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Archive | February, 2018

Woman sentenced to prison for embezzling over $300,000

 

Stephanie DeBoer was sentenced to four years in prison. Facebook photo.

Stephanie DeBoer spent the money on credit cards, lingerie, concert tickets

A Cedar Springs woman will spend four years behind bars for embezzling over $300,000 from a union she did bookkeeping work for.

Stephanie Marie DeBoer, 41, of Cedar Springs, was sentenced on February 20, 2018, to four years in federal prison, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney imposed the sentence. Judge Maloney also ordered her to pay full restitution, and to serve a period of supervision after completing her prison term.

DeBoer was the former office manager and bookkeeper of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 876, in Edmore, Michigan. Between 2012 and September 2015, DeBoer embezzled more than $307,000 from the union by writing unauthorized checks to herself and others, making unauthorized payroll deposits, sending money to pay her credit cards, and making unauthorized purchases. Among other things, DeBoer used more than $89,000 of the embezzled money to make payments on 16 different personal credit cards, and made more than $54,000 in unauthorized charges on two different union officers’ union-issued credit cards. The unauthorized charges included $907 for Katy Perry concert tickets and more than $5,000 in purchases from Victoria’s Secret.

“Stephanie DeBoer abused her fiduciary responsibility as the office manager and bookkeeper by embezzling more than $300,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Local Union 876. We will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards to safeguard the assets of union members,” said James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

“Safeguarding union finances and combatting embezzlement of union funds in labor unions is a very high priority for the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards,” said Ian Burg, Detroit-Milwaukee District Director. “The embezzlement by Ms. DeBoer was significant, and the $307,563 she embezzled for her personal use was the equivalent of more than 15 percent of the union’s annual dues receipts and nearly 25 percent of its reported cash on hand.

Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that OLMS will fully investigate and seek justice when anyone attempts to use their union position for personal financial gain.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Office of Labor Management Standards. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Stiffler.

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Flooding across West Michigan

 

 

Cedar Creek has flooded behind the Cedar Springs Library. Post photo by J. Reed.

Cedar Creek rises; roads closed due to standing water

By Judy Reed

Rain and ice melt caused swollen creeks and rivers across West Michigan to begin to overflow their banks this week, as well as cause pooling of water in low lying areas.

Cedar Creek in Cedar Springs flooded behind the fire station and library Tuesday, and the creek was full at Veteran’s Park (at Oak and Main). There was standing water north of the park and in North Park. It was also high at Fifth and Cherry Streets. Water did flow over the road for a time at the intersection of Main and Pine Street. Many roads in the outlying areas were closed due to water over the road.

The Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) is updating information on road closures regularly on its website (www.kentcountyroads.net/alert) as well as social media accounts. “KCRC crews continue to investigate standing water and flooded areas and are placing barricades and flashers where necessary. We are assessing roads and are closing/opening them as conditions warrant. Motorists are asked to slow down and heed warnings and closures,” said Steve Warren, Managing Director of the Road Commission. “Today, our crews will continue clearing catch basins, cleaning spillways, repairing washouts and patching potholes. In these conditions, heavy grading equipment would worsen conditions on gravel roads. Therefore, crews will grade gravel roads when dryer conditions allow.”

Cedar Creek at Veterans Park, at Oak and Main Street, on Feb. 20, 10 a.m. Post photo by J. Reed.

Other parts of the county are seeing a lot of standing water as well. Kent County Emergency Management said that they, along with numerous agencies, continue to monitor and respond to flooding emergencies being seen throughout the area. They noted that floodwaters are having a dramatic impact on transit and housing. The waters will likely continue to rise through Saturday, causing many additional concerns for businesses and residents.

“The Sheriff’s Office and I are working closely with the National Weather Service, State and County agencies, the City of Grand Rapids, other impacted communities, as well as American Red Cross and Salvation Army,” said Jack Stewart, Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator. “Our primary goal is the safety and well-being of our residents and first responders. While the levels are not expected to be as high as they were in 2013, we still need to be as diligent in our response.”

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for a multitude of counties, including Kent County until 1 p.m. Thursday. The rain stopped early Wednesday.

“Our Emergency Operations staff will continue monitor the situation throughout the week,” said Jack Stewart, Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator. 

Water just at the bottom of the bridge over Cedar Creek at Main and Oak Street, at 10 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2018. Post photo by J. Reed.

If you have water in your home/basement, it could be contaminated with E coli. Handle items that come in contact with flood waters with care, either by disposing of wet items or when possible, cleaning wet items with a disinfectant. 

Stewart says there are a few items to keep in mind regarding flooding:

*Turn around, don’t drown. Just two feet of floodwaters can sweep away a car. If you see flood water in the road, or barricades/signs posted on roads, for your safety and that of first responders, please turn around and take a different route. 

*Do not try to walk or swim through flood waters. River and creek waters can move fast and carry debris that can be dangerous. Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock people off their feet. 

*Keep pets away from flood waters.

*Prepare in advance. If you live in an area prone to flooding, make sure personal identification items (i.e. passports and birth certificates) are protected. Back up computer files and keep them in a safe place or store them in a cloud-based service. 

*Stay tuned to alerts via TV, radio or weather apps for your phone. 

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Local charter school plans to expand

Couple gifts 10 acres to school to make dream a reality

By Judy Reed

When Dan George was 14 years old, he made the JV basketball team as a freshman in high school. He was excited about the chance to play, and told his mom he needed a new pair of shoes—like the classic Chuck Taylors by Converse. His mom told him they couldn’t afford them, but she would pray with him that God would make it possible. So they prayed about it, and George went off to school, not thinking much more about it. He was surprised when his mom picked him up at school at noon, and drove straight to the shoe store. She told him that she had received a gift certificate from someone in the mail that morning that made it possible to buy the shoes. It was a lesson in faith that George never forgot.

“If you think about it, that means someone sent that gift certificate before I even made the team,” he said. God had prepared the way.

Now, as Superintendent and School Leader at Creative Technologies Academy, a local charter school on Pine Street, George still dreams big, and holds on to the faith lessons he learned as a teenager. “In all the years I have been here at CTA, I’ve always wanted to be able to expand,” he said. “I’ve had my eye on two pieces of property. To the south is 5 or 6 acres, and 10 to the west (which belongs to Fred and Carolee Gunnell). But I didn’t know how we could afford it. Then I got convicted remembering my lesson in faith.”

George said that originally he was working with the Community Building Development Team to possibly build a recreation center to the south that both CTA and the community could use. But it turned out that the water table was too high. So Sue Wolfe suggested he speak with Fred Gunnell about buying the property to the west of CTA. “We had a meeting, and I asked him what he thought a fair price would be for the 10 acres,” explained George. “He said he would have his realtor, Leon Stout, get back with me.”

George was surprised by what Stout told him when he called him. The Gunnells wanted to donate the 10 acres to the school. George was overjoyed. “It’s gratifying that Fred and Carolee want to do this for us,” he said.

Fred Gunnell told the Post that CTA had been good neighbors for 28 years, and that he and Carolee enjoyed seeing the kids there. “We are both educators, and think they do a good job. We heard they needed space, so we gave it to them,” he explained.

Fred and Carolee both taught at Sparta, he as a high school teacher and counselor, and she as an elementary teacher. Fred also was also an administrator at Michigan Tech.

CTA has 315 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and sits on 7 acres. The additional 10 acres will more than double their size and help them realize the dream to have their own student activity center. “It will be more than a gym; it will have extra offices. It will give us our own place to have graduation. It will meet our needs but also do some things for the community,” said George. 

“This is an awesome thing for us and the community,” said Autumn Mattson, the K-5 principal. “It wouldn’t be a big deal for a bigger school, but for us it’s a game changer.”

George noted that even though they are a public school, as a charter they only survive on donations. So what is it going to cost to build? He was given an estimate by Duane McIntyre of about $6 million. But that doesn’t faze George.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a $15 pair of basketball shoes or a $250,000 piece of property. God has all the money in the world,” he said.

The closing date on the property has been set for March 1 at 4 p.m. in the CTA auditorium.

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Winter fun

Aurora Dandridge, age 5, loves her snow bed! The photo was taken at her Nana’s home (Sally Johnson) in the City of Cedar Springs.

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Men of honor

The Men of Honor group from Cedar Springs brought love to the elderly at Metron as part of a Valentine’s celebration. Courtesy photo.

On Valentines Day, a young man walked into a school in Florida and brought death and destruction, which has dominated the news. The next day a group of young men from the Men of Honor, walked into Metron of Cedar Springs to bring a Valentine message of love, hope and blessing. These young men sang songs of love, handed out valentines, candy and cookies, and shared the true message of love to the elderly at Metron.

The Men and Ladies of Honor is for 6th, 7th and 8th grade young men and ladies, and meet in separate rooms at Red Hawk Elementary every Thursday after  school until 4 p.m. They are part of the En Gedi after school program that runs everyday after school until 5 p.m. Young men and young ladies build godly character and leadership during their meetings. They also attend an incredible weekend camp during the school year.

Men and Ladies of Honor originated in Dallas, Texas and is celebrating its 15-year anniversary. Since their inception, Men and Ladies of Honor has spread across the United States and into 11 countries, including Honduras and South Africa.

During the Olympics, young men and ladies are competing for gold. The Men and Ladies of Honor believe that God has placed gold inside each young person. It’s just a matter of helping them dig it out and letting them discover that God has placed greatness inside of them. We believe each young man and lady is just one caring adult away from being a success story.

Our goal is to start Men and Ladies of Honor programs across West Michigan in schools, home-schooling networks, churches and community programs. If you or anyone you know might be interested in leading, starting-up or funding a Men and Ladies of Honor Program, please contact Randy Badge at 616-799-5776 or email him at rrbadge@hotmail.com. To fund one student with curriculum, t-shirts, camp, and awards for a year costs $108 or $9 per month.

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Snowmobile event canceled—again

The third time was not the charm for the Yankee Zephyr Promotions snowmobile racing event planned for last Saturday, February 17. Instead, it was the third year in a row that they had to cancel due to lack of snow. 

“I was so excited about it,” said race promoter Jimmy McHugh. “We had all that snow, and it was gone in 48 hours.”

McHugh noted that you’d think that in the middle of February, you wouldn’t have a problem with lack of snow. But he said that even if he had planned it in January, there was a thaw then, too.

McHugh said that while he will plan to do the race again next year, he would not plan an exact date. Instead, he will just look at the weather and probably decide the week before. “People will just need to watch the website and find out the Saturday before the event,” he said. 

You can find the website at yzrp.com. For more info, email info@yzrp.com.

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Weather, sickness create urgent need for blood donations

Nyla VanderLaan was only one day old when 20 percent of the blood in her body needed to be replaced due to a massive ulcer bleeding into her stomach. She is now a healthy 13-year-old girl.

O-Negative especially needed

Did you know that every two seconds, someone needs blood? This means the need for blood never ends. Michigan Blood must collect over 560 blood donations a day to meet the needs of more than 60 Michigan hospitals.

But right now that’s not happening. So Michigan Blood is sending out an SOS to potential blood donors in West Michigan: We need your blood. And we need it now.

“We always have fewer blood donations during the winter,” said Alicia Barry, manager of community relations for Michigan Blood, “But the bad weather has forced some blood drives to shut down or kept donors from driving out. That, combined with all the sickness that’s been going around, has pushed our levels even lower than usual.”

They also have had an ongoing lower inventory of O-Negative type blood, which everyone can use.

“All blood types are important and necessary for maintaining an adequate blood supply, but Michigan Blood has an ongoing, high need for type O-Negative blood,” said Amy Rotter, with Michigan Blood. “Because any patient is able to receive this type of blood, hospitals rely on it for emergency situations when there might not be time to check a patient’s blood type. A person can donate whole blood once every 56 days, or up to 6 times a year. However, the average donor only donates twice per year. We are asking any O-Negative donors to consider giving more frequently. Only 9 percent of the Michigan population has type O-Negative blood, but 100 percent of the population can receive it.”

She also explained that blood has a limited shelf life, which means they are not able to “stock up” in preparation for these winter months. Each blood donation is separated into three main components: red cells, platelets, and plasma. While plasma can be stored up to a year, red cells only last 42 days, and platelets last a mere 5 days. This means that Michigan Blood needs blood donors every day, year-round.

Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) may be eligible to donate, although there are height and weight restrictions for people 16 to 18 years old. Anyone 19 and older must weigh at least 112 lbs. Blood donors should bring photo ID. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5663), text MIBLOOD to 444999, or schedule online at miblood.org.

Donation centers:

Grand Rapids Area Donor Center

1036 Fuller Ave NE

Sundays: 7am – 2pm (appointment only)
Mondays through Thursdays: 8am – 7pm
Fridays: 6am – 1pm
Saturdays: 7am – 2pm

Grandville Donor Center – 

Grandville United Methodist Church

3140 Wilson Ave
Wednesdays: 7am – 2pm (appointment only)
Thursdays: 12pm – 7pm
Saturdays: 7am – 2pm (appointment only)

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MSP investigating child’s death

The Michigan State Police Lakeview Post is investigating a tragedy that occurred on Wednesday, February 21, when a one-year-old was found dead in standing water in the back yard of her home in Sheridan, Michigan.

According to police, Troopers were dispatched to the residence at 10:12 a.m. when a 2-1/2-year-old child (a sibling) was found walking near the roadway. Upon arrival, a Trooper found the one-year-old, who had walked away from her home and found her way into the standing water. The standing water was due to rain and melting snow run off, and not part of a natural body of water. 

The one-year-old was taken to Sheridan hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The two-year-old is safe with family.

A joint investigation with CPS into the incident is ongoing and an autopsy on the one-year-old is scheduled for Thursday. The child’s name is being withheld at this time.

The Michigan State Police were assisted on scene by Paramedics from Montcalm County EMS and investigators with DHHS.

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Kent City man killed in crash

 

On Sunday, February 18, a Kent City man was found dead in his vehicle, the result of an early morning crash. 

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, they responded at 8:21 a.m., when a passerby noticed what they believed to be an unoccupied vehicle in the ditch on Fruit Ridge Ave north of 5 Mile Rd in Alpine Township. Deputies arrived to find the driver deceased inside the vehicle. 

The investigation revealed that the vehicle, a 2006 Chevy Impala, was traveling northbound in the curve, left the roadway and struck a tree. The crash is believed to have occurred during the early morning hours but was difficult for anyone to see from the roadway.

The driver was identified as Nathan Beach-Stevens, 21, of Kent City. 

Assisting on the scene was Alpine Fire and Life Ambulance.

The driver was not belted and alcohol is believed to be a factor. The crash is still under investigation.

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City Council Clips

 

By Judy Reed

Citizen Survey

The City of Cedar Springs is sending out a citizen survey to gather input, ideas and opinions from city residents and businesses. The surveys were both mailed out and put on the city’s website. 

The survey says that the results will be used in the development of city plans and act as a guide for city government to help shape community decisions. It will help inform the city leaders about needs and help them make decisions about transportation, housing, infrastructure, land use, the economy, and quality of life. 

They ask that the surveys be completed and returned by April 2.

Sign ordinance

The Cedar Springs City Council amended the sign ordinance at their regular meeting on February 8. According to City Manager Mike Womack, the sign ordinance changes were intended to balance the wants of businesses with the desire of citizens to prevent visual clutter and improve the quality of signage in the City. 

One big change is that pole signs are once again allowed in the highway commercial (HC) district. He said this change brings the ordinance in line with a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (Reed vs the Town of Gilbert, Arizona) regarding discrimination against signs based on content. Womack said that he has also been working to make the city more business-friendly, and businesses in the HC district want pole signs. They used to be allowed in the HC district, but then a prior council changed that. “It didn’t make sense that new businesses were not allowed to have them,” he said.

Other changes in the sign ordinance include:

*An increase in the number, size and type of signs that are exempt from requiring city permit. 

*Increases are allowed in sign sizes in both residential and commercial areas.

*Specifies that signs are not allowed on public/city property or within the right of way without prior consent of the City.

*Allows for wall signage that is parallel to public roads (not just building side that faces the public road).

*Increases ability to have a digital sign.

*Allows sandwich board signs in all commercial districts, increases their permitted size and exempts from permitting any sandwich board sign that follows the rules and is not placed on public property.

Next week: Beekeeping ordinance

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