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Road watchers needed for West Michigan state highways

Once again the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is seeking “Road Watchers” to report on highway conditions during winter events in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, and Ottawa counties. MDOT wants volunteers who travel on select US, M and I routes in these counties to help measure how well the roadways are maintained following winter storms. Comments gathered will be used to improve winter maintenance.             

MDOT is looking for Road Watchers to monitor the following highways during commutes:            

• I-96 throughout Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, and Ionia counties

• US-131 throughout Montcalm, Kent, and Allegan counties

• I-196 throughout Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties  

• US-31 throughout Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan counties

• M-6 throughout Kent County

MDOT will gather the survey results to track winter highway conditions with the goal of improving winter maintenance practices and response times. Surveys only take a few moments to complete.             

 Road Watchers are polled randomly for each storm event and asked to participate in an online survey about the road conditions they encountered. All results will be anonymous. To volunteer, visit www.michigan.gov/roadwatchers. 

Fast Facts:

• MDOT is seeking “Road Watchers” to report on winter highway conditions in the west Michigan area.

• Volunteers will be polled about highway conditions following winter storm events.

• Comments gathered will be used to more efficiently deploy winter maintenance forces and identify best practices. To volunteer, visit  www.michigan.gov/roadwatchers.   


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What’s in a name?

By Judy Reed

Shakespeare tried to answer that question in Romeo and Juliet. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I don’t know if the Sand Lake Fire Chief would agree with that, nor do I know whether he smells sweet. When I see him at a fire scene, the air smells like burning wood and so does everyone else. The acrid odor of smoke fills your nostrils and burns your eyes and gets in your hair and I usually leave feeling like I need to take a shower. No sweet smell of roses there.

Recently, he and his crew, along with the Cedar Springs Fire Department, fought a fire in Nelson Township where many animals died. I wrote about it in last week’s Post. When I write about something like that, I try to identify the person with their job title and their name. And when you read it, you think, oh yeah, I know him, or her. The problem is, you might not have recognized the name of the Sand Lake Fire Chief in last week’s paper. Or maybe you sort of did. 

While banging out that story on my trusty keyboard last week I morphed the current Sand Lake Fire Chief (Ed Holtzlander) with the former Fire Chief (Bob Hawkins) from about 7 or 8 years ago. Yes, that’s right. I called him Fire Chief Ed Hawkins.

Ed called and ribbed me about it. I couldn’t believe I did it. Why that name popped out of my brain and on to the page I’ll never know. I can only guess that it’s because I’ve been at this job for a long time (12 years full time and 12 years part time before that) and I have seen a lot of people come and go. I apologized for the error. Thanks, Ed, for taking it in stride. Look at the bright side: at least I had two chiefs from the same fire department. It could have been worse—I could’ve typed “Ed Fraser” or something, and then I would have had some explaining to do to both you and Marty! (Marty Fraser is the Fire Chief in Cedar Springs.)

As I said, I don’t know about smelling sweet, but I think it’s pretty sweet what you all do every day—putting your lives on the line to put out fires, helping the injured at crash scenes, giving aid in medical emergencies—all for low pay and little thanks. You deserve better. And I’m sorry I got your name wrong. 

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CS Historical Society publishes The Making of a Town

A historical journey through Cedar Springs, Michigan 1857-1970

By Judy Reed

Do you have a history buff on your Christmas list? Or have you ever wondered what Cedar Springs was like in the early days of the town? What businesses were here? How have things changed? 

The Cedar Springs Historical Society published a new book just in time for Christmas—The Making of a Town. It’s a historical trip through the first 100-plus years of Cedar Springs history, from 1857-1970. Many pioneering families are featured and the businesses they built along Main Street. You’ll find hundreds of pictures and an abundance of interesting history.

One interesting section shows how Main Street came to be paved in 1935, under the WPA program. Dines Photo Studio took photos of the progress of the entire project, and we can see how it looked not just before and after, but during the project also. See photos on page 5.

Sharon Jett, Director of the CSHS, said the book took about four years to complete. Museum volunteers helped with the research, and Jett did most of the writing, but not all. They mined local, county and other resources for the information they needed.

We can see an example of our lost icons in this photo. On the left, the front porch of the 20 room Central Hotel, that stood on Main Street for 65 years, lost to fire in 1943. On the right of the photo the Skinner Drug store can be seen also lost to fire in 1982. Photo courtesy of Cedar Springs Historical Society.

“The research was extensive,” noted Jett. “We wanted to be as correct as possible. We used old writings from the Clipper, The Chapman’s 1880 history of Kent Co., Margaret Mabie’s history papers on Cedar Springs, the Internet, Ancestry, old diaries and more.”

They tried to cover all the businesses on Main Street, and some of the older side street businesses, such as the Elevator, as well. 

In this photo you can see the many WPA workers spreading the dirt brought in to level the road for the paving project. Photo courtesy of Cedar Springs Historical Society.

Jett said they learned a lot while doing the research. “We learned so much about the people that started these businesses and their lives. Some of the earliest people, like John Nelson, who had the first hardware store here, walked all over Michigan before he settled here. Today, many people don’t even walk to the corner let alone all over the whole state, at a time when the land was as wild as the bears and wolves that roamed here,” she said.

The CSHS printed 400 copies of the book. They are for sale at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum for $20. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. You can also buy one at the Cedar Springs Public Library, or purchase one from DM White. His phone number is 616-835-0809. 

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Tour of lights

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY AWESOME CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS? We’re in need of entries for our Tour of Lights….

Every year The Cedar Springs POST hosts a Tour of Lights giving area residents the scoop on where the hot spots for Christmas lights are glowing. 

There’s nothing like the warm glow of Christmas lights this time of year to give you a good dose of Christmas cheer! 

In order for us to make an accurate listing, one that includes YOUR house as a “drive-by” we need you to lead the way. 

Simply mail your name and address to Tour of Lights, P.O. Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. You can also email them to news@cedarspringspost.com or call the office at 616-696-3655 to let us know. 

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Baby’s First Christmas

Photos will be run at no cost to our readers, but space is limited so get your photos in early. Deadline is Monday, December 17 by 5 p.m. and pictures with name and date of birth will appear in the December 20th issue. We cannot guarantee return of photos. Show the community your precious gift!

We want to give you the opportunity to celebrate your baby’s very first Christmas in a special way. The  Cedar Springs POST will be featuring area newborns in “Baby’s First Christmas,” a special feature for babies celebrating their first Christmas. 

Photos may be dropped off at the Cedar Springs POST – 36 E. Maple St., or mailed to Baby’s First Christmas, P.O. Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319, or emailed to happenings@cedarspringspost.com. Please include baby’s name, and birth date, as well as a contact name and phone number.

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Family loses 50 animals in fire

This barn with a stray cat sanctuary burned on Monday, November 28, killing all the animals inside.

By Judy Reed

When Jody Willer did her final check of the night on the 15 cats and dozens of chickens, ducks and other fowl in their pole barn, she had no inkling that anything was wrong. But her whole world blew up just two hours later.

Willer and her young adult daughter, Kristeena, live with Willer’s brother, Bob Versluys, in the 8000 block of 20 Mile Rd, in Nelson Township. Willer, who is disabled, moved in there with her daughter after a divorce, and her life has revolved around taking in and caring for stray cats, as well as caring for the various chickens, ducks and geese. She had a “cat condo” in the barn, with a “cat camp” in a fenced in area in the yard behind it for the cats to play in. The birds had their own part of the barn, and were able to roam freely during the day.

“I went out to the barn about 7 or 8 and made a fire that night (in the wood stove) because I knew it was going to be cold,” she said. “At about 11 I went back to restock it for the night, and everything was ordinary. I never would’ve given it a second thought.”

Willer said she normally goes to bed about 11 but stayed up until about 1 watching TV. When going to bed, she noticed through the window that the mercury light at the barn was out. She told her daughter she was going out to check the breaker. 

When she got to the barn, she opened the first door with her key. When she went to open the inner door, she realized the handle was hot. When she opened the door, thick black smoke blew her back and the flames ignited. Willer said she screamed for her daughter, who came out and tried to break open a back window to get to the animals but couldn’t. Her brother, who happens to be the Fire Chief at Grand Rapids Township, was on the job in Grand Rapids and not home at the time.

According to Sand Lake Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander, the call came in around 1 a.m., and both Sand Lake and Cedar Springs responded to the scene. “We were there about an hour and a half,” said Hawkins. “There was tar paper in the roof, and we had to pull all that down.” 

All the animals perished from smoke inhalation. “We got all the animals out and buried them,” said Willer. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through. We loved our animals and treated them like grandkids. That’s 49 lives, so sad and traumatizing.”

The three oldest cats were 17 years old. “I got them from Cedar Animal Hospital,” she said. The oldest chicken was also 17 years old, she said. “They usually only live about 11 years,” she added.

For now, she’s at a loss with what to do with herself. “Taking care of animals gave me a purpose,” she said. “Thank goodness we kept some in the house, too,” she said, referring to the several cats that have the run of the house, including a two-month-old stray someone dropped off.

While the fire department felt it may have been a spark from the wood stove that started the blaze, Willer said that an insurance inspector called and said that he cannot rule out whether it was electrical or a spark from the stove, so he will be back out to continue to investigate it. 

Regardless, she said that when they rebuild, they would not have a wood stove in it, and plan to make it mostly concrete to allow any fire to burn itself out more quickly.

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Santa brings smiles at holiday ceremony

Santa holds a young child at the “Merry Grinch-mas” celebration at the Cedar Springs Library. Photo by Kristen’s Flashback Photography.

Mrs. Claus poses with children after story time at Perry’s Place. Photo by Kristen’s Flashback Photography.

Hundreds turned out last Saturday, December 1, for the city’s annual Mingle with Kris Kringle holiday celebration.
The day started off with the Jingle Bell Run (a fundraiser for the Cedar Springs Senior All Night Party). Then over 700 people attended the “Merry Grinch-mas” at the Cedar Springs Library, where the community was invited to “Whoville” to make Christmas tree ornaments, decorate cookies, make gifts and cards, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, have popcorn popped onsite by Mayor Gerry Hall and Amy, and join “Whos” Melissa Dubridge and Cassie Hall for a great show in “Whoville.” Cindy Karafa, leader of 4H Animal Junction, came with 27 volunteers and 500 sugar cookies to decorate. All but 3 cookies were claimed. The 4H students competed for “Best Gingerbread House” recognition. The Library gave away 4 prizes in a free raffle (the favorite prize was a LEGO Model Car, donated by City Manager Mike Womack).
The Library provided supplies to make lovely ornaments for home and the City Christmas Tree, a necklace for mom, a key chain for dad, letters to Santa and holiday coloring pages
Santa and Mrs. Claus flew from the North Pole to Cedar Springs just to bring good cheer to Cedar Springs families. They chatted with kids and parents for three and a half hours.
Following the library celebration, story time with Mrs. Claus at Perry’s Place llc for herbs, teas, and more was a big hit with children and parents a like. Later, the Cedar Springs High School choir sang at the tree while the crowd awaited the arrival of Santa Claus, who was a wee bit late. Double K Farms and Animal Junction (and 4H) brought their animal friends (goats, rabbit, etc.) out to have fun with everyone. The live nativity was canceled due to the weather.

Santa and Mayor Gerald Hall at the tree lighting ceremony. Photo by Kristen’s Flashback Photography.

After the Santa parade and tree lighting, Santa greeted children in the American Legion Hall. While they waited, children were able to do crafts and other activities, and were provided free hot chocolate by the Women’s Auxillary.
This weekend will be the second weekend of the holiday celebration, with music and dance at the Kent Theater on Saturday and Sunday, and free carriage rides on Monday. See ad on page 20 for more details.

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Sand Lake removes police chief

Board also hires new interim clerk, gives audit update

by Judy Reed

The Village of Sand Lake is seeking a new police chief after the Village Council voted Monday, December 3, to remove Chief James Reamsma from the position.

The move came during a special meeting. The council went into closed session at 7:05 and returned about an hour later. President Danielle Hardenburg explained that Reamsma had personal matters happening right now and couldn’t perform his job. President pro-tem Tonia Parkhurst made a motion to remove him as police chief, and the vote was unanimous, 5-0. No other information was released.

Reamsma had been with Sand Lake since 2013. The Village will be accepting applications for the position.

In other business, the council also voted to approve former councilmember Nyha French as the new interim clerk. She started work Tuesday in the Village offices. The Village has been without a clerk since Kent Boersma abruptly quit on November 20, after their auditor spoke in a meeting the night before about Boersma not getting reports to him that he needed to do the audits. He had also not balanced the books in eight months. Boersma was an interim clerk recommended by former Village President Thomas Norton.

Hardenburg said that they had brought in an accounting firm to go through everything and hoped to be able to give the auditor the reports he needed this week. The firm will also balance the books for them.


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Post travels to Israel


The Post recently traveled to the holy land of Israel with Rachel (Reed) Hunt and her husband, Joshua, of Martin. The couple spent five days on the escorted tour. They stayed in Tel Aviv, and in Ginosar, near Tiberius, on the Sea of Galilee.

They visited quite a few sites, including Pzfat, a city well known for art, and they went to a couple of art galleries there; they toured the Golan Heights, which used to belong to Syria; visited the the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount; visited Capernaum, where they saw the ruins of the Apostle Peter’s house and the synagogue next door where Jesus taught; and in Caesarea they saw the ruins of Herod’s palace and visited a winery. 

In Jerusalem they visited the Holocaust museum and visited an Israeli museum where they saw the Dead Sea Scrolls. They toured the old city section of Jerusalem, where they saw the tomb of Schindler; visited the supposed site of King David’s tomb; visited the upper room where the last supper allegedly occurred before Jesus’ death; visited the Wailing Wall; and walked the Via De La Rosa which ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. On their last day they floated in the Dead Sea, after covering themselves in a sticky muck, which washed off in the water, but left their skin feeling soft and smooth. They also visited Masada.

“One of our favorite things was going to Masada,” said Rachel. “But it really was enjoyable seeing all the sites and learning about the history with a group of people.”

Thanks so much, Rachel and Josh, for taking us with you! 

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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Water meters to be replaced

By Judy Reed

In January or February, many residents in the City of Cedar Springs will receive a letter from Ferguson Enterprises asking them to schedule an appointment to have their water meter replaced. It is not a scam.

City Manager Mike Womack said that before DPW worker Al Kensil retired, he had replaced many of them, but there are about 550 more to go. With the technology of the new water meters, a worker will be able to just drive down the road to radio read the meters, rather than walking house to house.

Once the meters are all installed, the city will go back to actual readings every month, rather than the estimated ones, which have not been popular. Womack estimated that change would probably occur in April.

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