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City of Cedar Springs water and sewer rates explained

 

Part 2 of an article on the city water/sewer system

By Mike Womack, City Manager of Cedar Springs

The City’s water and sewer rates are set to reflect not only the costs to operate the ongoing water and sewer process but they also have to take in sufficient amounts to expand the system for economic development, replace old pipes before they break and also respond to emergency situations where the pipe has to be fixed immediately with few options regarding time and place.  

Unfortunately, over the last decade, the City’s water and sewer rates were not being appropriately adjusted each year to keep up with the costs of funding the system.  Between the years of 2008 and 2017, the City’s sewer fund lost $1,114,927 in value averaging a loss of $123,880 per year. These losses were a result of the City not slowly increasing water and sewer rates each year to keep up with inflation or to reflect changing levels of demand, as users increased or decreased demand each year.  In that period the sewer fund only posted one positive income and that was in 2016-2017, the year that the current rates were set. In 2016-2017, the sewer fund captured $159,947 or slightly more than this single sewer line emergency repair and replacement will cost. (The sewer line repair on West Muskegon between Fifth and Seventh Streets.) The water fund, thankfully, did not see the same type of losses that the sewer fund did. The water fund gained $321,161 in value from 2008-2017 or $35,684 per year. While at least positive numbers, the water fund is undersized and should have been increasing at a higher rate.  

Due to the years of neglect in accurately setting water and sewer rates, the City decided to raise those rates as part of the 2016-2017 budget. This was necessary to stabilize the water and sewer fund balances and to ensure that the City continues to be able to provide safe drinking water without PFAS or the lead that other cities have suffered. To that end, I truly am sorry for the price of water and sewer in the City of Cedar Springs. If the City could offer free water and sewer service for all it would. City staff understands the anger and frustration that citizens have expressed about the water and sewer rates. We appreciate every citizen who has approached city staff with calm questions, and we hope that we have been able to answer those questions and concerns to the best of our abilities and to your satisfaction.  Even though Cedar Springs’ water is more expensive than it used to be it is still a great bargain, at 6000 gallons used, each gallon of water costs the consumer just 1.6 cents to produce and clean after use.

Moving forward the City is working to increase the number of system users by bringing in new neighborhoods and businesses.  Those new homes and businesses then help reduce everybody’s costs by spreading the overall costs among more users. We also continue to modernize our systems and equipment, which reduces overall costs.  Our recent switch to estimated bills for two months followed by an actual read in the third month has led to savings of 15 man-hours per month with the goal of permanently reducing those meter reading hours to approximately 2 hours per month with an actual read every month. Those 15 extra hours are now used to replace old water meters with the new water meters enabling those quicker reads.

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Only You Can

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Many of us recall the US Forest Service billboards stating, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” That changed a couple decades ago when the forest service began promoting “Only you can prevent wildfires.” In the 1930’s, scientific study demonstrated the importance of periodic forest fires to promote healthier forest ecosystem niches, prevent the spread of devastating pestilence, thin forest, provide essential nutrients for tree growth, increase the tree growth rate, and enhance wildlife reproductive success, among other benefits. 

Most Midwest forest fires are understory fires that burn near the ground rather than through the canopy. Canopy fires burn haphazardly and skip through the forest leaving a checkerboard appearance with unburned sections. 

The 1988 Yellowstone crown fire that swept the park and national forest improved the forest health and its wildlife populations. Immediately, it left black desolated areas that were unpalatable for many that were taught forest fires are “bad.” They claimed the fire ruined the park. I hiked Yellowstone in 1996 where lodge pole pines dominate. The pine is a fire dependent species that reseeds itself with the aid of fire. Like local jack pines, lodge pole pines depend on fires to open areas to full sunlight and to release seeds.

In 1996, eight years after the fire, crowded young trees were three to six feet tall. They continue to struggle for light, space, and nutrients as they grow and self-thin the forest. I do not understand why the park service spent time and money replanting trees when the tree’s adaptation is fire adapted to reseed itself. 

A couple reasons might be that efforts to prevent fires for decades caused ground duff to become thick and it burned hot destroying released seeds or bowing to political pressure to plant trees demonstrated humans were doing something. Some areas might not have had an adequate seed source to establish a forest rapidly. 

When I fought fires at Bryce Canyon National Park in the 1970’s, the policy was to quickly extinguish them. Fires I fought were caused by lightning. We hiked to them carrying heavy loads of firefighting equipment on our backs. Fire breaks were built to contain fire spread and they were allowed to burn out. We camped by them as needed to prevent spreading. During later decades park policy changed to have “controlled burns” to provide healthier conditions for trees, wildlife, and people. It also helps prevent large uncontrollable fires. 

We have seen news broadcasts that share the devastation of uncontrollable fires that sweep large areas. Frequent controlled burns during carefully selected times and weather conditions allow “safe” burning that does not burn homes, create conditions for deadly and destructive mudslides or cause massive wildlife destruction. It is important to call to get a burn permit from your township fire warden who will verify conditions are safe for you to burn brush. At Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, we cut and haul to a burn area or create wildlife brush piles. 

During the Yellowstone fires, large animals like elk were frequently seen grazing in areas where fires jumped through the forest. Ungulates laid and chewed their cud. There were elk, bears, and many animals that did not escape flames and died. New regrowth, allowed remaining animals to have more successful reproduction with improved conditions of greater and more accessible food availability for grazing. Predators found more prey. 

Human attitudes have been slowly changing during the past 90 years since we began to understand the valuable role of fire in ecosystems. Our knowledge remains inadequate. When to burn, how frequently, and how large an area to burn is different for survival of various species. What works well for plants might be too frequent for insect herbivores that support bird and mammal populations.

This same conundrum causes many people to reject what is known regarding the effects of climate change for our lives and health. Hopefully it will not require 90 years for us to embrace corrective actions. Studies indicate human carbon release increases climate change that increases fire frequency and intensity. Variables prevent complete understanding. “Only you can” support policies that shift us from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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How the Au Sable River changed the world

Becoming an Outdoor Woman (B.O.W.) flyfishing the Ausable River in the Rain

By CASEY WARNER, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

With the opener of Michigan’s trout season right around the corner, anglers soon will be donning their waders and heading out to one of the thousands of cold, quality streams that make the state a nationally known trout-fishing destination.

Perhaps the most renowned place to cast a fly in Michigan – the Au Sable River, running 138 miles through the northern Lower Peninsula – is significant for much more than its outstanding trout fishing.

In 1959, 16 fishermen, united by their love of trout and the Au Sable River and concerned about the need for long-term conservation of Michigan’s cold-water streams, gathered at George Griffith’s home east of Grayling.

“For some time I and several others have been considering ways and means to protect and preserve trout and trout fishing, and have come up with the idea of forming an organization to be known as Trout, Unlimited,” wrote Griffith, a member of the Michigan Conservation Commission, in an invitation letter to a fellow angler in 1959.

“Such an organization could work with state and federal agencies now charged with that responsibility … it would help educate the public on the dire need of sound, practical, scientific trout management and regulations to protect the trout as well as satisfy fishermen.”

The sportsmen that responded to Griffith’s invitation to meet at his cabin on the Au Sable believed that better and more scientific habitat management would improve the environment as well as the state’s trout population and fishing.

Encouraged by the work of Trout Unlimited, groups like the Anglers of the Au Sable have undertaken habitat restoration projects on the river.

Nearly 60 years after that initial meeting, the organization those fishermen founded – Trout Unlimited – has become a national champion of fish habitat conservation.

Today, the organization has almost 300,000 members and supporters, with 30 offices nationwide, and sponsors the International Trout Congress.

The Michigan History Museum in Lansing is showcasing Trout Unlimited’s founding on the Au Sable in a special exhibition, “The River that Changed the World,” open through July 29.

“The Au Sable River has influenced – and continues to influence – people around the world,” said Mark Harvey, Michigan’s state archivist and the exhibition’s curator. “The stories in the exhibition demonstrate the innovative and unprecedented ways private citizens and state government worked together to conserve and protect the river and sustainably manage its fish populations.”

Harvey said that the idea for the exhibit stemmed from the Michigan History Center’s longstanding relationship with, and eventual donation of materials from, Art Neumann, one of the cofounders of Trout Unlimited and its executive director from 1962 to 1965.

“Instead of just focusing on the Trout Unlimited group, we took a wider view of the river that inspired these people to work for systemic change,” Harvey said.

The Wolverine fish car, a converted railroad car, carried milk cans of fingerlings (young fish) to lakes and rivers all over the state from 1914 to 1937. Photo courtesy of the Department of Conservation./

The exhibition features George Griffith’s 24-foot-long Au Sable river boat and a re-creation of Neumann’s Wanigas Rod Shop, where he made fly rods considered works of art and became known as a champion of conservation.

A “battery” of glass beakers from the Grayling fish hatchery, each of which held thousands of eggs, highlights the late 19th-century work of state conservationists and private citizens who tried to save the Arctic grayling.

An iconic cold-water fish that once dominated northern Michigan streams but was almost extinct by the beginning of the 20th century, Arctic grayling were native only to Michigan and Montana in the lower 48 states.

“When sportsmen first discovered the grayling in the Au Sable, it drew international attention,” Harvey said.

The current Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative now aims to restore self-sustaining populations of the fish within its historical range in Michigan.

Original paneling and artifacts from the Wolverine fish car, which carried millions of fish by rail across Michigan, tell museum visitors the story of efforts to plant trout in the Au Sable.

Fred Westerman, one of the first employees of the Wolverine and former fisheries chief in the Michigan Department of Conservation, forerunner to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, once reported:

“Frequently… thirty cans of fish would be dropped off at some spooky junction – like in the jack pine at Au Sable-Oscoda with the cemetery across the tracks and the depot a mile from town – on the night run of the Detroit & Mackinac, to await the morning train going up the river branch.”

The exhibition also introduces the relationship between the Anishinabe (Odawa and Ojibwe people) and the Au Sable River and explores Grayling as a fishing and tourism hotspot since the mid-19th century. 

Current DNR Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter applauded the vision and passion of those who recognized the Au Sable’s promise as a premier fishing destination.

“As the name of the exhibit implies, the Au Sable is a world-class fishery resource attracting anglers from every corner of the earth,” Dexter said. “It’s one of the most stable groundwater-influenced watersheds in North America, and produces exceptional trout fishing.

“It wasn’t always that way, though. Without the creation of Trout Unlimited at the Au Sable River, by those who understood the potential of our cold-water resources, Michigan might not be home to one of the world’s greatest trout fisheries.”

Trout Unlimited’s work has also encouraged other groups like the Anglers of the Au Sable, who now lead the charge for preserving this unique, high-quality body of water. Dubbed the “river guardians,” the Anglers group has fought multiple environmental threats to river.

The exhibit and related events also offer opportunities for hands-on experiences.

Visitors can learn how to tie a fly and compare tied flies to real insects under a microscope or sit in a kayak and take a 360-degree virtual reality paddle down the Au Sable.

They can also explore the essence of the Au Sable without leaving mid-Michigan through a series of museum programs revolving around the exhibit.

“While the exhibit focuses on the wonderful stories, images and sounds of the river, we wanted to bring the Au Sable River to the capital region,” said Michigan History Center engagement director Tobi Voigt. “We designed a series of programs highlighting themes from the exhibit – like fly-fishing and kayaking – that can be enjoyed by a variety of age groups. We’re especially excited to showcase a fly-fishing star and host our first-ever kayak tour.”

Programs include a fly-casting workshop with noteworthy fly-tier and fly-fishermen Jeff “Bear” Andrews, a kayak tour on the Red Cedar River, and the Second Saturdays for Families series featuring hands-on activities like making a compass, a sundial or a miniature boat.

To learn more about “A River That Changed the World” and to find Michigan History Museum visitor information, go to  www.michigan.gov/museum.

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Cookies Collectibles and Sundries

Are you looking for a quality used item at a price you can afford? If so, you might want to check out the newest resale shop in Cedar Springs—Cookies Collectibles and Sundries at 34 N. Main Street. According to owner Dave Cook, they sell quality used furniture, household goods, clothing, tools, and many other items at affordable prices. 

“We carry a wide variety of items, from a china hutch, to a screwdriver, or sauté pan,” said Cook. “Our stock is constantly evolving, so you will always have an opportunity to find something you are looking for.”

He said that their edge over competing stores is that if they don’t have what you are looking for, they will use their network of contacts to try and find it for you. “We will take the time to listen and try provide you the best items at the lowest prices,” he explained.

They also have a daily phone special. If you call the shop at 616-439-3158 and listen to the message, you will find the daily deal, and any updates to hours or upcoming events.

They are open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.; and on Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and most Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop in and check them out today!

 

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Offering a helping hand across the bridge

Flanked by fellow VFW Post members Larry Herrington, Robert Maier, Gary Opalewski and Richard Ringersma, VFW Post 3946 Quartermaster Fred Chambers presents Jane McGookey, Network Director of Feeding America West Michigan, with a check for $1,800. The money will be used by FAWM to provide 20,000 pounds of food for distribution to food insecure residents living in Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Members of C E Schumacher Rockford Memorial VFW Post 3946 recently joined hands with Feeding America West Michigan (FAWM) to help provide food for food insecure residents of Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

Post 3946 donated $1,800 to FAWM which will use the funds to stock and deliver a mobile food pantry loaded with 20,000 pounds of food to Upper Peninsula residents. The food will be distributed in Marquette County later this spring by members of VFW Post 4573 from their post in Ishpeming.

“This is Post 3946’s first partnership with FAWM and Post members are excited about providing food to veterans and local residents in the cash strapped Upper Peninsula,” according to current Rockford Post Commander Vern Sall.

And according to Kenneth Estelle, President and CEO of FAWM, the organization couldn’t be more pleased with the donation.

“Food insecurity among both veterans and non-veterans is a huge problem in the Upper Peninsula,” said Estelle.  Finding sufficient funding to provide adequate food resources to residents of the Upper Peninsula is huge challenge for FAWM.” 

“That this downstate VFW Post is donating to support fellow veterans and residents in the Upper Peninsula is a testament to their generosity and commitment to providing food to those in need,” said Estelle.  “We are delighted to be partnering with them.”

Providing food to hungry people is nothing new for members of VFW Post 3946 which draws its membership from the greater north Kent County area as well as Rockford and Cedar Springs.

For over 17 years, members prepared and served monthly roast beef dinners at their Post on 13 Mile Road between Rockford and Cedar Springs. 

However, faced with ever increasing overhead costs on an aging building, members of the Post decided two years ago to sell their building and join with several other veterans groups sharing overhead and operating expenses at the Boat and Canoe Club in North Park.

“It was not an easy decision to shut down our building, but it was a good one,” according to Richard Ringersma, Post 3946 Service Officer.   “The move allowed us to spend less on maintaining bricks and mortar and more on community service and outreach.” 

Fred Chambers, past Post 3946 Commander, Kent County Veterans’ Services Officer, and lead chef for the roast beef dinners concurs.  According to Chambers, “Not only did the move free up more funds for charitable purposes and community outreach due to decreased overhead, the numbers at our monthly dinners have steadily increased since we moved to the Boat and Canoe Club. That means we have more money available for community service.”

Post 3946 uses proceeds from its monthly dinners to support a wide range of charitable activities, some specifically aiding veterans and their families, and others, such as their donation to FAWM, directed at helping the community at large. 

The Post’s charitable activities cover a broad spectrum from providing scholarships for disadvantage youth to Camp Trotter to financial support of the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids which offers a wide range of support services to veterans of foreign wars and their families. 

The Post serves roast beef dinners between 12 and 2 the third Sunday of each month at the Boat and Canoe Club in North Park.  The $10 all-you-can-eat dinners are open to the public and are available to eat in or carry-out.

“VFW Post 3946 is always open to new members,” according to Chambers.  The Post holds their monthly meetings at 7:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at the Boat and Canoe Club. “Just come on in and join us.”

Membership in the VFW is open to any active or honorably discharged officer or enlisted person who has served in the armed forces “in any foreign war, insurrection or expedition, which service shall be recognized by the authorization or the issuance of a U.S. military campaign medal.” 

If you are interested in joining or would like more information, call Fred Chambers at 616-443-7630.

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Choirs Performed at District Choral Festival

The Charger Voices stand with poise following their performance.

On Friday, March 16, CTA choir students attended the District 7 Choral festival at Greenville High School. This year, both our middle school choir, Harmonic Chargers, and our high school choir, Charger Voices, attended. Although our our middle school students attended solely to receive comments this year, they really enjoyed their first festival experience and received helpful feedback from the festival adjudicators. The high school choir went for a rating this year for the first time. Last year, Charger Voices attended for comments only, so the stakes were higher this time around. We ended with a high II rating. Both choirs demonstrated great growth from the previous year, and the students really enjoyed the experience! Both groups were conducted by Mr. Jeremy Holtrop and accompanied by Mrs. Bethany Holtrop.

The Harmonic Chargers are proud of their first effort at the District Choral festival.

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Students Showcase Their Talents

The CTA Cheer Team performed a routine with fantastic stunts!

Junior Jillian Evink performed a piano solo.

This years CTA talent show featured the cheerleading team and 11 students ranging from 2nd to 12th grade who took to the stage to share their talents. Student performances included writing and singing of an original song about being optimistic, playing the piano, beatboxing, guitar solo, several students showcasing their vocal talents and the Voices of Lightning all-ladies acapella group. The entire show was performed twice in order to allow the entire student body and families to attend. It was a great day to be a Charger as we celebrated and showcased our students!

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Battle of the Books

Battle of the Books teams and their coaches were supported by classmates during the event.

The 3rd-6th grade students at Creative Technologies Academy were separated into mixed-grade level teams in an effort to face off against other teams in their third annual Battle of the Books event! Each team was given six books to read for this year’s competition. On Thursday, March 29, students battled it out against their peer teams by answering questions from each book. Although the scores were very close, here were the final results: 1st Place: Hard Covers (Green) 2nd Place: Fictionaries (Yellow) 3rd Place: Book Dominators (Red)

Congratulations to our third annual Book Battlers! We were so very impressed with your hard work and dedication in reading the books on your list this year.

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Read, Read, Read

Senator Peter MacGregor stopped by Creative Technologies Academy for a visit the morning of April 13 and read to the kindergarten, first, and second grade students. He read   Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain  by Dave Keane.  Senator MacGregor discussed the difference between fiction and nonfiction books with the young students and encouraged them to read with their peers, siblings, and adults. He made sure to allow time to answer the many questions the students had, such as: How did you get elected? Who’s your boss? What do you like to read? What’s your favorite color?

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Seussical Jr. Takes The Stage

CTA will present its first musical on May 18 and 19! The CTA Drama Program is excited to announce performances of “Seussical Jr.” on Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m. The show will take place in the CTA auditorium. Tickets are on sale in the office for $3. Be sure to pre-purchase because the cost will be $5 at the door. Pre-orders for the DVD of the performance are available at $10 each by contacting Mr. Holtrop. We hope to see you at this fantastical show based on the works of Dr. Seuss!

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