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Year in Review: City to soon have new library

The groundbreaking of the new Cedar Springs Library took place Saturday, July 9 at the corner of Main Street and W. Maple. Photo by J. Reed.

The groundbreaking of the new Cedar Springs Library took place Saturday, July 9 at the corner of Main Street and W. Maple. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It’s been an exciting year for those helping to bring a new library to the Cedar Springs area. The CS Library board, Community  Building Development Team, the City of Cedar Springs, Solon Township, Friends of the Library, and community members have all worked together the last few years to get the project off the ground, and they finally realized their dream on January 9 with a celebratory groundbreaking at the corner of Main and Maple Streets.

“I’m only one, standing on the foundation prepared from the 1800s to this present day by a long line of educators, professionals, town folk, volunteers – enthusiastic people of vision and hope,” remarked Librarian Donna Clark.

“Our goal is to make the Library a central hub, providing an open environment to enhance access to the world of knowledge through mentoring, networking and collaboration, and to provide quality resources for personal growth and lifelong learning,” she added.

After the speeches, several people from area boards moved dirt with the golden shovels provided by Nugent Builders, the builder on the project. The project is expected to be done late spring.

A unique metal sculpture, made by artist Steve Anderson, of Anderson’s Metal Sculpture, was installed on the property behind where the new library is being built. The sculpture is a stainless steel, artistic representation of cattails among dragonflies.

“This sculpture, donated by the Community Building Development Team, will add the cultural touch that enhances the educational nature of all the projects planned for this ten-acre site,” said Library Director Donna Clark. “It will add culture and beauty within the areas of the rain gardens and near the planned library building.”

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Year in Review: Cedar Springs community is #rickerstrong

Ricker Family: L to R Preston, Brian, Brison, and Kim.

Ricker Family: L to R Preston, Brian, Brison, and Kim.

By Judy Reed

Another amazing story in 2016 is the way that the Cedar Springs community has embraced a local family and supported them in their fight against a rare brain tumor. Before symptoms began last fall, Brison Ricker was a happy, well-liked and athletic teen, who loved riding dirt bikes with his younger brother Preston, and playing soccer. In January 2016, Brison was diagnosed with a rare and deadly childhood brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine glioma (DIPG), which is nearly always fatal and lacks an effective treatment, according to Stanford University. The tumor is inoperable because it grows through the brain stem, and half of patients die within 9 months. A gofundme page was set up to help the Rickers with expenses, and groups began holding fundraisers—and praying. Then, in the late spring, Brison’s family was told to take Brison home and call in hospice because he didn’t have long to live.

But Brison’s parents, Brian and Kim Ricker, are strong in their faith in God, and believed there was another way to beat it. They sought alternative treatment at the Burzynski clinic in Texas—a treatment that had reportedly had some good results in other patients, but was not covered by insurance—and would run $17,000 a month for the treatments alone, not including loss of income from the parents staying home to take care of Brison. The community has continued with fundraising drives to help the family meet the costs, and continued to pray, and though Brison has gone through some tough stretches, his MRI shows he is making progress. Unfortunately, on the same day last week that they received the good news on Brison’s progress, they were hit with the news that Brison’s younger brother Preston, has thyroid cancer. He is due to be operated on next month. If you would like to help this family, you can donate through their gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/rickerstrong.

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The Post travels to Montana

n-post-travels-montana-art-smith

Art Smith brought along his Cedar Springs Post while on an elk hunt in Montana with his brother Steve Smith and other family members. Art rode 8 miles on a mule to a tent camp, and hunted in the Lewis & Clark National Forest in the Bob Marshal Wilderness. He said that one elk and two deer were taken in the camp.

Thanks, so much, Art, for taking us with you!

This year the Post has traveled all over the world with our readers, visiting locations with our readers such as various cities in Arizona; the Adirondack Mountains; Atlanta, Georgia; Bay City, Mich.; Boston, Mass.; California; China; Colorado; Florida; Hoover Dam; Makcinac Island; Montana; New York City; Pictured Rocks; the Ryder Cup; South Dakota; Washington D.C.; West Virginia; Wyoming; Colombia; the Caribbean, Panama; Germany; Italy; France; Greece; Turkey; Haiti; Japan; Iceland; Nepal; Scotland; and Sweden.

Where will we go next year? It’s up to 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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Year in Review: Cedar Springs gets new City Manager

City Manager Mike Womack

City Manager Mike Womack

It took nine months, but the City of Cedar Springs finally has a new full time City Manager overseeing operations at City Hall. Mike Womack, 34, started in his new position August 1. He filled the spot vacated by Thad Taylor, who left the post for a position in Manistee.

Womack was an executive intern for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state. He was also a Graduate Assistant in the City Manager’s office in the City of Eastpointe, Michigan, and an Attorney at Womack & Womack P.C., in Shelby Township.

Longtime City Clerk Linda Christiansen (formerly Branyan) was interim City Manager until June, when the City Council appointed former Wyoming City Manager Barb VanDuren to be interim City Manager.

Christiansen gave her notice at the same meeting at which VanDuren was appointed, and retired July 1 after 22 years. She was replaced in the interim by Christine Witt, and then permanently by Rebecca Newland.

Treasurer Deb Brunett left for another position and was replaced by Darla Falcon. The city is also currently looking for a deputy treasurer.

CBDT donates property to city

In other city news, the city now owns all of the land in the Heart of Cedar Springs project after it was officially donated to them by the Community Building Development Team and CS Manufacturing.

Over the past three years, the CBDT, comprised of two dozen organizations and businesses in Cedar Springs, along with dozens of individual volunteers, has acquired six parcels equaling approximately 7.5 acres of land through a donation from CS Manufacturing, and from land that was bought at a substantially reduced price from Rob and Jodi Coxon. The donated land connects to the City-owned property on the northwest corner of Maple and Main Streets where the library is being constructed.

The entire area will be part of the ongoing development that will be known as the “Heart of Cedar Springs.”

For many years the plan has included a boardwalk/walking trail along Cedar Creek and bridges over the creek. Other features of the Recreation Plan include an amphitheater, which is the CBDT’s next project, as well as a Community Center and Recreation Facility.

Donating the land to the City not only benefits the community, but it also opens many new avenues for grant-funded projects.

“The City is grateful for all the hard work already put in by the CBDT on the Heart of Cedar Springs project and we look forward to working together to make downtown a better experience for everyone,” commented City Manager MikeWomack.

The CBDT has met monthly over the last three years and continues to meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each month (except December) in the board room of Hilltop School at 6 p.m.

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Year in Review: Veteran’s memorial stolen and then recovered

The Kent County  Sheriff Department found the stolen monument and arrested suspects in the crime within days of its disappearance. Photo courtesy of the Kent County Sheriff Department.

The Kent County Sheriff Department found the stolen monument and arrested suspects in the crime within days of its disappearance. Photo courtesy of the Kent County Sheriff Department.

By Judy Reed

The monument dedicated to the memory of fallen hero SPC. Timothy Brown was stolen in October from Veterans Park, and suspects in the case were arrested within days by the Kent County Sheriff Department.

The Brown family discovered the monument was missing Saturday, October 22, and called police. Thieves broke the statue, taking the helmet, rifle, and dog tags. Only the boots were left on the memorial stone. The family appealed to the public to have the suspects return the statue, no questions asked, but it did not appear.

The monument dedicated to SPC. Timothy Brown has been repaired and restored to its rightful place in Veterans Park. Post photo by J. Reed.

The monument dedicated to SPC. Timothy Brown has been repaired and restored to its rightful place in Veterans Park. Post photo by J. Reed.

Police suspected the same culprits took the statue as broke into concessions at Skinner Field just a day prior. They posted surveillance footage of the break-in, featuring three young males, and asked media to share the photos. Within days, suspects in the thefts were arrested.

Police found the statue in a shed on the property of Tracy Lyn Coleman, 45, in the 100 block of E. Muskegon, along with several items in the home from the Skinner Field break-in.

Police arrested David Edgar Sommerville, 17, Austin Lee Coleman, 20, and Justin Lynn Rossman, 27, all of Cedar Springs, on Thursday, October 27. All three were charged in the Skinner Field break-in, and Sommerville and Rossman were charged with the monument theft. The older Coleman was arrested the next day on receiving and concealing stolen property. He reportedly admitted to police that he knew the rifle and helmet were stored in his shed, and that he had told one of the defendants to get it out of there. Rossman reportedly told police that Sommerville stole the rifle and helmet and hid them in the storage shed.

“We are proud of the work of our investigators as they worked tirelessly to bring SPC Brown’s Monument back into safe hands,” said the Kent County Sheriff Department in an announcement on their Facebook page.

Once the statue was recovered, DPW Director Tom Stressman had it repaired by a business in Minnesota that specializes in bronze monuments and memorials honoring law enforcement, fire/rescue, and the military.

City Manager Mike Womack said it would cost the city about $500 to have the $10,000 monument repaired, and they would probably seek to recover that cost as part of restitution on the part of the suspects.

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Year in Review: Fires destroy homes

The fire spread from the pole barn to an adjacent RV. Photo by J. Reed.

The fire spread from the pole barn to an adjacent RV. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Numerous homes were damaged or destroyed by fire this year in the greater Cedar Springs area. In the photo above, lightning started a fire at the Lake Side Camp Park on White Creek Avenue, south of 17 Mile, on July 11, shortly after 1 p.m. Cedar Springs Fire, Algoma Fire, and Kent City Fire provided mutual aid to Solon Fire at the scene.

Fire investigators found evidence that lightning had struck an electrical panel near the pole barn where the fire started. The fire destroyed the pole barn, burned an RV, damaged a utility truck, and melted siding on park owner Rich Lupico’s home.

This is just one example of many fires that occurred this year.

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Year in Review: Fatal crashes

The fire spread from the pole barn to an adjacent RV. Photo by J. Reed.

The fire spread from the pole barn to an adjacent RV. Photo by J. Reed.

The Post ran stories on 17 different fatal crashes or accidents that occurred in the greater Cedar Springs area this year, including the one in the photo left, that occurred on Northland Drive at 15 Mile Road, on Tuesday, March 1. According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, a 1963 Ford Fairlane was headed north on Northland Drive about 4:12 p.m. Tuesday, when it crossed the centerline just north of 15 Mile Road, and was struck by a southbound Ford F150 truck.

The driver of the Ford Fairlane, Duane Schwartz, 68, of Sand Lake, and his passenger, Cathy Sutton, 57, of Gaines Township, were both ejected from the car and died of their injuries at the scene. The Ford Fairlane was not equipped with seatbelts. The driver of the truck, a Kentwood woman, was not injured. Slippery roads may have played a part in the crash.

This is just an example of one of the crashes that occurred this year. Please drive safely out there!

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Year in Review: Cedar Springs Schools adopt OK2Say program

 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Public Schools district accomplished a lot of good things in 2016, one of them being the adoption of the statewide OK2Say program, a student safety initiative that enables students to confidentially report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Attorney General Bill Schuette was on hand for the kick off of the program last spring.

Schuette told the students and The Post that it is about changing the culture from “don’t be a snitch” to “it’s ok to communicate to save a life.”

“OK2SAY has made a difference. We are stopping violence in its tracks and making school a safer place for our kids,” said Schuette. “Credit for the program’s success is directly attributable to the thousands of student ‘heroes in the hallway’ who stepped up and took ownership of their roles in keeping their schools and classmates safe.”

Students can confidentially submit tips anytime by using the OK2SAY mobile app, online, email, texting, or by calling trained program technicians. Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding law enforcement agency or organization. Tips go to schools, local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state program, which started in fall 2014, just happened to be inspired by our current Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, before she came to Cedar Springs. Schuette honored Spry during the program with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Spry did not know that was going to happen.

“It’s truly a passion of mine to make sure students in all of our schools are safe,” said Spry. “OK2SAY is a wonderful program, and I will be eternally grateful to the legislators, community groups and the attorney general that stepped up to see it through.”

School resource officer

In order to beef up security for the 2016-17 school year, the Cedar Springs Public School district partnered with the Kent County Sheriff Department to bring a school resource officer to the school campus. Deputy Tom McCutcheon, who began his career with the KCSD in 1993, was chosen to fill that role. He spent many years as a D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Instructor, speaking in many different school districts, including Cedar Springs.

The Post asked him why he wanted the SRO position in Cedar Springs. “I hope to be a positive influence to the young people there,” he explained. “A lot of people think of security, and students feeling safe. But it’s more. I want to be a part of the school. It’s like what being a community policing officer is; you try to be proactive. If there is criminal activity going on, and people look up to you and trust you, you can help reduce a lot of that.”

The position will be jointly funded by the school and the county. The Kent County Sheriff Department offered to fund 30 percent of the program. The outstanding cost to the district would be approximately $76,000, after the Sheriff Department’s contribution. The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for the deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; a Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.

Accreditation

Cedar Springs announced in May that they had earned their North Central Accreditation through AdvanceEd, a global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation to over 32,000 institutions worldwide.

The district went through a rigorous and detailed review last school year that culminated with an external review team conducting a 3-day on site, after which they awarded the district the distinction of this national accreditation.

“We are thrilled, of course,” said Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “We have such a great district. The process really goes on all year. But this visit is where the rubber meets the road. It’s when they see the things that they’ve heard about all year long.”

“It is so evident that you really care about your students and should be proud of your district, from the top all the way down,” said presenter Vicki DeMao, of AdvanceEd.

The five-person team from AdvanceEd interviewed 120 stakeholders in the district, consisting of the superintendent, board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents/community members, and students. They also visited 32 classrooms in all seven buildings and observed students.

The report showed what powerful practices (or strengths) that the district had in various areas, and what ways they could improve.

The school district must go through this process every five years. They were last accredited in 2011, and it was good through June 2016.

Cherry Health Center

If a student gets sick at Cedar Springs Public Schools, they don’t have to wait to be picked up by a parent and then wait for an appointment with the family doctor. Instead, with a parent’s permission, they can be seen right on campus the same day at the newly renovated Cherry Health Center.

The Cherry Health Center, located at Red Hawk Elementary, celebrated their grand reopening on Tuesday, October 18, with a ribbon cutting, speakers, tours and refreshments.

“Cherry Health first opened in 2015 with a limited amount of medical and behavioral health services in a temporarily constructed space at the school, while campaign funds were raised to build out a fully functional health center,” explained Tiffany Aldrich, Director of Communications for Cherry Health. “The ribbon cutting and open house was to share the fully constructed health center with the community, which now also includes dental services.”

Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn said that Cedar Springs Schools serves a population of 48 percent low socio-economic students. “To have this is important. We now have dental, medical, and behavioral health, with DHS right next door.”

Services are provided regardless of ability to pay, but insurance may be billed when possible. Students must have parental consent on file to be treated.

“Any student ages 3-21 can be seen in the health center, regardless of whether or not they attend CSPS,” said Aldrich. “Therefore, if a student attends CSPS, a charter or private school, or is homeschooled, they can come to the health center.” Those younger than three must be a sibling of a student using the health center.

The health center offers on-site Medicaid enrollment assistance, well- child checks, immunizations, same day appointments for acute issues, referrals for more serious illness/injuries, hearing and vision screenings and more.

The health center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to make an appointment call (616) 696-3470.

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Year in Review: School board takes heat

Heidi Reed is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Heidi Reed is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Ted Sabinas is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

Ted Sabinas is one of two new faces on the Cedar Springs Board of Education this year.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education was under fire this year as many school staff members and residents took to the podium at school board meetings and wrote letters to the Post asking why four administrators had left since Supt. VanDuyn took over and expressing displeasure at the way certain matters were being handled by the board and administration. Many other residents and school staff took the opposite view, and said that they were supportive of the changes happening in the district.

Overflowing attendance at board meetings became the norm, as people on both sides of the issue yearned to have their voice heard.

The administrators in question had all resigned. Then two more administrators—elementary principals Andy Secor and Ken See—left last summer.

Later in the summer, the board released the Rehmann Report, a forensic audit that appeared to be targeted mainly at the athletic department. The forensic audit into record keeping in the athletic department at Cedar Springs Public Schools did not show any intentional misuse of funds or fraud, but did show that the district needs to have stricter policies and procedures on procurement cards and ensuring employees have the guidelines on how to use them. The report stated that they did not note any purchases under former Athletic Director Autumn Mattson that were inherently inappropriate.

“The investigation was a reflection of concerns brought to us about athletic accounts,” explained Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools. “When several concerns mounted, the board decided to go ahead with the investigation. We are accountable to the community, staff, and parents. We are stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Things got even more heated as the school board election campaign got underway. Incumbent Jeff Gust decided not to run again. Challengers Ted Sabinas (a former teacher and track coach) and Mistie Bowser campaigned together for two seats, and while challenger Heidi Reed and incumbent Joe Marckini campaigned separately, they were often promoted together by those writing letters to the editor. So it appeared there were two camps—Sabinas and Bowser (who questioned changes), and Reed and Marckini (who supported current administration). (A fifth candidate, Rita Reimbold, dropped out, saying she didn’t want to run against Marckini.) The election results showed, however, that it wasn’t quite so simple. Sabinas won his seat with 3,789 votes, and Reed won the second seat, with 3,602 votes. Bowser came in third with 2,789, and Marckini fourth, with 2,366.

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Year in Review: Cedar Spring Brewing wins awards

Cedar Springs brewing staff includes (from L to R): Director of Happiness, David Ringler; Benevolent Overlord of Brewing, Matt Peterson; and Fräulein Brewster, Manda Geiger.

Cedar Springs brewing staff includes (from L to R): Director of Happiness, David Ringler; Benevolent Overlord of Brewing, Matt Peterson; and Fräulein Brewster, Manda Geiger.

It’s been a banner year for the Cedar Springs Brewing Company, the restaurant and brewery that opened in November 2015 and continues to win accolades from loyal customers and critics alike. In May, customers voted it the best brewery in West Michigan. In June/July, customers nominated them for their fried chicken and MLive visited and named them as one of the best (#11 out of 52) in their search for Michigan’s best fried chicken, calling it absolutely delicious.

In May, they came in at number five out of MLive’s top 10 new breweries in Michigan. Customers nominated their favorite new breweries all across the state (from 2012 til now), and then MLive reporters Amy Sherman and John Gonzalez visited 30 finalists before making their decision on the top 10. When writing about Cedar Springs Brewing Company, they talked about how owner David Ringler learned to brew in Germany, and how his love for their country, traditions and traditional beers is infectious. They called his German beers excellent examples of classic styles, and called the Cedar Springs beer, CSIPA, a subtle, clean, quality beer. “The beers have nothing to hide behind, and don’t need to,” they wrote. “Their taste speaks volumes.”

In October, the brewery’s Küsterer Original Weissbier was the recipient of the bronze medal in the “South German Wheat Ale” category at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival, held in Denver, Colorado.

“We are immensely proud to have brought home this award to Cedar Springs and Beer City, USA in our first competition,” stated owner David Ringler. “We are passionate about this style, along with Bavarian brewing traditions, and we continue to strive to get better every day. We thank everyone who has supported us along the way as this wouldn’t be possible without them.”

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