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Kent County to request increased dispatch funding 


Funding would pay for 911 technology and fire dispatch operations 

On Thursday, July 28, the Kent County Board of Commissioners approved ballot language asking residents for a Public Safety Dispatch surcharge increase.

The measure, slated to appear on the November ballot, will ask voters for an increase of 70 cents per month, per line for phone service in Kent County, making the new monthly levy $1.15 per phone. That works out to $13.80 per year per phone.

The 70-cent increase would address shortcomings with current 911 technology and fire dispatch operations by investing in next generation technology that allows for inter-agency communication and other upgrades. The funds would allow authorities to streamline emergency communications that currently can be patchwork in nature because not every agency is on the same radio system.

Kent County 911 dispatch currently operates on eight different radio systems, which hampers public safety efforts in some situations because emergency responders cannot communicate directly—even if they are working on the same incident.

“Some first responders carry multiple devices in order to talk to various responding agencies, which has led to lapses in communication,” Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma said. “In incidents involving these agencies, Kent County dispatchers use telephones to communicate with other dispatch agencies, then the dispatchers communicate to first responders, which takes more time to complete.”

The funds would allow Kent County to purchase communications towers and 800 MHz equipment that would place all Kent County dispatchers and first responders on the Michigan Public Safety Communications System.

This would improve communication with most of the state’s 911 call-taking centers, including those with the Michigan State Police, and Ottawa, Allegan, Ionia and Newaygo counties.

“Increasingly, law enforcement officials from multiple agencies are being called on to respond to mass shootings and other events that threaten public safety and require an all hands-on-deck approach,” said Curtis Holt, director of the Kent County Dispatch Authority and Wyoming city manager. “From the Dantzler shootings in Kent County five years ago to the mass shootings earlier this year in Kalamazoo, we have seen time and time again the critical importance of multiple agencies coming together and working as a unified team in times of crisis. The surcharge proposed by Kent County provides the public an opportunity to address this concern.”

The Kent County Board of Commissioners sees this proposal as a means to both enhance 911 dispatch operations and improve the safety of our community.

“The work leading up to this proposal has been significant and time-consuming, but extremely rewarding,” said Jim Saalfeld, chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. “This proposal demonstrates efforts and work by all units of government—Kent County, cities, townships, the law enforcement community, and the fire and emergency response communities—as well as various community stakeholders. It underscores yet another example of how our community pulls together at all levels to improve the lives our citizens in the most effective and efficient way possible.”

The ballot language comes after much collaboration and study of the current dispatch system by many in the communities served by it. “Strong and safe neighborhoods along with responsive public safety services are top priorities,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “This proposal gives us the opportunity to serve our residents and taxpayers through collaboration and new technologies.”

Part of the surcharge will cover costs associated with countywide fire dispatch, which is more complex technologically and more labor intensive than in the past. Most of the cities and townships in Kent County adopted resolutions urging the County to place a surcharge question on a ballot in 2016.

A surcharge is more of a “user-based” fee, directly charging devices that use 911 service. Even with a surcharge increase, County residents will continue to pay on the low end for dispatch services compared to other, like-sized counties within the state.


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Work on new library site begins

The work began last week on the grounds of te new Cedar Springs Library, at the corner of Main and W. Maple.

The work began last week on the grounds of te new Cedar Springs Library, at the corner of Main and W. Maple.

Work began last week on the grounds for the new 10,016-square foot library at the corner of Main and W. Maple in Cedar Springs.

The $2 million project estimated to take about 6-8 months to complete.

It is just the first step in a wide scale project being called “The heart of Cedar Springs.” It encompasses ten acres between Maple and Pine Streets. Plans include the new library building, an amphitheater, a boardwalk along the Creek, with rain gardens and sculptures, a community building and a recreation/fitness center. There are also plans for clock tower on the corner of Main and Maple. Complementary to this Town Square development, the White Pine Trail and the North Country Trail will intersect right here in Cedar Springs.

In the meantime, there are still ways you can help the library with funding. A paving brick can be purchased for $50 for a 4×8 or $100 for an 8×8 brick. Paving bricks will be placed in front of the library building and will be highly visible to everyone using the library. With the purchase of a personalized, engraved brick, your pride and support of this project and the community will be permanently displayed.

You can also purchase a commemorative brick or block. A block can be purchased for $1,000 to be used in the retaining wall along a path on the northeast side of the new library. Donations for a retaining wall block will not only offset the cost of the retaining block and its installation but will afford you the opportunity to honor or remember a loved one, show support for your community, or advertise your business or organization. The blocks will be formed with an inset to hold an 8×10 brass plaque that can be engraved with your name, logo, or other information. There are also a limited number of capstone blocks available for $2,000.

Forms for both blocks and bricks are available from their website, cedarspringslibrary.org, and at the Cedar Springs Public Library during library hours. They are also available at Cedar Springs City Hall and Solon Township Hall.

Library ClockTower Plan WDimension.pdf

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Man arrested for stabbing roommate

Benjamin Rowe

Benjamin Rowe has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

A Solon Township man is facing felonious assault charges after he allegedly stabbed his roommate over the weekend.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, they responded to a report of a domestic assault in the early morning hours of July 31, in the 1900 block of 17 Mile, near Algoma, in Solon Township.

Deputies discovered that the 37-year-old male victim had multiple stab wounds in his face and neck. He was able to leave the house and was transported to Spectrum Health to receive treatment.

The suspect, Benjamin Rowe, 33, who is the victim’s roommate, would not at first come out of the house when deputies asked him to, so police activated the Kent County TAC team. Shortly after the team arrived, the suspect came out of the house on his own will and was taken into custody by Deputies.

On August 1, 2016, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a warrant on Benjamin Rowe for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (Felonious Assault). The bond was set at $10,000 cash/surety.

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Primary Election results 2016


Sheriff Larry Stelma

Sheriff Larry Stelma

Sheriff Stelma wins primary; Algoma, Nelson to see new supervisors

Tuesday’s Michigan state primary election saw lower voter turnout in Kent County than for the record-setting presidential primary earlier this year, with only 8.95 percent of Kent County’s registered voters going to the polls.

Some races were uncontested, but many of the township trustee and supervisor races were decided in this election because the candidates all registered under the same party.

Kent County Sheriff

One of the bigger races in Kent County was the one for Sheriff. Incumbent Larry Stelma, of Cedar Springs, who has served as Sheriff for 16 years, fended off three other Republican contenders and will face Democrat Michael Scruggs in the November election. He won handily over the other candidates, garnering 27,382 votes. Timothy Lewis came in second with 6,539 votes; followed by John Stedman with 6,464; and Stacey Browe with 3,830.

“I continue to be humbled and encouraged by the support of the community and the sheriff’s office,” Stelma told WZZM13 in a televised interview. “I don’t view it as just something on me, it is a commentary on the entire agency. Every one of those officers everyday goes out there committed to serve the public. It’s humbling and it’s encouraging.”

Algoma Township

Algoma Township residents voted in a new supervisor in Tuesday’s election. Former state representative Kevin Green won over current Supervisor Nancy Clary by 300 votes—809 to 509. Four positions were open for trustee with five running. James Powell (807), Gordon Pickerd (788), Bob Wilson (752), and Tom Ungrey (650), all snagged seats. Mark Lemoine finished fifth with 531. Judy Bigney ran uncontested as clerk, as did Deborah Ellenwood for treasurer.

Courtland Township

Four seats were open for Courtland trustees, with six people running, all as Republicans. Voted in was Mary Ann Andersen (384), Mike Krygier (381); Kimberly McIntyre (352); and Matt McConnon (303), all incumbents. Following close behind was Thomas Kinney (276), and Daniel Pilarski (269).

Courtland Supervisor Charles Porter ran uncontested, as did Colleen Brown for treasurer. Sandy Frandsen (R), Marilyn Crosby (D), and Grace Mosher (NPA) will vie for the office of Clerk in November.

Nelson Township

Nelson Township residents will have a new supervisor at the helm this fall in Robyn Britton. Current Supervisor Tom Noreen was on the ballot, but told the Post ahead of time that he had withdrawn too late to get his name taken off. The total was Britton 138, Noreen 86. Clerk Laura Hoffman held on to her seat, beating out Jami Norton 137-83. Treasurer Katy Austin also will be back, winning 148 to 78 over Leticia Nielsen. Glen Armstrong and Maureen Mahoney ran uncontested for the trustees positions.

Oakfield Township

Oakfield Supervisor William Dean held on to his seat by just nine votes, coming in ahead of Paul Decess 344 to 335. Dean has been supervisor for 24 years. In the trustee race, there were four seats and six people running, all as Republicans. Winning the seats were Chad Sowerby (407); Bryan Porter (381); Kenneth Rittersdorf (365); and Pamela Riker (339). They were  followed closely by Donald Mason (300); and Ken Craft (223). Running uncontested was Larry Parker for treasurer, and Linda VanHouten for clerk. Oakfield also passed their fire protection proposal 538 to 391.

Solon Township

Solon Supervisor Bob Ellick won handily over Jerrod Roberts, 334 to 101. He has been supervisor for 12 years. Clerk Mary Lou Poulsen and treasurer Arthur Gerhardt ran uncontested. In the trustee race, V. Fred Gunnell (R), Mark Hoskins (R), Christine Witt (D), and Bruce Gravelin (NPA) will vie for two trustee seats in November.

Spencer Township

Spencer Township residents voted in a new clerk Tuesday. Lisa Wright garnered 204 votes, over incumbent Denise Biegalle’s 129. In the trustees race, there are two seats open. John Tow (184) and John Wood Jr. (137) came out on top for the Republicans. Other contenders were Christopher Lange (130); Frederick Zomerhuis (79); and Clint Chilcote (71). Tow, Wood, and Democrat Eldon Lutz will vie for the two seats in November. Scott Baas (R) and Judy Geglio (D) will also be on the ballot against each other for treasurer in November. Supervisor Jeff Knapp ran uncontested. Voters also passed both of their Fire protection millage proposals.

For more election results around the area, visit http://www.electionmagic.com/results/mi/K41results/K4100101sum.htm.

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Historical Society raises funds with car show

N-Car-show1It was like a throwback to another era seeing some of the old cars traveling the roads in town last Saturday. They were here for the Cedar Springs Historical Society’s annual car show, held last Saturday, July 30, in Morley Park.

N-Car-show2“The 2016 Summer Car Show was a wonderful success,” said Sharon Jett, Co-director at the museum. “We had 65 registered cars and more cars that did not register.”

Pat Patin filled the air with her fun oldies music and served as announcer. Marie and Nolan Patin did sand art with anyone interested in creating a little piece of art. The FFA students from Cedar Springs High School sold coffee and donuts as a fundraiser for their organization.

“Meijer Corporation brought their food bus in and served a free grilled hot dog lunch to the public,” added Jett. “They handed out hundreds of lunches and helped make our show fun for everyone.”

Behind the scenes they had many more people taking care of the museum visitors and even dealing with a plumbing disaster.

Ken Tuinstra won best of show with his 1955 Bel Air. They also named winners of the top 19 cars.

Jett said that this show is important for the money it helps raise to sustain operations without charging admission. So they are grateful to the many businesses that help sponsor the show and make it a success. “Without their generosity, this car show would not be able to support our family programs throughout the year. We are very grateful for their help,” she said.

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Students visit from Beijing

These Chinese students spent three weeks in Cedar Springs this summer.

These Chinese students spent three weeks in Cedar Springs this summer.

Almost 70 high school students from China have made an impact on Cedar Springs over the last few weeks, and will also take a little bit of Red Flannel town with them.

Tim and Shelley Bauer, directors of Network 153, a local nonprofit organization, teamed up with Pine Ridge Bible Camp for the third summer in a row, in order to work together with Lu He Cultural Training Center in Beijing to bring the students here.

Chinese students learned about some of America’s founding fathers in their ESL class this summer.

Chinese students learned about some of America’s founding fathers in their ESL class this summer.

The Chinese students are here for a three-week English Immersion program. They spend two weeks in local host families, and one week at camp. While here, they participated in twelve hours of ESL classes under the theme of “All men are created equal,” as well as visiting some of our local attractions. Not only were there guest appearances from famous Americans in their ESL classes such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, a pilgrim, and Paul Revere, but they also learned of our struggles as a nation with racism and prejudice. An African American, and a Native American Indian speaker also shared their cultural difficulties within our land. Whether Chinese or American, it was very moving for all who heard them share their hearts.

The students cleaned the Kent Theatre as part of a community service project.

The students cleaned the Kent Theatre as part of a community service project.

The students also did a thorough cleaning of the Kent Theater in Cedar Springs, as part of a community service project.

The students’ final week is spent having fun at Pine Ridge Bible Camp August 1-6. When they leave, they hope to take some copies of the Cedar Springs Post back with them to Beijing.

The Bauers and Pine Ridge Camp are grateful for this exciting relationship with those from the other side of the world. They hope to visit Lu He next year in Beijing for their 150th anniversary. The school was founded in 1867 by American Christian missionaries, and many of the buildings on campus have American names after those who first began their school. It is a growing relationship that the Bauers pray blesses both countries.

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The Post travels to Germany


The Post recently traveled to Dresden, Germany, with Kim Gillow and Mary Balon, of Solon Township, and their friend Harry Eastwood, of Australia. They spent two weeks travelling through Poland, Germany, and Austria visiting important WWII sites, including concentration camps, the Nuremburg courthouse and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. This picture was taken half way through the trip in the town square in Dresden.

“Every day was interesting and informative,” said Kim, “and the local guides were wonderful.”

Thanks for taking us to Germany 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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Warbirds at Sparta Airport

Photo from yankeemuseum.org. This B-25D Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber from World War II, will be at the Sparta Airport and available for rides on August 12 and 13 during their annual Build Off and Fly in.

Photo from yankeemuseum.org.
This B-25D Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber from World War II, will be at the Sparta Airport and available for rides on August 12 and 13 during their annual Build Off and Fly in.

By Judy Reed

EAA Chapter 704 is bringing the 4th annual Great Lakes Aviators Build Off and Fly In to the Sparta Airport, 9100 Vinton Avenue, on August 12-13.

Admission is free to the grounds for an up-close look at vintage warbirds and show planes.

There will be a juried competition of home built and restored aircraft, and an exciting opportunity to see and ride in the B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bomber, a plane that became standard equipment for Allied forces during World War II. According to Boeing.com, it became “the most heavily armed airplane in the world, was used for high- and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol, and even as a fighter and was distinguished as the aircraft that completed the historic raid over Tokyo in 1942.” Nearly 10,000 were produced between 1939 and 1945. It was named after Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell.

The plane that will be onsite is a real bomber that saw combat but was not harmed. To reserve a ride visit http://yankeeairmuseum.org/fly/b-25-rides/.

There will also be a hearty pancake breakfast for $7 on Saturday morning, and free flights for Young Eagles (ages 8-17) from 8 a.m. to noon. There is a pre-event party on Friday night, where pilot campers can pitch a tent on the field, and food, music and drinks will be available.

Hope to see you there!

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Federal charges filed against former Rockford rowing coach


Timothy Warren Vallier

Timothy Warren Vallier

A former Rockford coach that allegedly recorded videos of high school girls changing their clothes in the locker room now faces federal charges.

Timothy Warren Vallier, 30, the former head coach of the rowing team at Rockford Public Schools, was arraigned in federal court on Thursday, July 28, on federal criminal charges of possession and attempted production of child pornography.

The Plainfield Township man was arrested on July 8, after an investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Rockford Public School Superintendent Mike Shibler contacted the Kent County Sheriff Department on the morning of July 8 after receiving a call from one of the crew (rowing) parents informing him that a video camera had been found in a crew vehicle with inappropriate footage.

Two assistant coaches in the vehicle reportedly saw the camera, and when one of the girls got curious and looked at it, found footage of two female athletes changing their clothes inside the changing room area of the Rockford Crew House located at 5501 Jupiter Ave., in Plainfield Township.

Vallier reportedly admitted to police that he put the camcorder in the girls changing room on multiple occasions. He also said he has done this several times over the last few years, and has videos of other female athletes.

He was initially arraigned in 63rd District on two obscenity charges—one charge of child sexually abusive commercial activity and one charge of possession of child sexually abusive material; and two charges of using a computer in the commission of a crime.

The state charges will be dropped now that criminal charges have been filed.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that Vallier took hundreds of hidden videos of girls changing in locker rooms while he was the head rowing coach at the Rockford Public Schools and that a computer in his possession contained additional child pornography.

The government asked the court to detain Vallier pending trial, and he will remain in custody pending a hearing before a grand jury.

If convicted, Vallier faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison on each count of attempting to produce child pornography and up to 20 years for possession. Each offense also carries a requirement for sex offender registration, a potential fine of up to $250,000 and financial compensation to the victims, and up to lifetime of intensive supervised release after incarceration, during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

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North Kent Community Services collects school supplies


North Kent Community Services (NKCS) has kicked off its annual Back-to-School Drive. Each fall, many students in northern Kent County face the prospect of starting school without adequate supplies, an issue NKCS is addressing with this program.

“By partnering with the churches and community we can ensure that all students have the tools they need to be successful as they start the new school year,” says NKCS Executive Director Claire Guisfredi.

NKCS is collecting new backpacks, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, rulers, pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers, pencil boxes, folders, 3-ring binders, crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks and scissors. These supplies will be distributed to students who are entering Kindergarten through 9th grade at area schools on August 23.

Donations can be dropped off at North Kent Community Services, 10075 Northland Drive NE, Rockford (just north of 12 Mile Road), Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Back-to-School Drive runs now through Thursday, August 18. NKCS is also looking for volunteers to sort donations and help with distribution. To volunteer, contact Cassie LaMacchia at (616) 866-3478 ext. 101 or cassie.lamacchia@nkcs.org.

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