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Solon Fire to distribute free smoke alarms 


N-Solon-fire-logoSenior citizens and low income residents first on list

The Solon Fire Department (SFD) has joined forces with the American Red Cross (ARC) to support their Home Fire Preparedness Campaign with a National Goal of a 25 percent reduction in home fire deaths and injuries in five years.

Did you know that on average, 7 people die every day from home fires in the United States? Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors save lives and protect against injury and loss due to fire.

According to Solon Fire Chief Jeff Drake, initial target homes will be low income and senior citizen residences in Solon Township. Both rental and owned properties qualify for this campaign.

The SFD will provide up to three smoke detectors per residence to help support the need to have a working smoke detector on every level, and every room of a residence. This amount of detector saturation provides the best opportunity for early warning of a fire, leading to survival of a residential home fire and much safer and cost effective suppression efforts by the fire department to limit dollar loss.

The smoke detectors to be installed are a 10-year Lithium Ion battery powered device.

There is no need for battery changes every 6 months. Simply dispose of the detector after ten years. Monthly testing is the only maintenance item required. A home fire safety survey will also be provided during the smoke detector install. A 20-30 minute appointment scheduled through the Solon Fire Department at smokedetectors@solontwp.org, or 616-696-0020 will be required.

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State Police employees honored for dedication and service 


Trooper, Motor Carrier Officer and Civilian of the Year recognized 

Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue is pleased to announce the 2016 recipients of the Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker Trooper of the Year, Motor Carrier Officer of the Year and Floyd R. Bell Jr. Civilian of the Year awards. They received the awards at a special ceremony in Lansing on January 26.

Trooper of the Year 

Trooper Matthew Kiser

Trooper Matthew Kiser

Trooper Matthew Kiser of the Metro North Post, a 20-year veteran of the department, was named Trooper of the Year.

The Gerstacker Award recognizes the MSP trooper or sergeant who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and a concern for giving back to their community. The late Dr. Carl A. Gerstacker, former chairman of Dow Chemical Company, created the award in 1961.

Kiser is a two-time recipient of the Cpl. Samuel A. Mapes Criminal Patrol and Investigation Award, recognized for excelling in looking past the traffic stop to identify serious crimes and close investigations with felony arrests. He is highly regarded by his fellow troopers because of his valuable expertise in narcotics investigations and tactical situations.

“Trooper Kiser’s exemplary work performance, extensive community involvement and leadership skills make him an excellent choice for Trooper of the Year,” said Etue. “We truly thank him for two decades of service with a purpose.”

Kiser has been instrumental in several MSP community initiatives, including Stuff a Blue Goose and Special Olympics Field Day. He also participates in programs at local schools and gives presentations for Families Against Narcotics in Oakland County.

Kiser enlisted with the department in 1996, graduating as a member of the 114th Trooper Recruit School. Prior to serving at the Metro North Post, he has served at the Sandusky and Detroit posts. Kiser served in the United States Navy from 1989 to 1994.

Motor Carrier Officer of the Year

Motor Carrier Officer Daniel Priebe

Motor Carrier Officer Daniel Priebe

Motor Carrier Officer Daniel Priebe of the Lakeview Post, a 17-year veteran of the department, was named Motor Carrier Officer of the Year.

The Motor Carrier Officer of the Year Award recognizes the MSP motor carrier officer who symbolizes outstanding professional ethics, dedication to duty and concern for giving back to their community.

“Motor Carrier Officer Priebe is known for his enthusiasm and effectiveness. When he sees a need, he takes action,” said Etue. “His reputation of outstanding work performance, commercial vehicle enforcement knowledge and commitment to service make him an excellent choice for the Motor Carrier Officer of the Year Award.”

Priebe took it upon himself to host an annual farmers’ forum after identifying a need to get vital information to farmers in his post area. The first forum had 13 attendees and in just six years it grew to include more than 150 participants.

Priebe displays a positive image while on duty and is also very involved in his community, striving to form new relationships there as well. For example, Priebe connected with a local trucking company, who also leads an organization that builds and delivers bikes to kids, and enlisted fellow co-workers to assemble and deliver bikes before Christmas. He now participates in and attends the delivery every year.

He also makes time to coach a number of youth sports and serve as a referee for an indoor soccer league, and routinely gives presentations for new commercial drivers about what they can expect at weigh stations and during traffic stops.

Priebe enlisted with the MSP in 2001, graduating as a member of the 13th Motor Carrier Officer Recruit School. Prior to serving at the Lakeview Post, he has served at the Ionia and Newaygo posts. He served in the United States Air Force from 1987 to 1992.

Civilian of the Year 

Mr. Brian McEachern

Mr. Brian McEachern

Mr. Brian McEachern of the MSP Intelligence Operations Division, a nearly 25-year veteran of the department, has been named Civilian of the Year. McEachern is currently a departmental supervisor at the Negaunee Regional Communication Center.

The MSP Civilian of the Year Award is named in honor of the late Floyd R. Bell Jr., a 42-year employee of the MSP, who continuously demonstrated commitment and dedication to the department and his community.

“Mr. McEachern is a true leader and an asset to both our department and his community,” said Etue. “His undying dedication and caring spirit for all he is involved in makes him an obvious choice for the Civilian of the Year Award.”

McEachern’s management style can be seen in the peer-led quality assurance team he developed. His approach has allowed for many improvements and boosted morale among co-workers.

Mentoring holds a special place in his heart because McEachern understands that successful leaders are developed. He enjoys showing co-workers not only how to complete the job, but to be proud doing it.

Outside of work, McEachern leads a youth development program and is deeply committed to his diocese, where he is training to become a permanent deacon. He organized what has become an annual community event to feed several hundred people in need, provides school supplies for children and spends time with the Shriners to get children where they need to go for vital medical treatment.

McEachern started with the department in 1992. He attended an accelerated college program earning a bachelor’s degree from Kaplan University within one year and with the highest distinction—Summa Cum Laude.

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Set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically: America Saves Week


By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

V-SocialSecuritySaving for the future is a vital part of ensuring a secure retirement. American Savings Education Council and America Saves coordinate the annual America Saves Week. Started in 2007, the week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

For years, Social Security has collaborated with America Saves Week to promote our shared mission of helping millions of people save for their future. This year, America Saves Week begins on February 27, but people like you are striving to save every day.

Visit www.myRA.gov if you do not have retirement savings as part of your job. myRA is a retirement savings account from the Department of the Treasury designed to help you put aside money for your retirement. You can invest in the fund according to your budget, putting you in control of your financial prospects.

Social Security’s “People Like Me” website has tailor-made information for preparing for your future. Our richly diverse country is made up of countless backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities, yet we all want the same thing — a secure future. You can see many of the diverse people we serve at www.socialsecurity.gov/people.

Younger people need to know, the earlier you start saving, the more your money can grow. Our website for young workers at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/youngpeople/saving.html has many resources that can help you secure today and tomorrow.

Veterans and wounded warriors, as well as their families, sometimes face unique obstacles when saving for their future. Our website has life-changing information at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

After more than 80 years of success, we know that Social Security will always be there for you. Securing your today and tomorrow will always be our priority.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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City votes to retain City Manager

City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar  Springs.

City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar Springs.

Cedar Springs City Councilors have decided that they like the job that City Manager Michael Womack is doing for them.

On January 12th, 2017, City Councilors reviewed the first six months of Womack’s performance as City Manager, assessing him in multiple categories.

Overall the Cedar Springs City Council rated Womack’s performance as very competent. Councilors stated that they were highly satisfied with Womack’s hiring of new staff and for creating an inviting atmosphere at City Hall. Councilors were also happy that Womack has created a good working relationship with Council, staff and the public. Womack also received praise for conducting the City’s business in a pleasant, positive and professional manner. Councilors did note that Womack could work harder at reaching out to City businesses and would like to see him continue working on the Heart of Cedar Springs project, the new fire barn and new streets and sidewalks in the City.

City Council voted 7-0 to retain Womack as City Manager and voted 7-0 to increase Womack’s salary $2000 per year to $74,000.

Womack started as City Manager on August 1st, 2016, replacing Thad Taylor, who departed the City for Manistee in November, 2015. Womack stated that he was very happy with Council’s vote of confidence in him and that Cedar Springs has been very welcoming.

“I look forward to working for the community for several years to come,” said Womack. “The City is working towards being more business-friendly and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities for growth and improvement in the near future.”

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Man dies in officer involved shooting

The Kent County Sheriff's mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

The Kent County Sheriff’s mobile crime lab at the scene of the shooting in the 4000 block of Summit Ct. in Algoma Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

UPDATED 1/29. Also see related story: Shooting victim suffered from mental disorder

By Judy Reed

A man died in Algoma Tuesday after he struggled with a police officer and was subsequently shot.

According to Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma, officers were called to a domestic dispute in the 4000 block of Summit Court, which is west off Summit near 14 Mile, about 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24. When deputies arrived, they learned that there had been an altercation between two brothers, who were now separated. One of them, who was suffering from a mental illness, got into an altercation with one of the deputies and injured him. Shots were then fired by a deputy, resulting in the death of the brother that was fighting the officer.

Sheriff Stelma said that the officer suffered minor injuries, including lacerations and bruises, but is fine.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

Jonathan David Sper mugshot from Kent County Correctional Facility.

The officer that fired the shot has not yet been identified.

The Wyoming Police Department is investigating the shooting, and identified the deceased brother as Jonathan David Sper, age 30. Sper had been released from jail just hours before the shooting. He had been arrested in Grand Rapids on January 18 for ordering food/beverage without paying, and for failing to identify himself to a police officer. 61st District Court records show he was uncooperative several times during his appearances before the judges, causing his hearings to be canceled, but he finally pled guilty on January 24, and was released, receiving credit for the six days served as his sentence.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan David Sper in happier times.

Jonathan is the son of David and Mary Sper of Grand Rapids. The shooting happened at the home of his brother and sister-in-law, Jarred and Sara Sper.

According to his obituary, Jonathan graduated from Abilene Christian University in 2014. He was described as a dreamer, full of life, who loved people, and had an entrepreneurial spirit.

A memorial service will be held at Ada Bible Church on Knapp St., Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, family asked that donations be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://ifundraise.nami.org/campaign/sper.

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Secretary Johnson announces next-generation voting equipment


N-New-voting-equipment-every-voice-counts-logoLocal clerks now will choose which system works best

City and township clerks across the state got some welcome news this week, when Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced the approval of contracts for new next-generation voting equipment that all Michigan voters will use over at least the next decade.

The State Administrative Board approved 10-year contracts with three vendors for optical-scan voting systems that read and tabulate paper ballots marked by voters. Each of Michigan’s 83 county clerks now will consult with the city and township clerks in their county to select one of the three vendors.

“The new equipment offers voters all the speed and convenience of the latest ballot-scanning and election-night reporting technology while at the same time featuring a good, old-fashioned paper ballot that we can always go back and look at if we need to,” said Johnson, the state’s chief elections official.

N-New-Voting-pullquoteLisa Wright, the clerk in Spencer Township, who also worked as an election inspector in Spencer Township for 15 years, was happy to hear the news. “I think this is fantastic. The benefits far out-weigh the cost,” she remarked. “The current machines are way outdated.”

The three election equipment and software vendors that had contracts approved are Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic, which all have systems that are being successfully used in other states.

“Michigan’s voting equipment has served us well over the past 12 years, but it is nearing the end of its expected lifespan and needs to be retired,” Johnson said. “I thank local clerks for their feedback as we discussed how to replace our aging equipment as well as the support of lawmakers and the governor.”

The new equipment, which includes ballot tabulators, accessible devices for use by voters with disabilities and election-management and reporting software, could be in use as early as the August 2017 primary local elections, depending on how quickly clerks are ready to implement them. All cities and townships across the state will have the new equipment by August 2018, which is the next scheduled statewide election.

The new systems all use digital optical scan technology, which includes notable improvements and increased ease of use for voters and election administrators. The systems allow for electronic storage of ballot images, a feature that will be useful during post-election audits. Improvements in the election management system software will save county and local clerks time and money in preparing for elections and providing election results. The options available for voters with disabilities are also greatly improved, and contractors will be required to continually assess and improve the systems, based on feedback. The contracts also cover service and maintenance.

A team of Michigan Bureau of Elections staff, local election officials and purchasing agents from the Secretary of State’s Office and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reviewed the proposals and equipment before recommending approval of a contract with three vendors. Elections staff sought extensive feedback about the systems from local election officials and advocates for Michigan voters with disabilities.

Solon Township clerk Mary Lou Poulsen said that County Elections Director, Susan de Steiguer, kept the local clerks of Kent County well informed during the long process of voting equipment replacement. “She served as an advisory member on the Michigan Bureau of Elections’ committee charged with the task of recommending replacement systems,” explained Poulsen. She said local clerks will get to try out the systems at a presentation in March.

“Fortunately, Solon Township has had good experience with the current tabulation equipment, with a few problems in the tabulation of Absent Voter ballots, where creases from being folded and mailed have caused jamming…(but) we never did have much luck with the Automark system that was designed for voters needing assistance in the polls. The machines were cumbersome, slow and jammed easily,” she explained.

Poulsen added that yes, she does think it is time to replace the equipment. “Twelve years is a quite a good lifespan for this type of equipment.”

But what does concern her is that they don’t yet know how much of the cost the township will have to cover. “That’s still quite a concern for us as we prepare next year’s budget,” she said.

Johnson said that the new equipment will be paid for with $30 million in federal Help America Vote Act money that the Secretary of State’s Office has saved for more than a decade, and with $10 million approved by the Legislature with the support of Gov. Snyder. This funding will cover most of the up-front cost for the new systems. Cities and townships will pay for the remaining cost, which will vary, depending on which vendor is selected, and for extended service and maintenance, which will begin in the 6th year of the contract period.

The equipment voters used in 2016 was rolled out in 2004 and 2005 when Michigan began using optical-scan voting systems statewide. Michigan is one of the only states with a substantial amount of federal funds still available to assist with the purchase of the next-generation voting systems.

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State police investigate attempted suicide


In the early morning of Monday, January 23, 2017, Troopers from MSP-Lakeview were assisting the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department to locate a man who had been in a yard threatening to shoot himself with a rifle in the Belding area. The subject left the scene after police were contacted. However, the investigation led troopers to a possible address in Oakfield Township where they might find him.

After they arrived on scene, troopers saw a man in a vehicle matching the given description. The man got out of the vehicle and troopers attempted to establish communication with him. The man immediately placed a rifle to his head and fired one round. There were no shots fired by responding officers.

After securing the scene, troopers performed first aid until medics arrived on scene. The man was transported by ambulance to Butterworth Hospital with a critical injury. The man, who was identified as the man they were looking for from the previous incident, is not expected to survive.

As of Wednesday, January 25, the police had no new information to pass along on the shooting.

Investigation into the incident is ongoing. Assisting at the scene was MSP-Rockford, Ionia County Sheriff Department, Kent County Sheriff Department, and Rockford Ambulance.

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The Post travels to see Dr. Pol

Pictured from left to right is Diane Pol, Cole Spicer, Dr. Jan Pol, and Charles Pol. 

Pictured from left to right is Diane Pol, Cole Spicer, Dr. Jan Pol, and Charles Pol.

Cole Spicer, age 7, son of Randy and Lianna Spicer, of Spicer Ornamental Bird Farm, in Solon Township, traveled with his copy of the Post to see his friends the Pols on January 21. The Pols are a famous veterinarian family in Weidman, Mich. Dr Jan Pol and his family own a clinic that is recorded by National Geographic Wild as the “Incredible Dr Pol show.” Spicer Ornamental Bird Farm was featured nationally on National Geographic Wild in season nine, episode 1.

“Dr Pol and his family traveled to our hometown of Cedar Springs to purchase peacocks,” explained Lianna. “Our farm raises various colors of peacocks and exotic pheasants from all over the world right here in the rural countryside of Cedar Springs. We are also on Facebook. We have shared a common interest with the Pols in peacocks and farming. We always receive a warm welcome and have a great visit every time we see the Pols.”

She said Cole is a big helper on their bird farm. His duties include gathering eggs, and helping feed and water. He also helps move the peachicks when they hatch from the incubator to their brooder. “Cole loves his animals and is on his way to becoming quite the hobby farmer,” she said.

Thank you, Cole, for taking us with you on your trip to see Dr. Pol!

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Winter fun


Ashley Hawley sent us this photo earlier this month of Landon Murphy (5), Maddie Schultz (5), and Hannah Schultz (7), enjoying some hot chocolate after playing in the snow at their home on Pine Street in Cedar Springs. Hot chocolate is a great way to warm up after playing outside!

If you have winter photos you’d like us to consider for publication, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com with “winter fun” in the subject line. We publish them as space allows, and do not guarantee publication.

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Trout Unlimited, partners receive $8 million grant for habitat restoration

Trout Unlimited and partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service working on wetland restoration.

Trout Unlimited and partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service working on wetland restoration.

Trout Unlimited (TU) and partners have received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The $8 million federal grant will promote conservation efforts in the Lower Grand River Watershed. In the Rogue River, as part of TU’s Home Rivers Initiative, approximately $2 million will support conservation agreements and help agricultural landowners to implement best practices to address water quality concerns.

Trout Unlimited will work with partners including the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kent Conservation District, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, local municipalities, and schools to restore wetlands, reconnect floodplains, install buffer strips, and implement other erosion control practices to reduce sedimentation in the local waterways.

“This 5-year grant is regionally important as there are partners implementing restoration practices all throughout the Lower Grand River Watershed, including in downtown Grand Rapids as part of the river revitalization project,” said a statement from Trout Unlimited. “For that project to be successful, it is necessary to protect and restore upstream communities and watersheds such as the Rogue River, as it is a significant coldwater tributary to the Grand. Trout Unlimited is pleased to be a part of such a momentous project and excited to expand their efforts in the Rogue River watershed.”

Trout Unlimited has also been working with area schools and other volunteers on projects for Cedar Creek, right here in Cedar Springs. Cedar Creek is part of the Rogue River watershed.

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