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Archive | July, 2018

Sand Lake passes “no obstruction” ordinance

Tensions run high on board; trustee resigns

By Judy Reed

Tempers were high and accusations made of improper conduct at the July 16 board meeting of the Village of Sand Lake. The possibilities of violations of the Open Meetings Act and infringement on first amendment rights were also at issue.

And in the wake of everything that went on, one board member, Jan Dewey, turned in her resignation. (See her resignation letter here)

Tensions have been running high for sometime, and have come to a head since the board sent a cease and desist letter to a Nelson Township employee, accusing her of interfering with governmental operations of the Village of Sand Lake. She had been accused of talking to those interviewed for Sand Lake’s clerk position and telling them not to take the job. (She denies that allegation.) The board had taken their lawyer’s advice to send the cease and desist, and voted to have an investigation done. However, at the June 25 meeting, Jan Dewey, of the personnel committee, reported that their lawyer said their case was too weak and there was nothing to investigate. The board decided to go ahead with an ordinance against interference and voted to approve the new language of the ordinance Monday evening, and said it would apply to any intentional interference moving forward. 

Dave Dewey said that there were times when he was president that this ordinance would have been helpful.

Mrs. Dewey told the Post that the personnel committee did not do any type of investigation into the claim against the Nelson Township employee, so did not speak with the clerk candidates to find out if there had been interference.

The Post sent a FOIA request to get the names of those interviewed for the clerk position and was successful in interviewing one of the candidates, who asked not to be named. “I was offered the job and declined it. I made this decision following a phone call with Mr. Norton (the Village President), after which I felt that I would not be able to productively work with Mr. Norton. My decision was entirely based on my phone call with Mr. Norton. I never spoke to, met with, or had any contact with anyone from the Township or their government. In particular, any claims that [the unnamed employee] influenced my decision are completely false. I have never had any contact in any way with [unnamed employee]. I declined the position based on my phone call with Mr. Norton and upon the advice of legal counsel.”

Norton was the target of many of the accusations Monday evening. At one point, Council member Danielle Hardenberg tried to bring up a letter she had received from Norton’s lawyer regarding a statement she made in the previous meeting that “women are afraid of Tom.” Before Hardenburg could say anything about it, Norton quashed it by telling her it was civil and she couldn’t talk about it. She tried to say she had been asked to speak about it in a public meeting but he did not let her speak. 

The letter demanded that she recant her statement in the same way she gave it, which would be a public meeting. Him not letting her speak could be seen as infringement on her first amendment rights. 

During council comments, Gary Wheeler read a litany of complaints, mostly aimed at Norton.

Hardenburg asked how many council members it took to make a quorum. She explained that she met with Dave and Jan Dewey about a problem she had with Norton, and the Deweys contacted the village lawyer, Jeff Sluggett, who gave them options on what Hardenburg could do. Hardenburg decided to have a face to face meeting, so all four met to discuss the problem, which would constitute a quorum. She felt that the business should be brought before the council. Norton said no, because they weren’t conducting business of the Village. She asked to take it into closed session, but he said no, it wasn’t on the agenda. And that they could do it at the next meeting, either in closed or open session, he didn’t care, because he had screen shots of their conversations.

Hardenburg told the Post she felt that it was Village business, because it involved the Village President and affected the way she did her job. 

If it was a quorum, and considered Village business, that meeting would be a violation of the Open Meetings act.

Norton showed the Post the screenshots. He did admit she had been sent something inappropriate by him but that it was accidental and he told her not to open it. She responded, “lol, ok.”

Hardenburg told the Post she responded that way because she didn’t know what to think.

Norton feels he is the target of accusations because he is running for Nelson Township Supervisor. He has sent at least three cease and desist letters to those he says have said untrue things about him.

Trustee Tonia Parkhurst also read a statement during council comments. She said she was taken aback by the negativity she felt at last month’s special meeting and was tired of the undercurrents. She had been excused from the meeting of June 25, but during the deliberations on the government obstruction ordinance, Norton texted her to verify if she was coming. When Parkhurst showed up, Wheeler told Tom he saw him pick up his phone earlier and asked him if he texted her. He said he had. Discussions then ensued on whether that was ethical, to which Norton replied, “Is it ethical to work with the township in order to sit there and stop ordinances and undermine operations of the village?”

Use of a phone when others do not know what you are doing, could be considered a violation. According to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s handbook on the Open Meetings Act, it says on page 9: 

“Use of electronic devices: Moreover, the use of electronic communications for discussions or deliberations, which are not, at a minimum, able to be heard by the public in attendance at an open meeting are contrary to the OMA’s core purpose–the promotion of openness in government.”

Dave Dewey told the council that he and his wife work hard to do the right thing. “To use the council as a platform for personal grievances you all are going to burn the church down. You need to have personal stuff remain outside of the council.”  


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2nd Chance School needs a second chance

2nd Chance School, at 810 17 Mile Rd, needs community support to make their dream of helping troubled teens in an agricultural environment come true. Post photo by J. Reed.

by Judy Reed

Ron Silverman is passionate about teaching kids respect through working with horses. But he’s also passionate about giving juvenile offenders a chance to go back to school to earn their GEDs and become productive members of society. With the school he founded, 2nd Chance School, he could do both. But he’s going to need some major funding to do it—to the tune of about $250,000.

The school is located on the corner of 17 Mile and Olin Lakes, in the building that previously belonged to Calvary Assembly of God. 

“It’s been a dream of my wife, Patti, and I for 20 years to start a school for troubled teens,” explained Silverman. “We’ve been working on funding for five years. We bought this building two years ago from the church, and now we need funds to build a barn for the horses and put kids in the classroom.”

Silverman said he’s been in the horse business all of his adult life making horse tack. He said he got the idea for the school when he got an order from a similar type of school in another state.

This is a drawing of the type of barn they want to build at 2nd Chance School. Post photo by J. Reed.

While they currently are not holding classes, they have had youth at the school that have been referred from the court for community service to work with the horses. They did a community service project last summer working in a garden there and gave the food to a local food pantry. But the goal is to get students into the classes for half the day, and then have them work with horses for half the day. The students could work toward their GED or to obtain credits with an area school.

Dale Lubahn, a board trustee who has been with the program from the beginning, said the court thought it was a tremendous idea. “There are so many kids in trouble. It’s good for the community, and gives kids some hope.”

They currently have a probation officer on site, and work with Judge Gardener, in Kent County 17th Circuit Court. “The possibility of having the 2nd Chance School emerge to be an academic place the court can utilize is really extraordinary for the children of northern Kent County,” she said in a video posted on the 2nd Chance website (2ndchancecorp.org).

Silverman said it’s all about teaching the kids respect for themselves and others. Once they learn that, it’s easier to teach them in the classroom.

Dave Schlump, a former principal at Cedar Springs Public Schools, is the principal for 2nd Chance and is also featured in the video on their website. He noted that they would get down to the nitty gritty and really work with the students where they are individually.

But that won’t happen unless they can ramp up the fundraising. 

“We have a holistic approach to our program that will set us apart from others,” said Silverman. They are a Christian school with a board of directors, and are a 501C3, so donations are deductible. 

He said the $250,000 they need would cover the barn, and putting 30 kids in the classroom with computers and the curriculum they need. They would maintain their operations with private funding and grants.

“If the community wants to see this happen, we need help. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $500,” remarked Silverman.

If you would like to donate, you can visit their website at www.2ndchancecorp.org and donate online. Or, for more info please call 616-293-2150 or email them at info@2ndchancecorp.org.

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Mobile bus offers free ultrasounds

The Positive Options bus outside of Alpha Family Center. Post photo by J. Reed.

The room inside the bus where ultrasounds take place. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

When a young couple boarded the Positive Options bus outside Alpha Family Center to get an ultrasound done, they were nervous. But once they were done, they were so excited that they showed the volunteers at Alpha the photos. 

“It was good to see that the father was excited, too,” said Wendy Meyers, the RMDS (Registered Medical Diagnostic Sonographer) from Positive Options. “We’ve found it’s key to women keeping their babies that the father is involved.”

Positive Options is partnering with the Cedar Springs Alpha Family Center this summer to offer free pregnancy testing and ultrasounds to those who need them. 

The clients come into Alpha to register with Meyers before getting the ultrasound. Many of the women who come in are in a desperate situation she explained, and so they try to calm them down, and help them see all angles of how the decisions they make about their pregnancy will affect their lives. 

“We try to take the emotion out of it and just give them facts,” said Meyers. That includes a magazine called “Before you decide.”

“Women don’t ‘want’ an abortion like they want an ice cream cone,” said Meyers. “It’s desperation—like a person who has their arm in a trap and chews it off. We calm them down and give them options.”

She also noted that one woman who took a pregnancy test was abortion-minded, but the pregnancy turned out negative. “We then had the opportunity to speak to her about STDS and other things that could harm her,” said Meyers.

Once an ultrasound is done, they refer the client to services that they need, and follow up with phone calls at certain points during the pregnancy. The ultra sound photos are reviewed by an OB back at Positive Options to make sure everything was done medically correct.

Positive Options has four other locations besides the bus—they have buildings in Holland, Allendale, Allegan, and Grand Haven.

Alpha Family Center pays for the bus to come on Tuesdays from 11 to 4. If you would like to offer support for this ministry, or would like to volunteer with Positive Options, you may call Alpha Family Center at 616-696-2616.

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Post travels to northern Michigan

Tim and Dorothy Scott, of Cedar Springs, recently traveled with their children, Lilly and Allison, to both Mackinac Island, and the Soo Locks in Sault Ste Marie. And they took the Post with them! Thank you to the Scott family for sending us your photo, and we hope you had a great time!

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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Air show a hit with families

The Wolverine Skyhawks put on a great airshow for families. Photo from Wolverine Skyhawks Facebook page.

The Wolverine Skyhawks held their 6th annual summer air show for the Cedar Springs Library’s summer reading program last Wednesday, July 11, at their airfield on West Street. 

According to Library director Donna Clark, they had over 400 people in attendance, and they gave out 170 tickets—one to every child up to age 18 for a chance to win the airplane donated by the Skyhawks. She said about 150 hotdogs were gone in 45 minutes.

Elianna Ontaneda was the winner of the airplane. She is shown here with her dad, Jose Ontaneda; brother Noah; cousins Tyler and Jacob, and Skyhawk Rick Steinport, Treasurer. Photo by Donna Clark.

Elianna Ontaneda was the lucky winner of the airplane. She was there with her dad, Jose Ontaneda; brother Noah; and two cousins, Tyler and Jacob. 

“We have been partnering with the Skyhawks for 6 years,” said Clark. “It’s a highlight for the Summer Reading Program and the only evening program we have. The turnout was phenomenal.”

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Courtland opens disc golf course

The Courtland Township Disc golf course was dedicated July 3. From left to right is Chuck Porter, retired Supervisor; Mary Ann Andersen, trustee; Mike Krygier, Supervisor; Kimberly McIntyre, trustee; Colleen Brown, treasurer; Michele Mojzuk, trustee; Matt McConnon, trustee. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

Thanks to Courtland Township, area residents now have a new form of recreation to try. Courtland just opened up a new disc golf course, on July 3, which was built on about 20 acres just west of the hall on 14 Mile Rd (M-57).

According to Supervisor Mike Krygier, he suggested the idea to the board a couple of years ago when he was still a trustee. After doing some research, they found that there was quite a bit of interest in it. 

“We also spoke with other communities that have them, and they are quite popular,” he said.

The course was designed by Jacob Stahl and installed by the retail outlet Disc Barren and a group of volunteers.

Disc Golf is a flying disc sport in which players throw a disc at a target. It is played using rules similar to golf. 

 It’s fun for families of all ages and they can get out there and walk for free—just like on any parkland. “I’ve seen fans from small kids to adults—it appeals to young and old,” explained Krygier. “This is right up into the woods. It’s fun but challenging.”

The disc golf course is open to the public from dawn to dusk and there is no charge to use it.

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North Kent Connect hosts third annual Farm to Pantry program

2017 North Kent Connect’s Farm to Pantry participants visit Plainsong Farm to pick up their CSA share.

One local nonprofit organization takes healthy food initiatives to a deeper level. North Kent Connect, a Rockford based nonprofit committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County, offers its clients a hands-on opportunity to learn about eating and shopping for healthy foods through its Farm to Pantry Program.

“Through our Farm to Pantry Program, clients learn various skills including how to pick fresh fruits and vegetables, properly store and cook them, and so much more,” said Claire Guisfredi, Executive Director of North Kent Connect. “Clients also visit Plainsong Farm where they receive Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to take home and apply their learnings to fresh produce of their own.”

“Since attending Farm to Pantry, I now know how to can my own vegetables as well as use unique spices that I wasn’t aware of before,” said Amy, frequent Farm to Pantry attendee. “I look forward to receiving fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach from Plainsong Farm. The farm also introduced me to lemon thyme and oregano which I now cook with and use to add flavor to meals.”

North Kent Connect is using certified health experts to teach health-related topics focused on canning, container gardening, cooking with unfamiliar spices, preparing meals using the CSA shares, food justice, agriculture, and local food systems.

“Farm to Pantry has transformed my life,” said Addie, NKC client and program participant. “I have gained so much knowledge about healthy eating over the years of attending, and the confidence to experiment with different foods in the kitchen to share with my family. It’s

neat going to Plainsong Farm, meeting the farmers, and having access to locally-sourced produce.”

Partners of Farm to Pantry include Plainsong Farm, Access of West Michigan, Kent County Health Department and Heart of West Michigan United Way.


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Bank robbery suspect arrested in Chicago

Surveillance photo of Nicholas Max Nelson

Surveillance photo of Nicholas Max Nelson
Inmate photo of Nicholas Nelson at Cook County Jail

The man police believe robbed a bank in Big Rapids last week is currently lodged in the Cook County Jail on Chicago.

According to D/Sgt. Drew Nielsen, the robbery occurred at 12:48 p.m. July 12, 2018, at the Isabella Bank on Perry Street in Big Rapids Township. A white male in his late twenties demanded money from the bank staff, then fled in a dark blue vehicle (possibly a four-door Volkswagon) with an undisclosed amount of cash. 

The man was described as about 5 feet 5 inches tall, medium build, brown hair, brown beard, and wearing glasses. Police later identified him as Nicholas Max Nelson, 23, of Newaygo.

Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell reported on Friday, July 13, that Nelson was arrested in Chicago, Illinois.

The Big Rapids Pioneer reported that he waived his extradition rights on Tuesday morning in Illinois. Once extradited back to Michigan, Nelson will face charges for the robbery and other related charges. He could also be facing federal charges.

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134th Trooper Recruit School Graduates

107 Recruits Sworn In as State Police Troopers

Michigan’s newest troopers—including a Cedar Springs graduate—will soon report to work at Michigan State Police (MSP) posts across the state after graduating from the 134th Trooper Recruit School on July 12. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP, administered the Oath of Office during the ceremony at the Lansing Center.

“These men and women have chosen a noble and rewarding career of public service,” said graduation keynote speaker, Governor Rick Snyder. “I appreciate their dedication to serving the residents of our great state, and wish all of them safety on the job each day.”

In her address to the graduates, MSP Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said, “The desire of our newest members to want to influence positive change in their communities says a lot about the caliber of people joining our ranks today. In all things you do, do what’s right, do your best, and treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Tpr. David Brelinski III was elected Class Orator by his fellow recruits and spoke on behalf of the graduating class at the ceremony. He also received the Team Building Award. Other award recipients included Tpr. Jared Carlson who received the Academic Achievement Award, Tpr. Christopher Kustra who received the Marksmanship Award and Tpr. Joshua Ashlock who received the Outstanding Performance Award.

Tyler Baker, of Cedar Springs, was also one of the graduates. He has been assigned to the Cadillac Post, in the seventh district.

The Rockford Post received six new troopers: Luke Greydanus, of Lansing; Christopher Hoolsema, of Grand Rapids; Ellis Rogers of Traverse City; Jeffrey Turnquist of Traverse City; and James Twist, of Ada. 

The Lakeview Post received five new troopers: Robert Dow II, of Grand Rapids; Dustin Garwood, of Grand Haven; Colin Gensterblum, of Portland; Spencer Goebel, of Belmont; and Alec Stewart, of Monroe.

The Hart Post received five new troopers: Michael Cuevas, of Manchester; Margaret Gazaryants, of Walled Lake; Erin McGarry, of Newaygo; Stephen Strom, of Gladstone; and Dillon Stuart, of Danville.

The Mount Pleasant Post received four new troopers: Thomas Barnes, of Portland; Kendon Berg, of Freeland; Isaac Kwiatkowski, of Pontiac; and Elizabeth Morgan, of Gladwin.

Those four posts make up the sixth district.

The 134th Trooper Recruit School began on Jan. 14, 2018, when 152 prospective troopers reported to the MSP Training Academy in Lansing. For the past 26 weeks, recruits received training in firearms, water safety, defensive tactics, patrol techniques, report writing, ethics, cultural diversity and implicit bias, first aid, criminal law, crime scene processing and precision driving.

In order to be selected to attend the academy, all applicants had to pass a stringent selection process that included a physical fitness test, background investigation and hiring interview.

As part of the department’s commitment to community outreach and service, the recruits volunteered at Angel House and the Lansing Rescue Mission during their recruit training.

The MSP is actively recruiting for a trooper recruit school anticipated to begin in September; interested candidates should visit www.michigan.gov/mspjobs for more information on how to apply.

Including these new troopers, there are 1,269 troopers assigned statewide.

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MSP Trooper shot during traffic stop

Douglas Sawyer, 32, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting a MSP Trooper. Courtesy photo.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) confirmed that a Houghton Lake Post trooper was shot at approximately 1:30 p.m. July 13 during a traffic stop in Lake Township in Missaukee County.

The preliminary investigation indicates the trooper stopped a vehicle occupied by three individuals (two males and a female). One male, a 32-year-old Fenton man, fled from the vehicle and began firing upon the trooper, and the trooper returned fire.

The trooper was struck several times. He was conscious and alert when transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening gunshot injuries. The gunman was deceased. The other two occupants, who remained in the vehicle, were taken into custody. 

The gunman was positively identified following an autopsy last weekend. The investigation confirmed he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after exchanging gunfire with the Trooper.

The 32-year-old Fenton man was identified as Douglas Robert Sawyer. Sawyer had prior arrests for home invasion, drug crimes, and weapons violations. At the time of this incident, the Parole Absconder had three valid warrants for his arrest. One was a Parole Absconder warrant resulting from his failure to comply with parole after a prison sentence for Home Invasion. The second was a felony warrant for Criminal Sexual Assault 4th Degree out of the Michigan State Police Paw Paw Post. The third was a civil warrant for child neglect.

The Houghton Lake State Police Post is very happy to report our Trooper has been released from the hospital after being treated for non-life-threatening gunshot injuries. He is resting with the support of family and friends. The Houghton Lake State Police Posts thanks the community and law enforcement partners for the outpouring of prayers, support, and well-wishes.

The Trooper’s name is not being released at this time. The incident is still under investigation.

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