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USDA and FDA reach agreement to regulate cell-cultured food products

By Judy Reed

In only a few years, you may be eating a fast food burger with meat that was grown in a lab instead of a pasture.

In the future you could eat a burger that never came directly from a cow.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on March 7 they had reached a formal agreement to jointly oversee the production of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

The formal agreement describes the oversight roles and responsibilities for both agencies and how the agencies will collaborate to regulate the development and entry of these products into commerce. 

“Consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labeled products,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears. “We look forward to continued collaboration with FDA and our stakeholders to safely regulate these new products and ensure parity in labeling.”

Under the formal agreement, the agencies agree upon a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

On Oct. 23-24, 2018, FSIS and FDA held a joint public meeting to discuss the use of cell culture technology to develop products derived from livestock and poultry. The public meeting focused on the potential hazards, oversight considerations, and labeling of cell cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry.

According to the FDA, “Animal cell culture food technology refers to the controlled growth of animal cells from livestock, poultry, fish, or other animals, their subsequent differentiation into various cell types, and their collection and processing into food.”

During the joint meeting, USDA secretary Sonny Perdue spoke about the projected world population growth of 9 billion people by 2050, and the need to feed them by whatever means available and necessary. “Both agencies must be open to innovation and welcome innovation that feeds people. The projected population of our planet demands it,” he remarked.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the FDA, spoke at the meeting about how cell-cultured food technology has advanced rapidly over the last few years, with numerous companies working to develop new products. “The FDA has been contacted by several firms wanting to use cell-cultured animal cells from various species,” said Gottlieb. “It’s clear to us cell-cultured products will take many forms—livestock and poultry, and seafood is also on the horizon. At the FDA, we foresee this technology could be used for a variety of multi-component food and food products that can only be imagined right now. And it won’t be long until these products reach a wide marketplace.”
Gottlieb noted that the cost of producing cell-cultured food products is 1/50th of the cost it was just three years ago. “I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see cell-cultured burgers on restaurant menus in the coming years,” he added.

Gottlieb went on to say that safety of the products is at the forefront of their work. He explained that the technology started in the medical field, and that the FDA had already approved many cell-cultured products and issued guidelines for those products. He also noted that a cell-cultured product inserted in the human body was very different than cell-cultured products that are ingested.

You can view the recorded webinar from the public meeting on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/meetings/past-meetings.

According to a 2017 article titled “Cellular Agriculture: The Future of Food,” by CellAgri, a research and insights platform that provides the latest insights on a range of topics relating to cellular agriculture, several companies have already produced meat and milk products using the technology. It also explains how it works and the reasons to consider it. “Instead of raising, for example, a cow from birth for milk and meat, cellular agriculture presents an alternative way to get the exact same real product without all of the problems associated with raising livestock.”

Advantages it cites to using cellular agriculture is less use of land and water; less gas emissions (methane) into the atmosphere; no antibiotics in the meat, and no E. coli or salmonella infections. The industry often refers to its product as “clean meat.” The article can be found at https://www.cell.ag/cellular-agriculture-future-of-food.

Another article on the website explains more in depth how the process works. In a nutshell, the process takes cells from animals, and grows the cells using liquid solutions in controlled conditions in a laboratory or “brewery.” Read about that at https://www.cell.ag/cell-ag-from-lab-to-market.

An article in Ag Week, titled “Cultured meat: Good or bad, promise or peril?” gives reactions from both proponents and skeptics. Those in favor list some of the same things as above. Skeptics say much more data is needed to support the argument that cell-based meat on a large scale would provide major environmental benefits. One noted that since the cell-based meat isn’t currently mass-produced it’s hard to know how much energy it would use, and that grass eaten by the cows is produced with free solar energy.

Another skeptic in the article noted a UN report that listed cows as “Upcyclers.” 

“A key line from the report said: ‘Livestock, especially ruminants like beef cattle, play a key role in a sustainable food system. They allow us to produce food on marginal lands that are unsuitable for cultivated agriculture. Cattle act as “upcyclers” in our food system—they upgrade plants into high quality protein for people.’ The report also found that 86 percent of what livestock eat globally — mostly grass on land unsuited for crops—is inedible for humans.” Read the entire article here: https://www.agweek.com/business/agriculture/4568613-cultured-meat-good-or-bad-promise-or-peril

Many cattle producers object to the cellular agriculture industry calling their product “clean meat.” That was made obvious in the public comment section that USDA and FDA made available about the issue. In fact, the Tennessee Farm Burea commented in the USDA and FDA public comment section on their website expressing that view. 

“New products should not be able to use the good name of meat and poultry to attract consumers. Likewise, new products should not be allowed to diminish the reputation of traditional meat and poultry products in the labeling. The use of the term “clean-meat” or other such terms designed to rhetorically signify the cell cultured products are of higher quality should not be allowed,” they wrote. To read more of the comments, go to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FSIS-2018-0036.

The Post spoke with some local residents to find out what they thought about this new food technology. Most had not heard of it and were skeptical, wondering how they would know what was in the meat. 

Brent and Jenny Skelonc, owners of Six S Dairy in Nelson Township, have an answer for that. They take pride in the grass fed milk and beef, pastured pork and chicken, and free range eggs they can offer customers. “If you are among the growing population who feel it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re feeding your family, this article just drives home the point of how important it is to personally know your farmers. Know your farmer—know your food. Eat local and support your community,” they said.

To read the complete news release from the USDA/FDA go to https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2019/03/07/usda-and-fda-announce-formal-agreement-regulate-cell-cultured-food.

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Red Flannel Festival celebrates 80 years

Planning for the 80th Red Flannel Festival is in full swing, and earlier this week the board released their theme and logo to celebrate this year’s milestone event: Still going 80—celebrating 80 years!

The logo, pictured above, shows a Cedar Springs Fire truck driven by firefighters in Red Flannel long johns, and one of them hanging on for dear life, as the truck goes 80 mph.

According to RFF president Nancy Deyman, Rose Powell came up with this year’s theme. Brynadette Powell created the initial rough draft design of the logo, and artist Doris Vinton created the final design. 

Several others also submitted ideas for this year’s theme: Renae Cope, Lyle Perry Jr., Marilynn Higley, and Andrew and Meghan Bartoszek.

Deyman thanked all those who worked on this year’s theme and design, and those who submitted ideas. “The Red Flannel Festival had a hard time deciding, and will keep all the submissions on file for future festivals,” she said.

In other Red Flannel Festival news, the Lumberjack show will be back again this year and so will the pie-eating contest. The Grand Lodge will be back but in a different location. “We are still working out those details,” said Deyman.  

Also, for anyone that participated in the 5k/10k Run: if you ran it last year and would like to run it again this year, due to some measurement/communication issues last year they would like to offer the race to you this year at a discounted rate. You can contact the RFF for more information. Just email admin@redflannelfestival.org.

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Let the sun shine in

We may be getting some much-needed outdoor sunshine this week, but we are also celebrating sunshine of another kind. March 10-16 is being celebrated as “Sunshine Week” across the nation. Sunshine week is a week dedicated to shining a light on the importance of freedom of information, transparency and openness in government. Access to public information is vital for all of us.

Journalists have long championed the public’s right to know, often being on the front lines to wage that battle. Here at the Post, it used to be that we had an editor, a full time reporter, a group of freelance reporters and photographers to attend all the various community meetings and events in the area, a couple of graphic designers, several sales people, an office manager, and the publisher. But as advertisers left to try their hand at online advertising, it left a hole in our budget. We no longer have that bevy of reporters/photographers to rely on. But we try our best to bring you the info you need to know. On page 3 we bring you the story of a town that lost its newspaper, and what it meant for that town, and what it could mean for any town—including ours.

That being said, it is important that citizens participate in our local government meetings and exercise their right to know. As responsible citizens working to keep our community strong, healthy and vibrant, we need to work together to keep the focus on having an open government.

For information on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA) acts visit the Open Government Guide at www.rcfp.org/open-government-guide. You can learn about both federal and state guidelines. 

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Solon Fire receives new truck

Solon Township Fire Department recently took delivery of a new fire truck, Solon Tender 1. According to Fire Chief Jeff Drake, this truck will be used to shuttle water to fire scenes, and it is also capable of pumping water too. 

Solon Fire Departments new truck. Courtesy photo.

The 2008 Freightliner Cab and Chassis was awarded in 2016 to Solon Fire Department via the Michigan DNR and the Federal Surplus Equipment program at no cost.  The contract to convert the Department of Defense truck to a fire truck (Tender) was awarded to B & B Fire Division in May of 2017.

They converted the Freightliner cab & chassis (like a semi truck that hauls trailers) by extending the rear axle back 20 feet to accept the pump and water tank. It has a 4,000 Gallon Custom Poly Tank/Body w/ladders through the tank.

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Post travels to South America

Bill Pollock, formerly of Cedar Springs, is traveling from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Los Angeles, on a 30-day cruise. He is shown here at the southernmost city in South America—Ushuaia, Argentina. They visited the Falkland Islands and saw penguins; they passed Cape Horn during the night; visited Chile and more. 

Thanks so much for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Be sure to take along a printed edition of the Post and get someone to snap a photo of you or your family with it. Send it to us along with some info about your trip (where you went, who went along, what you saw) and send the photo and info to news@cedarspringspost.com. We will print as space allows.

P.S. We prefer you to take a printed edition of the Post on your travels. You can pick one up right in our office. Bill lives on the East Coast and gets his Post electronically, and when he contacted us from the far side of the world, we allowed him to use his digital copy. 

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Decline in readers and ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold

In this Feb. 19, 2019 photo, the old Daily Guide office stands for sale in St. Robert, Mo. With the shutdown of the newspaper in September 2018, this area in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities across the United States to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University North Carolina. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

By DAVID BAUDER and DAVID A. LIEB

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Five minutes late, Darrell Todd Maurina sweeps into a meeting room and plugs in his laptop computer. He places a Wi-Fi hotspot on the table and turns on a digital recorder. The earplug in his left ear is attached to a police scanner in his pants pocket.

He wears a tie; Maurina insists upon professionalism.

He is the press—in its entirety.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, is the only person who has come to the Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to, the only one who will report on their deliberations—specifically, their discussions about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri’s Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

Local journalism is dying in plain sight.

The Daily Guide, which traces to 1962, was a family owned paper into the 1980s before it was sold to a series of corporate owners that culminated with GateHouse Media Inc., the nation’s largest newspaper company. Five of the 10 largest newspaper companies are owned by hedge funds or other investors with several unrelated holdings, and GateHouse is among them, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies news industry trends.

Critics have said GateHouse and some other newspaper companies follow a strategy of aggressive cost-cutting without making significant investments in newsrooms. GateHouse rejects the notion that their motivations are strictly financial, pointing to measures taken in Waynesville and elsewhere to keep news flowing, said Bernie Szachara, the company’s president of U.S. newspaper operations.

All newspaper owners face a brutal reality that calls into question whether it’s an economically sustainable model anymore unless, like the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, the boss is the world’s richest man.

That’s especially true in smaller communities.

“They’re getting eaten away at every level,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst at Harvard’s Nieman Lab.

Newspaper circulation in the U.S. has declined every year for three decades, while advertising revenue has nosedived since 2006, according to the Pew Research Center. Staffing at newspapers large and small has followed that grim trendline: Pew says the number of reporters, editors, photographers and other newsroom employees in the industry fell by 45 percent nationwide between 2004 and 2017.

In the mid-1990s, when former Daily Guide publisher Tim Berrier was replaced, the newspaper had a news editor, sports editor, photographer and two reporters on staff. Along with traditional community news, the Daily Guide covered the Army’s decision to move its chemical warfare training facility to Fort Leonard Wood in the 1990s, and a flood that swept a mother and son to their deaths in 2013.

As recently as 2010, the Daily Guide had four full-time news people, along with a page designer and three ad salespeople.

But people left and weren’t replaced. Last spring, the Daily Guide was cut from five to three days a week. In June, the last newsroom staffer, editor Natalie Sanders, quit—she was burned out, she said. She made a bet with the only other full-time employee, ad sales person Tiffany Baker, over when the newspaper would close. Sanders said three years; Baker said one.

The last edition was published three months later, on Sept. 7.

“It felt like an old friend died,” Sanders said. “I sat and I cried, I really did. Because being the editor of the Daily Guide was all I wanted for a really long time.”

The death of the Daily Guide raises questions not easily answered, the same ones asked at newspapers big and small across the country.

Did GateHouse stop investing because people were less interested in reading the paper? Berrier said about 3,600 copies of the Daily Guide were printed in the mid-1990s. At the end, GateHouse was printing 675 copies a day.

Or did people lose interest because the lack of investment made it a less satisfying read?

“As the paper declined and got smaller and smaller, I felt that there wasn’t as much information that really made it worthwhile, so I did eventually stop” subscribing, said Keith Carnahan, senior pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church in St. Robert.

Berrier blames GateHouse, who he said “set the Daily Guide up to fail.” Others are less sure. Sanders, the former editor, and Joel Goodridge, another former publisher, blame both GateHouse and the community for not supporting the paper.

Goodridge said some businesses found they could advertise much more cheaply in free circulars dumped at local stores. He now works at a college in the nearby town of Rolla. His job at the Daily Guide was eliminated during the relentless downturn.

“When I first got into the newspaper business, it was intriguing, rewarding and I felt like I was doing something more than generating profits,” Goodridge said. “I felt like I was doing something for the community. As the years went by, it changed.”

GateHouse said the Daily Guide, like many smaller newspapers across the country, was hurt by a dwindling advertising market among national retailers. The paper supplemented its income through outside printing jobs, but those dried up, too, said Szachara, the GateHouse newspaper operations president.

Given an unforgiving marketplace, there’s no guarantee additional investment in the paper would have paid off, he said. Szachara said the decision was made to include some news about Waynesville in a weekly advertising circular distributed around Pulaski County. “We were trying not to create a ghost town,” he said.

Residents of Waynesville are coming to grips with what is missing in their lives.

“Losing a newspaper,” said Keith Pritchard, 63, chairman of the board at the Security Bank of Pulaski County and a lifelong resident, “is like losing the heartbeat of a town.”

Pritchard has scrapbooks of news clippings about his three daughters; Katie was a basketball player of some renown at Drury University. He wonders: How will young families collect such memories?

The local state representative, Steve Lynch, would routinely cut out a story about people recognized in the paper, add a personal note, laminate it and send it to them—a savvy goodwill exercise.

Historians worry about what is lost to future generations. Many of the displays in a small museum of local history in St. Robert are stories retrieved from newspapers.

Residents talk with dismay about church picnics or school plays they might have attended but only learn of through Facebook postings after the fact.

“I miss the newspaper, the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and a bagel or a doughnut … and find out what’s going on in the community,” said Bill Slabaugh, a retiree. Now he talks to friends and “candidly, for the most part, I’m ignorant.”

Slabaugh acknowledges some complicity in the Daily Guide’s demise. He said he angrily stopped buying the paper when it wrote about a drag show at a local community center.

Beyond the emotions are practical concerns about the loss of an information source. The bank routinely checked the Daily Guide’s obituaries to protect against fraud; Pritchard said you’d be surprised by family members who try to clean out the accounts of a recently-deceased relative.

At a time when journalists and police are often at odds, it’s somewhat startling to hear local law enforcement unanimously express dismay at the loss of a newspaper.

Like many communities, Waynesville is struggling with a drug problem. The nearby interstate is an easy supply line for opioids and meth, police say. The four murders in Waynesville last year were the most in memory, and all were drug-related.

For painful, personal reasons, Pulaski County Sheriff Jimmy Bench wishes the Daily Guide was there to report on the December death of his 31-year-old son, Ryan, due to a heroin overdose. It would have been better than dealing with whispers and Twitter.

“Social media is so cruel sometimes,” Bench said.

Without a newspaper’s reporting, Police Chief Dan Cordova said many in the community are unaware of the extent of the problem. Useful information, like a spate of robberies in one section of town, goes unreported. Social media is a resource, but Cordova is concerned about not reaching everyone.

Local authorities still write news releases and, in the final days of the Daily Guide, the overworked staff often printed them verbatim—even giving front-page bylines to the marketing director for the Waynesville School District.

“I thought it was great,” said Waynesville School Superintendent Brian Henry, later adding: “Nobody’s really stepped in and filled exactly what we had with our newspaper.”

Posting press releases to official Facebook pages isn’t quite the same. County coroner Nick Pappas said readers are more suspicious of news releases than they would be of a fully reported news story.

“I’m not going to put out anything critical of myself out there,” said Hillman, the prosecuting attorney who just started his third term in the elective office. “I mean, that’s the truth. What politician is?”

This isn’t a hopeless story.

Dotted across the country are exceptions to the brutal new rule, newspapers that are surviving with creative business plans. In North Carolina’s Moore County, owners support the 100-year-old Pilot with revenue raised by side businesses — lifestyle magazines, electronic newsletters, telephone directories, a video production company and a bookstore.

Philanthropy is supporting other efforts to fill gaps created by journalism’s business struggles. Report for America, which sees itself as a Peace Corps for journalists, has sent young reporters into communities in Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere. It has relationships with newsrooms across the country, including The Associated Press. The American Journalism Project is raising money to fund local news, and recently announced $42 million in pledges.

What this effort means for Waynesville, and many small towns like it, remains to be seen.

It briefly had an alternative after the Daily Guide folded. A local businessman, Louie Keen, bankrolled a newspaper, the Uranus Examiner, that was delivered for free. The paper had some journalistic spunk, revealing that the Waynesville mayor had blocked some residents from seeing her postings on the city’s Facebook site. Mayor Hardman said it was inadvertent and quickly corrected.

The paper lasted five issues. Named for the tourist complex Keen owns, he said the Uranus Examiner was shunned by local advertisers because he used to own a strip club and uses sophomoric jokes to promote his businesses.

So Waynesville and St. Robert are left with Darrell Todd Maurina’s Facebook site, which he calls the Pulaski County Daily News.

A former Army civilian public affairs officer who worked at the Daily Guide in the 2000s, Maurina posts live from community meetings, reports on accidents on the nearby interstate and publishes obituaries. It’s meat-and-potatoes local news.

When he’s not at meetings, he works from a windowless office in the basement of his home. Court documents and papers are piled on the floor and coffee table near a police radio scanner, fax machine and television. On his desk are a well-worn Bible, small American flag and a signed photograph of President Gerald Ford thanking Maurina’s father for his support.

Maurina typically is awake before 5 a.m. to check the local radio station, if the scanner hasn’t roused him earlier.

“I really believe that as large newspaper chains cut staff of small newspapers, and small newspapers wither and die, that’s going to cause major problems in communities,” he said. “Somebody needs to pick up the slack and, at least in this community, I’m able to do that.”

Maurina’s efforts have some support, even from the city councilman who said he once threatened to throw Maurina out a window over a disagreement about a story.

“He’s an equal opportunity agitator,” said Ed Conley, another council member. “He tries to be fair, and to be honest about it, he does a good job, but he’s just one person and he’s limited by social media.”

Maurina declines to share many details about the finances for his online site. He also acknowledges some holes in his coverage, especially of sports.

For local athletics, some people turn instead to a Facebook site run by Allen Hilliard, a former Daily Guide stringer and school bus driver who has been posting photos, videos and newsletters about local youth and high school teams. Hilliard isn’t making much money from his time-consuming hobby, but like Maurina, he takes pride in providing a community service.

“If I quit doing it, then essentially there would be no (sports) coverage of anyone,” he said.

Maurina says he knows journalists need to go back to the basics to survive—or revive—in small-town America.

“We need to go back to what was done in the late 1800s—being everywhere at every event, telling everyone what the sirens were about last night,” he said.

Good idea. Who’s going to pay for it?

Associated Press Business writer Alexandra Olson in New York and video journalist Peter Banda, from Waynesville, contributed to this report.

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Master Angler program’s popularity takes off in 2019

Michigan’s Master Angler program, which recognizes some of the biggest fish caught by recreational anglers, has grown in popularity in recent years. Here, Chad Kamm, of Metamora, shows off the rainbow trout he caught on the Manistee River in 2018 and submitted for Master Angler recognition. Learn more about the program at www.Michigan.gov/MasterAngler.

People love to fish Michigan waters. According to the state’s Master Angler program, they’ve been reeling in some real keepers the last few years. The program, managed by the DNR, enjoyed another successful year in 2018, accepting 2,698 fish.

The program has been in place since 1973 and recognizes large fish caught by recreational anglers. There were 522 more fish submitted in 2018 than in 2017, with anglers representing 28 states and Canada being recognized. The program has more than tripled in the last four years.

Of the entries accepted, 1,564 were in the catch-and-keep category, while 1,134 were in the catch-and-release category. Just over 500 anglers received certificates for fish that placed in the top five spots for both categories.

The most popular 2018 Master Angler entries by species included:

*251 bluegill.

*238 Chinook salmon.

*144 walleye.

*140 rainbow trout.

*137 smallmouth bass.

Master Angler entries for 2018 included two new state records, a 1.80-pound hybrid sunfish caught in Lake Anne in Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County) by Joel Heeringa of St. Joseph, and a 46.54-pound black buffalo caught on the Grand River (Ottawa County) by Brandonn Kramer of Muskegon.

The Master Angler program runs on the calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31). Submissions already are being accepted for 2019 and will be until Jan. 10, 2020. Because program requirements may change year to year, be sure to carefully read the application before submitting it. A downloadable application and more program details are available at Michigan.gov/MasterAngler.

Questions? Contact Lynne Thoma, 517-284-5838 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

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Thieves chop hair from horses’ tails

By Judy Reed

When Solon Township resident Emily Scott went to check on her horses on Tuesday morning about 9:45 a.m., she couldn’t believe what she saw—someone had chopped hunks out of two of her three horses’ tails.

“I saw them and thought what in the world happened to you guys?” she said.

Someone chopped the hair from the tails of these Solon Township horses. Courtesy photo.

“They just took big handfuls and chopped it off. The gelding has almost no hair left.”

She’s glad that whoever did it didn’t touch their third horse, a baby Tennessee Walker. “Her hair wasn’t long enough,” explained Scott.

She said with the wind and blowing snow, no tracks were visible, and they found no trace of the horsehair on the ground.  

“My horses are so nice. We raised them like dogs,” said Scott. “They are so loving, and love to be petted and wouldn’t have fought back.” 

Scott had a lot of things running through her mind. She wondered if she had made someone mad. And did they do anything else to harm the horses? But that was not the case.

Instead, she found out through some online articles that there is a market for horsehair, and found some stories similar to her own. Horsehair is used in crafts, hair extensions for horses, strings for musical instruments, and more.

While the horses weren’t physically injured, they will miss their tails. “It’s cruel,” she said. “The hair will take a long time to grow back and they need their tails to swat flies during the summer.” They had also been planning to start showing the horses this year.

Emily and her husband Chris called the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to their home on Albrecht, and a deputy took the report, but there aren’t currently any leads. If anyone has any information about this incident, please call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.

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Cedar Springs schools makes adjustments for snow days

Snow and ice have made driving on back roads dangerous for school buses this winter. 
Photo by Evelyn Avery.

By Judy Reed

Icy, snowy and dangerous winter weather, including sub-zero temperatures and power outages, caused both Cedar Springs Public Schools and Creative Technologies Academy to close 14 times this year. That’s eight more times than the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) allows without the days being made up. And winter isn’t over yet.

The MDE also allows schools to apply for a waiver for three extra closings, above the six. Both Cedar Springs Public and CTA applied for the waiver. CTA was approved, but Cedar Springs Public was denied. Meaning CTA will make up five days, while Cedar Springs will make up eight. Why the disparity?

According to Cedar Springs Superintendent Scott Smith, it’s because Cedar Springs is currently in session less than 180 days, the amount currently required by state law, though they are in session the 1,098 required hours. The school has only been in session 172 days a year since the 2013-2014 school year, because of an eight-year bargaining agreement with staff signed in June 2013.

“The time requirement, a minimum of 1098 hours per year, was first applied to the 2010/11 school year,” explained Smith. “The rules changed again beginning with the 2014/15 school year, when districts were required to provide at least 1098 hours of instruction and have at least 175 days of instruction. Beginning in the 2016/17 school year districts were required to provide at least 1098 hours of instruction and have at least 180 days of instruction.  There is a provision in the law that honors collective bargaining agreements that were effectively in place on July 1, 2013. Cedar Springs Public Schools signed an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with the Cedar Springs Education Association in June of 2013.  

“We are in compliance with the minimum of 1098 hours of instruction but we meet that standard with 172 days of school,” he added. “Our school day is slightly longer, a minimum of six hours and 23 minutes, than districts that have 180 days of instruction on their calendar. A district like Sparta would have a minimum of six hours and six minutes of instruction per day.”

The bottom line is that they are in class the same number of hours per year as those that go 180 days. And yet, they were denied the extra three days.

There may, however, be some help from the legislature, as a couple of bills have been introduced to forgive days missed during a state emergency, as happened earlier this year. The Post contacted Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, about the issue.

“Legislation has been introduced in both the state Senate and House of Representatives that seeks to forgive school districts for cancelling school due to a declared state emergency,” he said. “I think that there is sufficient interest amongst my colleagues for the bills to be taken up for consideration. The Legislature will need to find the balance between offering relief for a declared emergency and the amount of time students are spending in the classroom.”  

In the meantime, Cedar Springs has made a few changes to their schedule because of the many school closings. All early release days left on the calendar will become full days. Not because it would count towards time made up (it wouldn’t) but to help the students get back instructional time they’ve missed. “This change will allow our students and teachers to recapture over 10 hours of instructional time before the upcoming State and Advanced Placement testing cycles begin in April and May,” Smith explained.

Additional days added to their calendar to make up the eight days missed are May 24, June 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14.  

See more info from the Superintendent on the Cedar Springs School page on page 11.

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First Graders celebrate library card drive

First grader holds a free book from local author Amanda Litz

For March is reading month

The library’s annual campaign to get every first grader his/her own library card or access to a family card culminated in the annual “March is Reading Month Celebration” at the Kent Theatre for all of the first graders at Cedar Trails and at Creative Technologies Academy on March 4 and 5. 

Every first grader got in to see the new “Mary Poppins” movie for free, and a library card got them a free bag of popcorn. 

On hand to emphasize books and reading were representatives from the local libraries: Director Donna Clark and Youth Services Parapro Melissa Dubridge, from the Cedar Springs Public Library; Youth Librarian Sara Magnuson and Youth Parapro Bethany Metivier, from KDL-Nelson Twp/Sand Lake Library; and Youth Parapro Heidi Fifield, from the KDL-Spencer Township Branch. 

Students enjoyed free popcorn with their library card.

“I love this program,” said Clark. “We’ve teamed up with our local schools, families and Kent District Library now for 22 years. It’s great to partner as an extended community to promote a lifelong love of reading.”

Magnuson agreed. “Working together on this project is one of the highlights of our year. I love getting to visit all the first graders and see how excited they get about libraries and reading. It’s a great way to get local students and their families into our libraries and encourage reading every day!”

Clark said the program would not have been a success without the enthusiastic support from Cedar Trails Principal Beth Whaley and her wonderful first grade teaching staff, Mrs. Birdsong, Mrs. Brussow, Mrs. Shepard, Mrs. Tiffany, Mrs. Boggiano, Mrs. Doncis, Mrs. Holtrop, Mrs. Upham, Mrs. Saneford, Mrs. Bonsall, Mrs. Sendler, Mrs. Schmidutz, and Mrs. O’Brien. All but a couple of the teachers were able to attend and greet their first graders as they came in. Also in attendance were students from our local charter school, Creative Technologies Academy, from Mrs. Parker’s class. 

There was a good attendance, in spite of the single digit temperatures. Over the two nights of the celebration, a total of 97 first graders and 179 family members attended, for a total of 276 celebrating the first grade library card drive. 

Library cards from Cedar Springs and KDL Libraries can be used in seven counties in Michigan.

Donna:  “I love this program. We’ve teamed up with our local schools, families and Kent District Library now for 22 years.  It’s great to partner as an extended community to promote a lifelong love of reading.”

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