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City Council clips


Mayor tells city’s side of story

The City Council chamber was packed with spectators at the regular Cedar Springs City Council meeting last week Thursday, many of them there to speak on behalf of the Red Flannel Festival. Post photo by Judy Reed

Cedar Springs Mayor Charlie Watson read a letter at last Thursday’s City Council meeting, saying it was time for the silence to be lifted and for the city to defend itself against false accusations and half truths regarding negotiations with the Red Flannel Festival. (click here to read letter) He offered three solutions to the problem: that the city and RF board agree to the last proposal sent by the city; that the city stop using the RF logos and create their own; or they put it on the ballot and let the voters (who have to pick up the bill) decide.

The City’s proposal to the Festival stated that the city would cease use of all logos except the Red Flannel Town USA and round Red Flannel Town, Cedar Springs, Michigan logos, and that they would use them for identification purposes only. They would agree not to use them for commercial purposes without payment to the Festival. And if the city did profit from the sale of any items bearing the RFF trademark, they would waive city-incurred expenses associated with the Festival in that particular year.

What do you think? Are any of these solutions feasible?

DPW Director resigns

Roger Belknap, DPW Director for the City of Cedar Springs, is resigning as of June 30. Cedar Springs City Manager Christine Burns said he resigned for personal reasons. He’s been a phenomenal DPW Director,” said Burns. “He’s been a great addition to the team and I’m going to miss him.”

Mayor Charlie Watson echoed a similar sentiment. “He’s done a wonderful job, and I hate to see him go.”

Belknap offered to come back on a contracted basis as needed to help with projects until a new director is found. The city is having a going away party for him on June 26. He was hired about a year and a half ago.

Red Flannel Festival

The Cedar Springs City Council approved a motion to waive parade fees for the children’s parade and grand parade, and the application (excluding the beer tent) for holding special events that impair the use of streets and public ways. A special meeting will be held on Friday, June 29 at noon to approve an amendment allowing temporary or seasonal uses in any district on issuance of a permit. The RF beer tent, which is being planned for the American Legion parking lot this year, would fall under this ordinance amendment. The Festival’s lawyer has also sent the city some revisions they would like made in the ordinance before it is adopted.

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Festival orders city to stop using logos


By Judy Reed

 

The Red Flannel Festival sent a cease and desist letter to the Cedar Springs City Council last week, which ordered the city to stop using the Festival’s trademarked logos.

“The 8-member, all volunteer board voted unanimously to pursue this as a last resort,” said Festival First Vice President, Nick Andres. “We firmly believe, as the trademarks are the only real asset of the Festival, it is our fiduciary responsibility, as officers of the corporation, to protect the Festival from this infringement.”

The City of Cedar Springs does not agree that they should have to give up the Red Flannel town logos, however, due to the fact that they have used the term “Red Flannel Town” to describe themselves since the late 1930s, early 1940s. It is shown on City letterhead as early as 1941.

Trouble between the Festival and City began about this time last year, when the City told the Festival it could no longer offer $5,000-plus in city services to the Festival for free, due to falling revenues. The Festival asked for an estimate of the fees so they would know what needed to be covered, and the city gave the Festival a final list with an estimated total of $7,716.29. They then waived the parade fees, equipment rentals, and police fees for one year, ($2,491.64), which brought down the number to $5,224.65. The Festival then came to the city with a proposal to pay $5,224.65 in fees, with a “do not exceed” amount of $8,000 between the City and the Festival through 2015. A donor had come forward with the money, and the City accepted the Festival’s proposal.

However, when the final bill was sent to the Festival after this year’s event, it showed an actual cost of $8,064.30, $348 over the original $7,716.29 estimate. Hourly DPW and Police costs were lower than estimated, but fees for Police Reserves and hanging the crosswalk banner were added in. Salaried employees were not included in the fees. After waiving the parade fees and equipment rentals, the bill came down to $6,383.59. The city then waived the overage of $1,158.94, due to the contract between the City and the Festival.

Mayor Pro-tem Christine Fahl said they estimated the costs the best they could. “We never used to keep track,” she explained. “The workers just did it.”

The Festival, however, was surprised at the cost. “We know the agreement was for $8,000, but thought it would go up incrementally over the next few years,” Festival President Michele Andres told the Post.

In a press release issued last week, Andres said those costs threatened the sustainability of the Festival. “This drastic increase in costs from the City at $8,000 threatens the future of the Festival. It simply won’t survive this doubling of the fee structure.”

Then, in December, the Cedar Springs Library Fundraising committee began selling license plates and frames with the Red Flannel Town logo. When Fahl was told by someone on the Festival board that it was infringement because the logos were trademarked, she reacted immediately. “Within 20 minutes we spoke and pulled the license plate announcement off Facebook and stopped selling them,” explained Fahl.

The Festival decided to pay the city for the license plates and frames, then offered them to the library to sell. The library needs to turn over any plates not sold and cost of the plates to the Festival in August, so they can cover their costs.

The two entities decided to meet to discuss the issue of the City using the logos. While previously the City had used them on letterhead, street signs, etc., this new use was different. “The license plates changed the game because now they were trying to sell goods and services,” explained Andres.

When the two ad hoc committees finally met in late January or early February, the City committee, made up of Mayor Charlie Watson, Mayor Pro-Tem Christine Fahl, and Councilor Pat Capek, offered the Festival a proposal that the city would pay $4,000 a year for a license to use the Red Flannel trademarked logos, and told them to write up a proposal.

The Red Flannel Ad hoc committee, made up of Michele Andes, Nick Andres, and at the time, Rand Ruwersma, who has since been replaced by Rose Coonen, took the proposal back to their board of directors. “We wrote up the agreement, but our board said it should be $8,000, because that was the bill,” explained Andres. “To us it was like a first draft. We expected them to make changes, but they didn’t.”

Instead, the City ad hoc committee, who was surprised to get a proposal double of what they had offered, consulted with their attorney, who brought in a trademark attorney. According to Fahl, the attorney advised them not to connect usage of the logos with a fee, because they should be able to use the logos, as they have for years. So on, March 23, the City sent the Festival a letter, outlining their position. They detailed the city’s usage of the logos “Red Flannel Town” and asked that the parties “live and let live” as they have for years, in relation to the usage of the logos. They then offered $4,000 in fees to help offset Festival expenses.

The two committees met on April 4 to try to work out an agreement. “We told them it had to be two separate agreements,” said Fahl. However, as budget time grew closer (the budget meeting was April 14), discretionary funds looked meager. “We didn’t want to respond until after the budget,” explained Fahl. “We then decided it might not be feasible to offer them the $4,000.”

The Red Flannel Festival then responded on April 18 with a letter disputing that the City has any common-law rights to the trademark, since the Festival has trademarked all of them through the state, and several federally. They noted that the City had recently begun promoting its own branding, using the license plates, and then additional logos on Facebook, business cards, and new park benches. The letter said this put the City in direct competition with the Festival, and that it caused more confusion to the public as to whether the Festival is affiliated with the City. They rejected the city’s offer to live and let live, but said they were willing to work with the city to assist in reducing overall Festival service costs to the city. They then directed the city to direct future correspondence to their attorney.

With talks shut down except through their attorneys, things seemed to be at a standstill, until last week. At the same time that the City ad hoc committee was preparing a proposal, the Festival sent the “cease and desist” letter.

The City’s proposal to the Festival last week stated that the city would use the trademarks, logos, etc. for identification purposes only, and they would agree not to use them for commercial purposes without payment to the Festival. They would also cease use of all logos except the Red Flannel Town USA and round Red Flannel Town, Cedar Springs, Michigan logos. They also added an addition to the current agreement with the Festival, that if the city did profit from the sale of any items bearing the RFF trademark, they would waive city-incurred expenses associated with the Festival in that particular year.

Fahl said that the intention is not to sell anything, but that the provision is there in case another City Council or group makes the same mistake they did with the license plates. “We won’t be here forever,” she said.

What was missing from the proposal was the prior $4,000 offer. “Services have been cut, our people aren’t getting raises. We just don’t have any money to contribute,” explained Fahl. “The ironic thing is, if they had jumped on that $4,000 right away, we’d be done with this,” she said.

The Festival did not formally respond to the content of the City’s proposal. “The Festival very much appreciates the City’s proposals. Although some of the terms and conditions are not currently acceptable, the Festival looks forward to further negotiations without the need for legal action,” said Michele Andres.

For Councilor Pat Capek, who spent 20 years on the Red Flannel committee, the disagreement between the two entities has not been easy. “What’s heartbreaking is what it’s done to the city,” said Capek. “There’s no way to separate the city and the festival. To have a breach is a terrible thing. I’m still optimistic that when it’s all over, we will have reached an agreement that has everyone smiling.”

The two committees and their attorneys are scheduled to meet today, Thursday, June 7 to try to come to an agreement.

 

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Parking ordinance put on hold


Under a parking ordinance in the city of Cedar Springs, only guests, and not residents are allowed to park in the areas between the yard and the roadway. The ordinance has been put on hold pending further review by the planning commission.

By Judy Reed

 

The Cedar Springs City Council voted Thursday night, May 10, to send a controversial parking ordinance back to the planning commission for review, and ordered a halt to its enforcement.

The ordinance came under scrutiny last month, when resident Beth Karafa complained that she was not allowed to park in the gravel area between her yard and the road, in the city’s right of way, although she had been doing it for 16 years. Officer Nick Barbour, the city’s code enforcer, has paid her several visits and ticketed her on at least two occasions.

Guests are supposed to be allowed to park in front of a home, whether in the roadway or on the grass. However, Becky Powell, of S. Linda Street, told City Council Thursday night that she had received a warning from Barbour when her daughter-in-law visited. Powell said her daughter-in-law had all four wheels in the yard because she had to get her grandchildren in and out of the car. “He said two tires had to be on the road and two in the yard, and that he would be watching me, and if I continued, I would get fined,” explained Powell.

She said he then went across the street to talk to a sickly neighbor, whose husband had just died, about the need to mow her ditch. “I just think he needs to have a little sensitivity, kindness,” said Powell. “He was a little cocky, I guess.”

Police Chief Roger Parent made it clear that when Officer Barbour is working on Wednesdays enforcing codes, Barbour reports directly to City Manager Christine Burns. But Parent did say that all streets are wide enough for two-way traffic, and that temporary guests should be able to pull off into the grass. He also said that you do have to park with the flow of traffic, however, and not facing the wrong direction. “It’s a matter of are you impeding traffic?” said Parent.

Another resident asked about whether she, as a homeowner, could park on her own lawn.

Mayor Charlie Watson told council members, during their workshop before the meeting, that he was going to suggest sending the ordinance back to the planning commission. He said that he has had phone calls from people about it, even before the latest complaints.

He told the public during the council meeting that he has always had difficulty with the ordinance. “I think at the time it was the best ordinance that we were able to come up with. However, in hindsight, I think there may possibly be some changes we need to make to the ordinance,” he said. “I’d like to ask the City Manager to put a hold on any enforcement action while this ordinance is sent back for review.”

The council passed the motion, which related to only a specific section of the parking ordinance, then later rescinded the action and voted to send the entire parking ordinance back to the planning commission for review.

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Residents frustrated over parking situation


By Judy Reed

 

Two disgruntled residents brought their complaints about the city’s parking ordinance to the Cedar Springs City Council meeting last Thursday night. And one of them, Beth Karafa, of 108 S. First Street, also called WZZM13 and the Post to tell her side of the story.

“I’m frustrated,” Karafa told the Post. “Are they trying to run people out of town?”

Karafa is frustrated because under the city’s ordinance, she cannot permanently park in the gravel area between her yard and the road, in the city’s right of way. And Officer Nick Barbour, the city’s code enforcer, has paid her several visits and ticketed her on at least two occasions. The ticket last year resulted in a court order saying that she could not allow any vehicle to park on her property unless she installed a driveway.

“I’ve lived here and parked there for 16 years,” she said, pointing to where her fiancé (now deceased) had built steps down to where they parked. Karafa does not have a regular driveway, and says she cannot afford to put one in, being a single mom of two teens. She also has several adult children that often visit.

City Manager Christine Burns explained that they are not asking her to put in a driveway. She said they have given Karafa several other options for parking, but that she has refused to use them. The options included asking for permission to park at the American Legion Hall lot, which is across the street and 33 feet from Karafa’s home; on the street in designated parking spaces just west of her residence and to the south of the Legion; or in front of the house directly across the street from her. Those areas have a curb, and the road is wider there.

Burns noted that other residents also struggle with parking, but make a choice to shuffle cars or park elsewhere. “I don’t know of anyone who has more choices for parking than she does,” said Burns.

Karafa told the Post that she didn’t want to have to park across the street near the Legion. “What if I have groceries or laundry?” she asked.

Burns said that under the ordinance, guests could park in front of Karafa’s home, in the gravel area on Beech, just nothing permanent. She said that if Karafa had laundry or groceries, she could park there to unload and then move her car.

Karafa said that since she received her ticket, she has been parking in a side yard, in what was once a driveway, before she moved in. She has also been warned about that. But Burns said that if she can prove it was a driveway, it could be grandfathered in.

Karafa does have photos of it being used as a driveway before she moved in.

“She should bring those photos to the next court date on her latest ticket,” said Burns.

Burns said that the parking ordinance is not unusual, and that many other cities and villages have the same type of ordinance. She said that the gravel area in front of Karafa’s house was not meant to be for parking. “It should be grass, but it has been eroded from all the years of parking on it,” she explained.

Karafa said she has spoken to her attorney about the issue. She said she has also gotten a lot of positive support from people and there is now a petition on Facebook to change the parking ordinance. She said she hopes to get a group of people to go to the next City Council meeting to voice their concerns and find out what to do to get changes made to the ordinance.

According to Burns, any resident with concerns on parking or other issues can call her at 696-1330 ext. 104, or email her at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org.

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Fire Chief sworn in


Fire Chief Marty Fraser. Post photo by J. Reed.

Marty Fraser, recently selected as the new Cedar Springs Fire Chief, was sworn in at the Cedar Springs City Council meeting last week Thursday, April 12.

Police Chief Roger Parent has been serving as interim Fire Chief for the last year, with Fraser serving as Deputy Chief. Fraser is a 35-year veteran of the department and has served in various roles. He has been a first responder since 1990.

Fraser publicly thanked Parent for his help with the department and how he’s helped during this transition.

Parent thanked Fraser, too, saying his 10 months as fire chief would not have been as easy without him.

 

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City Council vote next week


First election using electronic pollbook

Ashley Bremmer

City of Cedar Springs voters will see something new when they go to vote next Tuesday, November 8. It will be the first election with them using the electronic poll book, a device that replaces the three-ring binders normally used to verify a voter is registered. Voters will be asked to show their driver’s license or state ID as they have the last few years, and it will be scanned on to the computer and a ballot assigned electronically. If a person does not have an ID, their name can still be looked up on the computer. “With a driver’s license it is just a little quicker,” noted Cedar Springs City Clerk Linda Branyan. She added that no private information is accessed. The info in the pollbook is the info the voter gave when they registered.
There is one seat up for grabs on the Cedar Springs city council and the only candidate running for the seat is the person that currently holds it—Ashley Bremmer.
Bremmer, a self-employed bail agent with West Michigan Bail bonds, was serving on the planning commission, as vice chair, when she was appointed  last April to fill the seat on the city council that opened up after Raymond Huckleberry resigned. She had served on the planning commission since January 2010.
Bremmer said she volunteered for city council because she wanted to be a part of our community and have a say in the direction it was going and to be able to give back. “City council was just another way of doing that, and I felt it was a way to get a little more involved,” explained Bremmer. “I now have a son, who is 2 1/2, and I want to make sure that our city stays wonderful and will still be a good and safe place for him as he gets older.”
Bremmer said being on the planning commission helped prepare her for the job. “Being on the planning commission has helped me to understand our city and the direction it was going, especially when it came to our appearance. I carry that mentality when it comes to businesses and new construction, anything to make our city more beautiful,” she noted.
“I also volunteer for the development in which I live, being the treasurer for our association. Working with money, paying the bills for it and developing a budget has given me a new appreciation for our city and our city’s budget.”
Bremmer said that she feels that lack of funds for the city’s budget is the most important issue facing the city. “Until being on city council I didn’t realize how bad it was. What I personally would like to do about this is to keep our budget in mind when making my decisions. Anything that can save our district money, while at the same time being beneficial, is going to be important,” she said. “Buying local to help community growth and development is also something I think is important.”

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City vetoes support for Internet-only public notices


The city of Cedar Springs decided last week that the public’s right to know trumps budget cuts.

The city council vetoed support last week for state legislation that would allow municipalities to publish public notices on their websites instead of publishing them in newspapers. The Michigan Municipal League reportedly helped conceive the bills to save municipalities money.

“I would love to save $7,000 to $10,000 a year but I don’t agree with this,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Christine Fahl.

The agenda called for a resolution supporting the language in house bill 5858, one of six bills addressing the issue. Under the bill, the city would be able to post one public notice in their office, and post another in one of three places: on their website, in the newspaper, or on a public access television channel. Currently they must be published in a newspaper of record.

Cedar Springs Post Editor Judy Reed wrote the city a letter reminding them why publishing public notices in the newspaper are important to the public. The letter was read at the meeting. Some of her points included: public notices should be published in a medium independent of the municipality; they should be verifiable (such as through an affidavit) to make sure notice was properly given; they should be archivable; and they should be accessible to a broad range of people.

“There is a high demand for 100 percent government transparency and we believe taking public notices out of the newspaper would be a giant step backward,” said Reed.

All the council members agreed.

“I have a access to a computer but I don’t want to be trapped to a screen,” remarked Councilor Pat Capek.

“I think our job is to make it accessible to all the people,” said Councilor Pamela Conley.

“(Publishing only on the Internet) would eliminate a whole chunk of people,” noted Councilor Raymond Huckleberry.

Councilor Ronny Merlington acknowledged his love for newspapers, both the Grand Rapids Press and the Post, and said he hated to see them get any smaller.

“I appreciate the Post and what they do for the community,” said Councilor Ronny Merlington. “People are grabbing those Posts left and right. I want to be able to read my newspapers,” he said.

The decision was unanimous by the council to veto support for the language in the bill, and they directed City Manager Christine Burns to send a letter to our representative letting him know their decision.

Reed urges residents to call or write their state representatives to urge them to vote against the legislation.

The letter written to City Council:
April 8, 2010

The City of Cedar Springs
PO Box 310
66 South Main Street
Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Dear Cedar Springs City Council,

It is with much regret that we see your intention to support the language in House Bill 5848, a bill that would give cities the freedom to no longer publish legal notices in the area newspaper.  Instead, it says that they can post them in their office, and one of the following: on their own website, in the local newspaper, or the public education channel for the area.

As the city’s newspaper of record, The Cedar Springs Post holds published public notices in high regard. Public notices in newspapers are part of the three-legged stool of government accountability. (The other two are public meetings and public records.) Public notices help to inform the public on activities by the government and other public entities. Public notices have been included in newspapers from the beginning of the Republic. Now they are also on many newspapers’ websites.

A valid public notice should have four key elements:
* It should be published in a medium independent of the government or other entity compelled to provide notice.
* It should be verifiable so that citizens can satisfy themselves that notice was properly given. An affidavit from the newspaper attesting to the type and date of publication is the typical verification, and these are often used in litigation to demonstrate that due process requirements were met.
* It should be archivable so that future generations can retrieve it.
* It should be accessible to a broad range of people. Surveys demonstrate that a wide majority of citizens believe public notices should be in newspapers.

Publishing online does not meet those key elements.

There is a high demand from the public right now for 100 percent transparency in government.  We believe taking public notices out of newspapers would be a giant step backward.

Sincerely,

Judy Reed, Editor
The Cedar Springs Post
www.cedarspringspost.com

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Police on patrol


By Judy Reed

Officers injured in scuffles

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent’s reports to the Cedar Springs City Council the last couple of months noted at least two officers were injured while performing their duties.

The first incident occurred on February 27 about 10 p.m. Officers Paul Feutz and Jason Schaefer were on a call on S. Main Street in an upstairs apartment. When they attempted to arrest the individual involved in the disturbance, he started to struggle, causing the officers and the suspect to fall down a flight of stairs. Officer Feutz experienced some back and rib pain as a result of the fall, and was checked out at Butterworth Hospital. He was able to return to work and had no loss of work related to the injury.

The suspect, Joseph James Sturdevant, 23, of Kent City, was charged with two counts of resisting arrest/obstructing police. He also had six outstanding warrants on similar charges.

The second event happened Saturday morning, March 20. Officers were called to an address in because a woman had made a 911 call for help. When officers arrived, they realized the person was having mental health issues. She kept making 911 calls, even after officers were in the house with her. They tried to get her to stop, and because of her noncompliance, she was physically arrested. She was patted down, handcuffed and placed in the rear seat of the police car. Officer Schaefer noticed her poking holes in the seat with a small screwdriver, and officers attempted to use pain compliance measures to remove the tool from her hand. She twisted away, and scratched Officer Schaefer’s arm with it. He received a minor laceration and abrasions on his forearm. He was later treated at the hospital and received a tetanus shot. While in the car, the woman also managed to kick out the window. Chief Parent said he is seeking restitution in court for both the seat and window.

Chief Parent said those types of cases are the exception rather than the rule. “There may be some instances where injuries have not occurred because we have the Taser,” noted Parent. “But we don’t use it in every instance. These types of things just go along with the job.”

Statistics

Chief Parent reported again on statistics of crime in different areas of the city. He said that last month there were 264 calls, with 41 at Cedar Springs Mobile Estates, 12 at the apartments on Oak Street, 11 at Northland Estates, and 200 in other areas of the city.

“The perception is that the most crime occurs in C.S. Mobile Estates, but that’s not the case,” he said. “They only had 15 percent of the calls, and they have 25 percent of the population.”

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City Council candidates bring drama to election


If one candidate wins, it may be a conflict of interest. Another candidate is facing legal charges. Another just wants to hold on to his seat. Welcome to this year’s Cedar Springs City Council election, where two four-year terms are up for grabs.

One seat is being vacated by Mayor Linda Hunt, who retired, and the other seat belongs to Charlie Watson, who is running to regain it. The other candidates are Pamela Medford-Conley and Arthur Tiethoff. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Charlie Watson

Charlie Watson

Charlie Watson

This will be Charlie’s second term on the council, if elected. He has lived in the Cedar Springs area all of his life, other than when he was in the military. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 1982, and has an associates degree from Grand Rapids Community College. He has served as a firefighter at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids since 1990. He also served on the Cedar Springs Police and Fire Departments for 10 years.

During his time on the City Council, Watson has served on the planning commission, personnel and compensation committee, government liaison and finance committees, and several ad hoc committees. He is currently serving as Mayor Pro-tem, and recently completed the requirements to obtain his Level 1 Elected Official designation from the Michigan Municipal League.

Watson said he ran for office because he enjoys serving the people. “I like helping the community and letting the voice of the people be heard,” he said.

Watson said that he thinks the economy is the most important issue facing Cedar Springs. What does he think should be done about it? “I will continue to try to bring business and industry to the city,” he said.

As incumbent, Watson said the thing he is most proud of accomplishing is the resurfacing of city streets (such as East and West Muskegon) and the sidewalks they’ve been able to replace. He also said he’s proud of other things such as the restoration of the flowing well, but noted that, “without decent streets, you won’t get to those places.”

Pamela Medford-Conley

Pamela Medford-Conley

Pamela Medford-Conley

Pamela Medford-Conley has lived in Cedar Springs since 1999. She teaches communications at Forest Hills, and is the debate and forensics coach there. Conley has been active in the community, serving on the library board, the garden club, and she is currently in her second term on the Cedar Springs Board of Education. While on the Board of Ed, she has made several trips to Washington DC with the federal relations network to talk to legislators about what is and isn’t working in education.

Conley said she was prompted to run for office because of some issues she’s had with the city. “I’ve had some issues with zoning—how the laws are enforced and what they are. We need some clarity on that,” she said. She also added that if she’s not willing to step up, she can’t complain.

Conley agreed with Watson that the most important issue facing the city is the budget crunch. “There is declining revenue from state and property taxes, so we have to make tough choices to allocate the resources we have. The face of the community is changing—there’s new housing, new people, and our choices need to reflect that. We’re turning into the ‘burbs.”

Conley’s service on the Board of Education has some wondering whether serving on the Cedar Springs City Council might be a conflict of interest. The school reportedly contacted Kent County Elections Director Sue DeStiguer last summer to see if she could legally serve on two elected boards if she were to be elected in November. The Elections Director then contacted the city. City Clerk Linda Branyan sent Conley a letter explaining that she had been contacted about it, and that it was not something prohibited by the city. However, she did point her to Michigan Compiled Law, Act 566 1978, on holding incompatible offices. Branyan noted in her letter that the Attorney General and the Michigan Supreme Court have ruled on the matter, and pointed to the incident in Muskegon County where an individual elected to the Muskegon School Board and County Board of Commissioners was ordered to resign from one of the positions by a Circuit Court judge who ruled he was in violation of the Act 566. Branyan said in her letter that the problem for Conley might be that there are contractual agreements between the city and school board. She said she was writing to give her time to do her own research, and contact an attorney if necessary. Branyan said she would be happy to sit down with Conley and show her the information. But Conley never responded to Branyan’s letter.

“My lawyer advised me not to,” said Conley. “That letter was not appropriate prior to an election. Anyone gets to run for office.” She said that she had spoken with two lawyers, and both said that the jobs would not be incompatible. “In the Muskegon County Case, there was an overarching county board. Are they going to say the city is subservient to the school board?” she asked. “This is not even remotely an issue.”

Arthur Tiethoff

Arthur Tiethoff

Arthur Tiethoff

Art Tiethoff has lived in the district for 37 years, and is a retired electrician. He feels that his skills as a project leader at work will be valuable as a city councilor. “I will stand up for what is right,” he said.

Why is he running? “I see the need for someone to represent the people. I believe in a government for the people by the people. Sometimes it seems the other way around.” Tiethoff also said he thinks the economy is the biggest issue facing Cedar Springs. “I think we should be careful on how money is spent for the taxpayer as well as for the city…I believe we should live within our means, not just within someone’s wishes. If the people can’t afford something, hold off til they can.”

Tiethoff is currently facing a misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property, for allegedly putting a scratch in another person’s car. It’s a charge he vehemently denies. “I’m not guilty,” said Tiethoff, “but it’s up to the court to decide.” Police were called to a home on S. Second on July 29, where someone allegedly observed him make a scratch on the rear bumper of someone’s brand new vehicle. He was arraigned on Oct. 7, and has pled not guilty. He is scheduled for a jury pick on November 19.

Tiethoff knows that the situation may cost him a seat, although he is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. “The people that know me will vote for me,” he said.

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City Council Clips


By Judy Reed

Mayor Hunt retires

Mayor Linda Hunt and Rockford Mayor Janiece Rogers

Mayor Linda Hunt and Rockford Mayor Janiece Rogers

The Cedar Springs City Council held a surprise retirement party for Mayor Linda Hunt last week, who is retiring after a total of 24 years on the council. She retired once before, back in 2004, but was urged to run for office again after Mayor James Charon died in 2005. “I think the party means more to me this time than it did the first time, because I did come back, and they felt strongly enough to do it again,” remarked Hunt. “Either that or they were glad to get rid of me,” she said with a chuckle.

Attending the party were 30 to 40 well-wishers, including Cedar Springs staff and community members; Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt, who once served as an assistant manager here; former Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh, who is now City Manager for the city of St. Joseph; and Rockford Mayor Janeice Rogers.

Former CS City Manager Frank Walsh gives Mayor Linda Hunt a hug.

Former CS City Manager Frank Walsh gives Mayor Linda Hunt a hug.

During her time on the council, Hunt served as mayor five times, and mayor pro-tem on numerous occasions. She said that she feels the greatest accomplishment achieved while she was on the council was the building of the wastewater treatment plant. “It allowed growth and development of the community (not just the city) and will continue to allow growth and development in the future,” she noted.

Hunt said she thinks the biggest obstacle facing the council this year will be learning to live without revenue sharing. “I think it will just get worse,” she said.

Hunt admitted that while she’s ready to retire, she will miss it. “I will miss the connection with the progress of the city—how it evolves, and not making decisions on how we develop,” she explained.

As for future plans, she’s going to spend winter in Florida for the first time. “I’m going to learn how to relax,” she said. And then, as an afterthought, “I heard they need a lot of help down there, too,” she joked.

Make a difference awards

Sonya Conkright revieves "You make the diffference award."

Sonya Conkright revieves "You make the diffference award."

The Cedar Springs City Council awarded two “You make the difference awards” at last Thursday’s council meeting. The first went to Sonya Cronkright, owner of Reflections by Design. “She walked door-to-door and obtained approximately 40 letters of support from area businesses for the MNRTF grant for the staging area project on the White Pine Trail,” explained City Manager Chris Burns.

Youth pastor Joe Sturgeon accepts award on behalf of The Springs Free Methodist Church.

Youth pastor Joe Sturgeon accepts award on behalf of The Springs Free Methodist Church.

The second went to the Springs Free Methodist Church, for their community-wide clean-up project the Sunday before Red Flannel Day. “Thank you for what you did,” said Mayor Linda Hunt. “That was really neat.” Pastor Barry Briggs was out of town, and youth Pastor Joe Sturgeon was on hand to receive the award for the church.

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