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Tag Archive | "city council"

City Manager gets high marks in first year


 

Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack recently completed his first year on the job here in Cedar Springs, and the City Council gave him high marks. The Council completed a one-year performance review of City Manager Mike Womack at their September 7 meeting.

“The worst thing they said was they think I work too much. I was surprised that was the worst thing, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Mayor Gerald Hall was the one who voiced concern about that. “I feel Mike is doing an excellent job as our Manager,” he said. “But he might get burned out if he continues to work as he does.”

Womack has been with the City since August 1, 2016 and has hired several new staff members in that time. The team at City Hall now includes a new Finance Director, Deputy Finance Director, City Clerk, DPW Director and Utility Billing Clerk. Womack has received high praise from City Council for recruiting multiple high-quality employees and building a strong team.

“I was both unlucky and fortunate to lose so many people over my first year,” Womack said. “I was given the opportunity to bring together the team I wanted in City Hall representing the direction that Council and I envision for the City.” Womack elaborated that, “It was important to bring in friendly people with fresh ideas who want to do good things for the City.”

City Hall has invested a lot of work and time in ongoing projects in the City over the last year. Womack stated, “The City is really coming alive with economic activity,” and “I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken towards being more business friendly here in the City.”

“Some of the sign and zoning ordinances are out of date and unnecessarily restrictive, and we’ve got blighted property that we’re trying to manage,” he explained.

He plans to continue City Hall’s efforts to update and streamline City ordinances and to address the blighted properties in the City. Womack said that having a good staff and an active Council is helping propel these many plans forward.  Womack also praised local businesses and philanthropic groups for their work. “From the Halloween Spooktacular event to the new Community Library Building we are very fortunate to have so many that donate their time and money to make this such a great place to live, work and play,” Womack said.

When asked about his goals over the next year Womack talked about all the businesses coming to town. He also specified that “I’m focusing on pedestrian safety, the new fire station and bringing more life to the downtown area, especially the pocket park in front of City Hall and working with the CBDT on the Heart of Cedar Springs amphitheater.”

For their part, City Council rated Womack an average of 4.66 out of 5 and noted that overall they were very satisfied with his work, his commitment and the professional environment he brought to City Hall. Councilor Powell stated that “This small city is growing so fast.  We need his knowledge and experience in all these new projects.” Councilor Nixon appreciated his “emphasis on best practices and planning for the future.” Councilors did note that Womack could come off as somewhat distant and unfriendly due to his direct communication style, dry sense of humor and naturally straight-faced demeanor.

“What can I say, people who get to know me like me. I’ll try to smile more!” he joked.

Womack has two more years in his current contract and said he was very happy working in Cedar Springs.  “The City has been so warm and welcoming to me over the last year,” Womack said. “It’s been a nice change of pace for my life.” He said he really enjoys living in the west side of the state and likes the slower pace and smaller cities in the area. Womack came to Cedar Springs from his legal practice in Macomb County and lives in the local area with his wife Glenna and their two dogs, Fitz and Leo.

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Beekeeping ordinance sent back to Planning Commission


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council decided last Thursday evening to send the new beekeeping ordinance back to the City Planning Commission for more research and discussion, at the suggestion of City Manager Mike Womack. The Planning Commission had previously approved the new ordinance by a 5-4 vote.

The decision was made after the first reading of the new ordinance at the City Council meeting Thursday, September 7.

“The Planning Commission discussion went off track (in my opinion) and made a 5-4 recommendation to City Council to approve with some additional language. After discussing the matter with each individual PC member it sounded like a majority didn’t feel as though they had sufficient time to research and discuss the matter,” explained Womack. “So, I gave the City Council the recommendation of the PC but also made the suggestion to send it back to the PC for further research and discussion based upon the discussions that I had with PC members. This is obviously a complicated issue and I want the City to get it right and I don’t see any reason to rush to a decision.”

Womack said he received an email from one of the PC members asking for specific information regarding the resident who asked to be allowed to keep bees, Joe Frank. While he felt they were good questions if reviewing an applicant, the ordinance is a policy issue. So Womack sent an email to Planning Commission members explaining some of the things they should be thinking about regarding the beekeeping ordinance. “The Bee-Keeping Ordinance was brought to the PC’s review for policy reasons.  The question that PC members should be asking themselves is whether the PC is a body capable of reviewing an application to keep bees, whether the proposed ordinance gives the PC enough guidance with which to make future decisions regarding an individual being able to keep bees, whether there are any spelling mistakes, errors or omissions that you think the ordinance should have but that I missed and whether you have any problems with individual aspects of the ordinance, a good example would be whether you think 2 hives is too many on any property under 8,XXX square foot and instead you think that it should be only 1 hive etc. When the City makes policy/ordinances we absolutely should not be thinking about how it will affect any single individual but rather how it will affect everybody. A typical lot in the City is 66X132=8,712 square feet, If the PC wanted to limit bee-keeping it could recommend that the minimum lot size should be 9,000 square feet before being allowed to keep any bees. We also have parcels as small as 5,000 square feet (or smaller) in the City, does the PC want to say that there is a minimum size for the lot prior to allowing bees?”

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council was considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

 

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City to consider beekeeping ordinance


By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs may soon join the ranks of other progressive cities that are helping to support the environment by allowing residents to keep bees. The City Council will consider the first reading of the ordinance at their monthly meeting this Thursday, September 7.

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Womack gave the council a copy of the beekeeping ordinance in Traverse City, and a draft ordinance for the Planning Commission and City Council to consider.

This green box is Frank’s beehive, and the two white boxes are honey supers, which collect honey. Courtesy photo.

Frank’s hive is a green box inside a shed on his property. There are ports from the hive for the bees to travel through to get outside. They do not fly around inside the shed.

“They are not dangerous,” he explained. “There are already bees flying around outside. They have to live somewhere. Better in a hive than in the wall of your garage,” he noted.

At the August 10 council meeting, former Mayor Mark Fankhauser stated that he supports and recommends allowing bees in the city. He said he has seen a direct increase in the number of flowers as a result of Frank’s bees.

According to Ranger Steve Mueller, our resident wildlife and biology expert, bees are more important than butterflies as pollinators and are not dangerous. “Bees are experiencing population decline for a variety of reasons and can use human help. They are of great positive economic importance. People have an unreasonable fear of bees. Riding or driving in a car is a greater health threat than bees in the neighborhood. Why people develop unhealthy fear of bees and other insects makes little sense but many are taught unreasonable fear as a child and hold on to those fears throughout life,” he explained.

“[Bees] are a community-building, economic resource that benefits people, plants, and wildlife. I encourage people to maintain a portion of their yard for wildflowers and native species to help maintain and sustain biodiversity. Bees are an essential component if we want plants to reproduce,” he remarked.

Mueller said he has a friend that lives close to downtown Denver, Colorado and she has a small beehive in her backyard. “The bees fly about the city in nearby areas pollinating flowers, gathering nectar, and make honey. We eat at their picnic table in the backyard and are not disturbed by bees. We watch them at flowers in the garden that surround the picnic table. We sit on their deck to enjoy the day and have had not problems with the bees that are about 30 feet away. She suits up to open the hive to extract honey and uses normal bee keeping practices for safety,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents would need to apply for a permit. They could keep no more than a total of two hives on real property less than 10,890 square feet, no more than 4 hives on real property less than 21,780 square feet, no more than 6 hives on real property less than 43,560 square feet and no more than eight hives on real property more than 43,561 square feet. Honeybees must be housed in a properly designed and constructed hive, which may be located only in the “rear yard” of the property. They also cannot be any closer than 10 feet to any property line of an adjacent property.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council is considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

Please note that this article has been updated to refer to the specific ordinance under which bees are not currently allowed in the City of Cedar Springs. We also removed Rockford as a city that allows them. It should have read Muskegon. We apologize for the error.

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City in need of planning commission members


Do you live in the City of Cedar Springs? Would you like to make a difference in the community? The City of Cedar Springs is looking for additional Planning Commission Members.

The Planning Commission helps shape the future of land use and business development in the City. The board consists of eight members of the community and the Mayor. There is currently one vacant seat, and one or two more seats are expected to be vacant within the year.

The Planning Commission is a volunteer board and usually meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The input from the commission provides citizens the opportunity to have an input on the decisions that will shape the community for many years to come. To get an idea of what the Planning Commission does, you can download a Planning Commission handbook from the Michigan Municipal League at https://www.mml.org/pdf/pcebook.pdf.

Those wanting to apply for a position must  be 18+ year old, a city resident, and fill out the application that you can find online at http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/boards-and-commissions-application.pdf. Please email applications to manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or drop them off at City Hall. The City Manager and the Mayor will review the applications and make their suggestion to the City Council for appointment to the Planning Commission. Application deadline for the vacant position will be July 24.

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City Council tours Display Pack


Cedar Springs City Councilors Rose Powell, Dan Clark, Molly Nixon, Perry Hopkins, Mayor Gerald Hall and Display Pack President Vic Hansen on a recent tour of Display Pack.

Cedar Springs City Councilors Rose Powell, Dan Clark, Molly Nixon, Perry Hopkins, Mayor Gerald Hall and Display Pack President Vic Hansen on a recent tour of Display Pack.

The City of Cedar Springs City Council was invited to tour the Display Pack factory on West Street last Wednesday, November 30. Vic Hansen, Display Pack’s President, led the City Councilors and City Manager on a tour of the new Display Pack facility that provides consumer packaging services to some of the world’s top brands.

Hansen said that he was proud to show off the building to the city representatives. “Display Pack takes quality seriously and I think it shows in what we are doing here,” he remarked.

Cedar Springs Mayor Gerald Hall said he was impressed by how environmentally friendly the Display Pack building is. “The recycling program Display Pack has instituted is top-notch, and they’re clearly trying to lead the industry in industrial recycling innovation,” he commented.

Display Pack is in the process of moving into the 360,000 square-foot building being vacated by Wolverine Worldwide on the south end of West Road. The company recently held a job fair to fill open positions and expects to have between 230 and 275 jobs on site when fully staffed. Vic Hansen told the City Councilors that he was very happy with the move to Cedar Springs and that the City has been very welcoming. “We look forward to working together for both of our benefit,” said Hansen.

Display Pack also has plans for future expansion in Cedar Springs, potentially adding an automotive plastics division and an onsite extruding division.

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Candidates in city/township races


 

Tuesday is election day here in the U.S., and residents will be voting for president, vice-president, federal and state senators, representatives, judges, sheriff, and many varied city and township positions and proposals. Below are just a few of the races in our area. (Mostly just the contested ones.) To see what will be on the ballot for your township or city, please visit www.michigan.gov/sos, and click on Michigan Election and Voter information, and then on “View your sample ballot.” You will input your county, then jurisdiction (city or township), then precinct to see your ballot.

CITY OF CEDAR SPRINGS

Two people are running for two City Council seats in the City of Cedar Springs: incumbent Rose Powell, and Jerry Gross, who was recently appointed to fill the seat vacated by Robert Truesdale earlier this summer.

Rose Powell

Rose Powell

Rose Powell: Incumbent Rose Powell is seeking her second term as a City Council member. She has been married to Chris Powell for 46 years. They have three children: Gina, Brynadette, and Christopher. “It has been an honor to serve our community,” she said.

Rose said her primary reason for running for office was that she felt the citizens of Cedar Springs were betrayed when the Red Flannels were destroyed. “I hoped to help restore trust and confidence in our city government and city staff,” she said.

Besides one term on the council, Rose has also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the DDA, and the Community Building Development Team. She feels that the main strength she brings to the board is common sense and respect for others’ opinions.

Rose said the major challenges facing Cedar Springs right now is the need for a new firebarn and finding the money for it. She’d also like to see simple and inexpensive improvements to the downtown business district and storefronts.

Jerry Gross

Jerry Gross

Jerry Gross Sr.: Jerry Gross Sr. has been married to Barbara K. (Anderson) Gross for 43 years. They have two children, Lisa and Jerry Jr. (JJ); four grandchildren, and two stepgrandchildren. He has lived here for 43 years, was born and raised in Sand Lake, and graduated from Tri County High School. He spent four years in the Navy during Viet Nam. He has an associates degree from Ferris State University in social service technology, with a juvenile corrections major. He is semi-retired, and has worked part time as Nelson Township Zoning administrator and code enforcement for 10-1/2 years. He also worked half a year as Solon Township code enforcement, and has spent 36 years on the Cedar Springs Fire Department.

Jerry’s main reason for running for office: “To paraphrase something my father told me a long time ago: If you believe that there is a problem and you are  not part of the solution, then you may be part of the problem.” He said that he believes that there may be too many decisions that have been made to satisfy personal interests or special interest groups and not always to the benefit of the taxpayer and residents of Cedar Springs.

He said the main strengths he would bring to the position are logic, reasoning, look at all angles before making a decision, and to remember needs before wants.

Jerry said that the major challenge facing our community is keeping up with the cost and commitments that they already have to the citizens of Cedar Springs, while developing the dreams of others in the community. “We have business, residential, and manufacturing areas that cannot be developed because we cannot provide the fundamental services that will draw growth into the city. We need to find ways to repair our infrastructure and roads without having to hope and pray we can find grants,” he said.

NELSON TOWNSHIP

Supervisor Tom Noreen is on the ballot, but he is asking voters to WRITE IN his current Deputy Supervisor, Robyn Britton. Noreen had initially decided to run, but later decided that he would retire and missed the deadline to get his name off of the ballot before the primary. He won the primary over Britton by 20 votes. After the election, he spoke with her, and appointed her as his deputy.

“I thank the voters for their support and confidence over the years,” said Noreen, “but I encourage them to support Robyn.” Noreen said that if he wins, he would be retiring in December or January. Britton would not automatically become supervisor; instead the board would have to appoint either her or someone else.

Robyn Britton

Robyn Britton

Robyn Britton (R): Robyn Britton said she lives 27 minutes from the house she grew up in. “I’ve spent my whole life (48 years) living in either Solon Township or Nelson Township,” said Britton. “I graduated from Cedar Springs in 1986. I’ve been married to my best friend Scott Britton for 27 years and we have 3 amazing children, Hannah, Jesse and Jake. Both Hannah and Jesse are in college and Jake is a junior at Tri County High School. Both my husband and I have owned and operate Britton Builder’s Inc. for the last 25 years. I just recently left my position to start my own endeavor—a renovation company purchasing old homes and putting love back into them. And let’s not forgot my love for farming. We own and operate a 30-head Scottish Highland Farm. You want to talk about up and downs. All my friends that own what they call the ‘Real Cows’ get a chuckle at me because I love my Grass fed, big horn babies.”

Britton said the main reason she is running for office is for her children. “I’ve tried to teach my children if you don’t like something do your best to fix it. Well, if I’m going to ‘Talk the Talk’ I better ‘Walk the Walk.’ I had the fortune to work with some amazing people during my time working for Cedar Springs Police Department; it gave me a real insight on our community and the people servicing our community. It’s a tough job. The biggest thing I learned is if one person tries then others will follow or at least pay attention. I’m not a politician. I just feel that it’s my responsibility to be the best person I can be and try to make the community I raised my children in a place they may want to raise their children in.”

What does she feel she can bring to the position of Supervisor? “Own and operated a building company for nearly 25 years, negotiated buy sell agreement hundreds of thousands dollars, and worked in the corporate world for 15 years. My background has led me to work with architects, engineers, subcontractors, financial institution, state and local government officials etc. I love people and I make no bones about it – I love to talk and meet people listen to their views and ideas, but more importantly I want them to know they matter regards of who they are,” she said.

Britton feels the that the major challenges facing Nelson Township are communication, accountability, and just plain common sense. “Fixing the problems start with the people. Five boards can’t fix everything that’s going on in this community.  If you want this community to prosper it has to be a joint effort.” She feels that the Supervisor and community will have to do it together, and she urges the public to attend their meetings the second Tuesday of every month.

SOLON TOWNSHIP

There are four people running for two positions for Solon Township trustee: incumbent V. Fred Gunnell; Mark S. Hoskins, who has been an interim trustee; Christine M. Witt; and Bruce Gravelin.

Fred Gunnell

Fred Gunnell

V. Fred Gunnell (R): Fred Gunnell is running as a Republican for his seat as Solon Township trustee. He’s lived in Cedar Springs and the surrounding area, including Solon Township, for over 40 years. He graduated from Cedar Springs High School, and married Carollee Crane, who also lived in Solon Township. He graduated from Mich. State Univ. with a Master’s Degree and took some post-graduate work at Western Mich. Univ. and Univ. of Mich. His professional career was at Mich. Tech. Univ. for 25 years. He’s been serving Solon Township for about 22 years. First, as a planning commissioner, and later as a trustee to the Solon Twp. Board since the mid nineties.

Other boards he’s served on include the Michigan Township Association, the Cedar Springs Education Foundation, several Rotary Clubs, Red Flannel Rod and Gun club member, chairman of the trustees of Cedar Springs United Methodist and member of their administrative board, and as President of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.

Mark Hoskins

Mark Hoskins

Mark S. Hoskins (R): Mark Hoskins is running as a Republican for a seat on the Solon Township board. He grew up in the Cedar Springs area and graduated from Cedar Springs High School, as did several of his children. He and his family have lived in Solon Township for the last 11 years. He began working as a realtor in 1985, and currently works for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Rockford.

His primary reason for running for office? “As a Christian, I believe it is important to be an active participant in the community in which I live, to have input into decisions that are made and to use my time and ability to serve the residents of Solon Township,” he explained.

Hoskins has some experience in government service. He was elected to a four-year term on the Cedar Springs City Council in 1982, and has served on the Solon Township Planning Commission, Board of Review and Board of Appeals. In 2015, he agreed to fill the remaining term as trustee of the seat vacated by a former member.

Hoskins said his main strength is fiscal responsibility, morals of right and wrong, and just plain common sense. He said he sees Solon’s main challenge as their fire department. “It is my goal to retain our on-call firefighters and medical responders. I believe that losing so many of them is partially a result of our very fluid society. We need improved methods of training and ways to retain those who join the department,” she said.

Christine Witt

Christine Witt

Christine M. Witt (D): Christine Witt is running as a Democrat for a trustee seat on the Solon Township board. She was born in Muskegon, moved to Grand Rapids during college, and has lived in Solon Twp. since 2004. She is married and has two children. She will graduate with a law degree in Janauary, and has worked in local government for the last two years as a deputy clerk and archivist.

What is her primary reason for running? “I care about the community and want to be a part of it. I see Solon Township growing. I’d like to make sure that it retains its rural charm and strong community,” she said.

Witt said she has served on other types of boards in the past, and has a long history of volunteering. “I believe we should all lend a helping hand to keep our community strong,” she noted.

Witt said the main strength she’ll bring to the position is a background rooted in the understanding and analysis of legal issues, current and former work experience in local government, and a desire to expand the work she does in the community.

Witt said she sees Solon’s major challenge as keeping up with growth and the resources necessary to support it. “I would work diligently to understand the issues, examine the information, and hear public input. I would also look for ways to streamline processes and maximize efficiency if needed.”

Dave Gravelin

Bruce Gravelin

Bruce Gravelin (NPA): Bruce Gravelin is running with no party affiliation. He originally came from Ottawa County, but has lived in Solon Township for 32 years (since 1984). He is a Metroligist\Tool & Die Maker at GM.  “I have a wife and two wonderful adult children. I am in my early 60’s and I was born in the early 1950’s,” he said.

Why is he running for office? “I see an opportunity to better my community.  Instead of a division between the other communities within Solon Township I feel we should work together to form a partnership that will benefit us all in the long run,” he explained.

Gravelin said he has served on numerous team problem solving oriented committees while working for GM for the last 33 years. He said his main strength is “a multitude of life skills including ISO-9001 and ISO-14001 Lead Auditor certifications, with on the job work skills which give me a unique insight on how to problem solve and achieve all of the goals that the individual citizens of Solon Township require.”

Gravelin said the major challenge facing Solon Township is that property taxes should be established in a more impartial manner that will benefit individuals, businesses, and the township. He noted that infrastructure also needs a more aggressive strategy to improve the community’s quality of life. He also said there should be more transparency in the decisions made in Solon Township.

VILLAGE OF SAND LAKE

Residents in Sand Lake will be voting for a new Village President, and three seats on the Village Council. Two trustees are running for Village President. Thomas Norton is on the ballot, and Bette Towsley is running as a write-in candidate.

President

Thomas Norton: Thomas Norton is running for Village President. “We live in the village of Sand Lake and my family has been part of that community most of my life. I’m a small buisness owner which started about 2 years ago and has been going very well. I am married and have 3 kids that are very happy to go to the Sand Lake park and I can say are all loved very much by myself and people in the community,” he said.

What is his reason for running? “My main reason for running for Village President is to make sure our road construction project of Lake St. is completed, then to lay out a plan to fix roads throughout the village. Secondary reason is to start working on making sure there are budget standards to continue to have snow clearing of sidewalks, police and fire departments. My third reason for running is to make sure that there is a more open meeting format. The agenda needs to be expanded to have more input from the community during meetings than we have now. For example, two sections for public comment,” he explained.

Norton has served as a trustee on the board for two years of a four-year term, and was elected as a write-in candidate. “I am very happy to have been on the budget committee and balanced the budget while maintaining services,” he said. He has also served on the police committee.

Norton feels the main strength he brings to the office the ability to negotiate. “Since being on the council I have negotiated the reopening of the boat landing, with the majority of the council oddly enough opposed during the meeting by my write in opponent. I also have negotiated the telecommunications contracts, which saved the village thousands of dollars and hadn’t been done in years.”

He said he also brings leadership. “I have led soldiers in the army and have had a knack for vision of where we need to go to put ourselves on solid footing. This is the reason why the majority of the council has had me do negotiations and agreements that would traditionally be done by the village president.”

Norton said he feels the major challenges facing Sand Lake will be roads and budgets, and the next biggest challenge will be “making sure we begin to improve our infrastructure projects and have standards met and enforced when it comes to testing water and enforcing law.”

Bette Towsley

Bette Towsley

Bette Towsley: Bette Towsley is running as a write-in for President of the Village of Sand Lake, a seat her husband Roger Towsley currently holds. She has been married to Roger for almost 54 years. “We came to Sand Lake after living in Trufant on a small farm for about 5 years, and were headed back to the Grand Rapids area. We got sidetracked here and have now lived her about 43 years,” said Bette. “I am a 40-year-old in mind, physical strength and spirit—72 by this world’s time clock.  We are parents of four kind, thoughtful and successful adult children.”

Bette said one of her main reason for running is availability. “I feel availability is very important in daily operations as well as attending informative and often beneficial meetings. I am retired and available on a daily basis. I am physically active, care for people, am free to volunteer and actively serve not just as President of the Village Council, but to serve the community or individuals in whatever capacity as I see occasion or need,” she explained. She noted that there is also another reason. “Recently, there have been concerns  of change that have come to my attention that I feel would not be beneficial for the Village and its residents. As President I would hope to foster a healthy, friendly community for the peace and success of the Village as a whole.”

What is the main strength she would bring to the position? “Availability and willingness to serve whenever and almost whatever is needed. I was Village Clerk about 8 years, custodian for 2 years and have been a council member twice.  As clerk I found everything passed through me—mail, phone calls, communications of every sort; thus I feel it important to have  a good relationship and communication with the Clerk as well as the Treasurer, Police, Fire Dept., DPW and the community,” explained Bette.

The major challenge she sees is the role of President at the meetings. “I do not have the knowledge of much that comes natural to men.  However, I am counting on the understanding of all while I learn, and hope to be able to depend on the Council and Council member Dave Dewey in particular, who is wise and has served as President and Council Member over a period of over 25 years (or more).”

Sand Lake Village trustees – 3 seats

Nyha French

Nyha French

Nyha French: Nyha French is running for Sand Lake Village trustee. She is 36 years old, married, and has four daughters, ages 18, 12, 11 and 9. “I have lived in Sand Lake Most of my life. I grew up in Sand Lake and worked at my grandfather’s hardware store, grandmother’s gift shop, and mowed lawns for those in need,” she said. “I have worked with the people in our community for a long time now. I am also a part of the Sand Lake Fire department and have been a First Responder and Fire Fighter for the past 2 years. I love serving the community in this way. I work at Williamson Family Medicine in Rockford as a Medical Assistant.”

French said her main reason for running for office is to “help improve our little town. To hear the concerns and ideas of our community and help address and or achieve those concerns and ideas. I want to be a part of making our community a better place,” she explained.

What is the main strength she would bring to the position? “I would have an open mind and hear all options before making a decision, not only that but my decision would be based off what is factual and right for our community. I want to hear the people of Sand Lake and what their concerns are for our community and help improve in any way I can.”

Tonia Parkhurst

Tonia Parkhurst

Tonia Parkhurst: Tonia Parkhurst is running for Sand Lake Village trustee. She is 42, and a 17-year resident of the Village of Sand Lake. “I was born and raised in the greater Grand Rapids area. I graduated from Aquinas with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems with a focus in Systems Analysis. I am the Senior Technologist for TrackCore, Inc. located downtown Grand Rapids. I’m happily married with four grown children and two beautiful grandchildren.”

What is her main reason for running? “Sand Lake is facing some major issues and challenges.  I would rather be part of the solution than part of those who gossip and complain after the tough decisions have been made,” she explained.

Parkhurst served on the Village council once before. “I’ve served several years previously on the Village of Sand Lake Council as trustee, including being part of the budget committee.  When I chose not to continue in the trustee position several years ago, I continued my service on the Planning Committee for the Village of Sand Lake.” She has also served as a leader in Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and filled various positions in Boy Scouts.

What is the main strength she’ll bring to the board? “In addition to the experience gained from serving previously on the board, I bring a strong analytical mindset, a desire to do what is best for the Village and a strong background in technology and problem solving.”

The major challenges she sees facing Sand Lake include limited funds, poor road conditions, limited community involvement and communication, as well as needed image improvement of the downtown district. “These challenges cannot be overcome by a single person; it will be a group/community effort to overcome them,” she said.

Incumbents Danielle Hardenburg and James Ward are also running for their seats as trustees, but did not return a candidate survey.

Proposals on ballot for all of Kent County:

John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum millage: The John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum are seeking a millage to establish dedicated funding for the care of animals and artifacts, to provide enhanced educational programs and for the repair and renovation of exhibits. This proposal will create a dedicated source of funding for these publicly owned institutions. This is a 10-year, .44 millage that starts in 2016 and ends in 2025. If passed, the proposal is an annual increase of $37.44 per year or $3.12 per month, for the average homeowner in Kent County. All millage dollars will be split equally between both institutions and go through an independent financial audit every year.

Kent County 911 surcharge: The ballot question asks to increase the current 9-1-1 surcharge you already pay for phone service in Kent County. An additional $0.70/month per line for a total of $1.15/month would address 9-1-1 Dispatch technology improvements and fire dispatch operations. Residents with one phone would pay approximately $13.80 a year per phone. Visit https://accesskent.com/Sheriff/surcharge.htm for more information on who the money would be used.

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Councilmember Truesdale resigns, firefighter pegged to fill spot


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council met on Thursday, August 11.

The Council accepted the resignation of Council member Robert Truesdale, who retired effective June 30, and adopted a resolution honoring and thanking him for his service. He was elected in 2012, and was mayor during his first year on council.

Current Mayor Jerry Hall asked to appoint firefighter Jerry Gross Sr. to fill Truesdale’s spot. Gross is already running for the seat in November’s election, and Hall felt since Gross was already interested, it might be good to appoint him for the last couple of months preceding the election. However, a question arose on whether it might be a conflict of interest to have a firefighter on City Council, and whether he would have to retire from firefighting.

Gross, who also formerly served as fire chief, said he asked the interim City Manager about that before deciding to run and was told it wasn’t a problem. “There was a former firefighter who served on the Council for many years (Leon Avery) and it was never a problem,” noted Gross, who said he could abstain from voting on financial issues concerning the fire department.

“I don’t want to quit firefighting yet,” he said. “It’s my life.”

City Manager Mike Womack said he received some information from the City Attorney regarding the issue, and was going to look into it before the next City Council meeting.

City Council member Rose Powell will also be running for her seat in November. She and Gross are the only two on the ballot.

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City approves manager contract and others


Michael Womack

Michael Womack

By Judy Reed

As of August 1, the residents in Cedar Springs will have a new City Manager. That’s the day that Michael Womack officially begins his new job in Cedar Springs.

The City Council approved his contract at their regular meeting Thursday, July 14. Womack was on hand to take the oath of office.

Womack has been serving as an Executive Intern, for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state.

He is also currently a Graduate Assistant, in the City Manager’s office in the City of Eastpointe, Michigan; and an Attorney at Womack & Womack P.C., in Shelby Township.

The contract calls for a salary of $72,000, with a 2 percent increase annually at the anniversary of his start date; five days vacation to start; insurance; and other benefits. The entire contract can be found in the agenda on the city’s website at cityofcedarsprings.org.

The City also approved the contract for interim City Clerk Christine Witt. She started Monday July 17. She will work part time until the City Manager can hire a new, full time clerk. She will be paid $16.00 per hour for up to 25 hours of work.

The City also approved the contract for property assessing services with Grand Rapids Township. The township will provide property assessing services to Cedar Springs for approximately $24,600, which is about the same as was budgeted for the prior assessor, Jason Rosenzweig. The City Council fired Rosenzweig after a vote of no confidence resulting from a dispute over whether the City should pay taxes on their own property.

Bryan Jager and Robin Rothley will do the work, while Jager will be signing the assessment role on behalf of the city. There have been no conversations yet on whether Jager feels the city should be taxed on its own property.

The Council also approved an amendment to current interim City Manager Barbara VanDuren’s contract. She was originally scheduled to stay until August 31, but since Womack starts August 1, her contract will be revised to that date. But it also states she may continue her assignment here to assist in the transition if that’s acceptable to both parties.

Each of the contracts voted on at the meeting were approved unanimously.

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Coming soon — a new library


This rendering shows the new Cedar Springs Library building.

This rendering shows the new Cedar Springs Library building.

The building contractor will be chosen on Monday, June 27, which means building should begin sometime in July. The project is estimated to take 6-8 months, and cost just under $2 million.

The Library Board, Community Building Development Team (CBDT), and the City of Cedar Springs collaborated to make this lifelong dream come true. The vision of the Library Board, the drive of the CBDT, the support of City Council, and thousands of hours given by many people from our community, have made this extraordinary effort a reality.

One of the final approvals needed was from the DEQ. That approval came through this month. This had been a major hurdle because the Cedar Creek and attendant wet lands run through the ten-acre project site, now being referred to as the Heart of Cedar Springs, where the library building will be constructed.

Between Maple and Pine Streets, on the northwest side of town, ten acres is being developed, which will include the new library building, an amphitheater, a boardwalk along the Creek, with rain gardens and sculptures, a community building and a recreation/fitness center. Complementary to this Town Square development, the White Pine Trail and the North Country Trail will intersect right here in Cedar Springs.

N-Library2-and-heart-of-city

In The Post last fall, the Library Board announced a fundraising opportunity for people local to Cedar Springs. While several folks have already participated, there are still bricks—available in two sizes—4”x8” for a donation of $50 and 8”x8” for a donation of $100. Bricks will be engraved with the name or message of your choice and will be used to pave the walkways into and around the Library.

In addition, there are a very limited number of retaining wall blocks available for a donation of $1,000 each as well as capstones for a donation of $2,000 each.  Retaining wall blocks and capstones, about 36 inches high, will have an inset engraved metal plaque to recognize donors, as individuals, organizations, or businesses. The donation may also be in honor or in memory of someone.

Over $3,000,000 has already been raised towards the whole ten-acre project—the Heart of Cedar Springs. A good portion of those funds have been designated to the new library building, and unless otherwise designated, all donations will be directed to the Cedar Springs Community Library until it is completely and totally funded. At that time donations will be directed towards other parts of the Town Square project.

“We want to take this opportunity to thank all donors and volunteers for their dedication to make this dream come true for Cedar Springs,” said Community Building Development Team chair Kurt Mabie. “It has taken years of planning by the Library Board, the City of Cedar Springs, the Community Building Development Team and various sub-committees to get to this point. We are now hoping that others in our Community will step up to the challenge and help make all of this possible.”

All gifts are tax deductible.  Both the CBDT and the Library are non-profit organizations.  The CBDT is a 501 (c) 3 and the Library is a 170 (c) 1. Checks should be made out to the Community Building Development Team and sent to the treasurer of the CBDT, Sue Mabie, at 15022 Ritchie Ave, Cedar Springs, Michigan, 49319

To obtain the forms for donating towards a brick or a block, you may call Donna Clark, Director of the Library, at 696-1910 or email her at ceddc@llcoop.org.  Checks for these fundraisers should be made out to the Cedar Springs Community Library. General contributions will be recognized inside the Library.

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Planning commission OKs PUD rezoning


 

By Judy Reed

The building of a new public library and other recreation facilities on properties near Main and Maple Street in Cedar Springs came one step closer to reality this week. On Tuesday evening, January 5, the Cedar Springs Planning Commission passed a motion approving the rezoning of several parcels to B-3, Highway Business/PUD Planned Unit Development, and recommended approval to the City Council.

The rezoning was requested by the Community Building Development Team, a group made up of individuals and representatives of various organizations in the community. They have been working for the past three years to develop eight acres of land, within the City limits, into “The Heart of Cedar Springs.” It will be a place where the local citizens and visitors can enjoy a new library building, a community building, a recreation center, and an amphitheater, all placed among beautiful rain gardens and sculptures along a board walk on the banks of Cedar Creek.

Some of the property is owned by the City of Cedar Springs, such as where the library and ampitheatre will go; other parcels are owned by the CBDT. The rezoning of the parcels was requested to allow for a unified public facility development for the entire site. An associated preliminary PUD site plan will help ensure a single cohesive development, although the construction will be done in phases.

The parcels included were:

180 N. Fifth St. (41-02-25-426-020)

116 N. Fifth St. (41-02-25-426-010)

69 W. Maple St. (41-02-25-427-017)

65 W. Maple St. (41-02-25-427-019)

107 N. Main St. (41-02-25-427-016)

113 N. Main St. (41-02-25-427-015)

125 N. Main St. (41-02-25-427-014)

139 N. Main St. (41-02-25-427-013)

157 N. Main St. (41-02-25-427-012)

37 W. Maple St. (41-02-25-427-007)

City planner Carmine Avantini, recommended approval with the conditions that the property ownership will be under the single control of the Community Building Development Team; and that there was a waiver to allow a maximum three-foot front building setback from N. Main Street. The properties located in the PUD will be under the single control of the Community Building and Development Team (CBDT), with ownership being maintained by the City of Cedar Springs through a use agreement.

Avantini noted in the agenda packet that the PUD meets goals in the city’s master plan and the PUD article. He said that the primary goal of the Cedar Springs Master Plan under “Community Facilities” is to “Maintain and develop parks and recreational facilities to enhance the visual character of the city and promote active lifestyles.” He said this PUD will meet this goal and the Master Plan anticipated public use for the site.

He also noted that one of the purposes of the PUD Article is “to encourage development of convenient recreational facilities.” This PUD will be located on the edge of Downtown Cedar Springs and will be in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, a major thoroughfare (Main Street), the White Pine Trail, and a mixed-use traditional downtown. The proposed library and recreation facilities will therefore be highly accessible to most residents of the city and also be available for special events in the downtown area.

The next step in the process will be for the City Council to take action on the PUD rezoning request at their next meeting, on Thursday, January 7, 2016.

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