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Archive | January, 2018

A movie inspires a dream

Maximus De Back finished 8th out of 170 in a fencing competition earlier this month in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Teen finishes in top 8 in fencing competition

By Judy Reed

Maximus De Back, 16, of Solon Township, is working hard to realize a dream—to become part of the USA Olympic fencing team. 

Earlier this month, Maximus was part of the Team USA at the Bratislava Men’s Foil Cadet European Cup in Slovakia. Team USA won gold, silver and bronze, with five of the team in the top eight—including Maximus. He finished 8th out of 170 in the international tournament. 

Maximus, who is the son of William P. and Rachel De Back, has been fencing since he was six years old. “I watched the movie The Princess Bride and told my mom and dad I wanted to try it,” he said with a smile. “So I took fencing lessons at a club in Grand Rapids.”

He trained for about a year, then participated in his first tournament at about age 7 or 8.

His sister, Greta, 13, also fences. But she is currently healing from an injury.

According to his dad, Maximus practices two hours a night, 4-5 days a week, all year long. He trains at the Grand Rapids Fencing Academy, and competes in various tournaments, both domestic and international. In Budapest, he placed in the top 32.

All of his training and traveling doesn’t give him much time to attend school, so he takes virtual classes online, through Cedar Springs Public Schools, so that he will be able to earn his diploma.

What is it that Maximus likes about fencing? “It’s not just who is bigger or stronger; you have to think about what you are going to do,” he said. “If you lose, it’s your fault.”

He said he will sometimes study his opponent to see what they like to do, then shut that down. 

While his goal is to join the Olympic team at some point, he said his immediate goal is to just get better each time he competes.

Maximus will complete next in the Jr. Olympics in February in Memphis. 

You can keep track of many of the fencing tournaments here and abroad on the USA Fencing facebook page.

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School board selects new trustee

 

Matt McConnon was appointed on Tuesday, January 23, to fill a vacant seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Courtesy photo.

But question arises on whether he can serve

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening, January 23, to fill the board seat vacated by Patricia Eary last week when she resigned. The board interviewed six candidates, and voted 6-0 to appoint Matt McConnon, of Courtland Township, to fill the seat until January. He was sworn in at the end of the meeting by School Resource Officer Deputy McCutcheon.

Several of the board members felt McConnon’s 10 years of experience in policy making and budgeting on the Courtland Township board would be beneficial to the school board. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will get to use his expertise.

“After we appointed Matt McConnon to the BOE, it came to light that there could be an outside concern with the incompatible office law as Matt is a trustee on the Courtland Township Board,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

“With the first look, the two positions (Township Trustee and BOE) appeared to only have a ‘potential of incompatibility,’ which meant the law did not apply. Matt’s longstanding board service to Courtland Township is to be admired. We have been in contact with Matt and we will amicably resolve this situation after we have gathered the facts,” she said. 

The concern arose because at the end of the meeting, the Post found, after speaking with Mr. McConnon, that he was still serving on the Courtland Township board. He explained that Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn had checked into it, and told him that there should be no conflict of interest since Courtland Township doesn’t do much voting on school issues.

However, the Post remembered that there was a similar case eight years ago, involving our own school board and the Cedar Springs City Council, and that the Kent County Prosecutor had deemed the two offices incompatible.

In that case, Pamela Conley, who was a Board of Education trustee, ran for Cedar Springs City Council in 2009 and won a seat. Both lawyers for the city and the school eventually agreed that the offices would be in conflict, and decided to send it to then Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth for a final opinion. He sent back his decision, explaining why the offices were incompatible. He also told Conley she needed to resign one of the offices by a certain date or he would file charges in Circuit Court. She decided to resign her BOE seat and still serves on the Cedar Springs City Council.

According to the opinion issued by Forsyth in January 2010, in which he cited the Public Offices Act, State Attorney General opinions and Supreme Court opinions, he noted that a person could serve on both boards if they do not negotiate or enter into contracts with one another, which the city and school do. “Of equal significance, an individual cannot avoid the incompatibility by abstaining from voting on resolutions…because abstention under such circumstances ‘is itself a breach of duty.’” He specifically mentioned the city collecting the taxes for the school, and the city conducting school board elections, and the school reimbursing the city for them.

Courtland Township does the same.

The Post emailed Board of Education President Heidi Reed and Superintendent Van Duyn to inform them of the prior case. Reed told the Post they would check into it. She then later issued her statement cited earlier in this article.

The Post will update this story when we know more.

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City of Cedar Springs water shows no contamination

In the wake of recent news reports regarding Perfluorooctyl Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) chemicals in West Michigan drinking water, the City of Cedar Springs decided to test its water supply to ensure that City provides the highest quality water to its residents.

The City sent water samples to Fleis and Vandenbrink for testing on December 21, 2017 and received results back January 17, 2018. Fleis and Vandenbrink sampled and tested (in compliance with USEPA method 537) wells 3 and 4, each drawing from one of the two supplying aquifers for the City. Analysis for both wells shows “no detection” for PFOS and PFOA with zero parts per trillion.  Federal advisory limits for PFOS and PFOA are seventy parts per trillion and the State of Michigan is considering setting its standards at five parts per trillion.

“Cedar Springs Department of Public Works monitors and tests the municipal water supply and distribution system on a daily basis to comply with DEQ standards and to ensure the highest water quality for our citizens,” Director of Public Works David Ducat said.  

City Hall received several phone calls over the last several weeks from concerned citizens asking about whether city water had been tested. “We hadn’t tested the water for PFOS because we aren’t in the PFOS expansion zone and our geography made it unlikely that we would be affected,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.  

“The city obviously cares about the well-being of its citizens’ water supply and wanted to remove all doubts. We’re satisfied that the aquifers that Cedar Spring draws its supply from is not contaminated and we are not impacted by the problems to the south.”  

The city’s most recent water quality report can be found on the City’s website under “NEWS” or under the Public Works page.

While the city municipal water supply is uncontaminated, Womack pointed out that those results do not apply to private wells and citizens with concerns about their home’s well-water should consider getting their well-water tested. “The most recent DEQ map seems to show the recent PFOS problems are all located south of 12 Mile Road,” said Womack.

Over the last several months the State of Michigan started an investigation into Wolverine World Wide’s tannery waste dump sites from the 1960s and 1970s in northern Kent County after it was discovered that residents living around the dumpsite had incredibly high levels of the toxic chemicals in their blood and in their drinking water.  Several municipalities have been affected by the PFOS plume emanating southward from 10 Mile Road including Rockford, Plainfield Township, and Belmont.

Any Cedar Springs residents with questions about the city’s water safety can contact City Manager Mike Womack at manager@cityofcedarsprings or the DPW Director David Ducat at DPW@cityofcedarsprings.org or 616.696.1330.

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Ensley crash update

This SUV split in half after the person driving it reportedly lost control and rolled it December 5 in Ensley Township. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Information received in a freedom of information act request shows that a 1999 Ford Expedition was traveling between 65-69 mph when it left the roadway on 136th Avenue in Ensley Township last month before rolling and splitting in half and pinning the passenger underneath. It also said the driver’s dog died in the crash.

The crash occurred on Tuesday, December 5, about 11:20 a.m. about 200-300 yards south of the intersection of Cottonwood and 136th Street, with the vehicle landing on the farm property of John Patin, 8160 E. 136th St.

According to information received from the Newaygo County Sheriff Department, the driver was identified as Aubrey Lynn Johnston, 18. Her passenger was Marc Adrian Guiles, 17. Johnston told Officer Hunter Neiderer that she was driving eastbound at about 60 mph when she lost control and the vehicle flipped. The officer reported he did not detect any odor or signs of intoxication coming from her.

The property owner, John Patin, said he was in the barn when he heard what sounded like metal grinding. He came outside and saw the driver, who was out of the vehicle, and next to her dog, who had died as a result of the crash. Patin asked if anyone else was in the vehicle and she told him that her friend Marc was. Patin saw mark with his leg trapped in the door and his head pinned underneath the body of the vehicle.

Sand Lake Fire was first on the scene, and was assisted by Cedar Springs and Solon Fire Departments. They reported that the passenger was unresponsive. Aero Med was called to the scene, and landed on the dirt road despite high winds. However, when it came time to transport the man, it was found that they would have to land at the Ford Airport and then transport the man to Butterworth, rather than landing on the roof of the hospital. That trip would take about 40 minutes and an ambulance trip only 30 minutes, so the man was transported by ambulance instead. A second ambulance was dispatched for the female.

Marc Guiles spent time at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in critical condition, but is now at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

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The Post travels to Greece

Rachel and Josh Hunt on the island of Hydra, in Greece.

The Post recently went on an adventure to explore ancient Greece, with Rachel and Josh Hunt. 

“We started off in Athens with a walking tour of the city, and then explored the Acropolis,” said Rachel. “We then traveled to Olympia to see the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the ruins at Mycenae. Next we traveled to Delphi and toured the ruins on the slopes of Mount Parnassos.” 

Delphi is the site of the 4th-century-B.C. Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary oracle. This extensive mountainside archaeological complex contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, as well as an ancient stadium and theater.

She said they concluded the trip with a traditional Greek feast and a day cruise to Hydra, Poros, and Aegina islands. 

Thank you, Rachel and Josh, for taking us with you!

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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Winter fun

Oliver Bartholomew, of Nelson Township, recently had fun creating a crazy snowman family. He is shown here with two of the four he created.

Do you have a winter fun photo you’d like to share? Send it to news@cedarspringspost.com, with some information about the photo. We will run photos as space allows.

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State Police Expand CAUTION Program Statewide

 

MSP seeking volunteers for faith-based community policing initiative

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is looking for volunteers to join its CAUTION initiative, which stands for Community Action United Team in Our Neighborhood. CAUTION is a partnership between the MSP and clergy and faith group members of all faiths that works to increase trust and communication between law enforcement and residents. 

The MSP created CAUTION in 2012 at the Flint Post. Since that time, the program has expanded to include faith leaders in Saginaw, Inkster, Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor, with a total of 103 trained volunteers currently participating in the program. Due to the program’s success, CAUTION is expanding statewide in 2018 to each of MSP’s 30 posts.

CAUTION members meet regularly with post personnel to encourage dialog and information-sharing. They can also be activated to respond alongside law enforcement at crime scenes to ease tensions and provide emotional support to residents. CAUTION members will partner with MSP members at civic events and diversionary events that seek to deter future criminal behavior in their communities. 

The MSP provides various training to CAUTION volunteers, some which includes courses in critical incident defusing/debriefing, security in places of worship, responding with law enforcement in a crisis, avoiding caregiver burnout and clergy’s role at a critical incident scene. There is also an annual statewide CAUTION conference.

Interested individuals can contact their nearest Community Service Trooper (CST) to learn more. 

For the Rockford Post, contact Tpr. Martin Miller at 616-866-4411.

For the Lakeview Post, contact F/Lt. Kevin Sweeney at 989-352-8444.

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Overdoses continue to rise

 

From Michigan State Police Lakeview

Those calls handled by troopers which are identified as overdoses, are again up significantly from the previous year. “Although the raw numbers might not seem extraordinary, the increase is almost exponential; we went from 7 in 2015 to 15 in 2016 and now 25 in 2017,” said F/Lt. Kevin Sweeney, Lakeview Post Commander. Sweeney also stressed that the numbers are only MSP calls and don’t include calls handled by other law enforcement or EMS agencies. 

According to Sweeney, the majority of these overdoses are related to opioid use including heroin. “The use of these drugs and the overdoses associated with it, continue to be a law enforcement and public health concern in our post area.”  

Opioids including heroin are obviously dangerous, but now we know they’re being mixed with other drugs and compounds, increasing their toxicity. “Cheese” as it’s sometimes referred, is heroin mixed with over the counter cold remedies like Tylenol PM. This is a very addictive and dangerous combination, often leading to both overdose and death. “Liquid O” is black tar heroin mixed with water, making it easy to conceal but difficult to identify, “Often our youths have no idea what they’re using until it’s too late,” stressed F/Lt. Sweeney. 

The newest trend is the mixing of heroin with fentanyl or carfentanil. Fentanyl is nearly 100 times more powerful then morphine and carfentanil is a shocking 10,000 times more potent.  “Plain and simple, these drugs can and will end your life”, commented F/Lt. Sweeney.

Besides the immediate risk to your life, heroin has long-term health effects as well, including heart, liver and kidney disease. It also increases your chances of contracting chronic diseases like HIV. 

Today, heroin comes in many forms and tell-tale signs like track marks may no longer clue you into someone’s use. The signs of heroin use vary among users but common signs include constricted pupils, acting drowsy, nausea and frequent respiratory infections. 

Please, if you or someone you know uses heroin, call 1-800-662-HELP for assistance.

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Kent County Sheriff victim advocate program seeks volunteers

From the Kent County Sheriff Office

People often approach us and ask, “How can I help?” We want to tell you about an awesome opportunity to get involved, especially if volunteer work was high on your list of resolutions for 2018. 

We are accepting applications to our Victim Advocate Program, which is one of our most important and impactful volunteer programs as it places advocates in immediate contact with family members who have lost a loved one in the wake of a tragic event. Here’s a little more information:

This group of men and women assist law enforcement officers when tragic events occur. These volunteer advocates provide support and comfort to families when traumatic news is given. Victim advocates respond to fatal traffic accidents, homicides, suicides and other traumatic deaths. They lend support to victims and survivors as they adjust to the initial shock of the loss of a loved one. 

Victim advocates are trained to deal with the emotional needs of traumatized victims. Advocates are trained to assist families in making decision on who they might contact fort additional support. They stay with the victim until his or her own support system arrives. The advocates work in teams of two and commit to being on call for a one week period of time. They are on call from 6:00am-6:00pm and for the night shift from 6:00pm – 6:00am. Each advocate goes through a 20-hour in house training process to help them in dealing with grief and its effect on people. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Victim Advocate program, please contact Sandi Jones at 616-632-6221 or sandi.jones@kentcountymi.gov

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Man arrested for causing fatal crash

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post have arrested a 29-year-old Coral man for causing a crash that costed another man his life last summer.

The crash occurred on July 4, 2017 on Kendaville Rd, west of Bailey Rd, in Maple Valley Township. Police investigation showed that Guy Petherbridge, 61, also of Coral, had stopped his vehicle on the road after striking a deer. The car he was driving was then struck by an eastbound Ford truck traveling at a high rate of speed, which was driven by the 29-year-old man. The impact caused the car to split in half and catch fire. Petherbridge suffered fatal injuries from the crash. The driver of the Ford truck suffered minor injuries. 

The Montcalm County Prosecutor’s office authorized a warrant for Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death and Reckless Driving Causing Death. The subject was arrested at his home in Coral and lodged at the Montcalm County Jail without incident. His name has not yet been released.

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