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Archive | February, 2020

A $10,000 reward offered for armed bank robber

The FBI’s Detroit Division, Grand Rapids Resident Agency, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office are seeking the public’s assistance to identify and locate the subject responsible for an armed bank robbery in Cedar Springs.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of this individual.

At approximately 5:55 p.m., on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, the robber entered the Chase Bank located at 7 South Main Street, Cedar Springs, Michigan, displayed a black semi-automatic handgun, jumped over the counter and demanded the employees give him access to the vault. While the robber kept employees at gunpoint, the bank manager opened the vault. The robber put the money into a black backpack and fled the bank on foot.

The subject is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately five feet nine to five feet eleven inches tall, wearing white tennis shoes, gray shorts, blue or purple hooded sweatshirt, blue face covering, and black and gray gloves.

Again, the FBI and Kent County Sheriff’s Department are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for this armed bank robbery. He should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information is asked to call Silent Observer, (616) 774-2345, or share what they know at tips.fbi.gov. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

The wanted poster can be found at: https://bankrobbers.fbi.gov/robbers-container/2020-02-12.2631175467.

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Arrest made in Pagel murder

Renee Pagel and her children. Photo from Justice for Renee Pagel Facebook page.

It’s taken more than a decade, but it looks like there may finally be justice for Renee Pagel. She was brutally murdered in August 2006, in her Courtland Township home, while recovering from donating a kidney to the father of one of her students. A news conference was held in the cold case on Thursday afternoon, February 6, that revealed that police have arrested her husband, Michael Pagel, and have charged him with her murder. 

Michael James Pagel

More than 13 years ago the Kent County Sheriffs’ Office responded to 9050 13 Mile Road NE in Courtland Township on a report of a deceased person. On August 5, 2006 first responders located Renee Beth Pagel deceased with obvious trauma to her body. There were no signs of forced entry into the home and valuables in plain sight were left behind. The medical examiners office completed an autopsy and ruled the death a homicide.

Through the course of the investigation, detectives learned Renee Pagel was nearing the end of a contentious divorce with her estranged husband Michael Pagel.  Following Renee’s death, the initial investigation had run its course with no charges filed and was eventually classified as a cold case. The couple’s three children went to live with their father.

Through the years, the KCSO alongside the Kent County Prosecutor’s office continued to allocate resources to this case, which included a joint presentation of the Pagel investigation to a cold case review team in Lansing in the fall of 2018. The review team made up of Michigan prosecutors looked at the case file for the purpose of providing feedback on possible investigative leads that might help the investigation.

Recent interviews and investigations provided valuable evidence that resulted in the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office charging Michael James Pagel, 55, with the murder of his estranged wife in 2006. With the assistance of the Michigan State Police, Michael Pagel was taken into custody in the Bay City area and transported back to Kent County to face charges related to the murder of his wife.

Michael James Pagel was arraigned on Thursday, February 6, in 63rd District Court and charged with first degree premeditated murder. His bond was set at $2 million cash or surety. He is currently in custody at the Kent County Jail.

“Justice for Renee wouldn’t be possible without the countless prayers and unending advocacy by her friends and family,” it said in a news release from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. “We would also like to commend the hard work and dedication of those who never gave up on this investigation and who are responsible for taking the case to this point. Those people include Lt. EJ Johnson, Lt. Jack Smith (Ret.), Sgt. Randy Kieft, Captain Mark Fletcher (Ret.), Detective Sgt. Bill Marks, Prosecutor Kellee Koncki, Prosecutor Dan Helmer Prosecutor Chris Becker, and many more.”

The Post will update this story as we receive more information.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

This cute little guy is six-months old and lives on a farm in Ensley Township. As you can see, he was happy to mug for the camera! He was born with a big white heart on top of his head, and the grandkids have named him “Valentine” in honor of it. So here’s a big wish for a Happy Valentine’s Day from Valentine and all of us at the Post!

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Cheer claims 4th OK White championship

The Varsity Competitive Cheer team won their fourth straight OK White Conference Championship. Courtesy photo.

The Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer program closes out the regular 2020 season by dominating the mat at conference finals on February 5th at Cedar Springs High School and claiming the OK White Conference Title for the fourth consecutive year. 

The Varsity squad performed strongly and crushed their opponents by earning a combined round three score of 762.42, a whopping 27.76 points higher than the second-place team. The JV Lady Red Hawks also earned strong scores and ended the meet with a combined round three score of 587.

The evening also honored the eight seniors of the team, whose hard work and leadership has been instrumental to the team’s success thus far: Zoe Castor, Olivia Esquivel, Tressa Hall, Rylee Kinzinger, Alexis Lee, Paige Pierson, Cory Shaffer and Morgan Symon. Many of these talented female athletes have been a part of the cheer program since they were young flag football cheerleaders. Best wishes to you all in your future endeavors!

This Saturday, the squads will compete in the Delta Plex invitational. Post-season competition begins next week as the top teams from each conference in District 11 advance to District finals on February 21st at St John’s High School with a start time of 6pm. Let’s fill the stands and cheer the girls on to victory! 

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Howard City woman scammed on dating site

With Valentine’s Day upon us, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people that success stories in ads for online dating services can make it sound like true love is just a click away. But the BBB advises consumers to be aware of the limitations, costs and terms of the services as well as the potential for fraud if your match turns out to be a thief—as happened to a woman from the Howard City area.

The BBB said the woman reported she lost $134,000 to a romance scam. She said she met the man on an online dating site and took the conversations off line at his request. He was overseas on business and was due a large inheritance. One day he informed the woman his bank accounts were locked up and he couldn’t get home. In all she loaned the man $134,000 to help keep his company afloat, in exchange for shares of his company. 

“I quickly fell in love and was thinking with my heart and not my head,” she told the BBB. Once it was time for the man to finally return to Michigan he ceased all communication and the woman was never paid back.

“While some consumers have found happiness using a dating service, others have been disappointed in the quality of matches or the number of suitable people they were able to meet using the service,” said Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Meeting people online may sound easy and safe, but consumers need to keep their guard up to avoid being swindled, hurt or worse.”

The Howard City woman’s story is similar to one reported by a woman from the Lake City, Mich. area. The recently widowed woman met a man through Facebook who was working overseas. She eventually lent him $1,000 to help him get funds back into the United States. Once the initial loan was made the person began asking for more money. “He was sincere and charming and religious. And I fell for him,” she told the BBB.

BBB published an in-depth investigative study on romance scams in 2018, as well as a follow-up study in 2019 about the potential for romance scam victims used as money mules.

BBB received more than 1,100 complaints about dating services last year. Many concern billing and collection issues. Poor customer service, refund issues, advertising or sales practices also prompt complaints. Often, customers complain that it is difficult to cancel the service because it is automatically renewed.

Even if you don’t sign up for a dating service, romance scams through social media and email are quite common. Law enforcement and other agencies get thousands of complaints every year from people who have lost money through online dating or social media or email connections. Criminals posing as potential romantic “matches” may lead victims on for a while, then suddenly claim they’ve got big medical bills or some other emergency need for money. Some criminals are overseas, making it difficult for authorities to pursue them or for victims to get their money back.

Consumers need to make sure they understand what they are signing up for when they use an online dating service. Read any contracts, terms or conditions carefully to understand how you will be charged and what you need to do to cancel. Some consumers complained that they signed up for a free trial, but their credit cards were charged before they could cancel.

Common complaints about dating services include:

*Failure to match clients with compatible singles. Complaints included non-smokers matched with people who smoke; well-educated people matched with less-educated ones; religious people matched with atheists; or matches that lived too far away or were married.

*Use of intimidating or duplicitous sales tactics: Complainants reported being yelled at, being told to not be so picky or being completely ignored by the companies involved.

*Failure to deliver: Complainants were told the service had a database of thousands of singles, but they didn’t receive the promised number of dates or introductions. Others said a singles club sponsored events to bring singles together, but the events didn’t live up to their billing.

*Minimum enrollment period and inability to cancel: Online dating services normally require a minimum membership period and charge a monthly fee. Contracts often are renewed automatically. Either the customer didn’t realize the steps needed to cancel the account, or the consumer took the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.

BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating services:

*Don’t fall in love with the advertising. Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles like you.”

*Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should read the contract carefully and make sure you understand it.

*Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to avoid being billed again. Read cancellation policies before you sign up.

*Beware of demands by a match to send money. Some scams that match men with foreign women typically include a request to send money to pay for a trip to the United States, using a wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The woman never makes the trip, and the money can’t be recovered.

*Do your homework. Ask to speak to other members or customers of the service about their experiences. Check a BBB Business Profile of the service by going online to bbb.org.

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New state flag installed

Pictured from left to right: Donna Clark, Turner Powell, Rep. Mark Huizenga, and City  Councilor Rose Powell. Courtesy photo.

Rep. Mark Huizenga donated a new Michigan state flag to the Cedar Springs Public Library on Saturday, February 8. 

“Ours was tattered,” explained Library Director Donna Clark. 

It will replace the one donated by Sen. Peter MacGregor in July 2018. The American Legion will retire the old one. 

On hand for the donation was Clark, City Councilor Rose Powell, her grandson Turner Powell, who attends Creative Technologies Academy, and Rep. Huizenga. 

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Coffee 101

The Cedar Springs Library hosted a Coffee 101 event on Saturday, February 1, where attendees took time to “smell the coffee” and “espresso” themselves.  

Twenty-four adults and teens learned about different types of coffee, preparation methods and put their taste buds to the test sharing several unique blends, thanks to John and Jenna Guiterrez of Cedar Springs, and their expertise and passion for coffee! They couple also shared their goal of being able to have a start-up coffee business in a couple of years and offered their email to any who want to talk more about coffee or swap ideas at RollingBeanRoasterie@cheerful.com.

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Help grow the library

Deb Norkus, of Cedar Springs, standing by the Giving Tree with a new book. Courtesy photo

Did you know you could help the Cedar Springs Public Library grow by purchasing a book? And you can even be the first one to read it! 

The library recently set up a “Giving Tree” with front covers of books. Just select a book from the tree and pay for it at the front desk. Your name will be printed inside the book, and your donation is tax deductible. They will let you know when the book arrives, so that you can check it out.

February’s featured genre is romance and inspirational books.

For more info, stop in to the library at the corner of Main and W. Maple Street.

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Fundraisers for teen cancer patient

The Cedar Springs Athletic department and the Boys Basketball team are currently doing a couple of fundraisers to benefit Ryan Smith, a senior basketball player. Ryan is currently in the hospital recovering from the removal of a large sarcoma (cancer) tumor from his skull. Ryan and his family have many needs, specifically the need for prayer, but financial support is also beneficial. Ryan is a beloved student at Cedar Springs and the following are ways in which you can show the family financial support.

Cedar Springs basketball team in their #ryanstrong shirts visiting Ryan the night before surgery. Courtesy photo.

First off, the basketball team is selling black and gold #ryanstrong shirts that can be ordered from a boys’ basketball player, the Athletic Office, or your final chance to order will be at this Friday (Feb 14) night’s basketball game. Order forms will be at the ticket table.  Shirts are $10 upon placing the order.

Additionally, Senior Night on February 28 for our Varsity Boys’ and Girls’ Games are sure to be an emotional time. Part of this night will be honoring Ryan, and hopefully, everyone will have on their #ryanstrong shirts. Varsity Girls will play at 5:30, Boys at 7:00 p.m. On this night, we have planned a special benefit dinner in conjunction with Nonno’s Homestyle Italian & Pizzeria in town. They will be serving $10 spaghetti dinners in the High School cafeteria (dine-in or take-out) for $10 (includes garlic bread and dessert) with proceeds benefitting Ryan’s cause.  Additional fundraising events will be planned throughout the night, as well as honoring all of our basketball seniors.

Spaghetti Dinner tickets can be purchased at the ticket table to basketball games, in the athletic office, or you can ask a basketball player if they have any for sale.  Additionally, limited number of walk-up sales will be available. Dinner will be served from 5-7:15 p.m. on February 28.

Thanks in advance for supporting Ryan through your prayers, and any participation in the above fundraisers.

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Unsung Heroes: the Planning Commission

Many people don’t know how local governments work for the betterment of the community. I sure didn’t before I got involved in local government operations. In high school civics class, we are taught about the federal government with the President, the Courts and the Congress but nary a word about Mayors, City Councils, City Managers or the various working mechanisms of how things work at the local level. Very few people know the difference between a “Strong Mayor” government and a Council-Manager government.

I want to talk today about planning commissions (PC) and what that board and its members do for the City. PC’s are not a required board under state or local laws but a majority of municipalities use some form of a planning commission to lessen the burden on the City Council of running the City. The PC is generally tasked with the planning and zoning of a municipality according the rules outlined in both state and local laws, primary of which is the Zoning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3801). 

“Planning and zoning” is a shorthand way of saying that the PC helps establish goals and policies for directing and managing future growth and development in the City; including such things as location of growth, housing needs, and environmental protection.  Planning helps account for future demand for services, including sewers, roads, and fire protection and zoning is what helps keep factories away from homes and homes away from fast food restaurants.

Two of the primary tasks that the PC members work on are the approval of new development site plans and the in-depth review and recommendation of planning and zoning law changes to the City Council.  Site plan reviews are where the PC reviews the proposed plans for new developments and businesses to ensure that they are meeting all local rules and requirements (while not burdening businesses with overregulation). For instance, the PC makes sure that proposed driveways are safe, that dumpsters are enclosed and hidden from the public, that there is sufficient but not too much parking, that lighting is bright enough but not shining in your bedroom window and lots of other details about each new development. The second part, the in-depth review and recommendations on planning and zoning rule changes, are a major factor in boosting economic development, encouraging business and simultaneously ensuring that basic requirements are being met. The PC members spend a lot of time educating themselves and discussing what are the best practices and best methods to ensure high-quality development in the City.  

The PC members all live inside the City, work regular jobs and represent a good cross-section of the population. They are appointed by the City Council and they work with the City Planner, City Engineer, City Attorney and Zoning Administrator to get their job done. PC membership is an awesome way to serve the community and lots of PC members go on to serve on the City Council in an elected role. Their job isn’t easy and their decisions don’t always make everybody happy but they are hard working and looking out for the best and long-term interests of the City.  If we go by the definition of “doing great deeds but receiving little or no recognition,” that well defines the Planning Commission.  

Their meetings are always open to the public and they like when people come to watch. The Cedar Springs PC usually meets once a month on the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall. Their agendas and packets are available on the City’s website and their meetings are broadcast live and recorded on Youtube so you can watch all that excitement in your pjs at home if you would prefer. Finally, all those rumors about where that new store might go or whether that hole in the ground will become a gas station or a carwash—talk  to a PC member, they’ll probably know.

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