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Tag Archive | "cedar springs city council"

City Council Clips


This map shows the 55 acres for the proposed business park at the south end of West Street.

By Judy Reed

City passes resolution to bond for business park improvements

The Cedar Springs City Council passed a resolution last Thursday, November 8, showing their intent to go out for bonds to make improvements to 55-acres of city property at the south end of West Street to develop a business park. 

The bonds would cover the cost of water and sewer extension to the park, as well as the extension of West Street. The cost of the bonds and the improvements is expected to be about $685,000.

Womack said there is no intention to raise property tax rates for the bonds for the business park. “The intent is to take out the bond to complete the project and then repay the bond as financed by the sale of the land to businesses and/or any property taxes generated from those businesses,” he said. 

The location where the Wolverine Skyhawks fly would be part of this development. “They are aware of this proposed development but we will allow them to continue to use the property as long as possible,” said Womack.

For specifics on the business park improvements, see the legal announcement on page 14.

City opts out of allowing retailers to sell cannabis 

The City of Cedar Springs passed an ordinance at their City Council meeting last Thursday, November 8, that opted the city out of allowing commercial marijuana facilities until the state issues their regulations and guidelines. City Manager Mike Womack read a statement at the meeting to clarify why they did it, and noted that once the state comes back with regulations, they can reconsider it. He said that this is largely an issue of zoning and wanting to know what the State intends to do before they figure out how the City can follow the State regulations and also be able to enforce their own zoning regulations. Here is his statement:

“At this time, the City Council is discussing banning commercial marijuana facilities in the City until the State of Michigan issues their regulations regarding the permitting and operation of commercial marijuana sales. Currently, the City has no information from the State regarding how the State permitting process will work or what the State level regulations will be. It is expected that the State of Michigan may not have any regulations or permits allowing commercial marijuana sales in place until December 2019. There is a possibility that no marijuana licenses will be issued for commercial sales anywhere in the State of Michigan until 2020.

Once the State has announced their regulations and permitting process, the City Council plans to review those regulations and consider permitting commercial marijuana operations in the City at that time. At the present time, city staff does not feel that the State of Michigan has issued sufficient information to enable the City to write our own laws that would both follow State law and also preserve our own zoning regulations. Since proposal 1 is an opt-out proposal and not an opt-in proposal, City staff felt it best to recommend opting-out of permitting commercial marijuana facilities until such time as City staff could better inform the City Council about the regulations and systems the State government will be enacting.  Once this information is provided by the State, City staff can then propose a comprehensive, efficient and legally sound commercial marijuana sales ordinance for the Council to consider.

Finally, it is important to note that this proposed local ordinance is only to prohibit commercial sales and that all other rights granted under proposal 1 remain intact in the City. It is not the wish nor desire of the City Council or any member of the City government to in any way impugn or challenge any of these other rights.”

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City Council to vote on cannabis sales in City


The Cedar Springs City Council held a special meeting last week to discuss and hear the first reading on an ordinance that would opt the City out of allowing commercial or non-profit businesses to sell cannabis in the City if the statewide proposal to legalize it passed. Since it did pass, the second reading will occur tonight, November 8, at their regular meeting at 7 p.m., and the Council will have the opportunity to vote on it in their consent agenda.

“The City is worried about the potential for the City to be inundated with marihuana businesses before the State can issue regulations,” City Manager Mike Womack told the Post last week. “I think most cities are going to take a wait and see attitude due to how much time the State took in implementing the medical dispensary rules. I should emphasize that this ordinance is not necessarily indicative of the City or City Council’s long term intent on whether marihuana facilities will be permitted in the City or not.” 

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Local election results


By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs and Sand Lake will both have new members on the boards, and the results of Cedar Springs Board of Education write-in votes are still unknown.

In the Cedar Springs City Council race, the two seats went to newcomer Renee Race with 558, and incumbent Pam Conley with 545. Shandell Napieralski had 304, and there were 18 write in votes. Voter turnout was 47.1%.

For the Cedar Springs Board of Education, there were four seats open, with three candidates running unopposed for three of the seats, and a two-year partial term with only write-ins running. The three unopposed candidates were Mistie Bowser (5,190 votes); Jeff Rivard (4,850 votes), and Tracie Slager (4,455 votes). Since only write-ins were running for the two-year partial term, we haven’t received those results yet. The Board of Canvassers at Kent County was due to start validating ballots at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but it could be another week before we have those results.

In Sand Lake, there were three positions open for trustee. Marcia Helton was on the ballot, and received 152 votes. There were also two others running running as write-ins, but only 37 votes were received for write-ins, so it is unknown yet who received those votes.

In the race for the 28th District Michigan senate seat, incumbent Peter MacGregor (R) won with 58.39 percent of the vote. Craig Beach (D) received 39.02 percent; and Nathan Hewer (L) received 2.6 percent.

In the race for 73rd District representative, Lynn Afendoulis (R) won with 60.11 percent of the vote, and Bill Saxton (D) received 39.89 percent.

In the race for 74th District representative, Mark Huizenga (R) won with 60.40 percent, and Meagan Carr (D) received 39.51 percent.

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Don’t forget to vote on November 6


 

Midterm elections are here, and this week the Post will be highlighting local candidates for school board and the City of Cedar Springs. Next week watch for an article on candidates in the Village of Sand Lake, those running for county/state offices, and a summary of proposals.

Cedar Springs Board of Education

There are four seats open for the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Three people will show up on the ballot for three of the seats: Mistie Bowser, Jeff Rivard, and Traci Slager. The other seat will not show names, but there are three people running for it as qualified write ins: Trent Gilmore, Paul Stark, and Rachel VanHorn.

Two four year terms:

Mistie Bowser

Mistie Bowser is running for a four-year term. She has lived in Courtland Township for 18 years. “I built a house in the CSPS school district after deciding this is where I wanted to raise my family,” she said. Four have already graduated from Cedar Springs, and one is still in school. “They’ve all been strong athletes and students in Cedar Springs and we are a very involved family within our schools and community.” She is a graduate of Rockford High School and Grand Valley State University, where she earned a Bachelors degree in PR/Advertising, and minored in communications.

“My primary reason in running for the CSPS board of education is my desire to be even more involved in my children’s education and have a direct impact in the different curriculums that will set a great foundation in learning for them,” she said.

She served on Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kent County (2000-2009) as treasurer, VP and president and on the public policy committee. She also served on the American Lung Association as a co chairwoman for RLC, a 2016 lung force hero and a spokesperson. 

“My main strength that I’m bringing to the board is my communication skills. I’ve learned these skills from embracing my faith, studying verbal/nonverbal communication at GVSU, my experience on other boards, in leadership roles, professional roles and being an involved parent with 4 children.

“The major challenge our district is facing is that our board is mostly a new board with new people. I look at this as a new beginning to take what worked from our boards in the past and build off of that with new ideas and continue to put students, staff and community first. I will listen with an open mind to all ideas and concerns and work with my fellow board members to come to a solution.”

Jeff Rivard

Jeff Rivard is running for the other four-year term. He currently serves as an appointee on the board. He and his wife Jennifer have two daughters, and have lived in the district for 11 years. He is a plant manager at a manufacturing company in Grand Rapids.

Jeff’s primary reason to run for office: “With my personal and professional experience, I can help our district improve,” he said. 

Besides the few months he’s been on the board, other experience includes serving on the CSHS parental advisory panel and the AYSO board of directors.

Main strength he brings to the board: “I have leadership skills that I have gained over years of leading people and assuring processes are implemented and followed. I have the ability to ask the right people the right questions to get the response that will affect the outcome.”

“Our largest challenge in Cedar Springs is now to focus on assuring that our students are receiving the best education that our district can give them.  The best way to properly address this challenge is to listen, learn and be willing to make tough decisions.”

Partial term ending in 2020 one seat:

no names are on the ballot, so you will need to write-in one of the candidates below: Trent Gilmore, Paul Stark, or Rachel VanHorn.

Trent Gilmore

Trent Gilmore is currently an appointee to the board. He grew up in Clare, Michigan. He and his wife and three children live in Algoma Township, and his wife grew up on a farm about two miles away. Trent works for Consumers Energy in a leadership role, and he and his family moved to Cedar Springs in 2014 when he had the opportunity to manage statewide. His education includes a Bachelor’s of Science in Industrial Management as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from Central Michigan University and a career working with people and making difficult decisions to best serve the community. 

Primary reason he is running for office: “I am running for the write-in term ending 2020 because I am personally vested in the success of the Cedar Springs School district as I have two children currently attending. I would like to serve our school district, students, and community with my skill set and help ensure that we continue to provide a quality educational environment for my kids and others who attend school at Cedar Springs Public School.” 

Besides currently serving on the board, other leadership experience includes serving on the parks and recreation committee in the City of Clare; and serving on a joint union and management committee at Consumers Energy to develop training for their workforce. “I have also led the Apprenticeship Committees for Electric Lines, Substation Construction, Substation Maintenance and Electric Meter Operations to ensure quality training and OJT,” he said.

The main strength he would bring to the board: “I have seen public education from several perspectives, first as a child of educators, as a student myself and now as a parent of students. I understand the need to support our schools and teachers to allow them to deliver a quality educational opportunity for our kids. I am familiar and experienced in labor relations having managed in a union environment for approximately 18 years in various roles in leadership and maintain a positive and healthy relationship with the union. I have experience making decisions related to customer service, finance and operations to deliver the best and serve others.”

The major challenge facing our district is the same challenge that faces every district: How do we give our kids the best education possible? The answer is we put them first and support our teachers, staff, and community to do all we can to invest in their future.

Paul Stark

Paul Stark is also running for the partial term ending in 2020. He has lived in Cedar Springs for 61 years—since he was 5 years old. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School, and taught fourth or fifth grade in the district for 37 years. His wife, Judy, is also a retired educator from Cedar Springs. They have one daughter who also graduated from Cedar Springs.

His primary reason to run for office: “I care that our district will continue to be a place where students are challenged, where staff is respected and empowered, and parents and community are included in the direction of the district.”

Other leadership experience: “I am currently a member of the Cedar Springs Community Library board, and while teaching I was on several committees. I also have been on the leadership board of The Springs Church.”

Main strength he would bring to the board: “I have been on the collaborative team while teaching. I have experienced outstanding partnerships with staff, administration, the school board and community.”

The major challenge facing the district: “There will be funding issues at any public school but it is imperative that the board choose wisely where the funds go. It is necessary to continue to support staff and administrators.”

Rachel Van Horn

Rachel Van Horn is also running for the partial term ending in 2020. She was born and raised in the Flint area and went to MSU for college. “I graduated in 2002 with a BS in Zoology. Shortly after graduation, I moved to Grand Rapids and started work as a Public Health Educator at the Kent County Health Department.” During her 13 years there she taught a substance abuse prevention program to elementary and middle school students; developed and taught a dog bite prevention/responsible pet ownership program in classrooms throughout the county; developed informational programs on substance abuse, communicable diseases, and West Nile Virus; and more. She decided to become a stay at home mom in 2015. She and her husband Aaron and two children have lived in the district for six years.

Her primary reason to run for office: “To ensure that ALL of children are represented and advocated for, regardless of ANY “difference” and to advocate for our teachers—that they may have everything they need to provide a safe and effective learning environment for our children.”

Other leadership experience: I am currently serving on the PTO board at Cedar Trails as the volunteer coordinator. I served on various committees during my time as a health educator including the Kent County Health Connect and Kent County Prevention Coalition.

Main strength she would bring to the board: I have the ability to look at the big picture…I don’t narrowly focus on solutions without considering the steps necessary to get to the solutions. I don’t favor band-aids that hide the true problems. My focus is, and will always be, on our children and how we can give them the best opportunities in life no matter what their circumstances may be. 

Major challenge facing our district: “The biggest challenge our district has right now is finding understanding and common ground between the Board, the superintendent, the district staff and the community. We need to listen to each other. We need to have the best interest of all of our children as a priority and work together to serve our community. We must regain the trust of our community. Each of these groups must be willing to listen, be open-minded, collaborate, and make tough decisions.” 

Partial term ending in 2022:

Traci Slager

Traci Slager is running to finish out a term ending in 2022. She currently is serving as an appointee in that position. She and her husband have lived here since 2007, and have three boys in Cedar Springs schools. She spent her early years in NE Grand Rapids and Rockford. She graduated from Taylor University (B.A. in Social Work) and the Indiana University School of Social Work (MSW). “I have worked as a youth director, ministry leader, substance abuse and theft intervention therapist, mentor, and advocate,” she said.

Traci’s primary reason to run for office: “I want to do my part ensuring that Cedar Springs Public Schools are a positive transformative force in the lives of young people. Working with youth has always been my passion and joy. I care deeply about seeing students have every opportunity possible to use their gifts and abilities to flourish and reach their fullest potential,” she said.

Besides serving on the board, her other experience includes being a founding member of two nonprofit organizations and serving on a handful of nonprofit boards and committees; serving as an adjunct professor at two universities; and she is currently on staff in Student Ministries at Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, MI and teaches as an online Instructor for Taylor University. 

She said the main strength she brings to the board is building collaborative and healthy relationships within the district and broader community.

The major challenge she sees in the district is the support of teachers. “While there are many exciting opportunities for growth and further development within the district, I am most passionate about the challenge to make sure our teachers and staff have the support and resources necessary to handle the mounting pressures of being in the trenches. Without teachers and staff reaching their maximum potential, our students will not be able to reach theirs either.”

Cedar Springs City Council

There are two seats open on the Cedar Springs City Council this fall, and three people running for them. Both seats are four-year terms.

Pamela Conley

Pamela Conley is running for her third term on the City Council. She and her family have lived in Cedar Springs since 1999. She is a high school teacher for Forest Hills Central High School teaching support classes, communications, and policy debate. She coaches competitive policy debate and forensic speaking. She and her husband Clint have two children, a daughter who is a student at Grand Valley State University, and a son, who is a 6th grader at Red Hawk Elementary. 

Primary reason running for office: The goal of my last term was completion of the library and upgrades to the water system. We have accomplished those. We are now working to build a new fire station to meet the needs of the growing community, work with the Community Building Development Team to further develop The Heart Of Cedar Springs with an amphitheater and a connection to the North Country Trail. My next focus is to fix our roads, repair and add to our sidewalks, and with the continued revelations of PFAS in the water of our neighboring communities, I want to continue to test…and be prepared to filter for this in the event it becomes evident in our water system.” 

Other leadership experience: “I have been the Communications Representative and the Mayor Pro-tem for the City Council for the past 3 years. In these roles I have served on a variety of committees including the library construction and funding committees and the Red Flannel Festival contract committee. In addition to the 2 previous terms on City Council, I was elected to 2 terms on the Cedars Springs Board of Education, where I served as the Legislative Representative. I made multiple trips to both Washington DC and Lansing to advocate for funding and policy needs for Cedar Springs Public Schools.” She also served six years on the CS Library board, and was a founding member of the Garden Club.

Main strength she brings to the board: “I have experience and a long history of leadership and policy making for the Cedar Springs Community.”

Major challenge facing the City of Cedar Springs: “Our roads are in terrible shape and we have limited funds. We need to seek grants and work strategically to repair and replace roads as we also continue to repair and replace water infrastructure. This needs to be addressed strategically to get the best use of our limited funds.”  

Shandell Napieralski is also seeking one of the seats. She was born in Illinois, and her family moved to Cedar Springs when she began high school. She graduated in 1991, attended Grand Rapids Community College and then later Northwood University. “I have always lived in the area and returned specifically to settle my family here in Cedar Springs. I have lived here most recently for three years, but collectively 10 years. I work for Materials Testing Consultants, Inc., a Civil Engineering firm as a Constructions Material Testing Technician and Sample Runner. I am once divorced, once widowed, and recently have become engaged. I have four biological children, but also have stepchildren, exchange students, and other lost kids welcomed in our home.”

Primary reason running for office: “I care about my neighbors and community. I want to do more than hear their concerns and challenges. Through action, I aspire to participate in decision-making that will impact us as a whole.”

Other leadership experience: She has served as a Cedar Springs Election Commission Member and as the Board of Review Alternate.

Main strength she would bring to the board: “Problem solving is my key strength. I seek practical information and use critical thinking combined.”

Major challenge facing the City of Cedar Springs: As with most councils and boards, (the major challenge is) projects and resources. By becoming a part of the decision making, I would become more involved in the direction of our community growth and learn more of the how, when, what, why, and how much.”

Renee Race

Renee Race is also looking to fill one of the seats. “My husband and I have lived in Cedar Springs for over 12 years and live within walking distance to the heart of Cedar Springs. We have a daughter who attends CSPS and of course, I can’t forget our dog Clark. I work full time for a local company and enjoy volunteering for one of the local Girl Scout Troops. I joined the Cedar Springs Planning Commission in 2017 working alongside my fellow Commissioners, taking on the task of updating the city ordinances to make it easier for businesses to settle their roots here in Cedar Springs.”

Primary reason for running for office: “To educate the community about the challenges we face living in a small community and speak for the community on the topics that are most concerning to them.”

Other leadership experience:  “I am presently on the Cedar Springs Planning Commission, a volunteer leader for one of the local Girl Scout troops and I volunteer my time working on different United Way projects.”

Main strength she brings to the position: “I’m personally and emotionally connected to our community. I always strive to understand other viewpoints. I treat everyone as equals knowing different viewpoints are important in making decisions that will affect our community.”

Major challenge facing the City of Cedar Springs: “Community engagement and feedback. I enjoy connecting with neighbors and friends in our city. I am all about finding effective communication channels to get a wide range of community feedback on issues that concern our citizens. I want everyone to be comfortable with providing input to keep our small town feel, as we continue to improve our city and community.”

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City Council chooses 15-year millage proposal for fire station


by Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council went over the numbers last Thursday evening, and decided that while the monthly payments would be a little higher for taxpayers, going with a 15-year bond on the proposed new fire station was worth saving taxpayers at least $400,000 over a 20-year bond, and $800,000 over a 25-year bond.

The proposal that residents will vote on in November will be a 15-year bond at 3.455363 mills the first year, and an average of 3.4290 mills thereafter. For someone with a home that has a taxable value of $50,000, that equates to about $172 more per year, or just under $15 per month. And, if the taxable values in Cedar Springs go up, the millage rate will go down. 

The total cost of the fire station is estimated at $2,991,741. That includes $2,136,958 in building and site prep; engineering and testing of $320,544; and $534,240 for contingencies. “Contingencies are additional funds that are set aside for fixing problems that were not accounted for or were unknowable at the time of design and planning,” explained City Manager Mike Womack. “Any funding that is leftover at the end of the construction of the building would then be put towards ‘equipping a new fire station’ and ‘acquisition of fire equipment, apparatus and vehicles, and other related expenses and improvements’ as is indicated in the ballot language.”

The total payback on the 15-year bond would be $4,013,850.

The vote was 5-2, with Council members Perry Hopkins and Jerry Gross Sr. being the two no votes. Hopkins said he would personally like the one that got it paid off the fastest, but felt a 20-year bond would be easier on taxpayers. 

Gross also felt taxpayers would have a hard time with it. “As much as I want a new fire station, we also have to look at the new storm drain expense—they won’t have a choice in that. I just struggle with that much money. It’s a tax load on the community,” he said.

“Despite what some people are saying, there are not a lot of frills in that station,” said Fire Chief Marty Fraser. We had to meet a lot of government standards not in effect 40 years ago. People don’t understand what we’ve done here (at the current station) the last 38 years. We’ve made do. It was built to code in 1980 but it no longer meets code.”

Cedar Springs firefighter Lt. Steve Schipper was on the fire station relocation committee, along with another Cedar Springs firefighter, the City Manager, three businessmen (two of which are builders), the Mayor, and a city resident whose career was firefighting in Grand Rapids. “Our mission was to plan a 50-year facility that would meet current and possible future needs,” explained Schipper. 

He explained that they looked for a piece of property that the city already owned to keep down the expense. And they wanted to stay near the center of town. “It’s critically important to be able to access 17 Mile and Main Street quickly,” he said. “We also have a longstanding relationship with Nelson Township to provide coverage there as well.” 

Both he and Fraser noted they are one of the busiest departments in the area, fielding 654 calls in 2017—including 26 structure fires; 44 traffic accidents; and 487 medical calls. And as Cedar Springs and Nelson Township grows, so will the number of calls.

One big problem they have is that they have outgrown the station.

“Today, we have eight apparatus and five bays. All of our equipment does not fit, and some is stored off site,” said Schipper. He noted that if they have a hazmat situation, they have to go to Ensley to get what they need. The Model A is also not at the station. And equipment is getting bigger. So the architect took that into consideration when designing the equipment bays on the new building. 

Schipper said that the station would be a pre-fab concrete building with dressing to make it look nicer. 

For instance, Fraser said that while the drawing shows nice, arched doors, the arches are merely decorative. “The doors are just basic square doors,” he explained.

But it does need to be built to a category 4 rating. “We need to be able to respond to the public during weather events,” explained Schipper. 

Schipper said they also have no place for their bi-monthly meetings of 18-25 individuals. With the proposed training room, they will be able to have those meetings, and also invite other departments to training sessions. Schipper said that they reduced the sizes of other rooms in order to make that room a little bigger. He said it would fit about 32 people at tables, and up to 51 standing. “It was also designed with the idea that it could be used as a command center in case of an emergency—such as a tornado—by us, or FEMA, or the Red Cross,” he noted.

One of the things people have questioned about the floor plan is why do volunteer firefighters need bunks? “There are not going to be bunks there. We will probably use it for storage,” remarked Schipper. “We needed to plan for expansion so it could be a future bunk room if needed.” 

The hose tower is where they will hang their hose to dry after a fire. “A drying room is atrociously expensive, so we opted for something less expensive,” said Schipper.

He explained that the kitchen is really just a kitchenette with a coffee pot and a dorm size fridge. The offices are small as well—just big enough for a firefighter or two to do paperwork.

Schipper said that while the new station is bare bones, it would fit their needs now and in the future. “It says a lot to the people who want to come to the city and they see the amenities; they want to see they are protected, not just by police but by first responders as well. An adequate fire station says a lot about a city. A lot of goodwill comes from that.”

For questions on the fire station bond proposal, you can email the city manager at cityofcedarsprings.org or call 616-696-1330.

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Prosecutor renders opinion on incompatible offices


By Judy Reed

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker issued his opinion this week on whether Courtland Township trustee Matt McConnon can also serve on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. In his opinion, the offices do not conflict with each other.

McConnon was appointed by the Cedar Springs Board of Education to fill a vacant seat in January. The Post alerted both Board President Heidi Reed and then Supt. Laura VanDuyn to the possibility of an incompatible office, since there was a similar occurrence in 2010. The Post waited until mid-February for an answer, then went to the Sheriff Department and asked them to have the current prosecutor review the case.

McConnon is glad the waiting is over. “I’m just happy it’s been decided,” he told the Post. “I didn’t want it hanging out there.”

In the 2009-2010 case, Pamela Conley, who was on the BOE, was elected to the Cedar Springs City Council. Lawyers on both sides felt it was a conflict, and asked then Prosecutor William Forsyth to offer an opinion. He came back with the opinion that the offices were incompatible.

Forsyth said at the time, that the two entities had contracts and agreements, such as the city collecting the school taxes and then being reimbursed for them. He also noted that under the Revised School Code that the Superintendent could negotiate a reasonable expense for city services and that the board must then also vote to approve any agreement between the school and city.

The other thing Forsyth had cited was the case of school board elections. He said it was his understanding that the city conducted those elections. The school district was required at the time to reimburse city/townships for the cost of running those elections. (That’s because they were held in April and not during a regular election.)

In a nutshell, he felt those things—the collection of school taxes, needing to vote on it (he said not voting on it was a breach of duty) and the holding of elections for the school and reimbursement for it made the offices incompatible.

Becker saw it differently. He said that he saw no contracts between the school and Courtland Township. He said the only possible contractual relationship found was the Cedar Springs Schools Parks and Recreation. Both entities are members of the governing body, but they are partners and do not oppose each other.

Becker did not feel the collection of taxes and being reimbursed for them was incompatible because he could find no direct contract between the township and the school system. There is, however, a form and resolution that the school sends to the districts.

According to Dennis Bain, Director of Fiscal Services at Kent Intermediate School District, the school districts send a L4029 form to the townships and city, along with a board resolution, that tells the township how much they should levy in taxes on behalf of the school district. The township then collects the taxes, and directly pays the school district those taxes. However, when it comes to the township being paid for collecting the taxes, the KISD acts as an intermediary. The township bills KISD for their services of collecting the taxes, and the school pays KISD what is owed.

Baine did not know if it was done the same way in 2010 but he couldn’t imagine that it wasn’t. He also said he didn’t know of any other district in the state that did it differently.

What the Post was unable to find out was whether Courtland Township trustees vote on whether to collect or disburse the taxes. We did not receive a call or email back from them by press time.

Becker also did not feel that school elections were a problem. He said it was different than the Conley case, because in that case, Forsyth said that Cedar Springs ran the school elections, and in this case, Kent County does. “The Courtland Township clerk runs them, but the ultimate supervisor of those elections is Lisa Lyons, the Kent County Clerk. She is the school districts election coordinator under the law,” he told the Post in an email. “A trustee does not have any control or supervisory capacity over her. That is what would lead to a possible conflict.”

The Post looked back at the school elections in 2007 through 2010, and found that people were told to vote at their own township or city polling place, just as they are now, and Kent County listed all the candidates, so they may very well have been done exactly as they are now. The only difference is that since they are now held in November during a regular election, the school doesn’t have to reimburse individual townships or the city for them.

See Prosecutor Chris Becker’s opinion here: McConnon opinion. 

See Prosecutor William Forsyth’s opinion on the Conley case here: Conley letter.

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School board selects new trustee


 

Matt McConnon was appointed on Tuesday, January 23, to fill a vacant seat on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. Courtesy photo.

But question arises on whether he can serve

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday evening, January 23, to fill the board seat vacated by Patricia Eary last week when she resigned. The board interviewed six candidates, and voted 6-0 to appoint Matt McConnon, of Courtland Township, to fill the seat until January. He was sworn in at the end of the meeting by School Resource Officer Deputy McCutcheon.

Several of the board members felt McConnon’s 10 years of experience in policy making and budgeting on the Courtland Township board would be beneficial to the school board. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will get to use his expertise.

“After we appointed Matt McConnon to the BOE, it came to light that there could be an outside concern with the incompatible office law as Matt is a trustee on the Courtland Township Board,” said Board President Heidi Reed.

“With the first look, the two positions (Township Trustee and BOE) appeared to only have a ‘potential of incompatibility,’ which meant the law did not apply. Matt’s longstanding board service to Courtland Township is to be admired. We have been in contact with Matt and we will amicably resolve this situation after we have gathered the facts,” she said. 

The concern arose because at the end of the meeting, the Post found, after speaking with Mr. McConnon, that he was still serving on the Courtland Township board. He explained that Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn had checked into it, and told him that there should be no conflict of interest since Courtland Township doesn’t do much voting on school issues.

However, the Post remembered that there was a similar case eight years ago, involving our own school board and the Cedar Springs City Council, and that the Kent County Prosecutor had deemed the two offices incompatible.

In that case, Pamela Conley, who was a Board of Education trustee, ran for Cedar Springs City Council in 2009 and won a seat. Both lawyers for the city and the school eventually agreed that the offices would be in conflict, and decided to send it to then Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth for a final opinion. He sent back his decision, explaining why the offices were incompatible. He also told Conley she needed to resign one of the offices by a certain date or he would file charges in Circuit Court. She decided to resign her BOE seat and still serves on the Cedar Springs City Council.

According to the opinion issued by Forsyth in January 2010, in which he cited the Public Offices Act, State Attorney General opinions and Supreme Court opinions, he noted that a person could serve on both boards if they do not negotiate or enter into contracts with one another, which the city and school do. “Of equal significance, an individual cannot avoid the incompatibility by abstaining from voting on resolutions…because abstention under such circumstances ‘is itself a breach of duty.’” He specifically mentioned the city collecting the taxes for the school, and the city conducting school board elections, and the school reimbursing the city for them.

Courtland Township does the same.

The Post emailed Board of Education President Heidi Reed and Superintendent Van Duyn to inform them of the prior case. Reed told the Post they would check into it. She then later issued her statement cited earlier in this article.

The Post will update this story when we know more.

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Little Library project in city


 

A free little library was installed at City Hall this week. It resembles an English phone booth, because there used to be a telephone at this location. Courtesy photo.

City also approves DDA Tif plan, CBDG grant application

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs High School teacher Steve Ringler’s machining woods class was honored at the Cedar Springs City Council meeting last Thursday evening for their partnership with the City and Cedar Springs Library in creating three unique “Little Free Libraries” to place around the City of Cedar Springs.

A little free library is usually some type of wooden box where people can take a book or give a book to share. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are unique to the area they are placed in. 

According to Cedar Springs Library Director Donna Clark, the free little libraries were City Manager Mike Womack’s idea. Ringler came up with the ideas on what they should look like. 

One of them is red, and looks like an English phone booth. He said that one would be placed right outside City Hall, because there used to be a phone in that location. That little library was installed this week.

Teacher Steve Ringler’s machining woods class created the free little libraries. Also in the photo is Mayor Pro Tem Pam Conley (front) and City Manager Mike Womack (far right).

A second one models a train depot, and will be placed near the staging area of the White Pine Trail (just off Maple and Second Street), but that is near where the old train depot used to be located.

The third little library resembles a barn because there are a lot of farmers in our community, and will be placed near the Cedar Springs Historical Museum.

DDA TIF plan approved

In other action at last week’s City Council meeting, the Downtown Development Authority’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan was approved. Womack said that one of the most important things to understand is that the TIF plan does not raise your taxes. It captures a portion of them and that would normally go into the general fund and reallocates them to the DDA for reinvestment back into the community. 

Under the city’s plan, the improvements within the development area will consist of storm sewers, resurfacing existing streets, parking lots and alleyways, creating new off street parking, lighting improvements, landscaping, and property acquisition for further improvements as needed.

DDA revenue in the first year of the plan is estimated at $17,743, with an increase each year thereafter, based on growth percentages of 2-3 percent. In total, the DDA is projected to generate $1,394,405.57 in tax increment revenue over the 20-year term of the plan.

The first project would be to create a parking lot in the grassy area off 2nd and Maple street east of the staging area. Womack said that would cost approximately $60,000.

Grant application for new sidewalks

The City Council also approved a resolution to approve an application for Community Development Block Grant funding to create ADA compliant sidewalks in the downtown area (five feet wide) with curb and gutter. If they get the grant, all sidewalks in the area between First and Second Streets and Muskegon and Maple would be replaced on both sides of the street. Project expenses are estimated at $625,069.60. The city is asking for a grant of $468,802.12, and they would then have to come up with a partial matching grant of $156, 267.38.

Womack said that the city intends to use the general fund balance to cover that amount. “The fund balance is currently about double the required minimum and I feel comfortable drawing down that amount if we are expecting to get back more than 2:1 money,” explained Womack. “The improvement of sidewalks was considered a main priority for the City Council when I got here and this is the best opportunity that we have to potentially get it done. While we have a good chance of getting the grant there is no promise at this point. Neither homeowners nor businesses will be asked to contribute to the cost of this project.”

Water and sewer to new restaurant approved

The Cedar Springs City Council approved extending water and sewer to the location at 17 Mile and White Creek where a new Culver’s restaurant will be built this spring. The restaurant will be built on land located across the street from Big Boy, behind Arby’s and Citgo. The parcel is currently made up of three lots, which will be combined and split into two, with Culver’s taking the north parcel and the other left open for another drive thru restaurant. Gary Coleman, who was there to represent Culver’s, thanked City Manager Mike Womack for making the city more business-friendly. He also said they were hoping to start construction in March, and open in July.

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City Council to hold public hearing on DDA TIF plan tonight


A map of the proposed DDA TIF district.

The Cedar Springs City Council will hold a public hearing and also vote on the 2017 Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan at their December meeting tonight, Thursday, December 14, at 7 p.m.

Under the city’s plan, the improvements within the development area will consist of storm sewers, resurfacing existing streets, parking lots and alleyways, creating new off street parking, lighting improvements, landscaping, and property acquisition for further improvements as needed.

DDA revenue in the first year of the plan is estimated at $17,743, with an increase each year thereafter, based on growth percentages of 2-3 percent. In total, the DDA is projected to generate $1,394,405.57 in tax increment revenue over the 20-year term of the plan.

City Manager Mike Womack explained that a TIF plan does not raise your taxes—it simply captures a portion of them and reallocates them to the DDA for reinvestment back into the community. We asked him if he could explain to readers how it works.

“City Hall has been approached by citizens with questions regarding the 2017 Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) development plan which City Hall has been working to finalize by the end of 2017. Tax Increment Financing can be complicated to understand but it is an important tool in promoting economic development in the downtown core of the City. It is important for businesses and citizens to understand how a TIF works and how the DDA can use the TIF to improve the City for everybody.”

He went on to explain:

“The DDA is a board of citizens and business owners with a vested interest in improving the identified TIF district. A TIF district is an area within a city that, broadly speaking, would benefit from reinvestment of money to promote the economic growth of that area. The development plan guides the DDA board in how to invest the TIF money doing things like creating new parking areas, renovating derelict properties or marketing the City to visitors.

“So once a city identifies a part of the City that meets the criteria and would benefit from a TIF, how does it work? A TIF district essentially reallocates funds from property taxes to encourage investment within the district. An important thing for property owners within the TIF district to understand is that their property tax rates do not automatically go up with the creation of a TIF.   

“The way TIFs shift funds around to encourage development is by freezing the allocations to various taxing bodies (e.g. City, County etc.) at their levels as of the start of the TIF. For the life of the TIF (typically a maximum of 20 years), the amount received by these taxing bodies from property taxes collected within the TIF will remain constant. Any increased tax revenues collected as a result of an increase in property values then go into the TIF fund and can be used by the DDA board for a wide range of purposes identified in the TIF Plan.

“Here is an example of a hypothetical TIF to demonstrate how the process works: A city decides that an area is in need of redevelopment, usually a downtown area. The City Council reviews the proposal and determines that the area would benefit from TIF reinvestment. Property tax rates are not affected by the TIF. At the beginning of the TIF, the aggregate property value of all land in the TIF is $1,000,000, and annual property tax revenue is $40,000. This $40,000 is split between a handful of taxing bodies such as the City and the County. After the TIF is created, the taxing bodies know that they will continue to receive that $40,000 per year for the life of the TIF. Perhaps after a couple years, property values within the TIF increase to $1,100,000, which leads to annual tax revenues of $44,000. This extra $4,000, instead of being distributed to the taxing bodies, is deposited in the TIF fund for the DDA to use to reinvest in the TIF area. That investment, in turn, leads to increased private business development, which leads to increased property values and more TIF income and reinvestment by the DDA.  

“Clearly, TIF districts are powerful tools available to a city that can often be complicated and are occasionally misunderstood. When used properly, however, a TIF can revitalize a community.”

Under the city’s plan, the improvements within the development area will consist of storm sewers, resurfacing existing streets, parking lots and alleyways, creating new off street parking, lighting improvements, landscaping, and property acquisition for further improvements as needed.

DDA revenue in the first year of the plan is estimated at $17,743, with an increase each year thereafter, based on growth percentages of 2-3 percent. In total, the DDA is projected to generate $1,394,405.57 in tax increment revenue over the 20-year term of the plan.

The city’s proposed 2017 DDA TIF plan can be found online at http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/11-20-17-DDA-TIF-PLAN-packet.pdf. You can email questions to the city manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org.

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City swears in winners of election


Lisa Atchison and Gerald Hall were sworn in at last Thursday’s City Council meeting. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

There is a new face on the Cedar Springs City Council after last week’s election.

Lisa Atchison was sworn in Thursday evening, November 9, along with Gerald Hall, who was reelected to his seat on the Council.

Hall and Atchison were the only two running in last week’s election. Atchison ran for the seat being vacated by Dan Clark, who decided not to run again.

Hall received 98 votes, and Atchison, who has also served on the City planning commission, received 79 votes. There were two write in votes, but they were counted as invalid since no one was officially running as a write-in candidate.

The City Council also nominated and voted on who would be their Mayor and Mayor Pro-tem for the 2017-18 year. The vote was unanimous to reappoint Gerald Hall as Mayor, and Pamela Conley as Mayor Pro-tem.

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