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Girl Scouts donate to Paws with a Cause

Local Girl Scouts help Paws with a Cause.

Local Girl Scouts help Paws with a Cause.

The local Girl Scout troop 4482 recently had a visit from Paws with a Cause.

They met Casey, a golden retriever, and Casey’s trainer, Sandee, talked to the girls about the program and all the benefits of the program for those who are in need of a Paws Dog. The girls asked lots of questions and got lots of answers,  including how much it costs to raise a Paws dog—$30,000!

N-Girl-Scouts-with-dogAt the end of all the questions, Casey was happy to let the girls pet him. Then the troop presented a check to Casey and Sandee, donating a percentage of their hard earned cookie money to Paws with a Cause.

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Woman charged with leaving child in a vehicle

Parents, caregivers advised to never leave child alone in car

Police were called to the Walmart in Comstock Park on Saturday, May 21, at 6:18 p.m., on a report of a child left in a vehicle.

Kent County Deputy Ysquierdo arrived on scene and found a 2-year-old girl in the back of a running car. He was unable to awaken her, and it appeared she had a red face and was sweaty. When he forced his way into the car, the child began to wake up. She was transferred to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with signs of heat exhaustion, but is expected make a full recovery.

The child’s grandmother, Karol Anne Fitzgerald, 71, of Stanton, was found shopping in Walmart. On May 25, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office charged Fitzgerald with one count of leaving a child in an unattended vehicle, which is a 93 days misdemeanor. On May 26, she was arrested and released on a $500 surety bond.

A referral was made to Child Protective Services.

This type of scenario happens more often than you might expect, many with tragic outcomes.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as of May 17, six children had already died in the U.S. from suffering heat stroke in a car. On average, 37 deaths a year occur for that reason.

“We know from past experience that fatalities can happen anytime, anywhere, including in moderate temperatures,” said Nick Lyon, director of MDHHS. “We don’t want to see this happen to any family. That’s why we are asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

It doesn’t have to be the middle of the summer for a child to get overheated. Even with seemingly mild temperatures outside, the temperatures inside a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than adult’s, making them more susceptible to heat stroke. Temperatures inside a car can easily be double the temperature outside.

MDHHS said we can cut down the number of deaths and near misses by remembering to ACT.

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.

C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.

T: Take action. If you see or hear a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

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Sheriff proposes school resource officer to district

By Judy Reed

If the Cedar Springs Public School district can swing the cost, the Kent County Sheriff Department may be able to help with security issues, as well as crime prevention, early intervention, and mentoring of the young lives on campus.

Sheriff Larry Stelma, Under Sheriff Michelle Young, Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the Cedar Springs Unit, and Lt. Jeff DeVries, of the Community Policing unit, were on hand at the Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting Monday evening, May 23, to talk about their School Resource Officer program and give the board a proposal for implementing it.

“We have 3,500 students and 350 staff members—4,000 people on campus everyday,” said Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent.

She noted that there were concerns from the accreditation team about security, and that they have concerns from staff, parents and community about safety issues on any given day. The school resource officer proposal was one step in addressing those issues.

“The atmosphere of a school can change faster than the weather,” remarked Sheriff Stelma, who is also a Cedar Springs resident. “We are passionate about our school resource officers. They are more than just someone walking the halls and parking lots. They are staff educational support. We are passionate about building relationships with kids, staff and parents.” He talked about early intervention into the lives of the bullied and disenfranchised. “We let the officer work with the youngster, the family, the school, before he explodes. Serious incidents happen in schools just like Cedar Springs. There may be problems at home, or maybe they are being bullied. Most are average schools, just like ours. At any given time during the day, there are more people on campus here than anywhere else in the community.”

“There are countless benefits to having someone being in charge of security at the school,” noted Sgt. Kelley. “They can query whether there is anything happening in the community that is going to bleed over into the district. They also have direct contact and access to the Sheriff, detectives, prosecutors, etc. They can be part of the solution to a problem rather than just responding to a scene and reporting it.”

Stelma said they are so passionate about bringing a School Resource Officer (SRO) in that they have arranged to cover one-third of the cost, if the school can cover the other two-thirds. Estimated cost to the district in the first year would be $76,219.

The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.

There are currently six schools involved in the program, each with their own officer—Northview, Kenowa Hills, Kent City, Forest Hills, Lowell, and Byron Center. Caledonia may be coming on board as well. Superintendents and principals at the schools with an SRO had nothing but high praise for the officers and the changes it has brought about in their schools. For example, Dustin Cichocki, assistant principal at Lowell High School said, “Simply put, our students are making smarter decisions because of the knowledge they have obtained from Todd (Deputy Summerhays, SRO). I think all buildings should have an advocate and resource like this.”

The school and the Kent County Sheriff Department would make the selection of the officer together. The Sheriff Department would go through the applicants, and choose four or five who might be a good fit. The school would then decide between those applicants.

In addition to deputy training, the SROs also get extra training: Basic School Resource Officer training, and how to keep schools safe. Before the end of the year, they would also get training in assessing threats in a school environment (from the FBI); and training in social media investigations.

What does a SRO do? Here are a few examples:

• Meeting with principal each morning to exchange information gathered from parents, community members, and social media to detect potential spillover of threats, drug activity, and other behavior into campus.

• Meeting with campus and community social workers to understand when and how at-home issues may be motivating a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with school staff to ensure effective and supportive responses.

• Monitoring radios to watch for spillover onto campus and be a familiar face if one of their students is involved in an incident off campus.

• Listening to students’ concerns about bullying by other students and taking those problems to school administrators to help develop solutions.

• Providing counseling and referrals when sex-abuse victims turn to them for help because of the relationship and trust the officers have built with the students.

• Conduct home visits to contact parents of at-risk students and assist those families.

• Working with the school administrations to keep the schools emergency management plan updated.

• Scheduling emergency drills in conjunction with other local agencies.

• Instruct students on technology awareness, domestic violence, traffic safety and bullying.

• Create and conduct a distracted driving course for students.

• Enroll students in the MSA STOPPED program (parents contacted when students get pulled over).

• Intervene early when student’s behavior starts to raise red flags.

• Stand-by when administrators deal with volatile parents or students.

The SRO position would adapt to whatever the need the school had.

The Board of Education may discuss and vote on the proposal at their next regular board meeting on Monday, June 6, at 6:45 p.m.

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Meet Barbara VanDuren: new interim City Manager

Barbara VanDuren

Barbara VanDuren

By Judy Reed

The new interim City Manager for Cedar Springs is someone who likes to spotlight the good things going on in a community. And she hopes to bring some positive things to Cedar Springs.

Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, was hired last Thursday evening and started work this week at Cedar Springs City Hall.

She retired in 2015 as deputy city manager for the City of Wyoming, a community of 72,000 people, with a budget of $105 million and 350 employees. She was responsible for economic development, downtown development, and working with local governments and citizen groups for the betterment of West Michigan. She held that position for 15 years. During four years of that time, she also taught undergraduate public administration courses in local politics and administration, and public personnel policy.

Prior to that, she was City Manager for the City of Wayland from 1996 to 2000, and assistant city manager before that for three years.

Cedar Springs is her first interim assignment. “When I retired 18 months ago, I thought I might like to try it,” she remarked. “A couple of communities called, but I was busy at the time and couldn’t do it.”

It’s not the first time she’s seen Cedar Springs. She and her husband, John Crofoot, live in Wyoming, but are avid bike riders, and sometimes ride the White Pine Trail to Rockford and Cedar Springs. “The White Pine Trail is a beautiful trail,” she said. They belong to a trail riding group, and do some recreational biking on the weekends. This fall they plan to take a bike tour through Vermont. “It was one of those things on my bucket list for when I retired,” she explained.

The couple has two grown children, Eric and Kevin. Both are married and live in the Grand Rapids and Grandville areas. They also have a 5-year-old grandson, Elliot.

Other than bike riding, VanDuren does promotional work for the City of Wyoming, by producing 1-1/2 minute commercials about good things going on in the city. The commercials are called “Wyoming Moments.”

“I have always seen positive things happening that don’t get publicized,” she explained. “But I think that local government and schools have a heart for their city, and it feels good to be on the other side and tell those stories.” She works with WKTV on those commercials and they are also put on the city’s website.

So what is VanDuren’s mission here in Cedar Springs? “Well, I’ve only been here a week, but I would like to work on improving communication between council and staff, and getting council and staff prepared for a new city manager. And help, if I can, to bring in a new manager that’s just right for Cedar Springs. I would like to keep things moving in a forward direction,” she said.

VanDuren said that her door is always open if a resident wants to talk. She will usually be in the office Monday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The City Council will meet Monday, June 6, in closed session, to review candidates for the permanent position.

The former City Manager, Thad Taylor, left for a position in Manistee in November. City Clerk, Linda Christiansen was acting City Manager from that time until VanDuren was hired.

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Cedar Springs grad and resident receives award

Mike Waite (center) received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MITES state convention on May 13. Courtesy photo.

Mike Waite (center) received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MITES state convention on May 13. Courtesy photo.

The 2016 Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES) state convention and awards ceremony was held on May 13 in Lansing, Michigan.  A 1978 Cedar Springs graduate and current resident, Mike Waite, was the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. This award began in 2003 and is given to a retired instructor that exemplified dedication in their teaching career.

Waite retired in 2015 after teaching woodworking, manufacturing, construction, general shop and drafting for 31 years at Watervliet High School and previously taught two years in Chatham, Illinois. He attended Western Michigan University (WMU) where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree. During Waite’s tenure at Watervliet, his woodworking students earned many regional and state first place awards for their projects. He had one grand champion in 1996. His program was recognized as one of the top woodworking programs in the state in 2008. Waite served as a regional area officer (RAO) for MITES for five years, a woods rules committee member, and director of the woods area at the state competition for 15 years. He was a six-time recipient of the MITES Regional Service Award as well.

Darci (Nielsen), also a CSHS graduate, and Mike have been married for 33 years. They have a son Adam and his wife Katie, as well as a daughter, Chelsi and her husband Tevin. Upon retirement, Mike and Darci built a home on Winfield Lake in Coral, so they could again be closer to family and friends. Waite also coached boys high school varsity basketball for seven years and varsity golf for nine years. An Illinois state basketball championship was earned while coaching in 1984. He was later inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame.

MITES has allowed Waite priceless opportunities to talk with, learn from, and work with many great, dedicated teachers. “Hosting several MITES regional conventions at Watervliet motivated my students to do their best on their current and future projects. My students enjoyed sharing their projects and receiving recognition for their work from family, friends and the community. I will forever treasure the memories of seeing and hearing proud parents and grandparents speak of their students,” Waite explained.

Waite went on to explain he had mentors in his life that inspired and influenced him to become a wood- working teacher. His first encouragement came from his Cedar Springs High School teacher, Dan Davis, who suggested Waite attend the state convention as a sophomore. Upon seeing the creativity and high quality of work done by other students, Waite’s eyes were opened to all the possibilities. “I knew I wanted to challenge myself to do a project of this caliber and so the journey began,” explain Waite. Dan Davis and his wife Carolyn were on hand to witness Mike’s recent state award. Davis explained CSHS teachers Tom Kloote, Steve Ringler, and himself were recipients of the MITES Program of Outstanding Quality Award in 2006. The new Cedar Springs High School had just been completed and the staff had implemented a wide variety (CAD, metal and wood) of successful programs at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels earning them the state recognition.

Another influential person in Waite’s life was his woods WMU professor, Gill Hutchings. Waite worked for him as a lab assistant to help pay his way through college.

“I still stay in contact with him and we also get together each summer. He will be 90 years old this summer. Just before spring break of my junior year at WMU, I was running low on money and told Hutchings I was considering taking some time off. Upon returning from break, Hutchings called me into his office. He explained that he and his wife wanted me to live with them and take spring and summer classes. I would do odd jobs for them and they would pay for my classes. He arranged for me to student teach that fall. Hutching’s guidance changed my life. I have tried to follow his example with my students over the years. It has been wonderful maintaining contact with many of my students over the last 30-plus years. I thank my Lord for the opportunities I have had to work with students,” shared Waite.

MITES presenter Greg Meyer stated, “Teaching is truly a way of life for this recipient. I am honored to give this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Mike Waite.”

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Schuette encourages victims and witnesses of mistreatment in the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to contact his office

Schuette makes his ongoing investigation public to encourage others to come forward with information 

LANSING–Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is encouraging people who have resided in the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans during the last several years, or who may have otherwise been witness to patient mistreatment, to come forward with information that could help his ongoing investigation into the treatment of patients in the facility.

Schuette confirmed that his Health Care Fraud Division has been conducting an investigation into allegations of improper care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans since February 23, 2016. This followed the February 18, 2016 Michigan Auditor General report that indicated the facility was allegedly not properly taking care of the veterans residing in the home.

While the Department of Attorney General does not always confirm that investigations are ongoing, Schuette has made this investigation public in order to encourage those who may have been residing in the facility during the last several years, who may have been witness to or victims of mistreatment, to contact his office with information they may have. Mistreatment could be physical or financial in nature.

“The men and women who have served our country deserve the very best of care. They protected our country, and now we have the duty and responsibility to protect them,” said Schuette. “If you, or someone you know, were a resident of the Home, or spent time visiting and witnessed potentially criminal misconduct, I encourage you to contact my office immediately.”

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two State of Michigan run homes for veterans.

Schuette encourages those with information about the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to contact his Healthcare Fraud Division at 1-800-24-ABUSE.

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Trail patrol volunteers needed

Meetings at Cedar Springs City Hall on June 8, at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Have you ever noticed problems on the White Pine Trail you wish someone would report? Would you like to help trail users who have questions? The Kent County Sheriff Department Community Services Unit is looking for people to be part of their Volunteer Trail Patrol program.

Volunteers patrol trails in Kent County, reporting problems that need to be addressed and assisting trail users.

The Kent County Sheriff Department will hold two meetings at Cedar Springs City Hall, on Wednesday, June 8, at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., for those interested.

Volunteers wear a vest issued from the Sheriff Department that identifies them as a trail volunteer. They work a minimum of two hours each week, but can set their own schedule. They can walk, ride a bike, or use in-line skates on the trail.

Volunteers must be 18 or older, be friendly, and have transportation to and from the trail.

For more information, call Sandi Jones at 616-632-6221.

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Memorial Day 2016

Click below to download this year’s Memorial Day Tribute




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Woman charged with leaving child in a vehicle

Police were called to the Walmart in Comstock Park on Saturday, May 21, at 6:18 p.m., on a report of a child left in a vehicle.

Kent County Deputy Ysquierdo arrived on scene and found a 2-year-old girl in the back of a running car. He was unable to awaken her, and it appeared she had a read face and was sweaty. When he forced his way into the car, the child began to wake up. She was transferred to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with signs of heat exhaustion, but is expected make a full recovery.

The child’s grandmother, Karol Anne Fitzgerald, 71, of Stanton, was found shopping in Walmart. On May 25, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office charged Fitzgerald with one count of leaving a child in an unattended vehicle, which is a 93 days misdemeanor. On May 26, she was arrested and released on a $500 surety bond.

A referral was made to Child Protective Services.

Fitzgerald was formerly owner of Preferred Tax Accounting, in Cedar Springs.

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City Council fires assessor, hires interim City Manager

N-City-logo-webCity clerk also resigns

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council fired their assessor, hired an interim City Manager, and received the resignation of their City Clerk, all during the course of a special meeting on Thursday evening.

The Council has been in disagreement with City Assessor Jason Rosenzweig, over six parcels of city-owned property that he says the city should be paying tax on. The Board of Review upheld Rosenzweig’s assessment, and the Council will be appealing it to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

In Thursday night’s meeting, Rosenzweig spoke to the Council. He told them that the Council has no authority to terminate him because under the City’s charter all employees are placed under the City Manager. He quoted sections from the Charter that say the Council cannot request the employment or dismissal of an employee.

“The Mayor broke the law when he visited me yesterday and asked me to resign,” said Rosenzweig.

He added that he is not a contract employee because he has never received a 1099, and holds office hours. He also noted that under his employment agreement, it states that 30 days notice should be given by either party. He said that he could sue the City for missed wages, and the Council for misconduct in office.

“I am following the law,” he told them. “The state tax commission told me to look closer at the properties. Your own attorney gave me an opinion that I am doing my job,” he said.

Rosenzweig then offered to resign, if the Council agreed to pay his salary for the rest of the year, which he said amounted to about $11,000.

City Council members listened, then went forward with the resolution to fire Rosenzweig. Mayor Jerry Hall said that their City attorney drafted the resolution and felt they had the authority to dismiss him.

The resolution states that the Council believes the actions of Rosenzweig, in placing certain city-owned properties on the tax roll, were not properly analyzed or communicated to Council, and that according to the city’s charter, the assessor serves at the pleasure of the Council. It also said that under due consideration, the City Council had lost confidence and became dissatisfied in his performance as City assessor, and his termination was effective immediately. It directed the City manager to take action to effectuate the resolution.

The Council decided to leave the hiring of a new assessor up to the new City Manager when hired.

The hiring of an interim City Manager was next on the agenda. They introduced Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, who had recently retired from the City of Wyoming as Deputy City Manager, and was previously City Manager in Wayland. “I truly believe in local government, and when the Michigan Municipal League asked if I’d like a shot at being the interim City Manager in Cedar Springs, I said yes,” she told the Council.

Longtime City Clerk Linda Christiansen has been acting City Manager since November. She was visibly upset at the development. “This week is the first time I heard about this,” she told the Council. “I feel very disrespected. I feel like 22 years of my life has gone down the toilet. I will be retiring July 1,” she added, and gave them her letter of resignation.

Christansen had previously said she would stay on until a new City Manager was found.

Members of the Council tried to assure her that they were trying to alleviate the pressure of doing two jobs.

“We were dumbstruck,” said Mayor Jerry Hall. He explained that they had said at last month’s meeting that they wanted to get Christiansen some help. “With the work piling up, and elections coming, we thought maybe it was time to take some pressure off so that she has time to train someone before she leaves,” he explained. “It was not our intent to have her resign. It was to help her, not replace her. If the other manager had taken the job, this wouldn’t be happening. We just thought we needed to get someone in to help her.”

The Council voted 6-1 to hire VanDuren, with Councilmember Perry Hopkins being the lone no vote. He said he had too much respect for Christiansen, and later said that if she couldn’t handle both jobs with the election coming, that should be up to her.

VanDuren starts Tuesday, May 31, and will work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The Council set another special meeting date of June 6 to review candidates who have applied for the City Manager job. They will review the candidates in closed session and choose the top ones they wish to interview in a public meeting.





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