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Sand Lake appoints new president

Sand Lake appoints new president

By Judy Reed

The Village of Sand Lake is once again under new leadership after appointing a new president on April 3. 

Tracy Quinlan was appointed as the new president of the Village of Sand Lake.

Trustee Tracy Quinlan was appointed by the council to take the place of former President Danielle Hardenberg, who resigned on March 30, reportedly to begin nursing school.  

Quinlan was appointed to the council in January to fill a vacant seat. When the president’s seat became open, she was asked to serve in that position.

Quinlan may be new to the board, but she is familiar with the area, having grown up nearby. She shared a little of her history with the audience at Sand Lake’s regular meeting Monday evening, April 15, and also spoke with The Post.

She said that she originally lived with her family on a farm between Howard City and Morley, and that her family later moved to a farm west of Ensley Center. She attended Grant Christian School from first through ninth grade, and then went on to Grant High School, and graduated from there. 

“I married a local boy—my husband, Jim, is a firefighter and nurse,” she said. 

Quinlan said she spent 20 years in the legal field, doing some work with commercial real estate in the area of commercial lending and litigation, and also in trust administration. She was also an adjunct professor. She eventually decided she really liked teaching, and is currently teaching English and Social Studies to 6th graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools. She does still have her hand in real estate though, and is taking her real estate exam soon. She and her husband moved back to this area in September.

“Change is not always bad,” Quinlan told the audience. “It gives us an opportunity to look at where we’ve been and where we are, and where we want to be.” She explained that she is a get it done kind of person—warm and demanding at the same time.

“I would like to say thank you to Danielle Hardenberg for all she’s done for us and wish her well with her nursing degree, which she starts next week,” said Quinlan.

She also noted that the board could not answer any questions regarding a lawsuit brought by former Police Chief Jim Reamsma, or another lawsuit brought by an officer who was recently fired.

Several people spoke during the meeting, including Sand Lake Police Sgt. Steve Brandow, and former President pro-tem David Dewey.

Dewey spoke some about what he felt was shameful treatment of the former Chief of Police Jim Reamsma, and also cautioned the board about approving a request from current trustee Glenn Baker to vacate the street that also currently serves as Baker’s driveway. Dewey was cut off during his comments, because he exceeded the allotted time.

Dewey explained to the Post that the council had already denied Baker’s request when he was a private citizen, and didn’t feel it was right for him to bring it up again now that he was a council member. Dewey said that he felt sorry for Baker, who bought the property thinking he would be able to build a workshop, when that’s not possible since it’s in a residential area. 

Is the police department suspended or terminated?

Brandow asked the board whether the police department was still suspended or whether they were terminated. He wanted it clarified for the officers. The question was not answered Monday evening, but the Post spoke with Quinlan about it. 

“As a council we have not made a determination yet,” she said. “We did hire Kent County to patrol an extra 8 hours a week. We are going to just let it sit for now while we investigate other options while we get through this litigation process.”

She said that they are paying $82/hour to Kent County for the extra hours.

Quinlan explained that the real catalyst behind suspending the police department was that Sgt. Brandow and Officer Andrews came to the Public Safety Committee and said they had other interests for the summer, and that Brandow couldn’t work after May 1, and Andrews could only work every other week. 

“They came to us and suggested we suspend the department and check with Kent County. And now they are acting like we blindsided them,” she said.

The Post spoke with Brandow to confirm what Quinlan said. He explained that it was true they recommending suspending operations, but not to the extent that occurred. 

Brandow said that all the officers have other full time jobs, including himself. When he was asked to run the Police Department after Reamsma was fired, he said it was a heavy load. “I went from working every other weekend to three days a week and every Saturday,” he explained. Andrews had been a fill in, but had stepped up to working every Friday.

Brandow said that during the summer months, he does a lot of drag racing with kids from ages 5 to 18 at Martin. It’s usually on the weekends—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—the days he had recently been working. “A lot of my normal hours would’ve been impacted,” he explained. He noted that Andrews is also involved in the racing.

Brandow said their recommendation was to suspend patrols only. “I was willing to come in and do administrative stuff such as checking emails, phone calls, and following up on cases,” he said. Instead they completely shut down the department.

“I asked the question on whether we were terminated because I’ve seen officers suspended and they still have their equipment. At the meeting where they voted to suspend us there was an attorney, and they took our keys, our IDs, our badges, our uniforms—all of our stuff. Usually they don’t take everything. That was a big red flag to me,” he explained. 

Brandow said he knew they had previously looked at Kent County taking over a few years ago, and were talking about it again, so told them “Sure, go ahead and call” and find out what they charged now for extra patrols. 

Quinlan feels that what they get for $82/hour is a good deal. “Kent County has a lot of resources, and all the liability, the firearms, patrol cars, the training—it’s all taken care of,” she said. “Right now it seems the best way to go.”

She noted that they have looked at many options, including hiring another Chief. “Given the budget we have, you look at the quality of what we could get, and we just don’t have the budget to get the expertise we need,” she explained. “Most small municipalities across the country just can’t bear the burden of having their own police department anymore.”

Board votes to stop audio recording meetings

Quinlan told the audience Monday evening that for transparency, they would begin to post the meeting notices for the committee meetings, so that the public could attend. But in what could be seen as a setback for transparency, the board did vote to stop recording the council meetings. Reasons cited were that it is not required by the Open Meetings Act (it’s not); that it took the clerk up to three hours to play it back; and that “they” recommended they not be recorded because the recordings were FOIAble, and could result in a lawsuit. (It was not specified who “they” referred to.) Quinlan also mentioned that some things might need to be redacted in the recording. However, recordings are a record of an open meeting and there should not be any redacting of information. 

Under the Open Meetings Act, the public may still record the meeting, whether through video or audio. The board may ask they do it in a way that is not disruptive, That won’t help those, however, who cannot attend the meeting. A better choice may have been just to post the audio of the meeting online, or video record it and post it online, as other agencies do, such as the City of Cedar Springs and Cedar Springs Public Schools.

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