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Road commission to do study of intersection after fatal crash

A crash at Northland Drive and 16 Mile took the life of a Newaygo man last week. 
Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Scott Latsch. Obituary photo.

The Kent County Road Commission told the Post they will do a full study of the intersection at 16 Mile and Northland Drive after a Newaygo man was killed there in a crash last week.

The crash occurred about 6:50 p.m., January 2. The call came across originally as a three-car crash with one person unconscious and needing to be extricated from the vehicle. However, only two vehicles were involved.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar Springs Fire and Courtland Fire responded to the scene. 

Deputies reported that the preliminary investigation shows that a man driving a 2007 Ford Focus was traveling northbound on Northland Dr NE and attempted to make a left turn onto westbound 16 Mile Rd NE. A 2006 Volvo XC90 that was traveling southbound then struck his vehicle.

The driver of the Ford Focus, Scott Latsch, 31, of Newaygo, was pronounced deceased at the scene. According to his obituary, he had been a mechanic at Superior Transmission in Cedar Springs.

The driver of the Volvo, David Garner, 28, of Cedar Springs, went to the hospital on his own to be checked out.

Police said drugs and alcohol are not believed to be factors in the crash. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Office.

This is the second time in two months that someone has died from a crash at this intersection. In November, Marshall Taylor, 82, of Rockford, was headed southbound on Northland Drive when his vehicle collided with a Chevy Impala headed eastbound on 16 Mile Rd. He later died of his injuries.

The Post reached out to the Kent County Road Commission to find out if any kind of study has been done or is being planned for this intersection.

“We were saddened to learn of the fatality that occurred last night,” said Maura Lamoreaux, of the Kent County Road Commission. “When a crash occurs along our network, the Kent County Road Commission investigates and works closely with law enforcement to determine causation. There are several variables involved in a crash and determining causation is part of the analysis used to determine whether a potential modification to traffic control could change or reduce the frequency of the given type of crash.

“KCRC will complete a thorough study of the intersection, which will include the final crash report from the Sheriff’s Department that will be finalized once the investigation is concluded,” she explained.

She sent along the crash statistics we requested, and there have been relatively few crashes at the intersection over the last five years. In 2015 and 2016, there were no crashes. There was one in 2017 (not a fatal); none in 2018; and two in 2019, one of them fatal (in November). And now this crash in 2020.

Lamoreaux also sent along the last traffic counts for that intersection. 

*Northland Drive north of 16 Mile two-way 24-hour count 11,207

*Northland Drive south of 16 Mile two-way 24-hour count 10,197

*16 Mile east of Northland two-way 24hr count 1,412

*16 Mile west of Northland two-way 24hr count 1,267

The Post will update this story when we know more.

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Area hospitals enacting visitor restrictions

Working to meet the challenge of caring for the community amid an influx of respiratory illness, Grand Rapids area hospitals are asking those who are ill to refrain from visiting hospitalized friends or family members. One of the most important tools in fighting the transmission of infection is limiting exposure.

Michigan is among the hardest hit states for respiratory illnesses this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory illnesses, including RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), can be especially dangerous to the young, frail or elderly.

Visitors are asked to respect the following restrictions:

• If you are ill, please refrain from visiting the hospital

• All visitors are expected to be healthy and the hospitals are taking active steps to protect patients, staff and visitors. A healthy visitor is someone who does not have the following symptoms:

• Fever, greater than 100.4 F

• Cough

• Sore throat

• Runny nose or congestion

• Vomiting or diarrhea

• Rash or draining sores

• Only healthy visitors may visit patients in the hospitals or outpatient locations

• Anyone with the above symptoms should consider a video visit with a provider, an appointment with their primary care physician or an urgent care visit

These restrictions apply to visitors at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Metro Health – University of Michigan and all Spectrum Health hospitals (including United in Greenville) and are effective until further notice. The measures are designed to protect vulnerable patients, as well as staff members. The hospitals will continue to monitor the situation and stay in contact with clinical leaders at health systems across the state to collaboratively and effectively address the situation.

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Cedar Springs Women’s Club scholarship applications available

Every year the Cedar Springs Women’s Club awards a $1000 scholarship to a female of any age, who resides in the Cedar Springs Public School District. The recipient may be considering any type of skill training or degree program. The scholarship is awarded based on a competitive process that considers a typed essay, personal or academic achievement, as well as family, school and community activities. All awards are made without regard to race, creed, color, religion, or national origin.

The Cedar Springs Women’s Club Scholarship Applications are now available at Cedar Springs High School, Creative Technologies Academy, New Beginnings High School, and the Cedar Springs Community Library.

Applicants must mail five copies of the completed application with essay to the Cedar Springs Women’s Club and must be postmarked by March 15, 2020. For further information, call Sue at 616-696-0456 or Carol at 616-696-0090.

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MCC board seeks trustee candidates

SIDNEY – The Montcalm Community College Board of Trustees seeks candidates to fill a trustee position.

The position held by Roger Thelen, of Stanton, who has served as a trustee since 2003, was vacated Dec. 31, 2019. Thelen recently was appointed as interim superintendent of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District from Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year and resigned from the MCC Board of Trustees to focus on this role and spend time with his family.

The MCC Board of Trustees will appoint an individual to serve in the vacant position until December 2020.

Qualified voters residing in MCC’s district are eligible to serve on the board. Anyone interested in being considered for this appointment should send a letter of interest by Jan. 17 to Assistant Board Secretary Lisa Herald at MCC, 2800 College Drive, Sidney, MI 48885-9723 or e-mail her at lborton@montcalm.edu.

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Kent County Commissioners elects leadership for 2020

Commissioner Mandy Bolter

The Kent County Board of Commissioner held an organizational meeting on January 2 to determine its leadership positions for 2020.

The Board unanimously voted to re-elect Commissioner Mandy Bolter (District 5) to serve as Chair, her second year leading the Board. Commissioner Stan Stek (District 6) was re-elected as Vice-Chair and will continue as Chair of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee. Commissioner Diane Jones (District 4) will continue serving as Chair of the Finance and Physical Resources Committee.

The leadership team also includes Commissioner Jim Talen (District 15) as Minority Vice-Chair and Vice-Chair of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee and Commissioner Emily Brieve as Vice-Chair of the Finance and Physical Resources Committee.

Bolter was first elected Board Chair in 2019 and has served on the Board since 2014. Her district encompasses Cascade, Lowell and Bowne Township and the northern half of Caledonia Township.

“We have a bipartisan Board so to be elected unanimously is important to me,” said Bolter. In her remarks to the Board, she highlighted several accomplishments in 2019 including receiving a AAA bond rating for more than 20 consecutive years and adopting a balanced budget for 2020 which included funding to address emerging public health issues such as PFAS, and the hiring of two public health workers to assist with lead investigations.

Priorities that Bolter will focus on in 2020 include more action on lead abatement, recycling efforts across the County, and affordable housing.

“When things are running well, you do not hear about them, but I think it’s important that residents know what we do and how their tax dollars are being spent,” concluded Bolter.

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Cedar Springs Public Schools wants your input

Do you want to have some input on the next steps Cedar Springs Public Schools takes regarding their facilities? They are asking residents to complete a facilities questionnaire online to help clarify their direction.

Here is their request, including some background:

“In 2016, Cedar Springs Public Schools (CSPS) conducted a thorough review of our existing facilities. The report identified several areas in need of our attention including safety and security upgrades, roofing, paving, mechanical systems, flooring, playgrounds, and electrical system upgrades throughout the district. In addition to areas of need associated with the current condition of our schools, we need additional learning spaces to accommodate our growing student population.

CSPS has utilized its building and site sinking fund and grants to address some of these capital improvements. District leaders placed an emphasis on projects that enhanced student and staff safety and security while on our campus. The Board of Education is now considering several options to provide the necessary spaces needed to accommodate our growing student population and to address our remaining infrastructure needs.

Your thoughts are essential to the Board of Education as they work on clarifying the direction for our district’s facility plan. CSPS is asking parents and residents of our community to complete a short questionnaire to help focus the district’s next steps regarding our facilities.

Please provide your thoughts by completing the questionnaire by 4:00 p.m. on January 27. Be assured that your answers will remain completely anonymous.

Please visit www.csredhawks.org for the CSPS 2020 Facilities Vision Questionnaire link.”

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Supreme Court says cell phones allowed in Courts

The Michigan Supreme Court has adopted amendments to court rules to explicitly allow the public to bring cell phones into courthouses and courtrooms. The changes also allow the public to photograph court records. Previously, rules regarding cell phones and other personal electronic devices varied widely from court to court and often posed a barrier to court access. Courts have until May 1, 2020, to implement the rule change.

“The comments we received and testimony we heard that cell phone access was essential to self-represented litigants was compelling,” said Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack. “We appreciate the willingness of local courts to implement this reform that will help make sure the doors to our courts are open to all.”

The MSC order makes amendments to MCR 8.115  and follows an extensive process of public consultation that included nearly 50 written comments from the public and additional testimony at a recent public hearing. Effective May 1, 2020, the amended rules establish a statewide policy that allows the public to use a cell phone or other personal electronic device in a courtroom or courthouse (such as a tablet or laptop) to:

• retrieve or store information, access the internet, and send/receive text messages as long as the user is silent; and,

• reproduce court documents as long as it leaves no marks and does not unreasonably interfere with the operation of the clerk’s office.

The amended rule does include courtroom restrictions to maintain security and prevent disruption. Devices must be silenced in the courtroom and cannot be used to make or receive calls while court is in session. Among other restrictions, the public:

• cannot communicate with any courtroom participant or photograph or record any juror or potential juror;

• cannot record court proceedings without the permission of the judge; and,

• cannot record or photograph people in the courthouse without their consent.

Outside the courtroom, judges and court administrators can limit or terminate activity that is disruptive to court operations or that compromises court security. In the courtroom, use is subject to a judge’s authority to terminate activity that is disruptive or distracting to a court proceeding, or contrary to the administration of justice. Further, judges can sanction violators.

The rule change improves access to courts and was largely based on national models already adopted in other states. The new rule does not affect the ability of media to record court proceedings with permission of a judge allowed by AO 1989-1.

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Free radon test kits

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is offering free radon test kits to Kent County residents while supplies last. You can’t see, smell or taste radon but the radioactive gas can kill. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States claiming the lives of more than 20,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

KCHD recommends that all homes should be tested for radon every few years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home. Testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home.

“Testing for radon is an easy and important step in protecting the health of your family,” says Brendan Earl, Supervising Sanitarian with the Kent County Health Department. “The kit is easy to use. Simply hang a filter inside your house for a few days, then send it in a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope for testing.”

Residents using the kits and the State of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy will both receive the results. People can use the information when deciding on how best to pursue remediation, and the state gains a better understanding of the prevalence of radon in Michigan. For help understanding the test results, please contact the KCHD Environmental Health Division at 616-632-6900.

Radon occurs naturally in the ground. It seeps into buildings through cracks or openings in the foundation of floors and walls. It occurs in both new and old homes. The EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a map of risk zones for the United States. You can view the risk maps by going to https://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-state-contact-information#radonmap. Kent County is typically categorized as having a moderate to high levels of radon.

The kits are available Monday–Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. only at the Kent County Health Department’s main clinic location at 700 Fuller Avenue NE, Grand Rapids.

Only one kit will be given per household.

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Police search for three suspects in retail theft

by Judy Reed

Two businesses on 17 Mile Rd in Cedar Springs were robbed of goods Tuesday afternoon and the suspects made their getaway in a blue pickup truck.

The blue pickup truck seen in the photo is the getaway vehicle for the suspects that stole jackets from Family Farm and Home and alcohol from Rite Aid on Tuesday afternoon. A witness on the scene snapped the photo. Photo used with permission.

According to Sgt. Todd Probst, of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the first retail theft took place about 3:09 p.m. on Tuesday, January 7, at Family Farm and Home. The suspects stole black Carhartt jackets with hoods, and then went across the street to Rite Aid and stole alcohol.

The suspects, described as a Caucasian male, an African American male, and an African American female, then fled westbound in a blue pickup truck.

“Our deputies were on scene in seconds but could not find the fleeing truck,” said Sgt. Probst. He added that they ran the plate on the truck but no record came back.

If you have any information, please call the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at (616) 632-6100.

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Year in Review 2019

Top story for 2019: City Impact to the rescue

By Judy Reed

An ice storm in early 2019 left over 100,000 people without power or heat. Post photo by J. Reed.

There were a couple of big things that happened here in Cedar Springs in 2019, and one entity that had a big part to play in how they both turned out.

In the first week of February, the Cedar Springs community was hit hard by two back to back ice storms that hammered West Michigan, leaving a path of ice, snow, downed tree branches, and downed power lines in its wake. Many were without power on Wednesday, February 6, after the first ice storm, and on Thursday another one hit, causing widespread outages, including most of the Cedar Springs area. Over 100,000 people were without power.

Consumers first predicted Sunday evening to have everyone’s power restored, then changed it to Monday at 11:30 p.m. That was bad news for those without power, including the entire City of Cedar Springs, who lost power when a transmission line at the substation at Fifth and Church Street exploded. Schools remained closed, restaurants and gas stations had no power, and Meijer was on partial power. On top of that, the wind chill took a dive below zero on Friday. What could people do?

They pulled together, that’s what they did. And City Impact of Cedar Springs, a brand new outreach center that is a ministry of Resurrection Life Church in Rockford, played a major part in it.

They were slated to have a grand opening that Saturday, February 9, at 288 N. Main St. Instead, they opened their doors on Friday, February 8, as a warming center to serve people in our community. They were also without power, but someone bought them a 10,000 watt generator, and both businesses and citizens stepped up to donate supplies to help those in need. They received cots and blanket from the Red Cross; a woman in Grand Haven made 40 lbs of bbq to feed people; Lean on Me provided food; others donated snacks, fruit, donuts, bottled water, coffee, and more. 

“We had people coming in all night long to get warm and/or to sleep,” said Kelley Bergsma, who runs the center with her husband Jon. “And these weren’t the people we usually serve.” Instead, she said that a lot of the people they usually serve were in the center serving others. “It’s just amazing the way we came together as a community,” she said.

About 50 people spent the night that Friday at the center. But the volunteers didn’t wait for people to come to them. Several of them walked the dark streets of Cedar Springs Friday night, looking for any house that might have a candle or flicker of light in the window. That’s how they found a 100-year-old woman sitting in the dark, with only her four burners on the stove for warmth. They then brought her to the center. 

They closed the center on Sunday after most of the area’s power came back on.

Others in the area also showed compassion in various ways. As power slowly came back on, some posted on social media that their homes were open for those that needed to get warm or take a shower. One area hair salon offered free shampooing. 

At the time, Bergsma told the Post that she is still in awe of what happened in our community. “It was amazing seeing the entire community come together to help those in need,” she said.

This apartment fire at Red Flannel Acres left seven families homeless. Post photo by J. Reed.

Disaster struck again on August 13, when a fire at the Red Flannel Acres apartments on Oak Court in the City of Cedar Springs left seven families homeless. 

According to Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser, the call came in at 4:31 p.m. that there was smoke in the building, and the second tone said that there were flames showing through the roof. 

Cedar Springs, Sand Lake, and Solon Fire Departments were on scene, and they called for Sparta’s aerial truck to help douse the flames of the two-story building. Courtland was on standby to take any Cedar Springs calls while they were busy fighting the fire. It was later determined that a discarded cigarette had started the fire.

The Springs Church and City Impact stepped up to help families affected by the devastating event, by offering them dinner, a place to go and make phone calls, collect themselves, talk to a social worker, and even sleep. The Red Cross was also on scene. Lean on Me Outreach and North Kent Connect were on site at City Impact to help provide people with food and other essentials. City Impact then compiled a list of needs and has posted it on their Facebook page. They worked with the displaced residents to make sure all their needs were met.

Bergsma is happy with what City Impact accomplished this year. “This was our first year in operation with our completed building, and this building has helped us organize and focus our outreach into the community,” she explained. “We believe that a large impact was made through the many relationship building activities and programs that we offer through the center. We believe this is just the beginning, and we are going to continue to see the Cedar Springs community come together and be an example to other communities of what working together looks like. We welcome 2020 with open arms and we cannot say it enough—Cedar Springs you rock!”

We have many great resources in our community. A big thank you goes out to City Impact for the way they have become a catalyst and hub to help all of these organizations work together. They hold all kinds of events and programs for the public, including Celebrate Recovery!,exercise classes, community meals, and more. For more info check them out on Facebook. Just type in City Impact Cedar Springs.

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