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City Council Clips

By Judy Reed

Council reprimands mayor

The Cedar Springs City Council went into closed session last Thursday evening, July 18, to “hear complaints against a public officer.”
While council members, including the mayor, cannot talk about what is discussed in closed session, the news on the street is that council members have not been happy with recent editorials that Mayor Bob Truesdale has put in the Post—especially one where he talked about the problem of brush in the city right of ways, and the fact that there was no money in the budget to pick it up until the next pickup in the fall.
The mayor, owner of the Amish Warehouse, has been a proponent of a “kinder, gentler” city that is more business-friendly, and operates with a more common-sense approach and less rules and regulations. In the editorial he compared running the city to running a business. “I am also told that running a city is nothing like running a business, and I guess I can see that,” he wrote. “For, as a businessman, I buy the truck, I pay $75 to fill the gas tank and I pay wages to the driver, so it only makes sense to have my driver stop and correct the problem when driving by the blight. I also realize that in our present system of procedures that the few minutes of cleaning up the blight would need to be charged back to that city vehicle. It sure sounds like something that came out of Washington D.C.” He also included that his wife was looking for nominations for that city worker or any citizen that goes the extra mile to make the city a nicer place, and the winner would win a $50 gift card to a restaurant of their choice.
While it was never the Mayor’s intention to make it sound as if he was blaming the city workers (he told the Post at the time he wrote the editorial that he was very proud of our city employees—that they were just following policy by not picking up the brush), his letter must have ruffled a few feathers because several of the council members included in their council comments at the end of the meeting how appreciative they were of the city employees. And one council member stated that the city could not be run like a business.
The Post asked Mayor Truesdale about the closed session, and he confirmed that he couldn’t discuss what was said. He did, however, dispute the rumor that he is stepping down. “I have no intention of stepping down,” said Truesdale. “I’m hanging in there for now. Better days are ahead. We are just going to move forward.”
In the past, the city used to pick up brush on Monday mornings, but it was changed to two pickups per year—spring and fall—due to budget cuts last year. Residents are now urged to take brush to Cannonsburg Wood Products on Northland Drive, near Rockford. They will take it for free.

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Bob Truesdale is new city mayor

Bob Truesdale

In a strange turn of events, a newly elected member of City Council was voted in as mayor Monday evening.

“Amish” Bob Truesdale was voted in by the Cedar Springs City Council as the new mayor of Cedar Springs by a 4-2 vote. The City Councilors voted six times on two different candidates before they finally got the needed 4-2 majority vote.

Pam Conley was nominated by newcomer Patricia Troost, but could not get enough votes. Each vote ended in a 3-3 tie, with Troost, Conley and Truesdale voting for Conley, and Charlie Watson, Ken Benham and Ashley Bremmer voting no. Former Mayor Watson was nominated by Benham but refused the nomination so it did not come to a vote.

Watson nominated Truesdale, who said he thought Conley should be mayor, because when the City Council voted on the Red Flannel issue, she was the lone dissenting vote and seemed to feel an agreement could still be reached. He also noted that he had no experience.

Watson then explained why he nominated him. “With all due respect, you stated in open forum that you think the people should vote for mayor. If that’s the case, why would you not accept a vote of the people? I think you need to sit up here so that you can realize how much power you don’t have,” he said.

Truesdale then said that he did not want the position but would accept it if they voted him in, which they did, when Conley changed her vote.

“I will accept humbly and do the best I can,” said Truesdale.

Watson said that he would help him.

A mayor pro-tem will be selected in December.

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Candidate forum for City Council to be held next week

The Cedar Springs Post will moderate a candidate forum for the Cedar Springs City Council candidates next, Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 66 S. Main St. All three candidates—incumbent Christine Fahl, and newcomers Bob Truesdale and Patricia Troost—will participate in the forum. After the question and answer period, residents will have the opportunity to meet the candidates one on one. Plan now to come and find out about the candidates, and to show your support for the election process!

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We need new city council

Dear Citizens of Cedar Springs,

I have been looking though the council minutes all the way back to 2009, and what I have seen is disturbing. Time and again, citizens showed up and voiced their objections to proposed changes in ordinances, and despite that, the council went ahead with no documented public support and changed them. People were being ticketed for parking on their own property. It is my understanding that if I wish to put up a tent in my backyard, I must first secure a permit. Why does the council feel that they have the right to dictate to us what we may or may not do on property that we pay taxes on? Cars parked in public lots have been vandalized. Citizens have told me that when they have spoken out in a way that the city did not like, code enforcement showed up at their door. To say that if they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear is untrue. My next door neighbor parked 23 ft from the side walk and 60 ft from the center of the street. The car was in front of her own garage, and was ticketed. She had to fight it all the way to the doors of court, despite talking to city hall.

Another matter I would like to call to the attention of the public is the city’s purchase of 95 N. Main. *In council member Fahl’s own words: “It’s a mess.” “The city can’t make money off of it.” “We paid like $19,000 for the entire property, it’s actually 3 lots and a building, and the reason we paid that is because that’s what the IRS…was owed on the back taxes. So we picked it up because it was actually a really good deal, at the time.”  She also explains the city can only sell the property for the original purchase price, plus any upkeep. I wonder who was this a good deal for? If the city legally is not allowed to make money off of it, why did we enter the real estate business? According to the council minutes from 3/08/12, “City Manager Christine Burns stated that the buyer for 95 N. Main St. had rescinded his offer and had presented another offer due to the discovery of asbestos contamination during a property inspection. The buyer now only wanted to purchase the two vacant parcels associated with the property.” The council voted to not allow this sale, but rather demolish the building and sell the property as a whole. According to council member Fahl, “There is a fuel tank that’s underneath that building…and that was one of the city’s requests that whoever buys that building remove the fuel tank due to … possible contamination.” She continues that removing just the asbestos from the building was estimated to “cost us close to $80,000.” She states that if the building did not have so many issues “somebody could have made good money off of it.” So, if I understand, the city legally cannot make a profit, and we now own an asbestos contaminated building sitting on top of a fuel tank that could potentially be a source of contamination? We bought it because it was a good deal?

Christine Fahl, Bob Truesdale, and Patty Troost are all on the November ballot for City council. Christine Fahl was the only one of them on the council in 2009 when we bought this poisonous building. I don’t know about the rest of Cedar Springs, but Christine Fahl will not get my vote.

Molly Nixon

City of Cedar Springs

*The quotes from Mayor Pro Tem Christine Fahl were from a private meeting in Ms. Nixon’s home, which Ms. Nixon videotaped, without Ms. Fahl’s knowledge.

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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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City to hold hearing on budget

The annual City Budget Public Hearing is set for 7:00 p.m. Thursday, May 10, 2012 at City Hall, 66 S. Main St.

The City Council reviewed the budget during a workshop in April and will hear public comments on the proposed $7.4 million budget at the hearing.  While the proposed budget reflects a decrease in revenues from the previous year, there is no increase in millage.

It also does not take into account the possible elimination of the personal property tax, or a proposed charge from the Red Flannel Festival for the city to use its logo. The City Council has not formally been presented with that proposal yet, and it is still in the Red Flannel Ad Hoc committee.

To review the city’s budget, go online to cityofcedarsprings.org and click on 2012 City Budget Public Hearing. There is a link inside the announcement that you can click on to see the budget. Then come out to the City Council meeting on May 10 for the public hearing and give the City Council your comments.

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An Open Letter To The Cedar Springs City Counci


Dear Mayor Charlie Watson & City Council,

I attended the budget workshop on Saturday, at which you reviewed your budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s no secret that times are tight economically, and so tough decisions regarding the City’s budget have to be made. Throughout the meeting I heard words like “depressing” and “discouraging” several times. But I would like to offer a different take. I see four great things about the current budget situation in Cedar Springs:

1. It’s an opportunity to learn new ways of doing old things. I think this poem from Robert Browning Hamilton says it best:

I walked a mile with Pleasure –

She chattered all the way

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow

And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.

There are some things we learn in difficult times that we simply wouldn’t learn at any other time.

2. You have the opportunity to involve new partners. Just like the B2B group stepped in to help run the Spooktacular, and Calvary Assembly of God and the Community Action Network organized the Mingle With Kris Kringle event, and business partners jumped into to help with the Red Flannel Festival, I know others will step in to help as well. We are a community of citizens that love Cedar Springs, so we are willing to help, if you will give us the chance.

3.  You can increase community awareness. As many of you remarked, there were more concerned citizens at this year’s budget workshop than in previous years. When times are tough, it gets our attention. We want to know what you are doing, and our involvement now will probably translate into our continued involvement when Cedar Springs comes out of this economic downturn.

4. You are building our trust. It’s been said that trust is built on difficult ground. Anyone can make smart decisions when times are good and the City coffers are abundantly filled. But as you are making wise decisions during these tough times, you are building our trust in your fiscal responsibilities.

We’re all in this together. We elected you to help lead us through good times and bad times. So we’re behind you. We will come out of this time stronger, more unified, and more committed to making Cedar Springs the best place to live and work in West Michigan!

Sincerely Yours,

Craig T. Owens

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City passes medical marijuana ordinance

The City of Cedar passed an ordinance at their regular City Council meeting last Thursday, August 11, regulating the dispensation of medical marijuana as a home occupation.
“We are on our third moratorium and our legal counsel recommended we not adopt another moratorium,” explained City Manager Christine Burns. “They recommended we look at some tried and true ordinances, such as ones in Greenville and Grand Rapids. Our planning commission also recommended we adopt this.”
Under the ordinance, home occupations must be approved by the Zoning Administrator, who will issue a permit upon receipt of an application and the payment of a processing fee. Inspections of dwelling units will be conducted by the City’s Building Inspector.
All medical marijuana must be contained within the main building (no outbuildings) in an area that is locked and inaccessible on all sides to everyone except the primary caregiver or qualifying patient. This will be reviewed and approved by the building inspector and police department. It will only be allowed in single-family homes.
All registered primary caregivers must be located outside of a 1,000-foot radius from school property or library.
The ordinance prohibits marijuana dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives. Only one registered primary caregiver is allowed per dwelling. The marijuana cannot be dispensed at the caregiver’s location, but must be delivered to the patient or other location.
Solon Township and the Village of Sand Lake still have a moratorium on medical marijuana, and Nelson Township is currently working on an ordinance.
Supporters of medical marijuana say it helps ease nausea and vomiting, stimulates hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, and decreases eye pressure in glaucoma patients. Patients must have a doctor’s prescription to use it.
Although some states (including Michigan) have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the federal government outlaws its use, even for a medical condition. Since Michigan voted to approve it, municipalities have struggled with writing ordinances regulating the issue.

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City chooses new city councilor

The Cedar Springs City Council has chosen Ashley Bremmer, who currently serves as vice-chair on the city planning commission, to fill the vacancy left by former councilor Raymond Huckleberry.

Bremmer, who works for West Michigan Bail Bonds as a bond agent, has served on the planning commission since January 2010, but will resign that position to serve on the city council, since the commission already has two city council members. She will be sworn in at the next city council meeting on April 14.

“I welcome her to the city council,” said Mayor Charlie Watson. “I wish her the best and look forward to working with her. I was impressed by her enthusiasm and think she’ll do a fine job.”

Bremmer was the only applicant for the position.

Watson would like to see more people get involved with their city government. “We are looking for people to serve on various boards and commissions,” he said. Anyone with interest should send the mayor a letter to: PO Box 310, 66 S. Main Street, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

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Cedar Springs city counselor resigns

Raymond Huckleberry

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs City Councilor Raymond Huckleberry bid the council and public a tearful farewell last Thursday evening when he announced during council comments that it would be his last city council meeting. His term does not expire until November.
“This was one of the most painful and agonizing decisions I’ve ever made. I am doing so for family and financial reasons,” said Huckleberry.
He noted that when he was elected four years ago, he was seemingly a successful businessperson with a wife, kids, a house and a dog. He said he’s now weathered the failing of his business (Stein Bros pizza), criminal charges, a bankruptcy and divorce. As part of the bankruptcy, his home is being foreclosed on and he is moving out next week. His wife is moving also, and he said that in order to successfully continue to co-parent his children, he would be moving to Greenville.
He stated that the charge of larceny he stood trial for and was convicted of by Judge Servaas last year did not factor into his decision. “For anyone that has any idea that this has anything to do with the criminal charges that were also brought upon me, (that I still believe I’m innocent of and am still currently appealing), they do not…NOTHING.  This is strictly for the continued successful co-parenting of my children and our long term financial security,” he remarked.
Huckleberry was convicted last year for selling goods that were left in the upstairs of the building that Huckleberry leased from Doug Stein. Huckleberry’s defense was that their agreement stated that Stein had to remove the goods within 30 days, but Judge Servaas said he believed that he had a verbal agreement with Doug Stein that he could leave the items there as long as he needed to. Huckleberry is currently appealing that decision.
Huckleberry thanked the community for their tremendous support for some of the darkest times in his life. “The pats on the back, the cards in the mail from citizens, the words of support in the grocery stores, etc. was really much of what got me through it all. You have no idea what they meant to me…. More than you will ever know,” he said.
He noted that regardless of his mailing address, Cedar Springs would always be  his hometown.
Huckleberry was humbled by the response to his resignation. “I was deeply moved by all the comments the councilors and manager made after my resignation, and the hugs that followed the meeting,” he noted. “I was touched that everyone said they understood and respected my decision knowing I was thinking about me and my boys.”
The Cedar Springs City Council now needs to find a replacement for Huckleberry, and is accepting letters of interest and resumes until March 25. All resumes will be distributed at their special meeting on March 28. “They hope to do interviews prior to the April meeting so they can have someone appointed on April 14,” explained City Manager Christine Burns. The person will fulfill the remainder of the term, which expires in November. For details, see the legal ad on page 16.
For Huckleberry’s complete letter as read to the city council, see below:

Raymond Huckleberry resignation letter March 10, 2011
“It is with the most sincere sadness and regret that I must announce my resignation from this council effective at the end of this meeting. This was one of the most painful and agonizing decisions I’ve ever made. I am doing so for family and financial reasons.
The last few years, while I have served on the council, has been a torrent of life altering occurrences and they have now combined not to force but definitely push my hand into this. When I was elected, I was seemingly a successful business person with a wife, kids, a house and a dog. I’ve now weathered the failing of my business, criminal charges, a bankruptcy and divorce. Due to multiple factors, I included my home in the bankruptcy and my move out date from the foreclosure is in the next week or so. My ex-wife is needing to move at some point, making our full joint custody and successful coparenting together with her very difficult if I stay here. So looking at the picture as a whole I am moving to Greenville.
For anyone that has any idea that this has anything to do with the criminal charges that were also brought upon me, that I still believe I’m innocent of and am still currently appealing, they do not….NOTHING. This is strictly for the continued successful coparenting of my children and our long term financial security.
I must take this time to thank this body and community for the tremendous support it has given me through some of the darkest chapters of my life. The pats on the back, the cards in the mail from citizens, the words of support in the grocery stores, etc. was really much of what got me through it all. You have no idea what they meant to me…. More than you will ever know.
I could not be more proud to have served with such a wonderful group of dedicated public servants and employees. “A great place to live, work, and play” is more than a slogan it is a simple truth about this community.
I apologize with every ounce of my being to the public that elected me that I am unable to completely fulfill my term. This was not a decision that came easily or I took lightly, I am sorry.
I will miss serving you, the public, and working towards a continual improvement of this great community. I have seen so many wonderful things come to fruition in my term it pains me that I wont be able to be a part of what is to come…
Again I am so sorry that I must leave you, I could not imagine being part of a better more dedicated team. This city is so fortunate to be served by each and every one of you here (at the meeting) the elected officials, department heads and staff.
With that I leave you, and I wish you all and this community the very best. Regardless of my mailing address Cedar Springs will always proudly and unwaiveringly be my home town.
Thank you all for everything, I’m sorry.

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