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Aeromed drops in for “Show and Tell”

Students with a Kent County Sheriff Deputy and horse from the mounted unit. Courtesy photo.

The students at Cedar Trails Elementary received a special treat Wednesday when School Resource Officer Deputy Tom McCutcheon arranged a little “Show and Tell” for the kids out on the school lawn.

The theme was public safety, and on hand to show and tell the kids about what they do was the Cedar Springs Fire Department, Kent County Sheriff Department Mounted unit, the Grand Rapids Police Department, and even Aeromed dropped in for a visit.

Excited students got an up close look at the Aeromed helicopter. Courtesy photo.

Deputy McCutcheon has organized the Cedar Trails “Show and Tell” for the students the last few years. 

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School board moves ahead on facilities proposal

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education went over the results of the community survey on their facilities proposals at the their regular board meeting Monday evening, then voted to move forward with option C, a proposal that—if passed by the voters in November—would include building a new 8th-9th grade building adjacent to the high school. 

According to the online survey results, most of the respondents came from Solon and Nelson Townships (just under 20 percent from each township). The rest came from Algoma, Courtland, the City of Cedar Springs, Oakfield, and Spencer Townships. Just over 10 percent said they did not live in the school district. Approximately 480 people responded to the survey.

According to a summary of the survey results, 49 percent of those that responded supported Option C, 23 percent needed more information, and 28 percent did not support it.

As for the other proposals, 51 percent supported Option A, 31 percent needed more information, and 18 percent did not support it. On Option B, 35 percent supported it, 37 percent needed more information, and 28 percent did not support it.

Board members felt that A and C were close enough in support that they chose Option C since less people needed more information to make a decision.

The district did the facilities assessment in 2016, which showed over $42 million in repairs were needed on all eight buildings. Several of the buildings are also at capacity, and they need more space to accommodate the slow but steady growth the district is experiencing.

They held focus groups to talk about the facilities, and eventually came up with the three options that they asked the community to give their opinion on in an online survey.

Under Option C, the one the district will start working on to get on the ballot in November, the preschool program will be moved out of Cedar Trails, and roofing and mechanical upgrades will be done on the building. Beach (grades 2-3): Do a partial demolition and reconstruct the academic wings. Do minor remodeling, site improvements, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, playground. Cedar View (4-5) Work on facilities assessment critical needs. Red Hawk: The 6th graders will move to the Middle School. Red Hawk will become home to the District Administration, Preschool, Cherry Health, and Community Education. Will work on critical needs, heavy remodeling of existing building, fixtures, furnishings and equipment. Middle School: (grades 6-7) move sixth graders to middle school and 8th graders to new building. Work on facilities assessment critical needs. Build a new 8-9 building (adjacent to high school). Do site improvements, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, auxiliary gym. High school (10-12): Do critical needs, fixtures, furnishings, equipment. Hilltop: Building demolition and site restoration. Cost: $78.7 million. About a 1.07 mil increase.

A couple of people spoke during the public comments period, and expressed that they did not want to see Hilltop demolished. The building was built in 1926 to replace the original high school, and has been a fixture on the hill for 93 years.

The board did discuss the topic, and some members expressed surprise at the deterioration they saw when they went on a tour of the facility. Hilltop would need $6.2 million in repairs and renovations. Superintendent Scott Smith noted that in order to use it for students it would also need to be brought back up to the code needed for students. 

Some members of the community have questioned whether Hilltop could be used for something else. Board President Heidi Reed said she at first felt the same way, but if they sold the building to someone else, that’s a cornerstone of the school’s real estate that they wouldn’t get back. She also noted that if it was used for affordable housing, they wouldn’t have control over the vetting process and it would be in close proximity to their students.

Smith said that if the bond passes, Hilltop would probably still be used for about the next five years while work on the other buildings was done.

On the community survey, 73 percent of the respondents were in favor of the demolition of Hilltop.

Now that the board is moving forward with Option C, the school’s architects, GMB, will begin to work on finalizing plans and getting language ready to be submitted for the November ballot.

Superintendent Smith said he would be more than happy to answer any questions that anyone has about the proposal. You can reach him at 616-696-1204, or email him at scott.smith@csredhawks.org.

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Fuel spills, causes fire

By Judy Reed

A Nelson Township man was working on a fuel tank in his garage on Sunday, May 12, when gas spilled and ignited, sending the garage up in flames.

According to Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser, they were toned out to the 7400 block of 16 Mile Rd about 3:27 p.m. A firefighter who lives nearby was on the scene within 5 minutes, and helped the man get a vehicle and a boat out of the three-stall garage.

Fraser said that the garage was unattached so the fire was contained to the structure. The roof came down shortly after they arrived on scene. “It burned hot and quick,” he said.

Courtland and Sand Lake Fire assisted Cedar Springs at the scene.

Fraser said the bulk of the fire was knocked down in about 45 minutes. “With the roof down, it made it harder to get to certain spots,” he noted. They cleared the scene after about 1-1/2 hours.

Fraser wants to remind people when they have a fire, do not attempt to put it out yourself before calling 911. He said that the man threw soapy water on the fire in an effort to extinguish the flames before calling for help.

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W.H.A.L.E. program implemented in Montcalm County

In 2018, there were 14 killed and 498 injured people in motor vehicle crashes on Montcalm County roads. If drivers and passengers are unresponsive upon the arrival of first responders, it can be difficult to identify the victims. To help parents protect their children and provide crucial information in emergency situations, Sheriff Mike Williams is implementing the W.H.A.L.E program in Montcalm County. 

W.H.A.L.E stands for “We Have A Little Emergency.” The program is an identification and information package for child car safety seats. An information label is attached to the rear of the car seat to provide information about the child in the seat, such as name, age, medical information, and who to contact in case of an emergency. 

In the event of a motor vehicle crash that incapacitates parents or other adult passengers, first responders can use the label as a source of information to identify the child or his/her special medical needs. Rescue efforts may proceed more smoothly and efficiently if first responders know the name of the frightened child they are treating. 

Kits are available free of charge at the Sheriff’s Office in Stanton. They will also be distributed at the Montcalm County Public Safety Celebration on Saturday, May 18. The celebration will be held at the Montcalm County Complex, 659 N. State St, Stanton, from 9 a.m. to noon.

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State representative indicted on extortion/bribery charges

The federal grand jury alleges Rep. Larry Inman attempted to sell his vote on the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law last June and later lied to the FBI

Larry Charles Inman

United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced Wednesday that a federal grand jury charged Larry Charles Inman, of Grand Traverse County, with three crimes: attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an agent of the FBI. Inman is the elected legislator in the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 104th District in the State of Michigan.

Specifically, Inman is accused of soliciting money via text messages he sent between June 3-5, 2018, to a labor union, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCCM), in exchange for voting “no” on the 2018 legislative initiative petition to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. The MRCCM did not respond, as Inman allegedly requested. Inman ultimately voted “yes” on June 6, 2018, to repeal the law, and the Michigan House repealed the law by a vote of 56 to 53. 

The indictment includes the text messages allegedly from Inman to union representatives in the days before the vote, one of which Inman concludes by stating “we never had this discussion.” (See below.)

The grand jury alleges that Inman committed the crime of attempted extortion by using his authority as an elected representative, namely his authority to vote on the petition to repeal the prevailing wage law, to seek to obtain money from the MRCCM with the union’s consent. If convicted of this offense, Inman faces up to 20 years in prison.

The grand jury also alleges Inman solicited a bribe by corruptly soliciting a political campaign contribution of money in exchange for something worth $5,000 or more, namely his vote on the petition to repeal the prevailing wage law. If convicted of this offense, Inman faces up to ten years in prison.

The grand jury further alleges that, when an FBI agent later asked Inman about his solicitation, Inman knowingly made a false statement to the agent denying he had any such communications. If he is convicted of this offense, Inman faces up to five years in prison.

The Lansing office of the FBI is investigating this case. The names of those not accused of a crime, such as witnesses, are redacted from the indictment. And the public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

A date for Inman’s arraignment has not yet been scheduled.

On June 3, Inman sent this text message to a MRCCM labor union rep:

“Hi [Person A], I hear the prevailing wage vote may be on Wenesday. In my opinion, We all need some more help! Carpenters have been good to me, where are the rest of the trades on checks? We only have 12, people to block it. You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote. [Person B and Person

C] will go to the longest neck hold on this one. I have heard most got $5,000, not $30,000. Its not worth losing assignments and staff for $5,000, in the end. They will give you the check back. I am not sure you can hold 12 people for the only help of $5,000. My suggestion is you need to get people maxed out, on Tuesday, I will do my best to hold. [Person C] will pull assignments for next term on this vote. You have no idea the pressure on this one for [Person B’s state] race , to pull this off for the tea party. People will not go down for $5,000, not that we don’t appreciate it. Please get with the all the trades by Monday, I would suggest maxing out on all 12, or at least doubling what you have given them on Tuesday, asap, we never had this discussion, Larry”

He sent the same or a similar message the same day to a lobbyist in Lansing that had been hired by MRCCM.

On June 4, Inman sent another text to the MRCCM labor union rep: “I will text you tomorrow to make sure we have a solid 12 no votes to block prevailing wage , Larry”

And on June 5, he sent another text to the same labor union rep: “Hi [Person A], how are you! I have Breakfast event on Wed morning at Karobe , Governors room, 7:30am to 9am, hope you can make it 🙂 and see if there are checks you can get, thanks! Larry Inman”

MRCCM gave no further campaign contributions after the June 3 text.

The House voted on the prevailing wage law on June 6, and Inman voted “yes” to repeal the prevailing wage law.

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Former medical assistant pleads guilty to prescription fraud

Amanda Sheridan forged prescriptions for pain pills and other controlled substances

U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced last week that Amanda Sheridan, 38, of Hastings, Michigan pled guilty to acquiring controlled substances by fraud. She faces up to four years in federal prison for her crime. 

Sheridan, who worked as a medical assistant at a doctor’s office in Grand Rapids, stole a doctor’s prescription pad and forged his signature on 77 prescriptions for Norco, Adderall, and other highly-abused controlled substances. She wrote the forged prescriptions to herself and two other individuals, and obtained more than 4,000 prescription pills before she was caught. 

“This type of crime feeds the opioid epidemic, which we and our partner agencies are committed to fighting,” U.S. Attorney Birge said. “That commitment includes federal prosecutions of individuals who abuse their positions in the medical field to divert prescription controlled substances to the street.” 

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Clay Stiffler prosecuted the case.

She will be sentenced at a later date.

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BBB Study: Counterfeit products in online retail

BBB Study: Counterfeit products in online retail

An in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) finds that fraudulent consumer goods are ubiquitous, difficult to tell apart from the legitimate products they are counterfeiting, and stem from a large network of organized criminals and credit card processing mechanisms that are willing to support them.

Today nearly anything available online can be counterfeited, and research also shows that one in four people have bought something online that turned out to be counterfeit.

The investigative study, “Fakes Are Not Fashionable: A BBB Study of the Epidemic of Counterfeit Goods Sold Online,” looks at the prevalence of counterfeit consumer goods and the criminal systems that circulate them. It digs into the scope of the problem, who is behind it, the multi-pronged fight to stop it and the steps consumers can take to avoid it. BBB’s report finds that counterfeiting and intellectual property piracy cost the U.S. economy $200-$250 billion and 750,000 jobs annually. You can read the entire report here: https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/19860-fakes-are-not-fashionable-a-bbb-study-of-the-epidemic-of-counterfeit-goods-sold-online.

“Counterfeit goods hurt both consumers and businesses,” said Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Customers get an inferior product, or nothing at all, and legitimate businesses lose out on the sale of real products.”

The risk of encountering counterfeit goods can affect any online shopper. These goods range from brand-name sunglasses and handbags to golf clubs and consumer electronics, as well as many other kinds of products. BBB’s report finds that any shippable item with a reputation for quality and sizable markup is a candidate for counterfeiting. While counterfeit goods often are reputed to be deeply discounted, in reality, counterfeit sellers regularly use selling prices that are close to the price of the real product, so the prices offered are no longer a signal that the product is counterfeit.

In the last three years, BBB has received more than 2,000 complaints and more than 500 Scam Tracker reports from people who have shopped for goods online and received counterfeits instead of what they ordered. However, many victims do not file complaints, making it difficult to get a firm grasp on how often people pay for goods that are counterfeit or not as advertised.

A woman from Paw Paw alerted the BBB to a website selling fake Ray Ban sunglasses. The website offered sunglasses for just $20. The real sunglasses retail for $200 or more at legitimate stores and websites. A law firm representing Ray Ban has worked through the courts to shut down this and similar websites. However, the fraudulent sites keep reopening under different names.

“This was just one of thousands of websites offering designer sunglasses at too-good-to-be-true prices,” said Catlett. “Most customers who placed orders never received their product.”

A man from Kalkaska had a similar experience with a company advertising handmade quilts. Advertising on Facebook and other social media sites, Amelia Quilt was a popular offer around Christmas, 2018. It offered quilts at significant discounts. However, customers across the country tell the BBB they paid for the quilts, but never received the product. After BBB warnings to consumers, the company stopped accepting orders and eventually shut down its website.

According to BBB’s report, 88 percent of counterfeit goods come from China and Hong Kong, with their smuggling and their online sale via fraudulent websites widely thought to be coordinated by international organized crime groups. Customs agents seized $1.2 billion in counterfeit shipments in fiscal year 2017, the most current year for which data is available; however, shipping and smuggling methods vary widely, creating major headaches for customs officials. Inasmuch as counterfeit goods are almost always paid for with a credit card, the fraudulent websites that process these sales make extensive use of the credit card and banking system, with a small number of Chinese banks and an extensive network of intermediary payment processors responsible for the vast majority of processing for these purchases.

Active efforts are being made to fight the flood of counterfeit goods. BBB attempts to identify and report on bogus businesses, especially if they claim to be located in the U.S. and Canada. Trademark holders also do a great deal of work and spend a considerable amount of money trying to fight counterfeits. This is a major priority for customs officials and law enforcement as well; U.S. Customs and Border Protection has increased its seizures of counterfeit goods by 125 percent over the last five years, and the White House recently issued an executive order directing government agencies that work with brands to examine counterfeiting and make it an enforcement priority.

The report recommends:

-BBB urges the credit card payment processors to engage their full efforts in combating those that provide merchant accounts to sellers of counterfeit goods.

-U.S. consumers would benefit from a program to help counterfeit victims with charge backs like the one operated in Canada by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). Such a program could help identify fraudulent credit card merchant accounts, bogus websites, and possibly locations from which such goods are being shipped.

-Law enforcement agencies could make better use of complaint information obtained by BBB, the FTC, and IC3.

-More study and investigation is needed for websites in China that deliver nothing or where goods are sold deceptively—even if there is no trademark or copyright involved.

-BBB recommends consumers check the reputation of the seller before making payment at bbb.org and contact the manufacturer for a listing of authorized sellers.

What to do if you believe you have unwittingly purchased counterfeit goods:

-Ask for a refund. Victims who don’t receive anything when buying online with their credit card, or who receive goods that are counterfeit or not as described, should call the customer service number on the back of their card and request a refund. The report goes into great detail about the process of obtaining a refund and the remedies available to victims.

To report counterfeit goods contact one or more of the following:

-National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asks victims of counterfeit goods to file a complaint with the IPR Center here: https://www.iprcenter.gov/referral/view

-Better Business Bureau: Victims can file complaints at bbb.org about online sellers that claim to be in the U.S. or Canada. BBB tries to resolve complaints and may help in getting a refund. There is no cost for this service. BBB also looks for and reports patterns of complaints. Consumers can report scams to BBB Scam Tracker.

-Online markets: Victims can complain directly to eBay, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram or other online marketplaces. In addition, Amazon has an “A-Z guarantee” for goods sold by third parties on their site; victims who have purchased counterfeit items from a third-party seller can seek a refund here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201889740.

-Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IC3): The FBI takes complaints about counterfeit goods. Complain here: https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

-Federal Trade Commission: You can complain to the FTC by calling 877/FTC-Help or file a complaint online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.

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State Department of Ed visits Cedar Springs

From left to right: High School Principal Ron Behrenwald; Martin Ack- ley, MDE; a New Beginnings High School student with her citizenship award; and Superintendent Scott Smith. Courtesy photo.

Cedar Springs had had a special visitor last Wednes- day, May 1, when Mr. Mar- tin Ackley, Director of theOffice of Public and Gov- ernmental Affairs at the Michigan Department of Ed-ucation, paid a visit to Cedar Springs Public Schools to see the great things being done inthe district.

Interim State Superinten- dent Sheila Alles has made it a priority at the MichiganDepartment of Education to stay focused on Customer Service, and each member ofthe MDE Leadership team is visiting at least 5 local dis- tricts or child care centers this school year.

Martin Ackley listens closely to Asst. HS Principal Jeremy VerWys, while Superintendent Scott Smith looks on. Courtesy photo.

When asked why he waspaying Cedar Springs Public Schools a visit, Ackley said, “We want to high-light and celebrate the great things happening in our education centers, and find out what MDE can do for students and school districts throughout the State.”

The MDE hopes these vis-its will aid staff members by helping them see withtheir own eyes the things that are making a difference to the children in Michigan.

Superintendent Scott Smith and others toured the cam-pus with Ackley. The tour included visiting the CherryHealth Clinic at Red Hawk; the R1TS program at Red Hawk; iReady with Jo Spry at Beach; an MICI class- room at Beach; and ASD room at Cedar Trails; and then New Beginnings Alternative High School, Early Middle College, FFA, and the broadcasting studio atCedar Springs High School.

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Court affirms Duram conviction

Glenna Mary Duram, 50, convicted of first degree premeditated murder in the May 2015 shooting death of her husband, Martin Duram, in Ensley Township, will not be getting a new trial.

Glenna Mary Duram

Duram had appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals–before Chief Judge Pro Tem Jane Beckering, Judge Deborah Servitto, and Judge Cynthia Stephens–contending that evidence admitted in court showing the titles of websites she had visited on her cell phone on the morning of the murder constituted inadmissible hearsay and was unfairly prejudicial. The titles of the websites were all Ruger-related—which was the type of gun she shot her husband Marty with.

The judges disagreed with her assertion, in an opinion on April 29, saying that “Although the evidence did not disclose the content of the webpages or the purpose for which the user accessed them, reasonable jurors could infer from the evidence that defendant had accessed web-pages related to the murder weapon in contemplation of killing Martin…The evidence was relevant because it had a tendency to make the existence of the state of mind required for first-degree premeditated murder more probable.”

The court found no due process violations in the case, which was tried in Newaygo County Circuit Court. Duram had shot her husband five times before shooting herself twice in the head. She was found under a blanket on the floor. Evidence showed, however, that she had moved around the home, even locking the door, after shooting herself.

All three judges affirmed the conviction.

Duram is currently serving a life sentence without chance of parole.

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Two area school proposals voted down

By Judy Reed

For the second time in six months, voters in the Tri County Area School district voted down a bond proposal that would have created a community campus.

After the voters spoke out against it in November, the 2018 proposal of $40,785,000 was reduced to the new $37,020,000 for the May 2019 (bond proposal), reducing the tax contribution from homeowners by 75 percent and saving $3.7 million. But voters still didn’t bite. In a close race, the proposal was voted down by 167 votes, with 1,456 No votes (53 percent) to 1,289 voters (46.92 per-cent). The only precinct it passed in was Pierson Town- ship.

In Kent County, Sparta Area Schools lost their bid for a sinking fund millage by 151 votes. The vote was 951 no, to 800 yes.

Rockford Public Schools passed their bonding propos-al with 3,498 yes votes, and 2,023 no.

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