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Archive | April, 2017

Historic barn burns

 The barn was a total loss. Photo by J. Reed.

The smoke from this barn fire could be seen for miles. Photo by J. Reed.

The barn was a total loss. Photo by J. Reed.

The barn was a total loss. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

A beautiful old barn burned to the ground Saturday evening, April 22, in Solon Township, and the smoke could be seen rising in the sky from as far away as Grand Rapids.

Solon Fire Chief Jeff Drake said that they were dispatched to the fire at 14631 Hanna, south of 18 Mile, at 6:12 p.m. He said the homeowner, William DeBack, was home at the time and discovered the fire.

Drake said that the property used to be a real working farm, and the barn, which was constructed  of timber and stone, was possibly built in the late 1800s and used to have a milking parlor inside. The homeowner was using the barn for storing classic cars, motorcycles, tractors and as a workshop. Five of the vehicles were destroyed, and two were damaged. The barn was insured.

Drake said they had some exposure concerns with the siding on the house starting to melt, but they got that out before the house caught fire.

Other fire departments assisting Solon at the scene were Cedar Springs, Sand Lake, Kent City, and Algoma. They were on the scene for five hours.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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Fire in garage spreads to home

This fire spread from the garage to the home within minutes. Post photo by J. Reed.

This fire spread from the garage to the home within minutes. Post photo by J. Reed.

Firefighters were on the scene for four hours Monday at this fire on 17 Mile Rd in Tyrone Township.

Firefighters were on the scene for four hours Monday at this fire on 17 Mile Rd in Tyrone Township.

By Judy Reed

The Kent City/Tyrone Township Fire Department was called to the scene of a garage fire at 720 17 Mile Road, just east of Paine, at 9:42 a.m. Monday, April 25. It was just to the east of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s north substation.

“We arrived on scene at 9:59 a.m., and the fire was already impeding into the roof area of the house,” said Kent City Fire Chief Mike Rexford. He explained that unfortunately, there were no firebreaks between the roof and attic of the garage, and the roof and attic of the home.

Fire departments assisting Kent City at the scene were Sparta, Solon, and Algoma. “They all came with water and manpower,” said Rexford. “During the day we are just not blessed with as many personnel.”

They cleared the scene at 2:10 p.m.

The homeowner George Counts, and his wife, were home at the time and got out safely. No one was injured.

Rexford said that the cause of the blaze was accidental. The owner had discarded ashes out of his pellet stove, into the trash in the garage. He thought that they were no longer hot.

Rexford said firefighters were able to get some things out of the home, and that the retired couple returned the next day and salvaged a few other things. “It will probably be a total loss,” he said of the home. It was insured.

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Community cleans up on Earth Day

 Community members helped clean up around the Heart of Cedar Springs and other roadsides within the city limits on Earth Day last Saturday. Photo by Kathy Ensley.

Community members helped clean up around the Heart of Cedar Springs and other roadsides within the city limits on Earth Day last Saturday. Photo by Kathy Ensley.

In honor of National Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, the City of Cedar Springs and the Community Building Development Team (CBDT) volunteers took to cleaning up the newly acquired city property running north along Cedar Creek and intersecting with the White Pine and North Country Trails, just west of Main Street in downtown Cedar Springs. Approximately 28 community members came together to cut down brush and dead trees, haul away the lumber, clean out creek waters, and pick up debris in the area.

Earth Day cleanup. Photo by Perry Hopkins.

Earth Day cleanup. Photo by Perry Hopkins.

Perry Hopkins, City Councilor and CBDT Board Member, along with Tom Mabie, CBDT member, and other community members were careful to protect and keep flowers, bushes, plants, and trees that are environmentally important to maintaining proper creek temperatures for the trout, as well as providing an enjoyable year-round variety of natural blooming and therapeutic vegetation. The Hopkins and Mabie duo are teaming up with the Cedar Springs Garden Club and Trout Unlimited in creating natural rain gardens and learning stations along the creek beds. Other city councilors participating in the Earth Day cleanup included Rose Powell and Gerry Hall.

John Ensley, CBDT, organized the Earth Day cleanup and has secured the donated marble stone from Doreen and Dan Welch, Welch Tile and Stone, which will be eventually installed along the walking path.

Community members helped clean up on Earth Day. Photo by Kathy Ensley.

Community members helped clean up on Earth Day. Photo by Kathy Ensley.

“The goal is to open up the new downtown park areas known as the Heart of Cedar Springs. We got a lot accomplished today thanks to the many dedicated volunteers. We still have some work ahead of us but it’s coming along nicely,” explained Ensley.

Julie Wheeler, CBDT Board Member, organized various other community organizations who also began their Cedar Springs Earth Day cleanup along the primary roadsides within the city limits and other sections of the White Pine Trail as part of the Earth Day efforts.  The groups have until May 1 to complete their section of the roads.

“This is another example of folks coming together for our community. We had volunteers out there on a sunny Saturday willing to do some hard physical labor,“ shared Kurt Mabie, CBDT President. “We hope to continue the cleanup this summer along with constructing a new amphitheatre, walking path, and veteran’s memorial by fall as needed funds become available.”

Garett Tunison, Ground Control Aerial LLC, did a second drone fly-over to show the area progress since his first video done prior to the construction of the library. The video will be added to the CBDT website.

The CBDT meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in their new regular meeting location of the Community Library gathering room. All are invited. More information is available on the website of CSCommunityCenter.org, the Facebook page of Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team or by calling Sue Wolfe at 696-2246.

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CBDT Grand Gala a huge success

Photo by Heather Ross

Photo by Heather Ross

Saturday, April 15, marked the date of the second Community Building Development Team (CBDT) Grand Gala. The event, which packed the American Legion to capacity, was titled “Celebrating a Great Beginning.” Kurt Mabie and Nick Andres, CBDT board members, served as host speakers for the evening, presenting their personal and factual summary of the community’s new facilities and enhancements over the last couple years. The new Cedar Springs Community Library, scheduled to open its doors on Monday, May 8, with a Grand Opening Saturday, May 13, was at the top of the celebratory moments. A new library has been on the hearts of many for over 25 years.

Mabie read a note from Karen Andersen-Meier outlining how she may not live here now but her heart will always be in Cedar Springs. She also added she believed her parents in Heaven, Neils and Edna Andersen, both avid readers and users of the library, would be smiling from ear to ear. Mabie cited not only the Andersens, but many folks such as Mike and Alice Holton and Ronny Merlington, who aren’t here today but had faithfully worked for this new library.

“They and many others helped pave the way to bring about this library. Now it is our generation’s turn to keep things going for future generations to enjoy,” explained Mabie. “The library, additional park properties along Cedar Creek, a metal sculpture, walking bridge, and clock tower are just the beginning of some of the enhancements planned for the area now called The Heart of Cedar Springs.”

Andres pointed out $118,000 had been donated directly to the library by a long list of individuals, organizations, and businesses in just the past 18 months. This, in addition to over $650,000 previously raised by the library and the $1.14 million raised by the CBDT, allowed for the paid-in-full completion of the library. “This is a significant amount of money from a small community given for the purpose of enhanced public facilities,” explained Andres.

Mabie pointed out the significance of gaining a partnership with the North Country Trail (NCT) officials who agreed to reroute the trail through Cedar Springs and connect with Algoma Township. The North Country trail is the longest walking path in America. Cedar Springs will be working toward “Trail Town” status in the near future.

“The CBDT’s purpose has always been to support existing organizations and governmental entities in achieving their goals. It brings us all great joy to see folks working together within our community and helping each other make Cedar Springs an even better place to live, work, and play,” explained Mabie.

Many groups have become reenergized and are moving forward. The Downtown Development Authority is reviewing ways to enhance the downtown area, the Fire and Rescue Department has blueprints for a new facility, and the American Legion is working on a Veteran’s Memorial around the clock tower and/or at the existing Veteran’s Memorial area west of Main Street to mention only a few.

The CBDT’s Phase I still includes an amphitheatre, board walk, Veteran’s Memorial, additional walking bridge over the creek, and rain gardens/learning stations. Depending on funds that come available, it is hoped these projects can be completed by this fall. Phase II would focus on a Community Center with opportunities for community gatherings and celebrations for up to 500 people. Phase III includes a Community Recreation center and rustic campsite along the White Pine Trail. A three-year pledge card was distributed to gala attendees for those wishing to support the CBDT’s future projects. To date, almost $35,000 has been pledged.

The CBDT meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the new Community Library gathering room. More information is available on the CBDT website of CSCommunityCenter.org, Facebook page of Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team or contact Sue Wolfe 696.2246.

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Community Night 2017

The Red Flannel Queen and Court visited many of the booths at Community night last week. Courtesy photo.

The Red Flannel Queen and Court visited many of the booths at Community night last week. Courtesy photo.

By Tom Noreen

The Community Action Network held their 31st Annual Community Night on April 20. Over 80 booths were reserved from a wide range of vendors. Businesses had their products on display and some had items for sale. Practical help was available from dentists, physical therapists and chiropractors.  You could plan a cruise and get investment advice, too. Local churches and camps had their summer programs on display. The Lions collected pennies for their Cedar Springs Library Project and Rotary club painted “pinkies” purple to raise funds for ending polio in the three countries where it is still endemic.

Martial Arts demonstrations were conducted throughout the evening and in the auditorium local dance companies and other performers put on shows. The high school corral and drama programs reprised numbers from Disney’s High School Musical. Creative Technologies Academy had student art on display. The Cedar Springs High School Industrial Arts Program showcased their students’ award winning project and the high school’s Robotics Team had their award-winning robot on display.

The Cedar Springs Fire Department had their firetruck on display, and the Red Flannel Queen and Court could be seen throughout the event.

 

 

 

 

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Construction at Velzy Park

Five new picnic tables were donated anonymously to Solon Township for Velzy Park. Courtesy photo. A new walking trail is under construction at Solon’s Velzy Park. Courtesy photo.

Five new picnic tables were donated anonymously to Solon Township for Velzy Park. Courtesy photo.

Construction on a new walking trail is underway at Velzy Park, located at 15185 Algoma Ave NE. The park surrounds Solon Township Hall, and is named for what the area used to be called.

And that’s not the only thing that’s new. “Our Park Committee is very excited and thankful about 5 picnic tables that were anonymously donated to our Park a week or so ago,” said Mary Lou Poulsen, Solon Township Clerk, and a member of the Solon Park Committee.

On June 10, Solon will celebrate the new walking trail with a ribbon cutting, and a community-wide yard sale and picnic. The picnic will take place at noon, with the ribbon cutting and cake to follow. Suggested donations for the picnic will be $4 for individuals, and $10 for families.

A new walking trail is under construction at Solon’s Velzy Park. Courtesy photo.

A new walking trail is under construction at Solon’s Velzy Park. Courtesy photo.

The park is still in phase one, which features walking trails, a restroom building and parking. Phase two will be a playground and three barn relocations. Phase three will be the Farmer’s market and picnic shelter; and native prairie restoration.

Memorial benches will soon be available to purchase. Watch solontwp.org for info. If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation for the park, send it to Solon Township and designate it for Velzy Park.

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School board votes to privatize transportation

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By Judy Reed

The buses transporting students to school next year will still say Cedar Springs Public Schools; the drivers will still be the same familiar faces; the supervisor and dispatcher will be the same; and the buses will be housed at the same bus garage. What will be different is that the buses will no longer belong to and employees will no longer work for Cedar Springs Public Schools. Ownership will shift to Dean’s Transportation, after the Cedar Springs Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday evening to privatize transportation and to go with Dean’s.

The one lone no vote came from board member Ted Sabinas, who said he had too many concerns. “Once we make that decision there will be no turning back—ever. We will never be able to buy buses again,” he explained.

Last year Excel Consultants did a transportation study and recommended the school district sell some of their old buses and compare what the cost would be to privatize versus keeping it in-house. In the end, they chose Dean’s, after the majority of the bus drivers decided that’s what they wanted to do.

The Cedar Springs 2016/2017 Transportation Budget is $2,943,208, The 2017/2018 Transportation Budget is set at $3,683,314, which includes six new buses and two mechanics instead of just one, because they cannot keep up with the repairs.

The proposed budget from Dean’s will be $1,774,274, without fuel. The school will still be responsible for the fuel ($270,000) and payments to other schools ($1,146,000), for a total of  $3,190,274. That’s a savings of $493,040.

Dean’s will also purchase their bus fleet at blue book value, which causes a one-time infusion into the budget of $638,600. Between the savings and the purchase of the bus fleet, the school would see a financial impact of $1,132,640.

Dean’s will automatically replace nine buses next year that are past their prime.

“Let’s look at the safety of the students,” said board member Patricia Eary. “The average age of a bus is 12-1/2 years old. Our oldest bus is 22 years old. Who drives a 22-year-old bus?” she remarked.

Bus drivers met with administration and with Dean’s before voting on the issue. Sabinas asked driver Becca Fisk, who spoke on behalf of the drivers, if there was more than one vote held. Both she and Supt. VanDuyn said no. Sabinas had tried to attend one of the meetings, but was denied entrance.

“Some of the drivers were uncomfortable about you being at the meeting,” VanDuyn told Sabinas. She noted that his truck was still parked there in the lot, and some of the drivers felt like they were “being stalked.”

Board VP Brooke Nichols then asked that they stick to the agenda.

Fisk explained the procedure they took of voting by paper ballot, and that there were 16 yes votes, 3 no, and 2 undecided. She also knew of a couple people that weren’t at the meeting who said they would be leaving.

One person told the Post she knew of nine drivers that wouldn’t be back.

“”It is not ideal for every transportation employee but rather the great majority; hence their request to privatize. We regret any employee will leave our CSPS if it was not of their choosing,” said VanDuyn, in a letter to parents in the district. “We value every employee and the time they each have served here.”

Dean’s said they will hire the drivers and requested a letter of recommendation from the school district for them. CS drivers will have super seniority, which means that another driver from Dean’s who drives for another district but has more seniority won’t be able to bump them. They will also have the opportunity for more hours with Dean’s.

Cedar Springs transportation has been short staffed for several years, and going with Dean’s will also alleviate that problem. “With our recruiting practices, we have better resources to fill those shortages as soon as possible,” said Kelly Dean, owner of Dean’s Transportation.

Dean’s has transported Cedar Springs special education students for several years, and other area districts use them, including Sparta and Tri County.

The board will vote on the contract with Dean’s Transportation at their next meeting on May 22.

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Don’t forget to vote May 2 on regional enhancement millage

N-Voter-registration-web

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs and the surrounding areas have one thing to vote on in the upcoming May 2 election—a Kent Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement millage. The “Strong schools, strong communities” proposal will ask voters in all 20 KISD public school districts—including Cedar Springs—to consider an enhancement millage proposal of 0.9 mill ($0.90 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for 10 years. If passed, it would start this summer, and cost an average homeowner $6.70 per month. It is expected to bring in $19.9 million for the 20 districts and spread out on a per pupil basis. It would bring Cedar Springs Public Schools $723,000 the first year.

According to the school district, Cedar Springs would use the additional revenue for:

  • Continued expansion of the Early Middle College program and access to other college and career opportunities.
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Academics and Behavior.
  • Professional Development for continued best practices in instruction and student support.
  • Enhanced afterschool and summer school learning opportunities.
  • Comprehensive Counseling and Mental Health Programs.
  • Technology Infrastructure and software enhancements.
  • Maintaining or lowering class sizes.
  • Improved assessment tools.

Plus, this proposal will expand career training and technical course offerings to give students real life, on-the-job training and a head start on their careers.

It will also give students exposure to the world of work and partnerships with business that prepare them for college and careers.

By law, every penny generated from this proposal will be distributed to local school districts to maintain existing programs and improve services offered to students. All spending will go through an independent financial audit ever year, with spending disclosed on a public website to ensure transparency and accountability.

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Police seek info in home invasion

Kent-County-Sheriff-logo

Police responded to a report of a home invasion in the 13300 block of Larray Lane NE, in Northland Estates, shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday, April 21.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, the homeowner returned home and found the front door wide open and it appeared to have been forced. No one was home at the time. It is unknown whether anything was taken.

If anyone has any information, you can call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 or the Kent County Sheriff Office Detective Bureau at 616-632-6125.

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50th Anniversary

C--anniv-Gust

GARY & LOLLY GUST

Gary and Lolly Gust of Cedar Springs celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with family and friends at the American Legion on April 22, 2017. Their children are Jeff and Barb (Zerfas) Gust, Michelle Tackmann and grandchildren, Jason, Brooke, Jacob Gust and Isebelle Tackmann. Congratulations to 50 wonderful years!

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