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Sand Lake suspends police department

By Judy Reed

The Sand Lake Village voted Monday evening to suspend police department operations until further notice. It was done at the recommendation of the Village’s police personnel committee.

According to trustee Rachel Gokey, who serves on the committee, they had several reasons for recommending it. “The decision was made for many reasons, among them, lack of current funding to train, equip, operate and maintain the department; long-standing concern about performance and the relationship of the department with the community and staffing issues,” she said.

In the meantime, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office will take over coverage of the Village during the daytime, just as they do in the evenings, and as they do for area townships. 

“It’s important to note that they were not a full time department and so we have always been responsible for emergency response to the village when they weren’t on duty,” said Kent County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Joel Roon. 

“We don’t expect any interruption in emergency response to the village as they work through this decision. We have discussed with Sand Lake Village opportunities to contract for police services on those occasions there might be an increased need like a special event in the village. Of course we stand ready to serve in any capacity necessary to ensure the safety and security of the residents of Sand Lake,” he said.

This is different than the situation in Cedar Springs, where officers are contracted to stay within the city limits unless there are extenuating circumstances. Cedar Springs pays for contracted officers. The coverage that the Kent County Sheriff’s Office will provide the Village of Sand Lake is like most area townships—there is no charge. Instead, it’s paid for out of the KCSO operating budget.

Gokey said that the Village Council also directed Village President Danielle Hardenburg, and a trustee to look into all options to provide the Village with additional police patrol to supplement the ongoing professional police services provided by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

According to a statement by Hardenburg, “The Council’s goal is to provide our citizens with additional professional police protection and services in the most cost-effective manner possible.”  

Gokey said the Council would consider the options and decide how to move ahead in an upcoming public meeting.

The Sand Lake Police Department issued a statement on their Facebook page Tuesday morning: “It is with great sadness to report that the Sand Lake Police Department has been suspended after Monday’s board meeting on 3/18/2019. On behalf of all the Police Officers at Sand Lake we want to thank the entire community for allowing us to serve and protect the community for the many many years of service that we were able to serve. We all wish you the best for what the future may hold for the Village.”

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Woman killed in Algoma crash

By Judy Reed

A Cedar Springs woman died in this two-vehicle crash in Algoma Township Wednesday, March 20. Post photo by J. Reed.

A 35-year-old Cedar Springs mother died when her car collided with another in Algoma Township Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred about 2:40 p.m. on Algoma Avenue, between 13 Mile Rd and Rector, just south of the Algoma Township Hall. One of the cars involved was a Ford Focus driven by a 35-year-old woman from Cedar Springs. Her two young children were in car seats in the backseat. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The two children were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The second vehicle involved was a Ford pickup truck driven by a 35-year-old man from Cedar Springs. He was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Algoma Fire Department, Life Ambulance, and Rockford Ambulance all assisted the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at the scene.

Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash. The incident is still under investigation. Names are being withheld pending notification of family. 

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Signs of Spring

We may have celebrated the first official day of spring Wednesday with snow flurries, but we are definitely seeing signs of spring! Sally Smith, of Nelson Township, said they saw robins in their yard over the weekend for the first time this year and sent us this photo of one. Some robins actually do spend the winter here and we get reports of sightings from time to time. But this is a great photo to help us think positive: Spring is coming! Thank you, Sally, for sending it to us!

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Police investigating fatal crash

A Morley woman was killed Sunday evening in Oakfield Township when the car she was driving crossed the centerline and struck a tractor trailer. 

According to the Michigan State Police Rockford Post, the crash occurred on 14 Mile Rd. west of Morgan Mills Ave. at approximately 11:30 p.m.  

Police said that the 46-year-old woman from Morley appeared to have been travelling eastbound on 14 Mile Rd. when she crossed the centerline and struck a westbound tractor-trailer driven by a 22-year-old man from Big Rapids.     

The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured. The female was deceased on scene. Her name has not yet been released pending notification of family.  

It is unknown if alcohol was a factor in the crash. 14 Mile Rd. was closed for several hours while the Michigan State Police investigated the crash. 

The Michigan State Police was assisted at the scene by Oakfield Township Fire, Bud’s Towing and Captain Hooks Towing.          

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Residents asked to complete school survey

Cedar Springs Public Schools is continuing to gather data for their strategic plan and would like to hear from residents of the district.  Superintendent Scott Smith and Board of Education President Heidi Reed recently sent out an email asking for residents of the district to take an online survey.

“We have listened to students, staff, parents, and community members in five different focus group meetings to create a meaningful set of qualitative data points. Our next step is to collect quantitative data from our various stakeholder groups to further clarify our school district’s strengths and opportunities to grow.  

We are asking for feedback from the Cedar Springs community. The perspectives shared by our community will clarify the focus of our District for our next series of short and long-term initiatives.  Your feedback will drive our work over the next three years as we follow our strategic plan. We will be conducting separate surveys with our staff and with our Red Hawk Elementary, Middle School and High School students.

Please share your thoughts through the survey by March 28th. Be assured that your answers will remain completely anonymous. Responses are only reported in aggregate. If you received this link as a parent of the district and have already completed this survey, please do NOT complete again.”

Please go to this link to start your survey. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CedarSpringsParents2019

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City installs drive up payment box

The Cedar Springs DPW has placed a drive up payment drop off box on the side of City Hall for anyone who would like to drop off a payment without leaving their car. 

Residents can also still use the payment slot near the front door if they like.

City Manager Mike Womack said they would see how well the public receives it before determining whether to keep it out there or where its final location should be. 

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Cossin Trust being terminated

By Judy Reed

For many years the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association has given to those in need in the community during the holidays with funds it receives from the trust left by the late Evelyn Cossin. In the future, they may have to come up with the funds some other way.

Bank of America no longer considers it viable and is exercising their right to terminate the Evelyn Cossin Trust. On February 14the Council approved for the city to sign the appropriate documents to terminate the trust and distribute the final assets of the trust.

There are several beneficiaries, including Silent Unity, Guideposts Foundation, West Lebanon Cemetery, the City of Cedar Springs, Chicago Theological Seminary, and the Town of Cedar Springs. 

According to City Finance Director Darla Falcon, the city’s portion is forwarded to the Ministerial Association for the holiday distribution of gifts to those in need. The last check received from the trust was in October 2017 for $1,554.68.

The Post asked Pastor Craig Owens, of the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association what they might do in the future to fund the holiday giving.

“We typically have received $1,000 per year. In December 2018 we simply gave money away out of our general fund, in the anticipation that we would receive a check. I believe the heart of all of our pastors is to find practical and tangible ways to address the needs of people in our city and surrounding community. We haven’t made any firm plans going forward, as we are still unsure of what the closing of this fund will actually mean to us,” he said.

In addition to the trust, Cossin also left a $15,000 CD in a separate account, with the interest to be used for the city streetlights, including the lights on the large Chrismas tree at the Reep family home at 427 Northland Drive, at the south end of town. Cossin was the former owner of the home, and used to decorate the tree each Christmas in red and white lights. The city has continued that tradition. When she died several years ago, she left the CD that helps the city with a portion of the expenses to maintain the tree each holiday season. The interest from the CD last year was $231; and so far this year it is $186. The City paid Mr. Reep $216 to light the tree last year and paid $400 to a tree service to replace to fix the bulbs. On average the City pays about $500 per year to light the tree and other Christmas lights downtown. 

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Poison prevention week

Kent County encourages residents to safely dispose of unused hazardous materials during National Poison Prevention Week 

National Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23 and Kent County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and (the Kent County) Health Department (KCHD) are encouraging community members to safely dispose of unused, potentially poisonous medicines, chemicals and used needles through the various SafeHomes programs, including SafeMeds, SafeChem and SafeSharps. 

“Through these collaborative programs, residents can safely dispose of hazardous products and keep their home safe without the dangers of misuse, accidental poisonings or environmental harm,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer at KCHD.  

“Kent County residents who take these preventative steps in their homes are protecting young children, loved ones, pets and the environment from hazardous materials.” 

Every year, America’s 55 poison centers receive millions of calls and the majority are about people coming into contact with dangerous or potentially dangerous substances, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. 

Through the SafeHomes programs, residents can safely dispose of unused or unneeded poisonous and hazardous materials. According to the Kent County DPW, a product is considered hazardous if it has one or more of the following properties:

Toxic – poisonous or lethal when ingested, touched or inhaled;

Flammable – ignitable and burns easily;

Corrosive – eats through materials and living tissue; or 

Reactive – can possibly explode or react with other chemicals;

Dangerous – poses health or injury risk to people, pets or the environment if not handled properly.

Examples of poisonous hazards may include detergents and cleaning supplies, medicines and pharmaceuticals, insect repellents, oils and fuel, batteries, needles and more. 

“Most landfills are not equipped to handle hazardous materials and placing them in the trash or down the drain could lead to injuries to waste handling personnel, fires or harm to the environment,” said Dar Baas, Director of the Department of Public Works. “We are committed to protecting public health through the responsible disposal of hazardous materials and we encourage residents to properly dispose of these materials when they are no longer needed.” 

There are SafeChem drop-off locations for home chemicals in Kentwood, Grand Rapids, Rockford and Wyoming. They are available for all Kent County residents to use at no cost. For hours and contact information, visit www.MIsafehomes.org. 
SafeMeds Program drop-off locations for prescription and over-the-counter medications include many local pharmacies and law enforcement agencies. These drop-off locations are for any resident to use at no cost. For more information, visit www.MIsafehomes.org. 

SafeSharps drop-off locations for used needles, lancets or other injection devices are at all KCHD clinics. These drop-off locations are for any Kent County resident to use at no cost. For more information, visit www.MIsafehomes.org.

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Surging gas prices rise to highest level in months

Michigan has largest increase in nation

GasBuddy reported this week that the national average price of gasoline has risen 35 cents per gallon since January to $2.58 per gallon and now stands at its highest level since November as seasonal changes and refinery problems push prices higher. Yet as prices rise across the country, the pain has not been equal from state-to-state.

Gas prices in the Midwest have seen a large surge in recent weeks with average gas prices in Michigan leading the nation, rising 75 cents per gallon from their 2019 low. The price in Cedar Springs was $2.82 Wednesday.

The next highest jumps have been Ohio, up 67 cents; Illinois, up 64 cents; Indiana, up 59 cents; and Wisconsin, up 54 cents. Florida joined the Midwest with average prices up 53 cents from their 2019 low. Average gas prices in every state have begun to move higher, with the biggest pinch coming at pumps in the Midwest, South, Southeast and mid-Atlantic states. The West Coast, however, has escaped the biggest hikes—for now.

“It’s been nothing short of madness at the pumps since early January with retail gasoline prices on a tear, especially in the Great Lakes,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Excess inventory of winter gasoline paved the way for deep discounts in some states after the holidays, and now with the transition to cleaner, more expensive summer gasoline underway, supply has tightened, and those previous deep discounts have vaporized. The news doesn’t get much better either: motorists can expect the jumps at the pump to continue into April, and perhaps even lasting up to Memorial Day, when the transition to summer gasoline and refinery maintenance have generally wrapped up.”

Oil prices have also had an impact on rising prices, albeit a smaller role than refinery maintenance and the transition to summer gasoline. OPEC countries along with Russia have continued to limit output in an effort to boost prices, which have recently risen to a four-month high, just shy of $59 per barrel. Ongoing turmoil in Venezuela is also playing a role in rising oil prices, thanks to a near country-wide electricity outage that curbed the country’s ability to export crude oil.

The United States EPA mandates specifications for gasoline on refiners each year from May 1-September 15 in most areas, while some areas like California introduce summer gasoline earlier in the year and keep it well into autumn. Once the transition is completed in May and refiners boost production following maintenance, gas prices may ease, but they still are likely to rise further until then.

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City to vote on West Street MDOT grant

By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs is holding its annual budget workshop Thursday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at City Hall, and will also vote on resolution of support connected to a potential MDOT grant for the West Street extension project.

According to City Manager Mike Womack, the West Street extension project is to open about 55 acres of City property for a business park development. “The project would extend West Street about 600 feet south from where it currently becomes dirt road and ends in a cul de sac at that point.  The cul de sac is situated to give access to the greatest number of parcels for later on when the property is sold off to developers.” 

Womack said that the overall project cost is approximately $1.6 million dollars. “We expect 60 percent of that amount to be paid for with grant money. The remaining 40 percent is expected to be paid for by selling off the land to developers. Under current market rates we should be able to at minimum break even on this project. The City benefits not only from the jobs that a business park would bring in but also the property taxes that would be paid on those parcels after they are developed,” he explained.

The plan originally was to extend the road all the way to 16 Mile Rd, but Womack said it would’ve been substantially more expensive ($4 million-plus), with little benefit. 

The grant from the MDOT program is called TEDF Category B and must be submitted prior to April 5th to be eligible. The grant application requires that the City Council approve a Resolution of Support for the application, which states that the City is committed to the funding and long term maintenance of the project after it is built. Since the Regular Council meeting isn’t until after April 5, Womack will ask the Council to approve the Resolution at the budget meeting on March 21.  

“If we are approved for this grant, it would cover approximately $96,000 of the West Street road extension when we get that project under way,” he explained.

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