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Tag Archive | "cedar springs city council"

TOP STORY 2015


post photo by J. Reed

post photo by J. Reed

New businesses, non-profits bring revitalization and growth to Cedar Springs

BY JUDY REED

The Cedar Springs area received a shot in the arm this year with several new businesses moving in, and even more growth is on the horizon, thanks to the partnership efforts of the Community Building Development Team with the Cedar Springs Library and Cedar Springs City Council.

The big success story of the year is the Cedar Springs Brewing Company, which finally opened its doors at 95 N. Main, in mid-November. It was the culmination of a 25-year-dream for David Ringler, a.k.a “Director of Happiness” at the brewery, and it’s the first time in recent history that a new building has been built on Main Street in the heart of downtown Cedar Springs.

N-Top-Story-CS-Brew2The brewery/restaurant features a variety of craft beers, focusing on German styles, along with a full food menu (which includes German dishes), wine and their homemade Cedar Creek Sodas, which are non-alcoholic beverages.

Since their opening, the brewery is jam-packed every night and it’s amazing to see so many vehicles in downtown Cedar Springs.

“We’ve had a wonderful reception from the community and been very pleased to welcome many people from outside our community who’ve come to visit, often multiple times,” remarked Ringler. “Some of this is to be expected, given that we’re new and over the holiday season, but we’re hopeful that we’ve made a positive impression and people will continue to visit.”

In the beginning it was difficult to keep up with the demand for beer, but people came anyway.

“We’ve remained very busy, which is a blessing,” said Ringler. “As we’ve progressed over the past six weeks, we’ve been able to adjust our inventories to keep up on beer production, which means we’ll be able to fill growlers soon.”

Ringler talked about some things customers can expect in the coming year. “Our beers will rotate and expand regularly, and our food menu will see the addition of daily specials and be updated at least 3-4 times over the course of the year. We will begin hosting live music regularly and we also have a number of events planned throughout the year (with details coming soon).”

He said they will also begin hosting “Community Giveback Nights,” beginning January 11, where they will be giving back 10 percent of food sales to the Cedar Springs Band Boosters on that evening. Other organizations will follow.

He said they will also begin growler sales, and canning their product for sale in the marketplace, so we will be able to find their beers in stores, bars and other restaurants.

“Our spirits line will also be launched, beginning with Wodka and White Lightning products,” added Ringler. “We will also add additional season sodas and soft drinks to our lineup.”

One of the big things will be the outdoor Biergarten, which will open in the spring, and add 70 to 80 seats.

Ringler is grateful to the community for how they’ve embraced the brewery. “Thank you. We’ve been humbled by the warm reception, encouraged by the enthusiasm, and we’re working hard to earn your continued support,” he said.

The brewery is one of several businesses to come to Cedar Springs this year. The brewery bought the Liquor Hut building, which they then leased to Cold Break Brewing, a home supply brewing company; Family Farm and Home bought the old Family Fare building; and Advance Auto built a new building on the site of the old Family Fare gas station. Since Advance Auto had bought Car Quest previously, they took in all the employees from the Car Quest shop on Main Street.

Another company coming to Cedar Springs is Display Pack, who bought the Wolverine World Wide warehouse at 660 West Street. Wolverine’s lease is up in 2017, and Display Pack is slowly taking over the building as Wolverine vacates the premises. Display Pack, employs 225 people, and up to 275 people seasonally. Since many of their employees live in Grand Rapids and those who walk won’t make the commute, they may hire as many as 60-80 people from this area.

Another group who is revitalizing Cedar Springs is the Community Building Development Team, through their partnership with the Cedar Springs Library and the City of Cedar Springs. Over two dozen organizations and businesses in Cedar Springs, along with dozens of individuals, have been working together for the past three years to develop eight acres of land, within the City limits, into “The Heart of Cedar Springs.” This place can be called our own “Town Square,” where the local citizens and visitors can enjoy a new library building, a community building, a recreation center, and an amphitheater, all placed among beautiful rain gardens and sculptures along a board walk on the banks of Cedar Creek.

Donations of land and cash, as well as pledges, as of November 2015, total over $2,555,000. The overall project is expected to cost approximately $10,000,000.  The plan is to raise funds for each individual project and to break ground for each facility when funds are adequate. Donations may be designated.

The Cedar Springs Library building is scheduled to be built first, breaking ground early next spring. A Capital Campaign Committee was appointed by the CBDT and they are in the process of writing grant proposals to large corporations and foundations to raise the funds needed to complete these projects.

Checks can be written to the Cedar Springs Public Library and either sent to Box 280 or dropped off at the Library. They can also be written to the Community Building Development Team and sent to the treasurer of the CBDT, Betty Truesdale, 141 S Main Street, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

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Special meeting Thursday night: City of CS and Solon Township


Cedar Springs and Solon Township fighting a fire together in Solon Township in February, 2014.

Cedar Springs and Solon Township fighting a fire together in Solon Township in February, 2014.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council and the Solon Township board will hold a special public meeting on Thursday, December 17, at 7 p.m., at the Solon Township Hall, 15185 Algoma Avenue.

The officials from the two adjoining municipalities are meeting to discuss the findings of the consulting service that did an operational evaluation and shared services study for their two fire departments.

Municipal Consulting Services LLC did the evaluation. They are the same consulting firm that evaluated the Cedar Springs Fire Department in 2009.

The consulting service evaluated each fire department to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can improve. They also evaluated opportunities for the two departments to share resources, including possibly consolidating.

They said that with both communities growing, and already sharing a number of services, such as County dispatch, Rockford ambulance, MABAS automatic aid, the school system, CS Area Parks and Rec, etc., that the fire services should not be segregated between the two communities. They said it could mean full consolidation or something less, such as Solon contracting Cedar Springs to respond to certain areas in Solon Township that lie just outside the Cedar Springs limits.

Other recommendations for shared services include joint master planning by the two fire chiefs (CS Chief Marty Fraser and Solon Chief Jeff Drake); combining some training; joint reviews by command staff of standard operating procedures; grant writing, etc.

The consulting service did not feel that service consolidation would yield a dramatic cost savings, due to the departments being understaffed. But they did say consolidation was feasible, and gave some ideas on what that might look like and what the cost would be.

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City to hold special meeting 


 

The Cedar Springs City Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday, December 3, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 66 S. Main St, to discuss what attributes the Council desires in a new city manager. The public is also invited to give input.

The City Council will also discuss whether to enter into a contract with the Michigan Municipal League to provide a city manager search. The cost would be $10,000 for them to conduct the search.

City Manager Thad Taylor resigned to take a job as the City Manager in Manistee. Cedar Springs City Clerk Linda Christiansen is currently acting City Manager.

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Red Flannel Festival and City reach agreement


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council approved an agreement with the Red Flannel Festival Board to donate in kind services during the Festival, as well as an agreement to use any of the Festival’s 14 trademarks in return for the in kind services.

The Council voted in favor of both agreements 5-1, at their regular meeting on Thursday, July 9. Only Councilor Perry Hopkins voted against it. Councilor Bob Truesdale was absent.

“We are grateful this City Council negotiated fairly and in good faith,” said Festival President Michele Tracy. “This reinstates and memorializes the original 69 year handshake agreement, and provides a solid foundation for the long term sustainability of the Festival. We couldn’t be happier for Red Flannel Town, U.S.A.!”

The City voted in August 2012 to stop using the Red Flannel logos and initiate development of their own logo, after an ongoing disagreement over who had the right to use the logos, which the RF Festival had trademarked. The Festival disputed that the city had common law rights to the trademarks, and in August 2012 sent a letter with a notice that they would file for trademark infringement. The Red Flannel Festival had asked for a $4,000 licensing fee for the city to use two of the trademarks, and the city declined, stating that they had used them for 70-plus years. The Council then voted 6-1 to drop the RF logo.

The City removed all Red Flannels from City letterhead, trucks, benches, etc., and eventually created their own logo. However, the members of that City Council are no longer on the Council. The only person left on City Council that was part of that vote was current Mayor Pro Tem Pam Conley, and she was the lone nay vote three years ago.

Conley said, “I have always believed the community wants there to be a supportive working relationship between the City and all of our community groups, especially Red Flannel. I am glad to have had the opportunity to affirm that.”

The Council has not yet voted on if or where they will use any of the Red Flannel logos.

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City Council vetoes donating or selling property to ICCF


 

sw-riconcBy Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council voted down a proposal to donate 174 Pine Street, a city-owned lot, to Inner City Christian Federation, who was hoping to build another affordable home in the community for a family in need.

The ICCF is already building a house at 40 E. Maple, and recently purchased a lot on Cedar Street as well.

ICCF proposed to build a two-story house on the double lot. The lot is assessed at $20,000, and ICCF said that they were willing to purchase it for $10,000. City Manager recommended that they either donate the property to ICCF or sell it for $10,000. John Witmer, who represented ICCF at the meeting, said they had it in the budget, but a donation would be appreciated, and the money would just be put back into a better product.

In a presentation just previous to the ICCF proposal at the meeting, Kurt Mabie, president of the Community Building Development Team, had said he was no longer interested in 174 Pine Street for the CBDT, since they had closed on the Fifth Street property. He did mention, however, that he knew of a builder who might be interested in building senior no-step residences in that area.

Pam Conley asked if someone else was coming before the Council that night with plans for that lot, and Mabie said no.

The City’s master plan calls for senior housing in the mixed use area, and there currently is none. This lot, however, is not in the mixed use area.

Councilor Dan Clark said he wasn’t ready to make a decision, he thought they should look at the master plan. Councilor Perry Hopkins said he was with Dan, that he thought it would be better to gamble and follow through with the master plan of having some senior housing. Councilor Bob Truesdale said his heart was divided. He’d like to see them (ICCF) have it, yet he’d also like to see some senior housing.

Councilor Molly Nixon felt that it would be best to donate it to someone who already had a plan, to get some money back on the property. Taylor said taxes would be about $2,290 and the city would see $900 of that.

In the end, the motion to donate the property was voted down 3 to 4. Voting in favor was Councilors Powell, Conley and Nixon, and against was Councilors Clark, Hall, Hopkins and Truesdale.

You can view the City Council meeting on their website at www.cityofcedarsprings.org.

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Recording of City Council meeting fails


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The Cedar Springs City Council voted last month to purchase the necessary equipment to begin recording all City Council meetings and workshops and putting them on Youtube for the public to view. Last Thursday’s meeting was slated to be the first meeting to be recorded, but it is unavailable for public viewing now or in the future due to technical difficulties, according to City Manager Thad Taylor.

“Our WiFi was not working properly, which led to gaps in the video. Basically we could only make clips from gap to gap, (with) obviously no continuity,” explained Taylor. “Our IT company has a fix for that, and it should be corrected soon.”

He said the biggest issue is that the system only makes video clips up to one hour in duration. “That was never disclosed prior to purchasing, so the system we have doesn’t meet our needs,” said Taylor. “I will take the issue up with the manufacturer.”

City Councilor Rose Powell told the Post she understands it was a mistake, but feels that they should still put up what they have, even if it’s not complete.

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Opportunity for new pavilion at Morley Park


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This pavilion is an example of what the one in Morley Park would look like.

Kevin Galloway would like to build a covered pavilion in Morley Park.

Kevin Galloway would like to build a covered pavilion in Morley Park.

By Judy Reed

‘Tis the season for giving, and an area teenager is modeling that with his plan to give back to the community while earning his Eagle Scout rank. And he’s hoping other residents and business owners will come alongside him and help him do it.

Kevin Galloway, 16, a sophomore at Cedar Springs High School, spoke with City Manager Thad Taylor last year about repairing the gazebo in Morley Park in order to earn his Eagle Scout rank. When it was deemed structurally unsafe and torn down, he came up with another idea. “My goal is to build a 20 x 36 pavilion,” explained Galloway. “This pavilion will be maintenance free and fit 8-10 picnic tables. The pavilion will be placed behind the Cedar Springs Museum, off of the parking lot for easy handicap access.”

The Cedar Springs City Council approved the project, and Galloway is now trying to raise funds for the project. His budget estimate is $17, 325. He has currently raised $9,000. Gust Construction will be the general contractor overseeing the project, to make sure things are done correctly, explained Galloway. He hopes to build the pavilion in the springs of 2015, but the project cannot be started until all the funds are raised. He is looking for both funding and people willing to help work on the project.

The Cedar Springs Rotary is the Boy Scout Charter, and they have a tax-deductible account for all of the money that is raised. Donation checks can be made payable to the Cedar Springs Rotary Club Foundation. The address is: PO Box 73, Cedar Springs MI 49341. Make a note in the memo section that the money is for Eagle Scout Project.

Galloway said he would be happy to meet with area businesses or community members to explain the project in more detail. He said the best way to contact him is through email at tnbgallo@aol.com.

 

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Fire departments to look at cooperative services


 

By Judy Reed 

 

Both Solon Township and the City of Cedar Springs will vote next week on whether to commit to funding a feasibility study on ways to improve services of both fire departments, including a possible consolidation of services.

Solon Fire Chief Jeff Drake applied for and received a partial grant to fund the study. He said the study, to be done by an independent consulting service, would evaluate all aspects of the fire service delivery model in Solon Township and the City of Cedar Springs fire district proper. “This study will include alarms, training, fire prevention, fire inspection, code enforcement, building needs, apparatus and equipment inventory/needs, recruiting, duplication of equipment and services, etc. The end result will include recommendations to improve response, ability, and efficiency for our customers jointly in a cooperative manner,” explained Drake.

Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser agrees that the study is a good idea. “I think it would be a good thing to do. We all need to make improvements,” he said, noting that some of the boundaries don’t really make sense. He used the example of Solon needing to respond to a call at 16 Mile and Northland, because it’s in Solon Township, even though the Cedar Springs Fire Department is closer.

Drake made a similar observation. “I believe this study will highlight some deficiencies that exist with our service delivery that are based on tradition and political boundary lines that quite frankly have just been chosen to be ignored in the past. I think as good stewards of the authority designated to our position, we owe it to the taxpayers to examine our delivery model and be prepared to correct any deficiencies and/or disservice to the customers.”

Both departments do automatically respond to fires in each other’s jurisdiction, but not medical calls or accidents unless aid is requested. And assistance is often needed during daytime hours, when on call firefighters are hard to come by. Drake said that’s one problem that could be addressed in the study.

“The fire service across the nation (not just locally) struggles to put enough certified firefighters on the emergency scene during weekday hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.),” he explained. “This study will provide recommendations for improving this fundamental function. I would anticipate this study would suggest the possibility of sharing personnel at a minimum in a cooperative manner, or even consolidation of resources. Either way the local municipality makes those decisions.”

The grant, which came from the State of Michigan, Department of Treasury, Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis, was approved for $11,750, 25 percent of the estimated feasibility study cost of $47,000. Solon Township Supervisor Bob Ellick said that he hopes that the Cedar Springs City Council will participate in helping to financially fund the study at some level. “I think it could be eye opening for the community,” said Ellick. “I think it will suggest some things that could help us give better service.”

“I find it interesting that an analysis of the Law Enforcement delivery model in the City (of Cedar Springs) was just performed and the decision was made to make a change in the interest of cost and customer service,” noted Drake. “I think this study will follow right on the coat tails of this movement.”

Drake said that the grant has language that the feasibility study will be reimbursed at 100 percent if the local unit can demonstrate that, within one year of the completion of the feasibility study, steps have been taken to consolidate services.

Drake said he has no pre-disposed desire of any particular outcome. He just thinks they owe it to taxpayers to examine what can be done better. “Why not complete an in depth analysis by a certified professional organization and examine their findings with unbiased anticipation? Answering this question is the ultimate goal of this cooperation study that these two municipalities are considering. I commend both local units for the courage to consider such a challenge,” he said.

Both boards need to submit resolutions committing to the study by December 29, 2014.

 

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City gets second warning siren 


 

By Judy Reed

 

When the new siren was installed in North Park in 2011, the City of Cedar Springs  knew that although it could be heard as far as White Creek to the west, and Ritchie to the east, to the south it only reached to just north of Dio Drive. Former City Manager Christine Burns said at the time that the city hoped to one day qualify for another grant for a siren on the south end of the city.

That day has arrived.

The Cedar Springs City Council approved a second emergency warning siren for the community at its regular meeting last Thursday evening. According to current City Manager Thad Taylor, the siren would be placed directly behind the city’s lift station, near Cedar Springs Middle School, on Northland Drive, just north of 16 Mile Road. He said that West Shore Services, the siren provider, used computer modeling to determine that this site, in conjunction with the siren at North Park, would provide nearly 100 percent coverage for our community.

The total cost for the siren is $20,600, but the City will only need to pay for half of that. The Kent County Local Planning Team awarded the city a grant for $10,300 to assist in the purchasing and installation of the siren. The City had budgeted $10,000 for the project, and will move $300 from its Repair and Maintenance Supply Expense fund to its Capital Expense fund to complete the amount needed for purchase.

West Shore Services is Kent County’s preferred siren provider, and they also put in the siren in North Park in 2011.

While the siren in North Park goes off at noon per the city’s tradition, the new one on the south end of town will not. However, Kent County does test the sirens on the first Friday of every month at noon, so it will go off at that time.

According to Taylor, the siren has already been installed, but is not yet operational.

 

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Council reaffirms city manager contract


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By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council voted 4-2 in a special meeting last week to rescind the motion from Aug. 21 to go into closed session, and reaffirmed City Manager Thad Taylor’s contract (both in the same motion). Voting for the contract was Mayor Mark Fankhauser, Mayor Pro-tem Patricia Troost, and Councilors Ashley Bremmer and Ken Benham.

Jerry Hall and Bob Truesdale, who both dissented previously, cast dissenting votes. Council member Dan Clark, who also dissented previously, was out of the country.

The reason for the special meeting was to redo the action that caused a lawsuit to be brought against the city.

Truesdale, Clark, and resident Mark Laws filed the lawsuit October 7. They allege an Open Meetings Act violation occurred at the August 21 City Council meeting, when they went into closed session, believing there was a written communication from the attorney to consider. Mayor Mark Fankhauser told the council during the workshop portion of the meeting that they needed to go into closed session because he had correspondence from the attorney, and it was added to the agenda that way. They went into closed session at the tail end of the meeting, and when they came out, they voted 4-3 to renew the contract of City Manager Thad Taylor.

The lawsuit alleges that there was no attorney correspondence considered.

Those who voted against the contract—Dan Clark, Jerry Hall, and Bob Truesdale—noted that they had not seen it before, and did not have time to digest it. And, in fact, said they did not know they were going to be voting on it that night. They also noted that the evaluation was not recent.

City attorney Jeff Sluggett explained at the special meeting that one option the city had was to do a “re-do” by rescinding the motion to go into closed session, and instead, discuss the city manager’s contract publicly. Councilor Jerry Hall asked if that was an admission of guilt, and Sluggett said no. Hall then asked him if they violated the Open Meetings Act. “I’m not going to answer that,” answered Sluggett.

Truesdale then asked if there was any attorney correspondence, because he was told there was. “With all due respect, I can’t answer anything that has to do with the lawsuit,” explained Sluggett.

Truesdale also asked about the severance pay in the City Manager contract, and Sluggett explained that the six months severance in the contract only applies if they fire Taylor for no cause at all.

Truesdale asked why they had to rush and have this special meeting, when Dan Clark was out of the country. He told the Mayor that they had postponed a meeting for him (the mayor) when he was unavailable.

A few members of the audience spoke in favor of the City Manager, but many also spoke against the Manager and his contract.

Councilor Ashley Bremmer wondered whether the lawsuit would be dropped if they went with the motion. Truesdale said he wasn’t sure, that he had to check with his lawyer, who was out of the country.

Sluggett explained that if the lawsuit goes forward, and the judge awards the fees to the plaintiffs (for lawyer fees), that it would be the taxpayers paying the fees. He also explained that the minutes from the closed session could also be released.

Mark Fankhauser said the special meeting was an attempt to stop the lawsuit for the taxpayers.

Councilor Ken Benham said he was appalled at what had been happening, and referenced the recent announcement that Taylor is one of the top 3 chosen for the Village Manager job in Howard City. “You are running the City Manager right out town. He takes no health benefits, has no leased car. He’s a nice man.”

Bremmer wondered if postponing the meeting was really about going over the contract, or waiting for a new council to come in and get rid of the city manager.

Mayor Fankhauser noted that City Manager Thad Taylor may not be the most dynamic and outgoing, “but he was instrumental in bringing the Cedar Springs Brewing Company here—a million dollar business that will bring even more business to Cedar Springs. He kept me abreast of things, even when I was in Alaska…no one should be bullied into a position. He’s offered for everyone on Council to come in and talk with him about the way he is running the city, and his evaluation is above average.”

Then Council then voted 4-2 to reaffirm the contract.

According to the minutes of the closed session, which the Post received Wednesday from the city, the following occurred during the closed session of August 21:

Fankhauser reported he had correspondence from City Attorney Jeff Sluggett regarding the City Manager Contract. The City Attorney had reviewed the contract and was comfortable with the proposed changes. He passed copies of the proposed contract to Councilors, asking them to review the proposed employee agreement. He stated the contract fit within the terms of the current contract.

He provided comparable salary ranges for city managers in towns of similar size such as Greenville, Rockford, Allegan, Wayland and Lowell.

The proposed agreement changed the dates of employment as well as a new address for the city manager. It was a three-year contract providing a three percent increase the first year; a two percent increase the second and a two percent increase the third year bringing the salary to $75,000. It provides for vacation days an annual evaluation by the council and six months’ severance pay.

Fankhauser said this was standard language for the industry and reminded councilmembers that the city manager did not use a city vehicle or take advantage of the health care provided other city employees. He also had not received a pay increase in the two years he had been with the city.

The city manager had scored above average on all categories in his last evaluation, Fankhauser said.

Clark questioned the comparable figures that had been presented and wanted more time to check his own figures.

Fankhauser responded that he had gotten the figures from the Michigan Municipal League and told councilors to take all the time they needed to review the contract.

They then adjourned and returned to open session at 9:50 p.m.

After the election earlier this week, none of the Council members who voted for the City manager’s contract are left on the Council. Fankhauser, Bremmer, and Patricia Troost were all voted off, and Benham did not run. Four new members take the oath of office next month.

The contract may be a moot point if Taylor is awarded the Village Manager job in Howard City.

 

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