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Tag Archive | "cedar springs city council"

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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City councilmember receives award


City councilmember
receives award
Patricia Capek, mayor pro tem on the Cedar Springs City Council, received a special award of merit from the Michigan Municipal League at their annual convention last week.
The award recognizes outstanding leadership and service to the League and municipal government.
Capek has been a resident of Cedar Springs since 1975. She is currently serving her 4th term on the Cedar Springs City Council, where she held the position of Mayor Pro-Tem on two separate occasions. She currently serves on the Cedar Springs Public Library Construction Committee and serves on the MML Elected Officials Academy Board and is a past president of MML Region III.
According to the MML, Pat has been a tireless supporter of the League since 1995. It was noted in the awards program that “She not only received the highest Elected Officials Academy award, the Level III Governance Award, but she also served as EOA board president in 2007-08. She has been and continues to be a vocal cheerleader for continuing education and the EOA program.”
City Manager Christine Burns was pleased to see her honored. “If people ask her to serve on a committee, she does. And she gives 110 percent. She’s very visible, everyone knows her. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
Capek was humble about it. “Anytime anyone gets recognized, it’s a reflection on the community, and I am privileged to be part of it,” she said.

Patricia Capek, mayor pro tem on the Cedar Springs City Council, received a special award of merit from the Michigan Municipal League at their annual convention last week.

The award recognizes outstanding leadership and service to the League and municipal government.

N-capek-wins-awardCapek has been a resident of Cedar Springs since 1975. She is currently serving her 4th term on the Cedar Springs City Council, where she held the position of Mayor Pro-Tem on two separate occasions. She currently serves on the Cedar Springs Public Library Construction Committee and serves on the MML Elected Officials Academy Board and is a past president of MML Region III.

According to the MML, Pat has been a tireless supporter of the League since 1995. It was noted in the awards program that “She not only received the highest Elected Officials Academy award, the Level III Governance Award, but she also served as EOA board president in 2007-08. She has been and continues to be a vocal cheerleader for continuing education and the EOA program.”

City Manager Christine Burns was pleased to see her honored. “If people ask her to serve on a committee, she does. And she gives 110 percent. She’s very visible, everyone knows her. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

Capek was humble about it. “Anytime anyone gets recognized, it’s a reflection on the community, and I am privileged to be part of it,” she said.

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