. Post photo by J. Reed.

According to Sgt. Ed Good, of the Cedar Springs Police, a vehicle headed west on Elm Street pulled out in front of a SUV heading south on Main Street a little after 2 p.m.
Joycelinn Haff, 23, of Sand Lake, was turning south on to Main Street off westbound Elm, when she failed to yield to the SUV that was southbound on Main. The SUV, driven by Mary Johnson, 55, of Cedar Springs, then crashed into Haff’s car.

Both drivers complained of neck pain and were transported to the hospital by Rockford Ambulance.

The Cedar Springs Fire Department assisted at the scene.

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Cold case team makes arrest; searches for another suspect

By Judy Reed

The Kent Metro Cold Case team is making progress on several cold cases, including an arrest last week, and the identification of a victim and possible suspect in another.

Last week the team arrested Andrew Ramon Scott, 27, of Lewisville, Texas, on an open murder and felony firearm charge in the 2004 Grand Rapids murder of Tahari Braggs, 25. Braggs was driving his vehicle on Alexander St. when he stopped to talk with occupants of another vehicle on the street. Shots were fired from the suspect vehicle, striking Braggs, and the other car left the scene. Braggs died from multiple gun shot wounds. Investigators determined the incident was a result of an altercation that transpired a day earlier between Braggs and acquaintances.  After a lengthy investigation, the case went cold, but was reopened in 2009. It is the ninth arrest made by the cold case team since it was formed in 2006.

Just this week the team identified the victim in a 2001 homicide that occurred in southwest Grand Rapids in 2001. On November 13, 2001, the Grand Rapids Police Department investigated a double stabbing that occurred on Ritzema Ct  SW, near Grandville Ave SW.   Officers found a Hispanic male fatally stabbed and a second stabbing victim with non-life threatening injuries. The first victim had no identification on him. The second victim,  Simon Mata, indicated he and the first man had been stabbed by a Hispanic male known to him as “Guero.”  Through the use of interpreters, Mata told investigators he did not know the victim or assailant’s real name. Investigators believed the victims and suspect were illegal immigrants from Mexico, but investigative leads were exhausted in the case in an attempt to identify the victim and suspect.

cold case suspectIn March 2011, the cold case team reopened the case, and resubmitted the victim’s fingerprints into a larger database, where they learned his identity. The victim has been identified as Gerado Piedra-Amaya, a 32-year-old Hispanic male from Durango, Mexico.  He entered the country illegally on February 19, 2001. The victim had been living in the Grand Rapids area for at least three months prior to his murder.

Investigators are seeking information from witnesses who might provide information on the victim or suspect. Suspect is a light skinned Hispanic male with light brown hair, very thin sideburns, a thin, barely visible, mustache, and a small goatee.  At the time of the homicide he was around 24 years of age, about 5-feet 5-inches tall, 155 pounds, and had hazel eyes.

At the time of the homicide he was known to frequent the Heartside area of Grand Rapids and sleep under viaducts along the U.S. 131 corridor.  He is believed to be an undocumented worker from Mexico.

Please contact the Kent Metro Cold Case Unit at (616) 632-6123.

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Drunk driving crackdown kicks off in West Michigan

Thirteen local counties step up enforcement for July 4th holiday

Summertime in Michigan means trips to the beach, barbeques and ball games, but it also means extra police officers on the road during the Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest. crackdown.

Law enforcement agencies in 35 counties across the state will work stepped up drunk driving patrols July 1-10, which will include the heavily traveled July 4th weekend.

The effort is paid for with federal funds earmarked for traffic safety enforcement and administered by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).

Grant-funded counties in West Michigan are Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa and Van Buren.

“While the focus of this effort is drivers under the influence of alcohol, officers will be arresting any impaired driver and removing not only drunk drivers from the roadway, but also those under the influence of drugs,” OHSP director Michael L. Prince said.

Although Michigan has experienced a decrease in alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and arrests, it has noted an increase in drug-involvement in traffic crashes and injuries. In 2009, drugs accounted for an additional 83 injuries and 89 crashes compared to 2008. In 2010, drug-involved fatalities increased by 29 percent with 153 motorists killed in crashes involving drugs. Some of that increase can be attributed to expanded testing requests.

In 2010, 357 people died in alcohol and/or drug-related crashes including two during the July 4th holiday period.

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CASSA U11 boys win division

Congratulations to the U11 boys team for an outstanding season and year overall. They play for the Cedar Area Select Soccer Association (CASSA), a local travel soccer club based in Cedar Springs. They competed in the Grand Valley Soccer Association (GVSA), which covers the greater Grand Rapids area, and they traveled from Middleville to as far north as Ludington. The team was a blend of four different school districts, with boys from Greenville, Cedar Springs, Sparta and Tri-County. Many of these boys were playing up an age group, which meant that in most cases they were playing against competition that was one to two years older than them.

U11 Boys Soccer

The team is Front L-R Derek Egan, Mason Miller, Ryan Dreyer, Aidan Walker, Eli Paulen, Luke Doyle, Joey Kolenda. Back Row L-R Coach Dreyer, Jett Elerick, Brayden Marvel, Jared Hause, Dallas Mora, Brison Ricker, Jose Mosqueda , Coach Ricker.

They faced a tough, challenging year and rose to the challenge. They had an overall record of 11 wins 1 loss and 4 ties, for both the fall and spring season, which including winning their division outright in the Spring 2011 season. Many of these boys had not played together prior to last fall. They tallied 79 goals while giving up 32. This team experienced tremendous improvement in not only individual technical skills, but learned how to play as an outstanding unit.  Great TEAM effort boys!

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Read and Relax in Michigan Parks

Park & Read Program Offers Free Park Passes for Michigan Readers

Spend a lazy day with a good book in the great outdoors compliments of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Library of Michigan.

Back for a third summer, the DNR and the Library of Michigan are offering their Park & Read program at more than 400 participating libraries across the state.

While checking out a book, Park & Read allows library cardholders to “check-out” a one-day pass that waives the Recreational Passport entry fee into any Michigan state park or recreation area. This $10 savings also provides a one-time, free access to more than 500 events taking place in state parks throughout the summer, and to make the day even more relaxing, some of the state parks are offering the loan of a hammock.

The Grand Rapids Public Library has been a part of the Park & Read program since its inception in 2009. Marking and Communications Manager Kristen Krueger-Corrado says the library saw participation jump by 10 percent last year.

“Many of our patrons are struggling to find work and making due with less. The Park & Read program allows them to have an inexpensive way to enjoy Michigan’s natural beauty, spend time with family and friends, and exercise their mind and body,” Krueger-Corrado said. “Many of our patrons expressed their excitement at being able to check out a Park & Read pass–it was the only way they were able to afford to take their family to the beach that summer. And who doesn’t love a day at the beach?”

Passes are valid for seven days from checkout and can be used for one day at any one of Michigan’s 98 state parks.  Passes are valid for day use only.  The program runs through Oct. 1, 2011.

For more information on the program and a complete list of participating libraries, hammock availability, and park events taking place throughout the state, visit www.michigan.gov/stateparks.

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Horse owners reminded to vaccinate for mosquito-borne diseases

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus cases could be worse this year

Lansing – The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development’s State Veterinarian Dr. Steven Halstead today reminded horse owners to vaccinate against mosquito-borne illnesses and prevent mosquito exposure to themselves and horses during this year’s rainy season and warm weather months.  Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is suspected of being the cause of 129 out of 133 horse deaths in 2010, 56 of the deaths were laboratory confirmed; and West Nile Virus (WNV), another mosquito-borne illness has been found in Michigan in past years.  Both can affect humans, birds, deer and horses.

“The viruses circulate in mosquito and bird populations throughout the spring and early summer, and gradually spill over to horses, and potentially to humans,” said Halstead. “Owners should plan to vaccinate horses now to protect them against these diseases. Michigan typically sees an increase in the number of cases of EEE and WNV in late summer and early fall each year.”

EEE, commonly called sleeping sickness, and WNV are both caused by specific viruses found in wild birds. Mosquitoes that feed on birds carrying EEE or WNV can transmit the disease to horses and humans. Some birds are able to harbor the viruses without becoming acutely ill, thereby serving as reservoirs for the diseases.
Clinical signs of both viruses in horses include: depression, fever, muzzle weakness, the horse is often down and unable to get up, sweating, dehydration, seizing, grimacing, not feeding, head down, stumbling, blindness and circling.

“We encourage diagnostic testing because EEE and WNV can look like rabies and while rabies is not very common in horses, rabies is contagious from infected horses to people,” Halstead said.  “Horses do not develop high enough levels of EEE or WNV in their blood to be contagious to other animals or humans; however, vaccinations against EEE, WNV and rabies are always critical to protect horse health.”

Horse owners should follow these tips to prevent mosquito-borne illness:

  • Vaccinate your horses. Inexpensive vaccines for EEE and WNV are readily available and should be repeated at least annually. It is never too late to vaccinate horses. Talk to your veterinarian for details.


  • Use approved insect repellants to protect horses.


  • If possible, put horses in stables, stalls, or barns during the prime mosquito exposure hours of dusk and dawn.


  • Eliminate standing water, and drain troughs and buckets at least two times a week.


For more information about WNV or EEE in horses, contact MDARD’s Animal Industry Division at 517-373-1077 or visit www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

MDARD encourages horse owners to report suspect cases to the department at 517-373-1077 or, after hours, at 1-800-292-3939. When disease surveillance begins, weekly updates of affected animals will be posted on the Emerging Diseases website at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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