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Beat the Boredom

By Judy Reed

Playing at an area park is just one of the ways for kids and parents to beat the boredom of long summer days until school starts again.

When you’re a kid, the long, hot days of summer seem to go on forever. It’s not long be-fore kids exhaust their ideas ofwhat to do and moms hear thefamiliar refrain, “There’s noth-ing to do! I’m bored!” Well, don’t you believe it. With a lit-tle searching, you’ll find hun- dreds of activities taking place in West Michigan where fam-ilies can have fun and spend some quality time together. In this week’s special pullout sec-tion of “Beat the Boredom,” you’ll find just a fraction ofthe many things going on thissummer—festivals, summerenrichment programs, camps,fishing and more! Turn to pag-es 7-18 to see what’s on tap for you this summer!

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Band collage concert

The Cedar Springs bands recently performed to a packed house in the High School gymnasium. The collage concert was performed by grades 6th through 12th and consisted of over 400 students. The performance highlighted how much they had grown and matured as musicians. 

“It was truly a wonderful performance, what a great day to be a Red Hawk!” said Christine Solomon, a spokesperson for CS Marching Band. “We would like to thank all family members, students, volunteers and staff for making this such a fun concert.”  

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Ditch walkers clean up trash

If you are from this area, you might be familiar with the wild orange tiger lilies. They are sometimes referred to a “ditch lilies” since they grow abundantly in road ditches. On Saturday, May 4th, five Ensley residents became “ditch walkers.”

Back row (L to R): Glenda Middleton, Ed Davis, Susan Cohen, Aaron Nieubuurt. Front: Bridget Nieubuurt. Courtesy photo.

They began what they hope to blossom into a bi-annual roadside pickup. “Maybe you saw us as we spent two hours on Cypress Avenue from 136th to Hometown Express and bagged trash from both sides of the street,” said Susan Cohen. “Our haul, including some pickup from earlier in the week was 15 bags of trash and recyclables.”

Ensley Township cleanup is scheduled for May 10th and 11th and Cohen said they will first separate what is recyclable from the trash. Trash will be brought to the township and recyclables will be taken to recycle centers. Any funds from returnable bottles and cans will be donated to Love, Inc. in Newaygo.

They received donations from an Ensley resident and donations from two businesses to purchase supplies. They are planning another cleanup walk in the fall with a meal to follow.

“This was truly a win/win experience meeting neighbors and enhancing the beauty of our neighborhood,” said Cohen. “As stewards of the earth we plan to grow as a mustard seed.”

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Beware of grandparent scam

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and AARP Michigan President Paula Cunningham urged Michigan grandparents to avoid a scam that bilked a Zeeland couple out of $16,000. The scheme, known as the Grandparents Scam, preys on vulnerable senior citizens with con artists posing as a grandchild or other relative in distress. A prior Consumer Alert was issued from Nessel’s Consumer Education team.

A Zeeland couple was talked into sending cash via FedEx and obtaining multiple Home Depot gift cards to later share the numbers via phone. Zeeland Police detailed that despite the concern expressed by employees at both locations, the scammer had already manipulated the grandparents enough to ensure they would follow through with the demands.

“Our job is to protect the people of Michigan and this consumer alert is an important way to do that. It’s equally important to be aware of ways in which people try to get you to hand over your money,” said Nessel. “It’s unacceptable for bad actors to exploit our love and concern for our family members for criminal purposes. My office is committed to ensuring that our state residents are protected from these types of despicable acts and that Michiganders are not being taken advantage of.”

Nessel details in the following steps on how to verify, spot and stop a scam:

Double check. Attempt to reach the loved one and/or confirm the status or whereabouts with other family members.

Spot the red flags. If the caller is frantic on the phone and demands funds be wire transferred, sent in cash, or via gift cards, it’s probably fraud. Additionally, the caller may have just enough personal information to persuade you and will likely instruct you not to tell anyone.

Slow down. Although you will be pressured to do so, do not act right away. During the call, do not assist scammers in owning the identity of your loved one by guessing the name. Force them to tell you who they are.

Never provide personal identifying information to an incoming caller. Never provide your bank account, credit card information, or social security number to someone who calls you. Hang up and call the company or individual back on a phone number you know to be correct to verify.

“Unfortunately, scams like this one are all too familiar,” said AARP President Cunningham. “Con artists have many tricks for stealing your money and people need to be ever vigilant about watching out for the bad guys.”

In addition to contacting local law enforcement officials and the Michigan Attorney General’s office, Cunningham recommended that members of the community visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network to help them avoid being victims of fraud and scams. Find prevention tips and information about scams happening at aarp.org/fraud.

If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of a grandparent scam, you can file a consumer complaint with the Michigan Attorney General’s office at mi.gov/agcomplaints.

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Public asked to give input on school facility proposals

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs Public Schools is asking the community to give their input on three different proposals to help improve school facilities and accommodate future growth. 

They have posted a survey on their website at csredhawks.org called the “CSPS Facilities Vision Questionnaire” and it will remain open through Monday, May 13.

According to Superintendent Scott Smith, there were two areas they looked at: facility needs and programs—how they were serving students.

The process started in 2016, when the district hired a company (GMB Architecture – Engineering) to do a facilities assessment. They looked at core systems such as roofing, heating/cooling, floor coverings, and plumbing. They also looked at safety and security, energy enhancements, and what site work needed to be done, such as paving and playgrounds.

Smith said that boilers in the various buildings are functioning but are very infefficient. Roofs also need to be replaced. They cannot even get parts anymore for the heaters in the classrooms at Cedar View. Instead, when another school replaces their univent heaters, they send the old ones to our district. 

The roads are also badly in need of repair. “The roads are in trouble,” said Smith. “Like the governor said, ‘it’s time to fix the darn roads.’ We’ve been doing projects with money from the sinking fund, but we don’t want to replace roads if we won’t need them in the future. If we refigure how the campus is laid out, we might not need them at all. Or we might need more. We’ve been going slow, but have been very targeted in what we are spending money on,” he explained.

Overall, the facilities assessment showed $42.5 million was needed just in facility repairs—and that’s targeting either what needs to be repaired right now or will need to be repaired/replaced in the near future. And that includes all eight buildings on campus: Cedar Trails (K-1), Beach (2-3), Cedar View (4-5), Red Hawk (6), Middle school (7-8), High school (9-12), and Hilltop (District Office).

They also looked at programs and enrollment. Smith said their projected enrollment is very stable, with a growth of about 1 percent per year (35-45 students per year) over the next five years. The problem is that some of the buildings are already at capacity. Smith said that both Cedar Trails and Beach are at capacity, as is the high school. “In the near future, every room at the high school will be used every hour, with some teachers on carts. The cafeteria and kitchen is also too small to serve our students,” he said. He noted that the middle school is not feeling overcrowded but is full. Cedar View and Red Hawk both have some room. The three options were developed taking this all into consideration.

Under all options—A, B, and C—the preschool program would be moved from Cedar Trails to either Cedar View or Red Hawk. “By moving them out, it gives Cedar Trails room to breathe,” explained Smith, “and provides more space for them to do things like art and other activities.”

And Hilltop—which was built in 1923 to replace the original high school—is not being used for students at all. Which presented a dilemma—do you spend $6.2 million to renovate a building that students no longer use?

“The sad reality is that it needs $6 million in renovation. The windows are single-paned, the boiler is inefficient, and the roof needs to be replaced,” explained Smith. “We have a hard time saying let’s put money into it when it’s not serving students.” So under all the options, Hilltop would be demolished and a green space created. 

Smith understands the important role the 93-year-old building has played in the community. It was built in 1926 as the new high school, after the original Union High School, built in 1871, was razed. And over the years it has served both elementary and secondary students, and currently hosts district office employees.

“If we don’t do anything, it will continue to deteriorate. We have to look ahead at 50 years from now. Will that grassy area be a beautiful spot for a new school? People will drive by it every day. What will they see? It’s easy to think in the short term, but at some point, we will need to let it go,” he said.

Smith noted that while there are currently three options for the board to consider, it’s still early in the process. “We are still considering, still thinking.” He said the board would review all three options Monday evening, May 13, and hear the community feedback from the surveys. It will then be up to the board whether to propose one of the following options for a bond issue or not.

“We are still open to suggestions. We are still exploring our options. We are trying to be strategic and thoughtful while trying to respect and honor our community at the same time,” explained Smith.

The current three options are:

Option A: Cedar Trails (K-1): do roofing and mechanical upgrades. Beach (2-3): do a partial demolition and reconstruct the academic wings. Do minor remodeling, site improvements, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, playground. Cedar View (4-5) Facilities critical needs. Middle School (6-8): Add a 6th grade wing, do critical needs, furnishings, fixtures, equipment. High School (9-12): do critical needs, add 8 classrooms, expand cafeteria, furnishings, fixtures, equipment. Red Hawk (District Administration, preschool, Cherry Health, Community education): critical needs, heavy remodeling of existing building, fixtures, furnishings and equipment. Hilltop: Demolition and site restoration. Cost: $78.9 million. 1.07 mil increase.

Option B: Cedar Trails, Beach, High school and Hilltop: the same as option A. Cedar View would become home to District office, preschool, Cherry Health and Community Ed. Do critical  needs, heavy remodeling of existing building, fixtures, furnishing and equipment. Red Hawk (4-6): Critical needs, new classroom wing for additional classrooms, fixtures, furnishings and equipment. Middle School (7-8): Critical needs. Cost: $79.8 million. 1.07 mil increase.

Option C: Cedar Trails, Beach, Cedar View, Red Hawk and Hilltop: same as option A. Middle School (6-7) move sixth graders to middle school. Do critical needs. Build a new 8-9 building (adjacent to high school). Do site improvements, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, auxiliary gym. High school (10-12): Do critical needs, fixtures, furnishings, equipment. Cost: $78.8 million. 1.07 mil increase.

Whatever the outcome, Smith said it’s not just a decision about taxes. “It’s about how our community is represented by the schools, and how our kids are engaged in the learning process.”

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Pancake Breakfast to Support Velzy Park

How does a plate of pancakes, sausage and eggs sound for breakfast?  Grab the family because breakfast’s up!  Solon Township/Vezly Park is hosting their second annual  Pancake Breakfast this Saturday, May 11 from 9:00am until 11:00am. at the Township Hall, 15185 Algoma Ave.  Breakfast includes the aforementioned as well as juice and coffee.  The meal is $6.00 per person with children under three free.  The breakfast runs in conjunction with Solon’s cleanup for Solon residents but is open to everyone.  All proceeds go towards funding the Vezly Park project.

The restroom project is underway with groundbreaking to begin soon.  Join your friends and family and check out the plans for the new restroom and walk the trail.  Funding for the project has been primarily provided though the support of local businesses and residents who stepped up to support the park.  Short term future projects include a playground and connection to the North Country Trail.  The park is open to everyone from dawn until dusk.  For more information or to support the park, contact Solon Township at 616-696-1718. Check out their facebook page for up-coming events.

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City Hall Corner

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

Toilet Leaks

The City’s utility billing clerk monitors abnormal water usage at homes and businesses in the City and tries to contact owners about whether the home or business might have a water leak. Some of those leaks are found in the crawlspace or under the kitchen sink but by far the biggest culprit is the toilet flapper valve. A leaky flapper valve can waste 200 gallons a day or 6000 gallons in a month. To put that in perspective, an average showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute so a leaky toilet is equal to 80 minutes in the shower per day. Big leaks are generally easy to detect, as it will sound like the water is constantly running and the water in the toilet tank will continually be cycling. Smaller leaks can be detected by putting a food coloring into the toilet’s tank and waiting to see if that coloring makes its way into the toilet bowl water within 30-60 minutes. In either case, the flapper’s rubber degrades over time and begins to lose its ability to properly seal. The City’s DPW recommends replacing your toilet flapper on a regular basis at least every 2-3 years, and more frequently if you use a chemical bowl cleaner.

Morley Park Pavilion

Morley Park is a very popular destination and the City is working to make it even better every year. Last year, the City ran electricity to the Pavilion and started allowing citizens to reserve its use for get-togethers and parties. The Pavilion has proven to be a well-liked spot for family reunions, birthday parties and a few baby showers. If you are interested in reserving the pavilion for your party, the City starts accepting reservations up to 60 days in advance starting March 1 of each year and the cost is $20 for City residents and $30 for non-residents.  You can find the application on the City’s website under FORMS.

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Construction to begin on new hotel

Photo by J. Reed
Representatives from civic and business groups were on hand Tuesday for the groundbreaking of the new 76-room hotel.

By Judy Reed

A groundbreaking was held Tuesday, April 30, on the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 14190 White Creek Avenue. Construction is set to begin on Monday, May 6, on the four-story, 76-room hotel.

Belmont Lodging announced plans last summer for the hotel. They said that market demand in northern Kent County and the understanding of the positive economic influence of a hotel motivated local investors to pursue the project.

On-site amenities will provide guests with a complimentary hot breakfast, free high-speed Internet access, an exercise room, indoor pool, and outdoor patio. The hotel’s location and easy access to downtown Grand Rapids will provide both corporate and leisure travelers a small town alternative when visiting the area.

They expect it to bring about 20 jobs to Cedar Springs. Construction is expected to be completed in mid-March 2020.

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Howard City man dies in crash

The Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office was sent to a one car crash at approximately 9:26 a.m. on Friday, April 26, 2019, north of the intersection of Amy School and Edgar Roads in Reynolds Township. The sole occupant of the vehicle died in the crash.

The initial information was that a vehicle had crashed and come to rest in a wooded area and that smoke may be coming from the vehicle. It was determined that the vehicle was headed north on Amy School Road, that it exited the road to the left, and that it then struck several trees. The sole occupant, Clarence David Price, 68, of Howard City, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police said there were no indications that the driver was speeding, and he was wearing his seat belt. The cause of the crash is believed to have been a medical issue the driver was having.

“We don’t have the medical examiners report, so I can’t tell you with certainty if the cause was something other than the crash itself,” Montcalm County Sheriff Mike Williams told the Post.  

Assisting with the crash were the Michigan State Police, Montcalm County Emergency Medical Services, Montcalm County Central Dispatch, and the Howard City Fire Department.

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Tri County to vote on school bond proposal

By Judy Reed

Residents in the Tri County Area Schools district will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 7, to vote on a $37,020,000 bond proposal to help create a community campus.

The voters defeated a similar proposal in November. So what’s different about this one? According to information found on their website, they listened to the voters. 

“Feedback from the community was that the 1.0 mill increase was too high and they wanted to see more of the dollars go toward education. The November 2018 proposal of $40,785,000 was then reduced to the new $37,020,000 for the May 2019 (bond proposal),       reducing the tax contribution from homeowners by 75 percent and saving $3.7 million,” they said.

The new proposal is a .25 (one quarter) of a mill increase over what they currently pay. The owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 and a taxable value of $50,000 would see a $12.50 annual increase.

They also reduced the project in scope to cut costs. They moved the high school auxiliary gym to the new elementary, combining the functionality and space of both an elementary and auxiliary gym at a fraction of the cost. They also eliminated the new parking lot by the football field, decided to keep the softball field in its current location.

Based on voter feedback, the May 2019 proposal is focusing more on educational opportunities, and will pay for long-term capital projects, such as a new elementary school, building expansions, and classroom remodeling. This would require an expected 4.631 mills to be levied over 25 years. The ballot proposal focuses on three main areas: Community Coming Together for Kids, Improving Educational Opportunities for Kids, and Capital Improvements.

Community Coming Together for Kids

*Community Campus with a new K-5 Elementary school

*New cafetorium that provides an 800-seat auditorium for student and community use (plays, concerts, events). This space will also function as a cafeteria.

*Upgrades to Middle School and High School classrooms and furniture

*Additional gym space for school and community use

Improving Opportunities for Kids

*Upgrades to Science labs and equipment

*Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) program supports (examples; computer sciences, robotics, 3D printers, media)

*Elimination of bus hub and improved bus routes to reduce student ride time

*Improved utilization of District-wide services to better meet the needs of each child (social work, nurse, speech/language, etc.)

Capital Improvements

*Security enhancements

*Interior upgrades

*Elementary playground upgrades (age appropriate)

*Addition of sidewalks to create community walking paths

*Energy efficiency improvements

*Field improvements

If the bond proposal passes, construction would start on the new elementary school in 2020.

For  more information, visit http://tcbond.info.

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