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Archive | June, 2021

Michigan drops mask, capacity restrictions after 15 months

By Scott McClallen, The Center Square

(The Center Square) – After 466 days of enacted widespread restrictions on Michiganders to slow the spread of COVID-19, most restrictions, including capacity restrictions and the mask mandate, ended Tuesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, when Michigan confirmed its first two known cases of COVID-19, and three days later, ordered K-12 schools closed and banned gatherings of 250 people or more.

Whitmer enacted the most severe restrictions in the 12 Midwest states and kept them the longest, as neighboring Indiana and Ohio reopened months before Michigan. Those far-reaching orders included threatening criminal charges for operating a motorboat, visiting a secondary home, and banning stores larger than 50,000 feet from selling gardening supplies.

The reopening announcement follows Michigan ranking dead last nationwide in COVID-19 economic recovery. Michigan was the only Midwest state with COVID-19 restrictions.

Whitmer’s ditched her “Vacc to Normal” plan that aimed to drop COVID-19 restrictions by July 1, which was preceded by a plan to keep restrictions until 70% of Michiganders 16 and older received their vaccine.

About 61% of Michiganders have received a first vaccine.

“Because the rates are so low right now, we’ve got an opportunity to drop a lot of these mandates that we have all had to abide by, so people can feel the freedom that comes with 61% of our population getting vaccinated,” Whitmer told CNN Tuesday. “When we get to 70%, we’ll all be much safer.”

Although many restrictions ended, Whitmer hasn’t yet ended the state of emergency, citing a need to protect vulnerable populations in corrections, long-term care, and agriculture.

Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, welcomed the economic reopening but pushed for Whitmer to end the state of emergency.

“Listening to the people in our community, I know everyone is more than ready for our lives to return to normal,” Frederick said in a statement. “It is time for the governor to end the statewide emergency declaration and move away from one-size-fits-all orders to a place of true partnership as our local public health experts and communities take the lead on remaining mitigation needs.”

Although stores can open at full capacity, business owners told lawmakers last week they’re in “survival mode” because of rising prices, scarce labor, and supply chain struggles. Many blamed boosted $300/week federal unemployment benefits extended through September as a reason they can’t find workers.

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Woman pleads guilty to lesser charge

This version corrects a story we ran last week

By Judy Reed

A Cedar Springs woman, charged with embezzlement from the Cedar Springs Junior Ball League, pled guilty last week to a lesser charge than she was originally given.

On Monday, June 14, Kathryn Merritt, 38, entered a plea of guilty to embezzlement of less than $200.00 from a nonprofit corporation, which is a misdemeanor, and carries a maximum of 1 year in jail. She originally was facing a felony, and up to 10-years in prison on a charge of embezzling more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.

The investigation got underway last year when Amy Gillette, president of CSJBL, filed an embezzlement complaint. Gillette told investigators that she retrieved bank statements and reviewed deposits and withdrawals, noting several financial discrepancies. 

 Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Price wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Merritt was interviewed “and confessed that the card was used by her to make purchases that were not approved.’’

The unauthorized transactions topped $24,300, court records show.

Sentencing is August 3. According to Gillette, Merritt is required to submit a lump sum payment of $10,000 at sentencing, an apology letter to the players, families and sponsors, and monthly payments for two years.

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Three injured in Courtland crash

A local man ran a stop sign at 15 Mile and Myers Lake Avenue last weekend, which resulted in injuries to three of his passengers.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred about 7:24 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, when a westbound Lexus sedan disregarded the stop sign at 15 Mile and Myers Lake Avenue and collided with an Acura SUV that was southbound on Myers Lake Avenue.

The driver of the Lexus, a 20-year-old male from Cedar Springs, was not injured. Three passengers in the vehicle sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. They were transported to a local hospital for treatment. The driver of the Acura SUV, a 53-year-old female from Hudsonville, and a juvenile passenger, were not injured.

Courtland Fire Department/EMS assisted on scene. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor.

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Two injured in Tyrone Township crash

A person who stopped at a stop sign in Tyrone Township Saturday night ended up being part of a three-vehicle crash and had to be pried from his vehicle.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred about 8:22 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, at the intersection of 20 Mile Rd and Red Pine Dr. 

The investigation by the deputies showed that a Volkswagen Passat that was westbound on 20 Mile Rd disregarded the stop sign. It collided with a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that was northbound on Red Pine Dr. A Ford F-150 pickup truck that was stopped at the intersection (eastbound 20 Mile Rd)  was struck by the Chevrolet Silverado because of the initial collision.

The driver of the Volkswagen Passat, a 27-year-old female from Ravenna, was not injured. The driver of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, a 60-year-old male from Grant, was also not injured. The driver of the Ford F-150, a 39-year male, and his juvenile passenger from Cedar Springs, sustained non-life-threatening injuries. They were transported to a local hospital for treatment. The driver of the Ford F-150 had to be extricated from the vehicle.

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Alcohol is suspected to be a factor, though not related to the inital collision.

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Grill raffle winner

The American Legion Auxiliary, Glen Hill Unit 287, of Cedar Springs would like to congratulate Steve Gerencer. Steve’s winning ticket for our Grill Raffle was drawn on June 19. Pictured is Steve with our Unit President Missy Townes, and his new grill. The Unit held this raffle to help with our Veteran’s programs.

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Summer reading fun

Spiderman at the Heart of Cedar Springs park celebrating reading with families at the Cedar Springs Public Library. Courtesy photo.

Have you signed up yet for the Cedar Springs Library’s summer reading program? Experience the fun and shenanigans both in person and online! Today, June 24, they will have a live animal program at the amphitheater from 2-3 p.m. Bring a blanket to sit on. If it’s raining, the event will be held inside the library. Sign up for the summer fun at the library or online at http://cedarsprings.readsquared.com/.

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Michigan stepping up speed enforcement

State aims to stem troubling rise in speed-related fatalities

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago, law enforcement agencies across the nation have reported an alarming rise in speeding and fatal crashes.

To combat this disturbing and dangerous trend, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Region 5 Office are partnering with five other states on a regional traffic safety campaign. As part of the “Great Lakes, High Stakes” campaign, more than 30 municipal, county and Michigan State Police (MSP) law enforcement agencies will focus on speeding drivers between June 19 and 27.

Nationally in 2019, 9,478 traffic fatalities involved crashes in which one or more drivers were speeding.

“Despite the fact that there were less miles traveled in 2020, the fatality rate rose—and speed may have been a key factor,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the OHSP. “We’ve said for decades that ‘speed kills,’ and the alarming data for 2020 confirms that the faster you drive the greater your risk of dying in a crash. We hope increased enforcement over the coming weeks will help change these dangerous driving behaviors and save lives.”

While Michigan has seen a 22-percent reduction in traffic crashes—245,432 in 2020 compared to 314,377 in 2019—there has been an increase in fatalities. Crash data from the MSP Criminal Justice Information Center indicates 1,083 people died from crashes on Michigan roads in 2020, a 10-percent increase over 2019, with 985 deaths reported. In 2020, there were 200 speed-related fatalities on Michigan roadways compared to 185 in 2019, an 8-percent increase.

Also in Michigan, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, in 2020:

■ Out of male drivers involved in all traffic crashes in 2020, 6.4 percent were speeding.

■ 15.2 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding.

■ 11.2 percent of drivers in the 15- to 20-year-old age group involved in crashes (4,650 out of 41,685) were speeding.

■ Out of all drivers who were drinking in crashes, 15.1 percent were speeding.

Recent insurance industry studies show that about 112,000 speeding tickets are issued each day, or about 41 million per year. The average fine for a speeding violation is between $115-$135.

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Michigan Youth Challenge Academy class #44

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) held a virtual graduation ceremony for the more than 100 cadets of class #44 on June 19. Family, friends and community members were invited to watch the ceremony live on the MYCA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MYCA.MICH/.

The National Guard Youth Challenge program is a cost-free alternative education program which offers at-risk youth the opportunity to change their future. Of the 106 anticipated graduates in this cycle, 95 are earning their high school diploma while the remaining cadets will earn their General Education Development certificate or continue their academic pursuits towards earning their high school diploma.

“These young men and women pushed themselves through a rigorous 22-week self-development program to better their futures and they should be extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Their grit and determination will help prepare them for any challenge that may come their way.”

The graduating class consists of cadets from across the state, hailing from 36 different counties. As part of the curriculum, cadets participate in drill and ceremony formations, meet physical fitness standards, attend to academics and participate in community outreach.

“As part of their Youth Challenge experience, these cadets have provided a total of 2,884 hours of service to their community, averaging 27.2 hours per cadet,” said Anica Simmons, deputy director of the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy. “Their volunteer efforts provide additional opportunities for career exploration as well as enhancing community-needs awareness and understanding the importance of giving back.”

Candidates for the Youth Challenge Academy are 16-18 years old and are at risk of not graduating high school. Because of the voluntary nature of the program, applicants cannot be mandated to attend by parents or the justice system. The next class of cadets will begin on July 18, 2021. Graduates of the Youth Challenge Academy are eligible for the Job Challenge program if they are physically and mentally capable of participation. The program focuses on career preparation and continues to provide opportunities for academic accreditation.

Both the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy and the Michigan Job Challenge program are free to participants and there is no requirement for military obligation. Interested parties can call 800-372-0523 or visit www.Michigan.gov/MYCA for more information.

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Catoosa still remembers

By Judy Reed

The scene of what remains of an area restaurant in Catoosa, OK after a tornado ripped through the small town of 3,200, leaving destruction in its wake in the spring of 1993. 
Left to Right: Former Catoosa Chamber of Commerce Director Glen Taylor and Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh in 1993 at Catoosa. 

We recently received a letter from former Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh, who was City Manager here from 1991-1996. He currently serves as Township Manager in Meridian Charter Township. In the letter he sent, he recalled an event that linked Cedar Springs with another small town—Catoosa, OK—850 miles away.

“On April 24, 1993, the little town of Catoosa, Oklahoma was hit with two Saturday afternoon tornadoes that devastated the community,” he wrote. “In the span of minutes, the town suffered 10 deaths and massive destruction. Although it has been 28 years, Cedar Springs residents may recall that after hearing about the disaster, the Red Flannel City jumped into action. City officials raised funds through various means to assist the Oklahoma city of 3,000 residents. After just two weeks, Cedar Springs had raised $7,250. Mayor Jerry Hall was instrumental in the efforts as he served as the Director of Public Works. The next challenge was getting the funds in the hands of Catoosa city officials.

“American Airlines donated airline tickets and two city representatives presented the check to Catoosa officials. (It was Frank Walsh and Cindy Miller, head of the Chamber of Commerce.) Three months later, Catoosa officials visited Cedar Springs and officially named the two communities “Sister Cities.” It was a heartwarming experience at the American Legion Hall.

“Last month, while visiting nearby, I spent the afternoon in Catoosa,” wrote Walsh. “I stopped by the local Historical Museum. It was amazing that the museum volunteer remembered the 1993 act of kindness. It was apparent that Cedar Springs had left a lifelong impression on Catoosa. It was memorable for me to see the community in a much better place than May of 1993.

Following my recent visit, I left Catoosa with a genuine smile knowing that kindness and compassion will never go out of style.”    

We found a couple of old articles from 1993, talking about how Cedar Springs stepped in to help Catoosa start to rebuild, along with a couple of photos. Their population has now more than doubled to over 7,000 people. 

We hope that the people of Cedar Springs retain that same kindness they showed Catoosa by helping each other and their neighbors both near and far.

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Bicycle struck by vehicle

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a personal injury crash where a bicycle was struck by a vehicle in Algoma Township.

On Tuesday, June 15, at 10:41 a.m., deputies from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Indian Lakes Rd NE and the White Pine Trail on a bicyclist that was struck by a vehicle. Police said that the bicyclist, a 30-year-old female from Boston, Massachusetts, entered the roadway from the trail and was struck by an eastbound vehicle who had the right-of-way. The vehicle, a Hyundai Accent, attempted to avoid hitting the bicyclist but was unable to. After the collision, both the vehicle and bicyclist went into the ditch. The bicyclist was temporarily pinned underneath the vehicle. Several witnesses helped to lift and push the vehicle off the bicyclist.

The bicyclist was transported to Spectrum Hospital with injuries, including head and facial lacerations and leg pain. The driver of the Hyundai Accent, a 69-year-old female from Cedar Springs, and passenger, a 33-year-old female from Cedar Springs, were not injured.

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