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Archive | City Hall Corner

Happy Independence Day

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

World War 1, The Great War, seems so very remote to us now, occurring over a 100 years ago, between 1914 and 1918. That war introduced a new type of mechanical warfare that the world had never seen before with its machine guns and mass artillery bombardments that lasted for days or weeks at a time. That war changed the world in ways that are still felt down to today.  Of the many atrocities that occurred in that war, one thing sticks out in my mind and that is the slow realization of the reality of something then called “shell shock” but now generally known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Early in the war, “shell shock” was thought to be a wimpiness or a lack of moral fiber brought on by the percussive action of artillery shells landing near soldiers.  Many combat soldiers were abused by commanding officers, put on trial and executed for “cowardice” for what we now know to be a psychiatric disorder that the American Psychiatric Association says can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, heart attack, rape or other violent personal assault.  In fact, as many as 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetimes.  Some symptoms of modern PTSD include extreme vigilance, nightmares, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, social isolation, sadness, fear and anger.

So, what does that all have to do with Independence Day and our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that fireworks can be fun but they can also be dangerous and please be mindful of your friends, family and neighbors who may not enjoy your fireworks as much as you do.  Persons who suffer from PTSD often dread the fireworks of Independence Day, which may inadvertently cause them to “relive” their traumatic event because the firework sounds like an IED, gunshot or screaming.  

So, while you are celebrating the colonial grievances against King George III,  please consider some basic fireworks safety tips such as: always have adult supervision; only use fireworks when sober; keep safe distances; keep fireworks safely away from flammable materials including dry grass; keep a bucket of water or hose readily available; never hold a lit firework or point fireworks at people or animals; and leave all roads clear so that emergency services can get through in a hurry.  

Finally, please consider using pretty fireworks but avoid loud fireworks. Combat veterans and dogs everywhere will thank you. 

Fireworks may be used in the City of Cedar Springs on a national holiday and the day before and after that holiday but not between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. on those days.

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City Hall Corner

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

Citizens of Cedar Springs,

The last few months have been bizarre in the world, and we have felt the effects of it here locally too.   A horrible disease has sickened and killed many, civil rights protests have been marred by violence and both resulted in stay at home orders, closed businesses and curfews. Having to stay at home, not going to school or work, not being able to see friends or family and not being able to visit your favorite restaurants for a sit-down meal has been a very frustrating experience all around for everybody.

City Hall staff have continued to work throughout this whole ordeal as essential workers.  We have practiced social distancing, wear masks as required, lots of hand-washing and sanitizing to keep everybody at City Hall healthy and safe.  As we reopen City Hall this week, we will be implementing new safety guidelines such as asking non-essential business still be conducted by phone or e-mail, continued use of the payment drop boxes and please wear a mask if you enter City Hall. The Public Library will also be charting a course to safely reopening soon with their safety guidelines and we all look forward to serving the citizens of our community in-person again. 

Over the next several weeks we will be seeing a slow return to normal-ish with the business community as well.  Bars and restaurants will be able to start limited sit-down service in addition to their continued take-away options.  Most retail stores will be open with a limited capacity and other businesses will be reopened with new safety precautions as the COVID19 threat diminishes.  These new precautions that businesses will be implementing are for the safety of both the public and for the businesses own staff. Please help keep everybody safe by following the implemented safety precautions at our local businesses.  Please practice empathy and be slow to anger if things aren’t being done as quickly as they used to be or if small mistakes are made, this is all kind of new to all of us.  Also, please think twice before posting complaints to social media instead of addressing your concerns with the business itself, there was a time when that was the normal way of handling issues.  

Finally, this has been an odd time for planning beautification and entertainment activities in Cedar Springs.  Several events have been canceled and some delayed, including the City’s inaugural concert series at the new amphitheater and the painting of a mural in downtown.  The Sand Lake 4th of July celebration was canceled, the Red Flannel Festival is reviewing its options for October and the Public Library’s start of summer reading program celebration is likely to be toned down.  However, the American Flags are up on Main St., the DDA is planting flowers and volunteers are set to build an off-leash dog area at Riggle Park.

The problems that we have faced individually and as a community this year have been strong but we are much Cedar stronger; I believe that unity is our strength.  Please, support our local businesses as they reopen and please follow safety precautions for the health and safety of all persons.  I am eager to visit our hometown businesses and hope to see you there shopping, eating and drinking too.

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Hold the line

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

We are now entering our third official week of Michigan’s Executive Order 2020-21, the shelter in place quarantine order and we still have a long time to go, and that time is likely to be extended even longer.  New COVID-19 cases continue to rise and there are more deaths being reported every day, we are still very much in this fight. Weeks ago, this disease seemed to only affect China, Italy, New York City and Detroit. We now have it locally, in our community, in the City of Cedar Springs.

This increase in new cases and deaths may lead you to think that the quarantine isn’t working but it is. You may feel that not seeing your friends, family or co-workers because of the quarantine isn’t worth the social pain and loss; it is. You are probably depressed, stressed and discouraged, and ready to return to normal life—don’t. COVID-19 isn’t giving up the fight and neither should we. Stand fast and keep that social distance to the best of your ability. Maintain your strength and know that this temporary sacrifice is absolutely the right thing to be doing right now. Quarantine saves lives. Even when you see people in your community get sick and die, don’t give in to the temptation; maintain your separation.

While I am certainly no disease transmission expert, I do know what the words “quarantine” and “separation” mean.  I also know that studies show that there is a profound difference between “quarantining” and “kind of quarantining.” When you socialize at work with your coworkers and your kid has a play-date and your spouse has gone to the store six days in a row to pick up non-essentials you have all defeated the purpose of actual quarantining.  

Quarantining works. It does not work in some grandiose sweeping moment but is a collection of thousands upon thousands of decisions by individuals to hold the line over a long period of time. Even though things may appear bleak in the coming week(s), we need to “remember that we are not descended from fearful men” and that we will “not go gentle into that good night.”

Over the next several weeks, know what to expect, remember the importance of these social distancing measures for our community’s health and continue to persevere in this time of uncertainty. We have amazing friends, neighbors and community here and I encourage every single person to remain Cedar Strong.

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We’ll get through this together

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

There is an old curse that goes; “May you live in interesting times,” well, these are interesting times indeed. The Governor’s 2020-21 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order is unprecedented in our lives and sets a more serious tone for how we are expected to react to the COVID-19 disease. As necessary to protect and sustain human life, the Governor has ordered that all Michigan residents undertake a number of precautions including avoiding public and private gatherings, business operations closing except for minimum operations and the designation of certain businesses and employees as critical that are then able to continue working so long as they also practice COVID-19 safety precautions.  At City Hall, several persons are working remotely but we are operating and maintaining all critical infrastructure and services including fire, police and public works. Now, there are a number of clear exceptions to this statewide lockdown, including getting food or medical care but the overall goal is to reduce the likelihood of new infections being spread between people. Until at least April 13, don’t leave your house except for essential tasks and even then, maintain social distancing, avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently in line with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

So, what are we all supposed to be doing in the meanwhile? Well, first of all, thank-you to all of the persons that are deemed “critical” and must continue working—nurses, grocery store employees, police and wastewater treatment plant operators alike.  I know that there are going to be a lot of people suffering financially because of this mess, and I earnestly hope that at the end of all of this that you end up in a safe position and are treated with dignity and fairness. To the bosses and managers, I implore you to treat your employees the way that you would like to be treated and extend safety, charity and opportunity whenever possible simply because it is the right thing to do. For the parents with unexpectedly home-schooled children, I wish you the patience of a saint and the wisdom of the ancient philosophers for all those “why” questions that you’re going to endure.

To paraphrase Gandalf, it is not for us to choose what times we live through, we only get to decide what to do with the time that is given to us. My time will be spent managing the City and saying “yes dear’ every time my wife comes up with something to add to the honey-do list at home. I see the first plant buds are breaking through the soil in my garden and it’s about time to start jogging off that “city manager 15” that has accumulated by sitting down for 10-12 hours a day at the office. Even though I can’t go visit with friends or family for the next several weeks I plan on lots of phone calls, texting and maybe walk-n-talks while maintaining at least 6 feet of separation. I’ll be checking in on friends and neighbors who live by themselves and I’ll be trying to order more take-out food than usual from our local restaurants.

Whatever it is that you are planning on doing over the next several weeks, stay happy, healthy and safe. We’ll all get through this together.

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The City Council

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

The last two weeks I’ve discussed the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority. Today we’ll talk about the City Council, my boss(es).  There are two primary different types of local governments in the United States—the “Strong Mayor” form and the “Council-Manager” form. These two forms combine to account for 90 percent of all local governments. The Strong Mayor form is what people primarily think of when they think of local government, even though it is the less common version compared to Council-Manager. The Strong Mayor form seems to be more prevalent in huge cities like Chicago and Detroit, while Council-Manager is more common in smaller communities like Rockford, Sparta, Greenville and Cedar Springs.  

There are advantages to both forms of government but since Cedar Springs operates as a Council-Manager government we will be talking about how the Cedar Springs City Council (CC) works. The City Council is composed of seven City residents who all must be a “qualified elector” (See Mich Const Article II § 1 of 1963).  After each election, the CC members choose between themselves who shall serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Legally speaking, the Mayor is imbued with the power to run meetings; they are the ceremonial head of the government; they are the City’s conservator of the peace; and they shall authenticate all ordinances, motions and resolutions of the Council by their signature. The Mayor does not have any veto power over the Council but does have an equal voice and vote to every other member of the Council.  

The Mayor Pro Tem undertakes those same powers in the absence of the Mayor but in reality, they both share in representing the government in both a legal and ceremonial capacity. 

The other five councilpersons combine with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to undertake all “legislative or policy forming powers” in the City. While the City Council is the ultimate authority on virtually everything in the City, on a day-to-day basis, the CC employs a City Manager to run the administrative operations of the government. The CC hires a City Manager on the “basis of training and ability alone” and entrusts the City Manager to legally, ethically and effectively run the City on their behalf.  

The City Manager daily “steps into the shoes” of the Mayor and City Council and runs the City while following the laws, rules and policies that the CC has enacted throughout the years. In Cedar Springs, the City Manager communicates with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem on a frequent basis to discuss various major issues facing in the City. The City Manager works with the City Council to address citizen concerns. They work together to develop good laws and policies for the whole City but the City Manager has no vote on such matters and can only advise the Council. One important distinction to understand is that the City Manager does not work for the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem or any other individual councilperson but instead works for the Council as a group, requiring a consensus of four of seven of those persons to enact laws or policies.

Once a month, the City Manager and city hall staff brings various issues to the City Council for their review, discussion and approval. The Council reviews all the spending and finances of the City and gives the City Manager direction on how to proceed on various issues into the future. The City Council members will also bring issues and concerns that they have identified to the whole Council for the discussion and potential action (though, its generally quicker and easier for a citizen to approach City Hall to get any issues resolved). 

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about how the City Council operate please e-mail the City Manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or you can find more information about the City Council at https://cityofcedarsprings.org/city-council/. 

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Unsung Heroes: the Planning Commission

Many people don’t know how local governments work for the betterment of the community. I sure didn’t before I got involved in local government operations. In high school civics class, we are taught about the federal government with the President, the Courts and the Congress but nary a word about Mayors, City Councils, City Managers or the various working mechanisms of how things work at the local level. Very few people know the difference between a “Strong Mayor” government and a Council-Manager government.

I want to talk today about planning commissions (PC) and what that board and its members do for the City. PC’s are not a required board under state or local laws but a majority of municipalities use some form of a planning commission to lessen the burden on the City Council of running the City. The PC is generally tasked with the planning and zoning of a municipality according the rules outlined in both state and local laws, primary of which is the Zoning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3801). 

“Planning and zoning” is a shorthand way of saying that the PC helps establish goals and policies for directing and managing future growth and development in the City; including such things as location of growth, housing needs, and environmental protection.  Planning helps account for future demand for services, including sewers, roads, and fire protection and zoning is what helps keep factories away from homes and homes away from fast food restaurants.

Two of the primary tasks that the PC members work on are the approval of new development site plans and the in-depth review and recommendation of planning and zoning law changes to the City Council.  Site plan reviews are where the PC reviews the proposed plans for new developments and businesses to ensure that they are meeting all local rules and requirements (while not burdening businesses with overregulation). For instance, the PC makes sure that proposed driveways are safe, that dumpsters are enclosed and hidden from the public, that there is sufficient but not too much parking, that lighting is bright enough but not shining in your bedroom window and lots of other details about each new development. The second part, the in-depth review and recommendations on planning and zoning rule changes, are a major factor in boosting economic development, encouraging business and simultaneously ensuring that basic requirements are being met. The PC members spend a lot of time educating themselves and discussing what are the best practices and best methods to ensure high-quality development in the City.  

The PC members all live inside the City, work regular jobs and represent a good cross-section of the population. They are appointed by the City Council and they work with the City Planner, City Engineer, City Attorney and Zoning Administrator to get their job done. PC membership is an awesome way to serve the community and lots of PC members go on to serve on the City Council in an elected role. Their job isn’t easy and their decisions don’t always make everybody happy but they are hard working and looking out for the best and long-term interests of the City.  If we go by the definition of “doing great deeds but receiving little or no recognition,” that well defines the Planning Commission.  

Their meetings are always open to the public and they like when people come to watch. The Cedar Springs PC usually meets once a month on the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall. Their agendas and packets are available on the City’s website and their meetings are broadcast live and recorded on Youtube so you can watch all that excitement in your pjs at home if you would prefer. Finally, all those rumors about where that new store might go or whether that hole in the ground will become a gas station or a carwash—talk  to a PC member, they’ll probably know.

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Busy-busy small-town Cedar Springs

City Hall Corner

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

During the 2019 Red Flannel Festival I was approached by somebody who hadn’t been in town for 5 years and they put it perfectly and succinctly when they said: “Boy, things sure have changed in Cedar.”

The last several years have seen lots of positive changes in Cedar Springs, the new library and amphitheater building, new sidewalks, newly built homes, lots of new businesses and changes in leadership at both the school district and the city government. With all of the changes that have occurred over the last couple of years I think that it is important to keep the public informed about various other projects being worked on in the City. Some of the things going on in the City include:

Cedar Springs Dental at 20 East Church St. is in site plan review to enlarge the size of their building.

O’Reilly Auto Parts is in site plan review to build a new store at 4288 17 Mile Road (south of the Taco Bell).

Kent County just announced a $12.5 million dollar, 30,000 square foot facility at 4233 17 Mile Road (between Taco Bell and Advanced Auto) which will house police operations and health clinic services, expected to open in late 2021.

The Cedar Springs New Fire Station is accepting bids and should break ground this year with an anticipated Spring 2021 opening.

The Cedar Springs West Street project to develop a business park is currently in engineering and expected to break ground and finish in Fall, 2020.

The Holiday Inn Express being built on White Creek Ave. expects to open May 15th, 2020.

City Hall is working with the Downtown Development Authority and supporting sponsors to develop a summer music and entertainment series to be played at the Heart of Cedar Springs Amphitheater starting in June, 2020.

City Hall is trying to design and arrange for funding for a dog park in Riggle Park and for a new basketball court in Morley Park.

The City Council has asked to see an ordinance to review that would allow marijuana businesses to operate in the City.

The City is again looking forward to the “Run Michigan Cheap” folks for their runs on June 27th and a local group is working on developing a large bicycle race with music and beer.

City Hall is trying to identify a good location and funding for a splash pad in the city (splash pads are surprisingly expensive and hard to find a good location for).

City Hall is working with the Community Building Development team to design, fund and install a natural playground in the Heart of Cedar Springs (near the amphitheater).

The Downtown Development Authority is reviewing options for public art in the downtown, including options such as a wall mural or sculptures.

The Downtown Development Authority is looking at options for new trash cans and benches to line Main St. to update the streetscape and Main St. image.

Second St. is scheduled for resurfacing similar to what was done on First St. in 2019. Several blocks of local streets will also be resurfaced in 2020.

In 2021, the Main Street Bridge between Pine St. and Oak St. is expected to be rebuilt. This is likely to cause significant rerouting around the area for a lengthy period of time.

In 2023, Main Street from Church St. north to 18 Mile (minus the bridge area) will be resurfaced. This project should only take a couple of days.

Lots of other good stuff going on but these are some of the highlights.  If you have questions, thoughts or concerns about any of these projects or other things going on in the City, feel free to contact me at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org

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Pee-eww, rotten egg smell

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager 

A common complaint that City Hall receives is about the smell of rotten eggs/sulphur, that the scent is just lingering in the air, indoors or outside, or that it is associated with the water supply.  There are three major sources that may contribute to the smell of rotten eggs in a home or apartment and those are a natural gas leak, sewer drain lines and hot water heaters.

Natural gas, which is used to heat your home and is used to cook on your stove, does not have a natural scent.  Due to the flammable nature of natural gas, the utility providers add a smell to it using a harmless but stinky sulfur-compound, mercaptan, to make it easier to detect.  If you suspect that you might have a natural gas leak it is important to track it down and stop the leak, check all of your gas appliances and their connections, turn off natural gas valves and contact your utility provider for additional support.

A sewer drain line can cause a rotten egg smell indoors or outdoors, although both are fairly rare.  Indoor plumbing uses several techniques for preventing sulphur gases from entering the home but some common problems are a dry P-trap, a crack/break in the drain line or a plug or backup in the sewer line.  The P-trap is the little squiggly-thingy under your sinks and showers. Its task is to trap water and the water then prevents sewer gases from exiting up through your drain line.  If that P-trap is dry or broken in some way, it won’t work properly.  Make sure that your P-traps are holding water and aren’t cracked or compromised.  Also, you may need to check your sewer line into your basement or crawl space and make sure that it isn’t leaking anywhere.  Drain line plugs happen rarely (more often if you flush “disposable” wipes or any of the other weird stuff we find in the sewers) but a sewer blockage can be a huge problem for your home.  If you have water back-flowing into your home, please call the Department of Public Works as soon as possible so that they can assist you.  Unfortunately, the blockage often occurs in the sewer lateral, the part maintained by the homeowner between the home and the main sewer line (and the homeowner would have to pay to fix) but the Department of Public Works is happy to help diagnose the problem and help where they can.  If your plumbing is functioning correctly, you shouldn’t smell the sewer inside your home.  If you catch that sulphur odor outdoors in the community, please call the Department of Public Works (616-696-1330) and report where that smell is occurring.

Finally, sometimes there is a distinct rotten egg odor in your home’s water but that funk is almost never a problem with the water supply itself.  The City’s water supply does not have any kind of natural egg stink and none of the water treatment adds that type of fragrance to the water.  Rotten egg smell in your home’s water is almost always a problem with the home’s hot-water heater, usually the anode rod.  The anode rod in your hot water heater protects the insides of your water heater from several things and one of those things is hydrogen sulfide, a gas created by bacteria often found inside water heaters.  If you smell rotten eggs/sulphur in your water, check to see if it is in your hot water heater. Anode rods only last a couple of years and then need to be replaced.  This can be especially true in multi-family housing where multiple dwelling units share a water heater.  You can also ask your next-door neighbors if they are having a rotten egg stench in their water. If nobody else is having it, it’s probably coming from inside your house.  If the sulphur smell persists in your cold-water supply, please let the Department of Public Works know about it so they can check that area of the City for problems.

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The joy of “Merry Christmas” (or Happy Festivus as the case may be)

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

Unlike Mudville, there is plenty of joy to be had in Cedar Springs throughout the winter season. The trees on Main St. are lit up, storefronts and homes are decorated, the music on the radio is exuberant and at least one local shop owner has been waiting for December 25th for about 364 days.  I’m happy to see all the activities going on in the City this time of year, cookie decorating, sleigh rides and visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Library. While I normally shop local, I make sure to especially purchase holiday presents from the local stores that are present in the community all year round.  Also, when you shop in town, you don’t have to worry about porch pirates stealing deliveries off your porch.

This time of year, I consider myself very lucky to have significant diversity in my friends and family and I love that I get to help them celebrate all the different holidays and variations on holidays that exist in December. I always like to learn about how other people celebrate holidays and I will sometimes add those new celebrations into my own celebrations.

In Central Europe, Saint Nicholas’ naughty half-demon half-goat companion Krampus punishes misbehaving children while Saint Nicholas rewards good boys and girls with presents. In Japan, where locals don’t celebrate Christmas, many Japanese celebrate with a fried chicken dinner on Christmas day from Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.   In Germany, shoes left outside are filled with candy and presents.  In Norway, families hide their brooms to prevent witches from stealing them for a ride on Christmas Eve.  Some American Christmas traditions include putting up more outdoor decorative lights than your neighbor, making gingerbread houses, ugly sweater parties, public readings of the “A Visit From St. Nicholas” poem, Christmas at the zoo, Christmas tamales, Mele Kalikimaka, Elfapalooza, Christmas Markets, pub crawls, fireworks and hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree (amongst many many more). Each family has their own traditions and while my family doesn’t hide a pickle in our tree, I like that everyone has fun in their own different and special way.  

I also love that so many different religions and different groups celebrate in their own individual ways in December. Kwanzaa celebrates seven days of principles including Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Kwanzaa is celebrated with libations, decorating the home with colorful art and wearing beautiful Kente clothing. Festivus is celebrated with a Festivus pole, airing of grievances, joining in feats of strength, and celebrating Festivus miracles. Hanukkah is observed with the lighting of candles on the menorah, singing, latke pancakes, sufganiyot doughnuts and chocolate gelt. Boxing day is celebrated by my commonwealth friends with shopping and sports and the winter’s solstice is celebrated with good acts, donations to needy causes and a recognition and remembrance of the importance of Mother Earth in human lives.

So, in light of the different beliefs and celebrations that my friends, family and community members celebrate, I wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad, Joyous Kwanzaa, Io, Saturnalia, Happy Festivus, Mele Kalikimaka, Happy Chalica, Happy Bodhi Day, Happy Humanlight, Blessed Yule, Soulful Blue Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  

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Porch Pirates and the Neighborhood Watch

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

It is no secret that I love senior citizens. Our elders have been there before, they’ve already made that mistake and can help you avoid making it, they know the way through the maze and they tend to take a more historical perspective on the problems of the moment. Retired persons are some of the most reliable volunteers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with as they have the time, knowledge and desire to continue being productive members of society. Every time I vote, its almost entirely the older ladies working to make sure everything runs smoothly at the precinct, ensuring the safety of our democracy.

The love and respect that I have for our seniors, however, is tempered by the fact that there is no more effective neighborhood watch on the planet than neighborhood grandparents. When I was a little boy, I used to get in trouble with my parents for something that I did blocks away from my home. It wasn’t until I was older that my parents informed me that the neighborhood grandparents kept a watchful eye on all the neighborhood kids and kept the parents informed of their kid’s misdeeds.  

Which leads me to the topic of the day and that is porch pirates—especially in these December weeks leading up to the holidays. With postal services delivering packages to porches on a daily basis, there is always the possibility that there is a “porch pirate” seeking to rob you of your deliveries. Porch pirates are criminals who will steal deliveries off front porches hoping to steal something expensive. This crime has become more prevalent over the last several years due to the increase in e-commerce and has caught the eye of the Michigan government, which recently passed a new law making the punishment for committing this box-banditry more severe. Under the new law, which takes effect this month, if somebody intentionally steals any piece of mail from another person, the first offence shall be punished with up to a year in jail, any second or subsequent offense shall be punished by up to five years in prison.

So, while these stiffer punishments are likely to deter some people from being package plunderers, it is not the complete solution to the problem. To help defeat seasonal swipers we should all keep track of our online purchase deliveries, install recording cameras for your porches (doorbell cameras are very popular), know and look out for your neighbors, keep an eye on suspicious behavior and thank our neighborhood seniors who form the best neighborhood watch that anyone can ask for.  

Please call and report suspicious behavior to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at their non-emergency phone number of 616-632-6100 or call 911 if you see a crime being committed or any other emergency.

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Property Taxes and Proposal “A”

In 1994, Michigan voters approved the constitutional amendment known as Proposal “A.” Proposal “A” established Taxable Value as the basis for the calculation of property taxes, in place of the previous Assessed Value. Under Proposal “A”, increases in Taxable Value are limited to the percent change in the rate of inflation (Consumer Price Index) or 5 percent, whichever is less for the year, in other words, your home’s taxable value never increases more than 5% each year and is often less. However, this does not apply in a year that the property is sold when the home’s taxable value is set at 50 percent of its cash value for the new homeowner.

Every year, prior to the March meeting of the local Board of Review, the Assessor will mail each homeowner a Notice of Assessment that includes information about each home such as the tentative taxable value, State Equalized Value, any exemptions and information related to any ownership transfers.  The notice will also include information related to the Board of Review, which is a local board of citizens that hears appeals regarding property taxable values and other property tax matters.

So, how do you know what your property taxes are going to be next year? The first place that you start is figuring out the current taxable value of your home. Thankfully, the City keeps that information online for you to look at any time through our BS&A software, just go to the City’s website and click on the “Click to Pay” button under “Pay Bill.” You then click on “Assessing Search” on the left-hand side and input your home address into the search bar, this will bring up information related to the assessed value, taxable value and tax bills for previous years. For example, a home with a taxable value of $56,220 could only see their taxable value go up $56,220 X 1.05=$59,031 maximum if it were to go up the full 5 percent.  However, the most recent Consumer Price Index was 2 percent so the home will likely see its taxable value increase from $56,220 X 1.02=$57,344.  Then, to determine the actual tax bill, you would divide the taxable value by 1000 and multiply it by the millage rate. The millage rate in the City is expected to increase approximately 3.4 mills next year due to the fire station vote, which brings the total millage rate in the City to approximately 47.5411 mills.  This means that a home with a taxable value of $56,220 that paid $2,378.37 in Summer taxes last year will see its taxable value increase to $57,344 and pay approximately $2,726 in Summer taxes next year.  This same math formula can be used for other proposed millage requests such as the recent school bond request, which purported to raise the millage rate 0.9 mills.  To determine how that would affect your home’s taxes, you would take your taxable value, divide it by 1000 and multiply it by 0.9 or in the case of the $56,220 home it would be 56.22 X 0.9=$50.60 tax increase for the year or under the estimated next year taxable value of $57,344 it would be 57.344 X 0.9=$51.61 tax increase.

As a side note, sometimes banks will increase your home’s required escrow payments to cover expected property taxes, PMI and homeowner’s insurance payments. Your bank’s estimate of escrow payments for the year could be high or low compared to actual costs and may result in a refund or a shortage bill at the end of the year, the City has no control over what your bank does with escrow payments.

As always, City Hall staff are happy to help try and answer any questions you might have related to property taxes, please call 616-696-1330 and we can assist you.

Posted in City Hall Corner, NewsComments Off on Property Taxes and Proposal “A”

The Devil’s lettuce

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

The City recently hosted a public forum regarding the issue of recreational marijuana this past November 15 at the Library. I used the forum as an opportunity to educate those in attendance about what the recreational marijuana law allows and doesn’t allow and also to ask for input from those in attendance about what types of businesses citizens might like to see be permitted in the City.

The main questions that I asked for input on and that I am still looking for input on are:

1. What types of marijuana businesses should the City consider allowing in the City?

2. In which zoning districts should we allow the various types of marijuana businesses?

3. How many of each marijuana business should the City consider allowing?

Due to time constraints there simply wasn’t sufficient time to enable each participant to both provide answers to these questions and also to explain why they chose that answer.

A fair argument can be made for or against each of the 8 marijuana businesses that are currently permissible under State law. Some might argue that a 2000 plant grower business is simply too big and potentially smelly to be in the City, others might counterargue that we should leave it to the business to determine if there exists a feasible property to operate the business and that there exists effective odor control technologies to prevent marijuana odor from leaving the premises. Some will say that a designated consumption facility will enable dangerous drugged driving in the City while others would argue that it would provide a safe and fun atmosphere for marijuana smokers to imbibe, similar to a bar.

There are also pros and cons to which zoning districts might be appropriate for each type of proposed marijuana business. For instance, a microbusiness would likely do well in an industrial zoning district because of the size of building required for the business but on the other hand, industrial zoning districts are less ideal for the retail customer business side of a microbusiness.  Allowing dispensaries in the B2 district would likely increase customer traffic to the downtown area but it would also be “in the face” of everyone who is against marijuana businesses. Allowing retail dispensaries or microbusinesses in the B3 district makes the marijuana less visible to those who don’t want to see it but it makes the business less accessible and could create parking problems at or near the business.

Finally, there is the question of whether the City should limit the number of any marijuana businesses but specifically should it limit the number of retail dispensaries and microbusinesses in the City. Some say allow as many dispensaries and microbusinesses as anybody wants to open and let capitalism weed out the bad ones and others who think we should limit the number to 2 dispensaries and 2 microbusinesses or 4 dispensaries or only 1 microbusiness or no dispensaries or microbusinesses at all.

Anyhow, all these questions and more will be discussed at the second recreational marijuana public forum on December 12 from 5:30 to 7pm at the Cedar Springs Public Library located at 107 N Main St. If you cannot make that forum please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts at manager@cityofcedarsprings.com.

Posted in City Hall Corner, NewsComments Off on The Devil’s lettuce



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