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City of Cedar Springs water and sewer rates explained

 

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

By Mike Womack, City Manager of Cedar Springs

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

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

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

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

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Bald eagle overlooking Pine Lake

Recently we have received several photos of bald eagles in the area. This beautiful photo was taken by Tim Hindenach on April 4, when he spotted a bald eagle in the trees overlooking Pine Lake, in Nelson Township. Bald eagles tend to stay in areas where water is close by (fish is a favorite food), but will also prey on small rodents. They became rare in North America in the early to mid 1900s, and were added to the endangered species list in 1978. They were removed from that list in 2007.

To read about another bird that has made a dramatic comeback, go to our Outdoors section.

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Driver pleads no contest in fatal crash

Douglas Crystal, the at fault driver in the crash that killed Meranda Baguss, is shown here in his September 2017 mug shot from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

Meranda Baguss, who was killed in a car crash last September, is shown here with her twin boys, who were injured in that same crash. Photo from gofundme.com.

A Cedar Springs man that fled a crash last fall that killed a Sand Lake mother and critically injured her twin 5-year-old boys pled no contest this week to felony charges in the case and will now wait to be sentenced.

On September 15, 2017, at about 8:23 p.m., Douglas Crystal, 36, was traveling northbound on Ritchie Avenue at about 90 mph in his Ford F150 when he failed to stop at the stop sign at 15 Mile Road and slammed into a 2011 Ford Fusion traveling westbound on 15 Mile Rd. The crash killed the driver of the Ford Fusion, Meranda Baguss, 33, a 2003 graduate of Cedar Springs High School. Her five-year-old twins, Chauncey and Tony Anthony III, were in the back seat in their car seats, and were critically injured. They were taken to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids with life-threatening head injuries.

Crystal, who was reportedly on his way home from a golf outing, fled the scene. He hid from police for about 8 hours before finally being arrested.

On Monday, April 9, he pled no contest to charges of operating while intoxicated causing death, a 15-year felony; failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death, also a 15-year felony; and operating while intoxicated causing serious injury, a five-year felony.

He is expected to be sentenced May 3.

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Board chooses firm to lead superintendent search

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education took their first step toward finding a new superintendent when they voted 5-0 in a special meeting Tuesday evening to have Michigan Leadership Institute (MLI) facilitate the search.

The board heard presentations by both the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and MLI. The costs were comparable from both agencies ($6,500 plus expenses). Gary Rider, regional president of MLI, will lead the search and said his expenses (mileage, copying) would not go over $800 since he lives nearby (Comstock Park).

Rider was a former Superintendent at Thornapple Kellogg, and also worked in the West Ottawa and Kenowa Hills School Districts. He said that MLI is made up of former Superintendents who cover regional districts where they served, so they know many of the Superintendents and/or administrators out there.

Rider went through what process he would use, including an online survey for the staff and community regarding what they wanted to see in a new superintendent, as well as face-to-face meetings with focus groups. From there they would create a profile of what they were looking for. The community would also be involved in the actual interviews by giving written feedback after each one.

He reminded the board that they each represented the entire community—not just a specific segment—and that they needed to get this right. “Your process is critical. If you don’t do this right, a bomb will go off in this community,” he warned.

Rider told the board that there was a reason he wanted to lead the search here—he has a personal stake in it. Rider said he has two son-in-laws who were best friends in school and who both graduated from Cedar Springs, and their families are still here.

“If I don’t get this done right, I won’t be welcome at Thanksgiving dinner,” he remarked.

Board members liked that they met who would lead their search, as opposed to MASB, who would appoint someone. They also liked the passion he showed and felt they could trust Rider to give more guidance.

One area where some of the board didn’t seem quite as comfortable was with the timeline Rider presented. He gave them an estimated timeline of 9 weeks, with selection of a Superintendent mid-June, so as to get someone in place by July. Trustee Traci Slager questioned more than once whether moving that quickly was the best thing.

Vice President Matt Shoffner said he liked the timetable, but that the correct process is huge. “I think there would be some leeway if we wanted to extend it a couple of weeks,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we’re not comfortable with who we get, we can push it back. Or even with community feedback, we can hear and respond.”

Secretary Brook Nichols also said she thought there was some wiggle room on the timetable. “I’d rather take our time and be thorough,” she said.

During public comment time, Sue Wolfe told the board she was happy to hear the open dialogue between the members. She also cautioned the board that with so much going on—board member and administrative slots to fill—that maybe they should slow the process down.

Teacher Libby Metiva also told the board that she was proud to see the way the board interacted, with the tone being light and the comments insightful. “No one monopolized the conversation,” she said.

 In other board news, trustee Tim Bauer, who was appointed in December, resigned his position on the board. He was not attendance, but did send a letter of resignation. The board voted to accept it, 5-0. Treasurer Shannon Vanderhyde was not in attendance.

Bauer had announced late last month he would resign, after public outcry over comments on his personal Facebook page and at the March 26 board meeting condemning those who wanted former Superintendent Laura VanDuyn to resign.

In his resignation letter, he said that it has been both an honor and a challenge to be appointed a board member. “Believing that I have fulfilled in a short time period my calling from God in this position, it has been made clear that I am now to resign.” He went on to quote an article by Craig D. Lounsbrough titled “Consequences: We are the Cause.” He said it encapsulated what he wanted to say. You can view Bauer’s entire letter on our website at www.cedarspringspost.com.

The board has 30 days to fill his position. As of Wednesday, April 11, no announcement had yet been made on when they would start taking applications for it.

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City sewer line repair starts April 16

W. Muskegon between Fifth and Seventh St

Drivers who travel on West Muskegon Street will want to avoid the area of road between Fifth and Seventh Streets for about the next three weeks while a sewer line is replaced.

According to Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack, the City Department of Public Works staff recently identified a sewer line break underneath Muskegon Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. “While repairing that sewer break, the next section of pipe in the line crumbled as a result of the work being done on the first break,” he explained. “Upon further inspection, that entire section of concrete pipe was determined to be in very poor condition and likely to have continuous breaks in the line until it is replaced. The City has decided to replace that whole section of line of about 500 feet from Fifth Street to Seventh Street to prevent more emergency repairs.”  

Womack said that the two recent emergency repairs cost approximately $30,000 and the sewer line replacement is expected to cost approximately $100,000. This sewer replacement project is expected to start on April 16 and will last for about 3 weeks.  

“As was done with the emergency repairs, Muskegon St. will likely have the eastbound travel lane closed down; the DPW will try to keep the center lane open for eastbound traffic but may be forced to divert traffic as the work dictates,” said Womack. “The City asks that you plan your travels to avoid this section of road, if possible, from April 16th for approximately 3 weeks.”

Womack explained that the sewer pipes in the City consist of a mixture of different types of materials, including concrete, clay tile and a small amount of PVC pipe. 

“Each sewer line was placed into the ground at different times and each different pipe is acted upon by different forces that affect its lifespan prior to breakage occurring. The sewer line in question is concrete and was placed in the ground around 1950. Concrete sewer lines have an expected lifespan of 50-75 years but this number can be significantly reduced by many factors such as soil and air characteristics, installation specifics, velocities in a sewer line, detention times, temperatures within the pipe, electrical currents in the surrounding soil, the presence of toxic materials (metals can reduce bacterial activity), acidity of the sewage, and turbulence amongst other factors. The City has ongoing sewer testing and maintenance that helps reduce these breaks and is currently involved in a grant-subsidized process to televise and identify all pipes in the City so that we can schedule replacing pipes that are in poor condition before they break.

“Water and sewer line breaks are obviously something we try to avoid and are something that require immediate fixing if they occur.  The water and sewer systems are almost entirely self-funding and their user fees are what pay for the pumping, treatment and transportation of the municipal water and also the collection, transportation and cleaning of the sewage that leaves houses and businesses. City staff also spends a significant amount of time testing and monitoring the water and sewer systems to ensure that there are minimal downtimes and that the water is safe to drink and the sewage is made safe before being released back into the environment. No tax dollars are used to pay for this process.”

Next week Womack will talk about the history of the city’s water and sewer rates and how they are set.

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The Post travels to Las Vegas

Photo by Clint Conley

The Conley family took the Post and flew into Las Vegas, Nevada over spring break. They then traveled the full length of Arizona and back. Pictured is Pam and Caelun Conley in front of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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En Gedi holds auction; creates memorial scholarship

 

The En Gedi Auction is always a successful event.

The family of Marilyn Magnuson was on hand to share stories about her at the En Gedi Auction. From L to R: Craig Carter, Michelle (Magnuson) Carter, and Matt Magnuson.

The 2018 En Gedi Auction held at the Cedar Springs High School on Friday, March 23 was another successful event. Numerous donations from area businesses including furniture, wood pellets, tools, home furnishings, food and entertainment certificates, and collective sports memorabilia were some of the items included in the silent and live auctions. En Gedi is a Cedar Springs non-profit Christ-centered organization focused on building community and providing our young people with a safe and fun place to hang out. 

“Our community continues to support the En Gedi Mission, which the entire team is very grateful for,” commented John Huffman, Chairman of this year’s event. “We want to thank all those who participated and especially CS Manufacturing for their leadership and matching donation.”

The Silent Auction helps fund En Gedi throughout the year.

Appetizers from Red Rock Grill were served and games were available to play prior to the live auction.  

En Gedi announced the creation of the Marilyn Magnuson Memorial Scholarship. Magnuson was a founding member of En Gedi in 2009 and continued to serve both at the youth center and on the board until health issues forced her to resign. Some of the Magnuson Family were on hand to share stories of the late Marilyn Magnuson and her passion for introducing Jesus to young people. Magnuson was an art teacher and evangelist with a special heart for the youth. Memorial donations were requested to be made to En Gedi along with funds earned from her various art featured at the 2018 auction. The scholarships will be awarded to young people needing funding assistance to attend a Christ-centered camp, mission trip, or conference in varying amounts. Applications can be obtained from Pastor Craig Owens, the En Gedi Youth Center Executive Director or from Randy Badge, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee. 

The Men and Ladies of Honor directors presented information about their programs as they continue to work with En Gedi. This program offers students the opportunity to deepen their faith and build meaning relationships with other young people on their faith journey.

Along with providing a free after-school youth center for 6-8th graders at Red Hawk Elementary, En Gedi will be showing the movie God’s Not Dead 2 on Tuesday, May 29 and Wednesday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m., and then God’s Not Dead 3, if available, on June 11 and 12 at Kent Theatre in Cedar Springs. All movies will be provided free of charge. A summer concert featuring the group Out of Darkness is also planned for Thursday, July 26. Watch the Cedar Springs Post for more details.

The En Gedi youth center continues to look for community members willing to share their hobby, interest, or skill with our young people. Past presenters included teaching wood carving, guitar, various art forms, and sail boat building. Please contact Pastor Craig Owens at EnGediYouthCenter@gmail.com or at www.EnGediYouthCenter.com if you can share a few hours of your time.

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Earth Day Clean-up

 

The Community Building Development Team (CBDT) plans to clean up the new Heart of Cedar Springs park areas behind and alongside the library located between Pine, Main, and Maple Streets on Saturday, April 21 from 9 am to 1 pm. This is in honor of national Earth Day on Sunday, April 22. Volunteers are needed to help pick up rubbish, trim brush, and cut up trees as well as clean Cedar Creek in those areas of the City. Volunteers can just show up as their schedules permit and bring their own boots, gloves, rakes, shovels, and trimmers. 

The CBDT is also seeking volunteers to help clean up the North Country Trail (NCT) in the Cedar Springs Area on Saturday, April 21. Anyone interested in helping with this should contact Beth Keloneva, President of the Chapter, at 231-215-3552 for specific times and locations. 

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Beware of requests for wire transactions

 

A couple who were buying a home were victims in a wire fraud scam.

On April 5, the Kent County Sheriff Department took a report of a fraud involving a large dollar amount via wire transaction. Police said the victims were in the process of purchasing a new home and were scheduled to be closing on the home in the upcoming days. They received an email that appeared to be from their bank and one from their builder requesting their down payment be sent by wire rather than bringing a cashier’s check with them to closing. The email appeared to be legitimate and included information such as the address of the home they were purchasing, file number, and their builder’s information. The victims wired approximately $180,000 to what they believed was the title office.

The bank that received the wired funds felt the wire transfer was suspicious and contacted the victim to question it. After realizing the wire transfer destination was fraudulent, the victim contacted the Kent County Sheriff Department for assistance.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is urging citizens to use caution and make multiple inquiries, either in person or by telephone, prior to making large value wire transactions. Make every effort to contact your builder, realtor, title company, and closing office prior to engaging in any transactions not made in person. The stress of purchasing new homes and wanting transactions to go smoothly can make people more susceptible to these scams.

If you feel you have become a victim, it is important to contact law enforcement as soon as possible because there are times the wire transfers can be stopped.

If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616-632-6100.

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Adopt-A-Highway begins April 14

 

The JCI Meadowbrook and Battery Test Facility team during the spring pickup in 2017.

Highway roadsides across lower Michigan will get a spring cleaning beginning Saturday as volunteers in the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) program head out to pick up litter from April 14 to 22.

Due to snow still on the ground in some areas, the first Adopt-A-Highway pickup for the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula will be later, from April 28 to May 6.

“The thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers deserve our thanks for helping keep Michigan roadsides clean and attractive,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We all benefit from their community spirit and pride. We ask all motorists to watch out for the volunteers and drive carefully during the pickup periods.”

Volunteers pick up litter three times each year. Statewide, there will be a summer pickup from July 14 to 22 and a fall pickup from Sept. 22 to 30.

The AAH program began in Michigan in 1990. Today, more than 2,800 groups have adopted more than 6,300 miles of state highway. These volunteers collect 65,000 to 70,000 bags of trash annually, an estimated $5 million value for the state. AAH groups wear high-visibility, yellow-green safety vests required by federal regulations when working within a highway right of way. MDOT provides free vests and trash bags, and arranges to haul away the trash.

Volunteers include members of various civic groups, businesses and families. Crew members have to be at least 12 years old and each group must number at least three people.

Sections of highway are still available for adoption. Groups are asked to adopt a section for at least two years. Adopt-A-Highway signs bearing a group’s name are posted along the stretch of adopted highway. There is no fee to participate.

Two sections of US-131 in Cedar Springs/Sand Lake that are open are from 18 to 16 Mile and 22 to 20 Mile.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/adoptahighway

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