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Archive | August, 2017

Iconic Rockford eatery destroyed by gas fire

The Corner Bar burned for hours Monday

by Beth Altena and Kellie Lamphere, Rockford Squire

UP IN SMOKE: What started as a dumpster fire progressed into a gas meter explosion and fire fed by gas from the fuel line which consumed The Corner Bar on Monday.

It wouldn’t be the first time all of downtown Rockford went up in flames, but thanks to the persistent efforts of five fire departments, the fire damage was contained to just one building, Rockford’s most iconic structure and business, The Corner Bar. The building was one of few in downtown that survived the fire of 1898, but did not survive the fire of 2017.

Dave Jones, Chief of Rockford Public Safety said his department received a call at about 5 a.m. about a fire in the dumpster behind the building at 31 N Main Street on the west side next to Kimberly’s Boutique. Firefighters put that fire out within five or ten minutes.

Firefighters had just left the building where they had been in the basement evaluating any damage when an explosion occurred that lifted the roof off the building.

“That was the angel on our shoulders,” Jones said. “Four or five firefighters had just walked away from that area.” The heat and pressure from the dumpster fire had damaged the gas meter outside the building and caused the huge explosion. Fed by gas from the fuel line, fire raged for the next four hours as firefighters fought to control the flames.

Firefighters from Rockford were joined by crews from the townships of Algoma, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield. “We are lucky Rockford is in the center of those four townships,” Jones noted. Unlike the fire of 1898, the firefighters were able to limit the fire damage to just the one structure, although neighboring businesses, closed for the duration.

Jones said first responders put millions of gallons on the structure as DTE Energy tried to locate a shutoff for the gas. “It was like a blow torch,” Jones said of the blaze. Firefighters were unable to shut off gas to the building through the meter, which was the epicenter of the fire, and crews from the energy company were unable to locate a remote shutoff that ran to the building. Eventually, after three hours of gas fed fire, a fuel line under Courtland Street was located and DTE was able to crimp the line and shut down the gas.

“For three hours gas fed that fire, it was like a big blow torch up in all that timber. We were fortunate no one was hurt.” Jones also described to reporters how close together all the downtown buildings are, with some connected to each other.  He said the efforts of the departments contained the fire.

Owner of The Corner Bar business, Jeff Wolfe, said the building will be rebuilt and Jones repeated that at City Council that evening. He called the loss of the building devastating and the business the heart of Rockford.

Owner of the building Andy Tidey, who currently resides in Colorado, was flying in Tuesday to see the damage himself and collaborate with Wolfe on a game plan moving forward. He said the building was insured, but he is surprised by the extent of the damage.

“I never imagined it could all go,” he said. “It’s only a half block from the fire department.” He said he has good insurance on the structure and it is his intent to rebuild and reopen The Corner Bar, which reports say dates back to the 1930s. The business is best known for its chili dogs and its chili dog eating contest, with the record of 43 dogs in four hours.

The restaurant featured Hotdog Hall of Fame names engraved with customers who were successful in eating twelve chili dogs in four hours. According to Mark Bivins of Creative Concepts, who engraves the names, there are records of the people on the plaques and how many dogs they ate.

Tidey said it was his expectation that he and Jeff will put their heads together and plan how to rebuild. “There are a lot of questions and a lot of numbers. I hope that is something we are going to work out.” He said part of what made the restaurant the icon it is the ambiance, the names on the wall and the wooded interior. “That’s what we want to recreate.”

Tidey said he received a phone call from his mother in the early hours of Monday morning and she told him the building was on fire. He was afraid to google it and instead sent a text to Jeff, who told him the whole building was in danger. “He said ‘It’s burning up and they can’t stop it, they can’t stop the gas.’” Tidey said it is shocking to think how different things would have turned out if the meter had not blown.

“It would have been just a little fire, it would have been easy to repair.”

Rockford firefighters said the same thing. Ken Phillips Jr. said first responders were thrilled when they put the smaller fire out. “We’re going to look like heroes because we saved the Corner Bar,” he said. Then the explosion happened. “It was just like in the movies, the windows all blew out.”

He said his fellow fire fighters were on the scene for over 20 hours and were grateful for the assistance of the other departments, who worked well with each other and were very professional.

Phillips said the outpouring from the community was overwhelming. Throughout the day over 5,000 people went to the scene and many thanked the firefighters for their efforts. He reported that restaurants brought them food and water throughout the day and night as the structure continued to smoke and smolder.

“That’s Rockford, that’s why people come back or stay in the first place.”

That sentiment was repeated at City Council with members of the public thanking Chief Jones for the hard work of his team and Jamie Davies’ crew, along with the other departments.

The building was purchased from Donald Berg by Corner Bar LLC on March 16, 2001 for $435,000. In 2017 its taxable value was $295,700 for an estimated total value of $591,400, according to the Rockford assessors office.

Phillips said he heard there was speculation about preserving the front façade of the structure and that restoration companies can number the bricks of historic buildings and recreate them.

Tidey said it was too early to even estimate a timeline for rebuilding the structure, “I’m still reeling like everybody else he said the day of the fire.” He did seem confident the business and building would survive even this. “You know it would be great to come back even bigger and more successful.”

On Tuesday evening Jones said that it would be five to seven days before streets surrounding the burned out Corner Bar can safely reopen.

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Admiral robber caught

Jacob Abraham Savickas

By Judy Reed

The man who robbed the Cedar Springs Admiral gas station and a string of other businesses here in Michigan and Ohio (including two banks) is now in custody at the Kent County Correctional Facility.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, Jacob Abraham Savickas, 33, was arrested without incident on Wednesday, August 9, at a local hotel, by the FBI Fugitive Task Force. He was lodged at the jail on several warrants, including bank robbery, larceny from a person, fleeing and eluding a police officer, parole absconder, and being a habitual offender.

Savickas started his crime spree Wednesday, July 26, when he is suspected of an unarmed robbery of the J&H Mobil gas station at 4404 Clyde Park Ave., Wyoming. He then robbed the Admiral gas station on the corner of Main and Muskegon Street in Cedar Springs the next day, Thursday, July 27. According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, the robbery occurred about 9:22 a.m. The clerk told police that a white male in his late 20s came in and demanded money. He was described as wearing a white shirt, blue baseball cap, and having facial hair.

Police found him at the rest stop on US-131 near 10 Mile Rd., but after a brief foot chase, he got back into his car and sped away. Police pursued him, but terminated the chase on 10 Mile Rd. The Admiral clerk had reportedly told police that he had a small child with him.

Savickas drove to Indiana later that day, and is suspected of robbing two more gas stations that day in South Bend—the Marathon gas station on W. Western Ave, and Low Bob’s, 4505 N. Ameritech Dr.

The next day, Friday, July 28, Savickas is suspected of committing an unarmed bank robbery at the Beacon Credit Union, 820 North Broadway, in Peru, Indiana. On Tuesday, August 1, Savickas was back in Michigan, and is suspected of robbing the Next Door Food Store at 4616 Alpine Ave., N.W., where he struck the clerk with his vehicle. He is also suspected of robbing the Independent Bank, 3090 Plainfield Av NE on Wednesday morning August 2.

Savickas was previously convicted in 2015 of retail fraud, first degree. He was arrested after he tried to steal plasma cutters from Family Farm and Home in Cedar Springs. Employees recognized him at the time as someone who previously stole welders and interrupted the theft of the plasma cutters. He fled but was arrested and held on six charges, several for retail fraud at other locations. He was sentenced to a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years in prison. His record on the Michigan Corrections website shows him listed as a parole absconder as of July 6.

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Man arrested in beating death of grandmother

 

A 23-year-old Sparta man was charged Tuesday, August 15, with open murder in the death of his 85-year-old grandmother.

According to police, Matthew Malleaux lived with his grandmother, Anne Parker, on Clark Street, north of 12 Mile, in Sparta. Police and medical personnel responded to the home at about 5 a.m. August 7, after her medical alarm went off. Malleaux, who had reportedly been drinking heavily, would not let the first responders inside. Sparta police officer Mark Wawrzyniak said Malleaux swore at them, told them to leave, and threw a large cement lawn statue at one of the Rockford Ambulance paramedics and hit him in the head. He then barricaded himself inside the home. Police then called for backup.

Police saw Parker lying on the floor with obvious injuries. Due to her injuries, an emergency entry was made into the residence by officers from the Sparta PD, Rockford PD and Troopers from the Rockford MSP Post. Officers had to taser Malleaux to subdue him. He was then arrested and lodged in the Kent County Correctional Facility on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, and assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer.

Parker was transported to Spectrum Hospital where she was treated for multiple blunt force injuries. She died the following day, August 8. Her injuries included a collapsed lung, dislocated shoulder, fractured left cheekbone, fractured left orbital bone, an injury to the back of her head, and bruising to her spleen and kidney.

On Tuesday, Parker’s grandson was charged with open murder in 63rd District Court.

Court records stated that Malleaux told police he was upset about his grandmother’s medical alarm going off and that they had argued.

F/Lt. Chris McIntire, with the Michigan State Police, said in a televised interview that Parker did speak with police on scene, though he did not disclose what she told them.

“This is one of the most troubling homicides I’ve seen,” said McIntyre.

Sparta Police Andrew Milanowski agreed. “I’ve never seen one like this either. It’s troubling,” he said.

A joint investigation with the Sparta Police Department and the Michigan State Police is ongoing. Units from the Michigan State Police, Sparta Police Department, Rockford Police Department, Kent County Sheriff Department, Sparta Fire Department and Rockford Ambulance all assisted at the scene.

The last murder that occurred in Sparta was in 2004, when 23-year-old Julia Dawson was murdered by her husband Timothy Dawson. He then dumped her body in Pierson. He is serving life in prison for the crime.

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The Post travels to Disney World

The Pellerito family traveled to Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, the first week of August, and had a great time. Dominic, 12, Kate, 10, and Deno, 8, made sure to take the Post with them, and sent us their photo. Thanks so much for taking us with you on your trip!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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New sports turf installed at Red Hawk Stadium

Fall sports have kicked off, and one of the new items greeting athletes, the high school marching band, and fans, is the new sports turf at Red Hawk Stadium.

“We are excited to kick off the 2017-18 school year with a beautiful new Red Hawk Stadium turf,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “As our Cedar Springs Public Schools campus is the center point of this great community, it is our honor to shine for all to see our Cedar Springs pride with this new look.”

Replacement of the turf was identified as one of the needs in a 2011 bond issue study for the sinking fund millage. The cost at that time was estimated at $750-850,000. However, Shaw Sports Turf came in with a cost of $406,990.

The turf was replaced this summer, in time for the marching band to hold their annual band camp.

“We are grateful for the research, experience and work our Athletic Director, Mr. John Norton, and our Director of Operations, Mr. Ken Simon did to prepare and oversee this project,” said VanDuyn. “We are also grateful for our Board of Education supporting the purchase and installation of our new turf as well as for our principals, maintenance department, coaches and music directors for their input.”

VanDuyn said she hopes the community will come out to various events to see the new turf, such as at soccer and football games, the CSPS fundraiser walk-a-thon, the Red Flannel Festival Marching Band Invitational and the annual Powder Puff football game.

She also thanked the community for their part in making it happen. “On behalf of our Board of Education, Administration, staff and students, thank you Cedar Springs residents for investing in our schools, by providing for a sinking fund that made this beautiful new stadium turf possible.”

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West Nile Virus Found in Kent County 

 

As a result of a massive mosquito surveillance project conducted by the environmental health division at the Kent County Health Department (KCHD), this season’s first positive specimen of West Nile Virus (WNV) has been discovered. THIS IS NOT A HUMAN CASE.

The positive sample was found in a pool of tested mosquitoes from the ZIP code 49507 in the city of Grand Rapids. The sample that yielded the positive result was collected between Tuesday, August 8 and Thursday, August 10, 2017.

The Kent County Health Department has been capturing and testing mosquitoes in 11 traps strategically placed throughout the county since early June. The traps, known as a Gravid trap, were placed in the 49503, 49504, 49507 and 49519 zip codes. There are also 4 traps set in the county that are designed to attract Aedes Egypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitos, two species known to carry the Zika virus. So far, KCHD has not found a specimen of either species. The project will continue until Labor Day.

“The fact that we have found West Nile in only one area does not mean that it is confined to that ZIP code,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer with KCHD. “We expect West Nile to be present to some degree until the first frost. We want people to be aware that they can greatly reduce their own risks by taking some simple precautions. This finding is significant because this is our first alert to the presence of West Nile as it begins to surface at this time of the year.”

Prevention is critical in the fight against WNV an illness that can be deadly in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems and the elderly. The Kent County Health Department recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10-35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping your lawn and shrubs cut.

West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since the first case was diagnosed in Michigan in 2001 more than 1100 people have been diagnosed with the disease. 92 people have died. In 2001 and again in 2012, Kent County had the second highest number of West Nile cases in the state. More about West Nile Virus can be found at www.michigan.gov/westnile.

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Solar eclipse on August 21

By Judy Reed

People across the nation are getting ready to witness a rare total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. According to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, this happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, and blocks our view of all or part of the sun. This is a rarer event to observe compared to a lunar eclipse, which is when the earth’s shadow falls on a full moon.

Only a narrow path across the United States from Oregon to southern Illinois to South Carolina will witness a total eclipse. West Michigan is not in the path of totality, so will only see a partial eclipse. The time will be about 2:10-2:30, depending on where you are in Michigan. As much as 70 to 85 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. But just because it will only be a partial eclipse here doesn’t mean it’s safe to look at without protective eyewear—and sunglasses are not safe.

“Even though a big chunk of the sun will be covered in West Michigan during the eclipse, there will still be enough sunlight to cause major eye problems if you risk anything more than a glimpse unprotected. Sunglasses are not safe,” said WOODTV-8 meteorologist Ellen Bacca. Eye problems may not be apparent immediately after staring at the sun. Experts say blindness or vision problems may not appear for hours or even a day after the damage has been done.”

Shannon Murphy, the instructional support and outreach coordinator for the U-M Department of Astronomy, hopes people will not write off this celestial event, even if we don’t get to see it in its totality.

“Although the eclipse is only partial here in Michigan, it’s still totally worth watching,” she said. “Just don’t look at the sun directly. There are plenty of ways to safely watch it. If you’re using eclipse glasses or solar filters to look at the sun, make sure the only thing you can see through it is the sun. If you can see other things, it’s not good enough. If you’re using projection, like a pinhole projector, remember you’re supposed to look at the image of the sun, not through the pinhole.”

The NWS said that to prevent serious eye damage, you should only look directly at the sun through solar filters that are ISO 12312-2 compliant. There have been reports of some fake and unsafe eclipse glasses being sold, so the American Astronomical Society has created a list of reputable vendors at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters. You can use indirect methods of viewing the eclipse, such as a pinhole projector. Crescent patterns in the shadows of trees will also be apparent if there are no clouds. More information can be found at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

And if you are thinking about recording the event with your phone, you might want to reconsider that. Bacca said that quick pictures of the sun during the eclipse should be fine with your phone, but extended use during the solar eclipse could permanently damage it.

The NWS said the next total solar eclipse in Michigan will be April 8, 2024, when a small sliver of southeast Michigan will see a total eclipse, though the duration of totality will last longer in Ohio (a 75 to 99 percent partial eclipse will be seen from the rest of Michigan on this day). Southwest Michigan will see a total solar eclipse on September 14, 2099. There will be annular (ring of fire) eclipses over northern Michigan in 2048 and 2057.

To learn more about the eclipse, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/.

There a couple of area events going on that day if you’d like to join others for a solar eclipse party.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum will be holding a special Eclipse Part from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that will include hands-on activities, safe eclipse viewing and more. Hands on activities for the day will include making solar system bracelets; decorating personal eclipse shades; designing and building space craft; making eclipse projectors; and more. The party will also feature a meal deal, multiple shows on the half hour of “Eclipses and Phases of the Moon” in the Chaffee Planetarium ($4 per person), and a live stream of the total eclipse will be shown in the Meijer Theater. Visitors can also be part of a WZZM broadcast from 12 to 1 p.m. Activities as part of the Eclipse Party will be included with general admission to the Museum, and FREE to Museum members. Tickets may be reserved in advance.

A limited number of eclipse glasses will be available at the Eclipse Party, on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. Member adults and member children are free; Kent County adults are $5; Kent County children are free; and all other adults are $8, and $3 for children. For more info and to order tickets go to www.grpm.org/events/eclipse-party/.

You can also join Montcalm Community College’s Kenneth J. Lehman Nature Trails committee members for a solar eclipse viewing from 2 to 2:45 p.m. near the greenhouse on the college’s Sidney campus. When viewing from Montcalm County, the partial eclipse will begin around 1 p.m., peak around 2:25 p.m. and end around 3:45 p.m. At the eclipse’s peak, the sun will be about 80 percent covered. Wear eclipse glasses, not sunglasses. Bring your own blankets or chairs.

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Drunken boater arrested 

 

Montcalm County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Stanton man for operating a boat while intoxicated on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at approximately 4:54 P.M. on Crystal Lake.

According to police, they were dispatched to a possible intoxicated boater who had anchored his boat near the public beach. As the marine patrol approached, the operator attempted to leave the area but deputies stopped him. Deputies believe that the man, Aaron Russell Pallick, 37, of Stanton was intoxicated. He was lodged at the jail on a charge of operating a boat while intoxicated, and subsequently released on a $500.00 bond.

“Even though the summer is quickly coming to an end, the Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that excessive alcohol use combined with normal summer activities can have tragic results, therefore, everyone is encouraged to use good judgement and be respectful of others,” said a Sheriff Department spokesperson.

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Winners of tree-planting grants announced

 

$70,110 awarded to Michigan communities

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, DTE Energy Foundation and ReLeaf Michigan announce the award of $70,110 to 29 organizations in Michigan to plant 750 trees along community streets, in parks and other public spaces.

In our area, both the Village of Sparta and the Sparta Recreation Authority each received a grant of $3,000.

This tree-planting grant program is sponsored by the DTE Energy Foundation in partnership with the DNR and ReLeaf Michigan as part of a long-standing commitment to improving communities and the environment throughout the state.

“These trees will help improve community quality of life and the environment through beautification, cleaning the air, increasing tree canopy to produce cooling shade, and providing habitat for wildlife,” said Kevin Sayers, DNR Urban and Community Forestry program coordinator.

The tree-planting grants are part of a long-term initiative to partner with communities, schools and nonprofits on programs to take care of the environment, noted Faye Nelson, vice president of DTE Energy and board chair and president of the DTE Energy Foundation.

“The DTE Energy Foundation has always believed it is our responsibility to sustain and protect Michigan’s legacy—from  its cultural institutions to its beautiful natural environment—and to help build its future,” Nelson said. “As good environmental stewards, we are proud to support the 2017 tree-planting program and partner with the DNR to invest in the future of our state by ensuring these spaces are enjoyed for generations to come.”

Grants awarded under this program will be used to help purchase trees of various species and sizes to be planted this fall or next spring.

ReLeaf Michigan, a nonprofit organization, works closely with communities statewide to replenish tree canopies through volunteer tree-planting events. Communities interested in coordinating local volunteer tree-planting or educational events are encouraged to contact ReLeaf Michigan to find out how they can assist. Call, email or visit them online at 1-800-642-7353, info@releafmichigan.org, or  www.releafmichigan.org.

For more information or a list of approved grants contact Kevin Sayers at 517-284-5898 or visit the program website at www.mi.gov/ucf. For additional information about the DTE Energy Foundation, please contact Anne O’Dell at 313-235-5555.

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Jennie Mae Ringler-Holton

 

Jennie Mae Ringler-Holton, 97, of Morley, passed away on August 16, 2017 in Cedar Springs, Michigan.  She was born on January 4, 1920 to Henry and Marvella (Craigmyle) Wilson in Woodville, Michigan. On November 13, 1937 she married Floyd Ringler in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was a loving homemaker.  Jennie is survived by two daughters: Wanda Carlson of Jenison, Leatha Francis of Dorr; two sons: Hal (Karen) Ringler of Cedar Springs, Dale (Cheryl) Ringler of Morley; son-in-law Keith Sherman of Morley; 19 grandchildren; many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her husband Floyd Wesley Ringler, daughter Joyce Sherman, and son Lyle Ringler and his wife Patsy.  Visitation will be held Friday, August 18, 2017, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, funeral services on Saturday, August 19, 2017, 11:00 all at the Fields-McKinley Funeral and Cremation Services Newaygo Chapel.  Burial will take place in the Big Prairie-Everett Cemetery.  Please share your memories of Jennie online at www.fieldsmckinley.com.

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