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Cedar Springs City Hall closed to general public


The City of Cedar Springs takes very seriously the dangers posed by the novel COVID-19 virus and the severe acute respiratory health problems that it can cause. Many persons exposed to the virus will develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. More serious infections, especially in vulnerable patient groups, may suffer pneumonia, organ failure and death. Vulnerable patient groups include persons aged 60 and older and persons with underlying health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COPD and cancer.

The current best practices to prevent infection or spreading the disease are to frequently wash your hands, avoid touching your face, use of facemasks by those already sick and self-quarantine/social distancing away from other people.

As many of you already know, the Governor has ordered all schools closed until at least April 6th and many bars, restaurants, theaters and other locations of public congregation are likely to close or limit public access in the near future. This unprecedented situation requires a strong and aggressive response in order to maintain the public health and the City encourages all persons and organizations to take all necessary precautions for the well-being of the public, employees and emergency personnel.

Right now, the problem seems small, avoidable and a world away, however, COVID-19 has infected at least 137,000 persons and killed over 5,000 worldwide. Those numbers will absolutely go up, please take this seriously. Everything that is being done right now might appear alarmist and overblown but after a pandemic takes hold, nothing done afterwards will seem adequate.

At this time, the Cedar Springs City Hall will be closed to the public on a week to week basis, starting Tuesday March 17, as we actively monitor the situation. City employees will continue to work at City Hall and throughout the community and will address citizen concerns by phone, e-mail and by appointment as may be necessary. Some public meetings may be canceled or postponed until it is safe to hold them. Any public meetings that are held will be done so according to all laws, including the Open Meetings Act. However, the City encourages any persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who might have been in contact with the disease to avoid all public gatherings, including City meetings.

For additional resources regarding COVID-19 and how to respond to it please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kent County Health Department for the most up to date information:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.accesskent.com/Health/coronavirus.htm

If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns about the City’s COVID-19 response please contact the City Manager by phone or e-mail.

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Unsung Heroes: the Planning Commission


Many people don’t know how local governments work for the betterment of the community. I sure didn’t before I got involved in local government operations. In high school civics class, we are taught about the federal government with the President, the Courts and the Congress but nary a word about Mayors, City Councils, City Managers or the various working mechanisms of how things work at the local level. Very few people know the difference between a “Strong Mayor” government and a Council-Manager government.

I want to talk today about planning commissions (PC) and what that board and its members do for the City. PC’s are not a required board under state or local laws but a majority of municipalities use some form of a planning commission to lessen the burden on the City Council of running the City. The PC is generally tasked with the planning and zoning of a municipality according the rules outlined in both state and local laws, primary of which is the Zoning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3801). 

“Planning and zoning” is a shorthand way of saying that the PC helps establish goals and policies for directing and managing future growth and development in the City; including such things as location of growth, housing needs, and environmental protection.  Planning helps account for future demand for services, including sewers, roads, and fire protection and zoning is what helps keep factories away from homes and homes away from fast food restaurants.

Two of the primary tasks that the PC members work on are the approval of new development site plans and the in-depth review and recommendation of planning and zoning law changes to the City Council.  Site plan reviews are where the PC reviews the proposed plans for new developments and businesses to ensure that they are meeting all local rules and requirements (while not burdening businesses with overregulation). For instance, the PC makes sure that proposed driveways are safe, that dumpsters are enclosed and hidden from the public, that there is sufficient but not too much parking, that lighting is bright enough but not shining in your bedroom window and lots of other details about each new development. The second part, the in-depth review and recommendations on planning and zoning rule changes, are a major factor in boosting economic development, encouraging business and simultaneously ensuring that basic requirements are being met. The PC members spend a lot of time educating themselves and discussing what are the best practices and best methods to ensure high-quality development in the City.  

The PC members all live inside the City, work regular jobs and represent a good cross-section of the population. They are appointed by the City Council and they work with the City Planner, City Engineer, City Attorney and Zoning Administrator to get their job done. PC membership is an awesome way to serve the community and lots of PC members go on to serve on the City Council in an elected role. Their job isn’t easy and their decisions don’t always make everybody happy but they are hard working and looking out for the best and long-term interests of the City.  If we go by the definition of “doing great deeds but receiving little or no recognition,” that well defines the Planning Commission.  

Their meetings are always open to the public and they like when people come to watch. The Cedar Springs PC usually meets once a month on the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall. Their agendas and packets are available on the City’s website and their meetings are broadcast live and recorded on Youtube so you can watch all that excitement in your pjs at home if you would prefer. Finally, all those rumors about where that new store might go or whether that hole in the ground will become a gas station or a carwash—talk  to a PC member, they’ll probably know.

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Halloween


It’s time once again for the annual Halloween Spooktacular on October 31 in Cedar Springs, and that means lots of witches, goblins, zombies, superheroes, and more will be traveling up and down Main Street to treats from the businesses. Trick or treating at downtown businesses will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. and residential trick or treating is from 5-8 p.m. See more Halloween activities on page 7.

You may have also noticed that some of the flowerpots downtown have been decorated. The DDA worked with the Chamber to put together the Decorate a Pot contest that you now see lining Main St. Trick or Treaters will get a chance to vote for their favorite decoration and the money collected for the entry fee from the decorators will go to the charity of the winner’s choice. While you are out trick or treating take a minute to vote for you favorite either by paper ballot at City Hall or online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFHX7SG.

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Money wasted on pocket park


Post Scripts NOTICE: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to Post Scripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

* We only print positive letters about candidates one week prior to the election.


 

Many of you may be familiar with the area just to the north of city hall. That is the area that previously had broken cement with two handicapped parking spaces. It was with anticipation that I noticed work being done on that area. Problem is, it was not fixing the parking spaces, but putting in what is called a “pocket park.” The city council and the city manager decided that would be a better use for the space. It may look better than the broken concrete but it’s not very useful. There is no seating, no parking and no identifiable useful space. With winter coming, whatever use might have been imagined for the “park” is not going to happen at least until spring. Handicapped parking was at least a year around use.

The handicapped parking is now out on Ash Street, in another area with broken concrete and only one space instead of two. It is now a much longer and painful walk to get into city hall for anyone who must count each step with a mobility aid. If you are not very careful, you will be in danger of falling if your cane or walker falls into one of the cracks. It doesn’t appear that our handicapped residents are considered when these types of decisions are made.

People who make these decisions should not be allowed to decide how to spend the three million dollars that is being asked for to build a new fire barn. I suggest, if you agree, to vote NO on the fire barn. 

Allen King

City of Cedar Springs

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City of Cedar Springs water shows no contamination


In the wake of recent news reports regarding Perfluorooctyl Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) chemicals in West Michigan drinking water, the City of Cedar Springs decided to test its water supply to ensure that City provides the highest quality water to its residents.

The City sent water samples to Fleis and Vandenbrink for testing on December 21, 2017 and received results back January 17, 2018. Fleis and Vandenbrink sampled and tested (in compliance with USEPA method 537) wells 3 and 4, each drawing from one of the two supplying aquifers for the City. Analysis for both wells shows “no detection” for PFOS and PFOA with zero parts per trillion.  Federal advisory limits for PFOS and PFOA are seventy parts per trillion and the State of Michigan is considering setting its standards at five parts per trillion.

“Cedar Springs Department of Public Works monitors and tests the municipal water supply and distribution system on a daily basis to comply with DEQ standards and to ensure the highest water quality for our citizens,” Director of Public Works David Ducat said.  

City Hall received several phone calls over the last several weeks from concerned citizens asking about whether city water had been tested. “We hadn’t tested the water for PFOS because we aren’t in the PFOS expansion zone and our geography made it unlikely that we would be affected,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.  

“The city obviously cares about the well-being of its citizens’ water supply and wanted to remove all doubts. We’re satisfied that the aquifers that Cedar Spring draws its supply from is not contaminated and we are not impacted by the problems to the south.”  

The city’s most recent water quality report can be found on the City’s website under “NEWS” or under the Public Works page.

While the city municipal water supply is uncontaminated, Womack pointed out that those results do not apply to private wells and citizens with concerns about their home’s well-water should consider getting their well-water tested. “The most recent DEQ map seems to show the recent PFOS problems are all located south of 12 Mile Road,” said Womack.

Over the last several months the State of Michigan started an investigation into Wolverine World Wide’s tannery waste dump sites from the 1960s and 1970s in northern Kent County after it was discovered that residents living around the dumpsite had incredibly high levels of the toxic chemicals in their blood and in their drinking water.  Several municipalities have been affected by the PFOS plume emanating southward from 10 Mile Road including Rockford, Plainfield Township, and Belmont.

Any Cedar Springs residents with questions about the city’s water safety can contact City Manager Mike Womack at manager@cityofcedarsprings or the DPW Director David Ducat at DPW@cityofcedarsprings.org or 616.696.1330.

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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 to hold special meeting tonight (Thursday)


By Judy Reed

This City of Cedar Springs will hold a special meeting on Thursday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, to take care of some last minute business before the new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Action items include voting on purchasing a new radar speed sign for the city; Morley Park pavilion rental and electricity at the pavilion; and a motion to approve the Library Services Agreement, Grant Area District revision.

According to City Manager Mike Womack, the radar sign would be portable and could be moved around the City, wherever there was a need.

“The reasoning behind the radar sign is that we have seen the Sheriff Department’s radar sign in action and it absolutely does result in slower traffic, which is safer for the public,” explained Womack. “By having our own sign, we could be quicker to respond to citizen complaints of speeding traffic and we would also have the benefit of the resulting data that the sign takes in while its measuring traffic speed. This data could then be used to help direct when/where Sheriff intervention might be needed but it could also be used for economic development reasons such as knowing how many cars go past a certain place during a day or week.”

He added that the radar sign is also part of his ongoing initiative to make the streets safer for pedestrians overall. “We are also considering pedestrian crossing signs in the downtown area and we will be repainting the crosswalk paint on the asphalt,” he explained.

The radar signs they will be looking at range from a low of $1,785 to $3,165.

There are also several discussion items on the agenda, including choices of several different logos to use on the Elm Street garage that people walking or riding on the White Pine Trail would see; pedestrian crosswalk signs; and whether they can inscribe “Red Flannel Town” on the new clocktower at the corner of Main and W. Maple, by the library.

 

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City votes to retain City Manager


City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar  Springs.

City Manager Michael Womack is doing a good job for the City of Cedar Springs.

Cedar Springs City Councilors have decided that they like the job that City Manager Michael Womack is doing for them.

On January 12th, 2017, City Councilors reviewed the first six months of Womack’s performance as City Manager, assessing him in multiple categories.

Overall the Cedar Springs City Council rated Womack’s performance as very competent. Councilors stated that they were highly satisfied with Womack’s hiring of new staff and for creating an inviting atmosphere at City Hall. Councilors were also happy that Womack has created a good working relationship with Council, staff and the public. Womack also received praise for conducting the City’s business in a pleasant, positive and professional manner. Councilors did note that Womack could work harder at reaching out to City businesses and would like to see him continue working on the Heart of Cedar Springs project, the new fire barn and new streets and sidewalks in the City.

City Council voted 7-0 to retain Womack as City Manager and voted 7-0 to increase Womack’s salary $2000 per year to $74,000.

Womack started as City Manager on August 1st, 2016, replacing Thad Taylor, who departed the City for Manistee in November, 2015. Womack stated that he was very happy with Council’s vote of confidence in him and that Cedar Springs has been very welcoming.

“I look forward to working for the community for several years to come,” said Womack. “The City is working towards being more business-friendly and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities for growth and improvement in the near future.”

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Meet City Manager Mike Womack


Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack started August 1. Post photo by J. Reed.

Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack started August 1. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It took nine months, but the City of Cedar Springs finally has a new full time City Manager overseeing operations at City Hall.

Mike Womack, 34, started in his new position August 1.

Just prior to coming to Cedar Springs, Womack was an Executive Intern for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state,

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

Womack said his time at EastPointe and the Village of Lake Orion was valuable. “I learned a lot. There is no substitute for the mentoring you get through internships. It helped me to prepare for this job,” he explained.

Womack was born in Rochester, Michigan, and grew up in Troy. He graduated from Eisenhauer High School in Shelby. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Oakland University; his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and his Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University.

As a lawyer, Womack defended felony and misdemeanor cases, probate, and juvenile law. He also worked in oil and gas, and property law for a time in Pennsylvania. During that time, he would commute back to Michigan for classes. “I was always going, but began to feel worn out,” he said.

So why did he decide to make a career move into small town government?

“After seven or eight years of being a lawyer, I decided I wanted to do something else,” he explained. “As a child, I thought I might do something in government. I first thought of politics, but then realized I could do more good behind the scenes.”

Womack met his wife, Glenna, when they were both undergrads. They married in 2013, at the Beach and Yacht Club at Disney World, in Florida. The children they have are of the furry variety. “We have four dogs and a chinchilla,” he said.

Womack said he was somewhat familiar with this area of Michigan, from going camping up in White Cloud, and traveling up and down the west coast of the state, and visiting the Grand Rapids area. “During college I had a few buddies who went to school here,” he explained.

What does our new city manager like to do during his free time? “I’m a bit of a policy wonk,” he admitted, “I like to go home and read a white paper on best practices.” The Post asked him what he likes to do when he’s not reading white papers. He said he likes to do some shooting, though he doesn’t like to hunt. “That doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to a bit of venison jerky every now and then,” remarked. He also likes to do some long distance running and triathalons occasionally. “I used to do some amateur astronomy, but there was too much light where I was,” he explained. He also likes computer and video games, playing softball, and watching baseball. “I’m really looking forward to enjoying some White Caps games,” he said.

Womack has been living in a hotel, but was moving into an apartment this week. He said it would be about six months before his wife is able to join him. She needs to close up her law practice first. He said that they would look at buying a house somewhere in the area within a  year.

What does he think of Cedar Springs? “I think the city is on an upward trajectory. I’ve interviewed at places where people are losing jobs, and things are going downhill. I don’t see that here.” He said he’s excited about the “Heart of Cedar Springs” project at Main and Maple. “It will be great for the community. And I love libraries, and sculptures, and sculpture parks. If I can walk there on my lunch hour, get my mile in, it will be great,” he remarked.

His first priority, he said, is to get some city positions filled: both a full time clerk, and a finance director. A temporary clerk was hired to fill Linda Christiansen’s position until Womack can find someone, and the finance director will be leaving for another job in the near future.

Womack wants residents and business owners to know that he has an open door. “I’m happy to talk about problems. There may not always be an easy solution; we have to work within the personnel and financial constraints. But I’ll do what I can.” He said that the preferred way to reach him is through email: manager@cityofcedarsprings.org. But you can also reach him by phone at 696-1330, ext. 104.

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City to hold public hearing on planned unit development


 

By Judy Reed

A plan is in the works in Cedar Springs that might give the city a friendlier image when working with developers and business owners.

Business owners and residents in the downtown Cedar Springs area should have received a letter in the mail from the City of Cedar Springs about a public hearing on June 15 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, regarding the creation of a Planned Unit Development Overlay District (PUD) for downtown Cedar Springs. The PUD District will cover Main Street from 17 Mile to Maple Street, and one block east and west of Main Street.

Included in the letter was an explanation about the PUD and design guidelines.

According to City Manager Thad Taylor, the bottom line is that it would give the Planning Commission more flexibility in design standards when working with developers and business owners.

He said that in many cases, if a developer’s design doesn’t meet the specifications allowed under the ordinances, and the Planning Commission denies their request, they have to go before the zoning board of appeals. With the PUD, applicants needing dimensional variances for design issues like setbacks, façade materials, signs, etc., will not have to make the application to the ZBA. They would be able to submit waivers to the Planning Commission as part of the site plan review under the design elements of the project.

“If we are looking to be creative and work with the developers, to get what they want and what we want in the downtown business district, we need to be able to be flexible,” explained Taylor. “It’s the city’s approach that we want to work positively with developers.”

He gave one example as that of the Cedar Springs Brewing Company. “They had something that looked like flags, which our ordinance doesn’t allow. But their design looked fabulous, and the Planning Commission really struggled with that. In the end, they decided that they weren’t really flags.”

The PUD will provide additional guidance to prospective developers, businesses and property owners regarding the Planning Commission’s vision for the future. They will have a preliminary PUD plan, and a set of Downtown Design Guidelines. The goal is to maintain the traditional appearance of the downtown, with buildings setback at the sidewalk, and parking to the rear and on-street. The guidelines will not be strict rules, but a framework that the Planning Commission can use to make decisions.

To read more about the PUD and get a copy of the guidelines, go to http://www.cityofcedarsprings.org/2015/05/28/june-15-planning-commission-meeting/ and click on the links within the announcement.

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