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Tag Archive | "city of cedar springs"

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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Hotel informational meeting planned for Cedar Springs


Could town support an effort to attract a hotel?

There will be an informational meeting next week regarding funding for a hotel study that would determine whether a hotel could be supported in Cedar Springs.

The meeting will be held on October 25 at Cedar Springs Brewing Company at 5:30 p.m.

According to Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack, the City was approached by investors from AmericInn about the possibility of opening a hotel near US131.

He said they claimed that they needed a “hotel feasibility study” to be conducted before they can commit to building a hotel in Cedar Springs.

The City has a group prepared to conduct the study, which would show whether the area could support the hotel and turn a profit for investors. But it would cost $7,500 for the study.

“The difficulty lies in the fact that the Americinn people think that the City should pay for the study and the City has both financial and philosophical concerns regarding paying for the study,” said Womack. “The financial concern is that $7,500 is a significant amount of money for a city the size of Cedar Springs and the philosophical concern is that the City isn’t sure that spending taxpayer money to support a private business decision is appropriate,” he explained.

Private funding may be the answer. Womack noted that at least one interested party has promised $1,000 toward the study, and depending on the outcome of the meeting, the city may seek additional donations to fund the study.

“The City is definitely interested in locating a hotel within city limits,” said Womack. “A hotel located in Cedar Springs would not just benefit the City but would also be great for the surrounding area.”

The closest hotels to Cedar Springs are in Greenville and Comstock Park — both 14-15 Miles away.

“We here at city hall have been asked on a regular basis for the closest hotel to stay at by people visiting local factories, families attending tournaments at the Art Van Sports Complex, people in town for weddings or funerals, people visiting Rockford, golfers in town, snowmobilers, bicyclists, and people enjoying the Cedar Springs brewery,” explained Womack. “Furthermore, Cedar Springs is an ideal place to stay just outside Grand Rapids for people that prefer small town charm.”

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Wife upset Post reported husband arrested


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 PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

 

I am writing regarding the defamatory article that was published on September 15, 2016, about my esteemed husband of 20 years Richard Webb. I stand in support of my husband’s character and our business regardless of the charges mentioned. Since we were not given an opportunity to comment I will list some details that were not reported:

When my husband was a young man he voluntarily assisted The Cedar Springs Post specifically, Lois Allen and her mother, when they had computer issues. In addition he also voluntarily assisted with preparing the papers for delivery.

Zylatech has supported the City of Cedar Springs for 12 years. In recognition of our home town we waived our standard travel charge for them. We have always gone above and beyond to make sure they were taken care of. When there were no technicians immediately available I myself went onsite and installed memory in a PC for a previous City Manager so he could get back to work.

The current City Manager, Mike Womack, has only been with the City for a very short time and has never met Rich. I do not consider his comments to be an accurate representation of our company.

My husband and I have run our business with integrity for 16 years. Our goal has always been “To honor God while providing a timely response and quality service.” That is what we do and will continue to do.

I am disheartened by the fact that our own hometown newspaper has treated us and our local small business with such disrespect. Rich and his family have been members of this community most, if not all, of their lives. I personally have lived in Cedar Springs for 19 years and am proud to have our 12-year-old son, Ian, attending Cedar Springs Middle School. It’s unfortunate that no one at The Cedar Springs Post took in account the damage that this article would do to our son, family, friends, church, employees, and livelihood.

In closing I would like to remind the Post and it’s readers that one of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. I also want The Cedar Springs Post and it’s readers to understand that God is with us no matter what the situation or trial we face in life. I recommend everyone watch and see what our Almighty God is going to do!

Sherrie E. Webb

Director of Operations, Zylatech, LLC

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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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Proposed condos for rural area in Nelson Township raises concerns


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 PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

Proposed condos for rural area in Nelson Township raises concerns

Letter to the Editor of The Cedar Springs Post:

Residents of Nelson Township and of the City of Cedar Springs should be aware that a development company is asking Nelson Township to rezone 39 acres located on 18 Mile Road and Shaner Ave. The change in zoning that the Company is asking for would be from SFR-L to a OSPUD (Open-space planned unit district).

If the Township grants the request for the rezoning the developers plan to start building their Condominium project in September. Thirteen-nineteen sites will be built on to begin with. Six, or more of these building sites will be on the East side of Shaner Ave. The developer hasn’t presented plans to the Planning Commission that will fit into the existing community; that will maintain the rural residential character of the Township. Their plans, as proposed, will bring about inappropriate overcrowding of land and congestion of population and roadways to the area here. The White Pine Ridge development if built as planned under the State Act 59 (The Condominium Act) will be similar to inner City projects.

Eventually, the so-called “open-space” may also be sited for more condos. This proposed project has raised many concerns already. A few: many septic tanks closely put in on a WellHead Protection Area, a source of drinking water for Township residents and for the City’s residents too.

The plans for the projects drainage (water runoff) is simply to hook into the current natural system. And to run water under Shaner Ave. from east to west; where the runoff water will reach Cedar Creek here in Nelson Township and flow with the creek towards town. Not only will the safeness of our water be at risk but our supply may be as well.

The Nelson Township Board meets on August 9, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., at No. 2 Maple Street, Sand Lake. Anyone can attend.

Mary L. Stidham, 

Nelson Township resident

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Cedar Springs chooses new city manager


Michael Womack

Michael Womack

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council met Friday, June 17, to interview candidates for the City Manager position.

They chose Michael Womack, Executive Intern, for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state.

Womack 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.

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.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilmember Dan Clark dissenting.

So how does Womack feel about relocating to the west side of the state?

“I am very excited for the opportunity to come to Cedar Springs and contribute to the community,” he told the Post. “I grew up vacationing on the west side of the state and I spent many summers in the area when I was younger. I look forward to reacquainting myself with the area and the chance to help Cedar Springs grow and improve. I hope to make many new friends and good working relationships in the next several months and hope to provide the skills and energy needed in the city managers chair.”

The Michigan Municipal League has been in charge of the interview process, and they are currently doing a background check on Womack. No start date has yet been set.

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City clerk to retire July 1


Cedar Springs City clerk Linda Christensen’s last day is June 30.

Cedar Springs City clerk Linda Christensen’s last day is June 30.

By Judy Reed

Linda Christensen has been a fixture around Cedar Springs City Hall for just over 22 years. She has worked for five City Managers (not including the current interim manager Barb VanDuren); worked alongside five treasurers/finance officers; three Department of Public Works Directors; several fire chiefs and countless employees, police officers, Mayors and City Councilors. And it will all end next week Friday, July 1—when Christensen finally retires.

“It’s time to go,” she said.

Prior to working for the City of Cedar Springs, Christensen was a freelance writer for the Advance Newspaper, and then the Grand Rapids Press for 10 years. After that she worked as part time Deputy Clerk in Solon Township.

She realized she was going to need some full time employment with her two sons going to off to college, and was hired in March 1994 as both a secretary to Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh, and as deputy clerk. Amber Bailey was then clerk.

“I had covered the City and schools as a reporter, and knew what was going on,” explained Christensen, “so it was a natural progression.”

She was a secretary until Walsh left, and when Bailey left a year later, she became the full time clerk. “I really learned a lot from them. They were both great mentors,” she said.

Of all the things she has accomplished over the years, there are a couple things that she is especially proud of. “I was the city’s first certified municipal clerk,” she said, referring to an ongoing educational program relating to the specific duties of city clerks.

The other thing has to do with the city records. “Record keeping is important to me; I’m a very detailed person,” she explained. “So I worked on a record retention policy for the city. I got all the minutes indexed from the time the city was incorporated in 1957.” Christensen said that includes minutes from all the City Council, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. And the index is set up on her computer.

“It makes it a lot easier to find things when people want them,” she remarked. “All I have to do is look at the index, then go find it in t he archived minutes book.”

The record retention policy also notes how long to hold on to certain papers, and when they can be shredded. She and the staff have spent countless hours going through boxes and boxes of paper from days gone by. “I don’t think anyone around here ever threw away a piece of paper,” she said with a chuckle. “But now the boxes are labeled with when they can be shredded.”

For Christensen, the best thing about her job is the people she works with. “When my (first) husband died (after 30 years of marriage), work became my salvation. Sometimes I’m sure they didn’t want to see me come in. But they never said anything; they were always supportive. They are like a second family,” she said.

The thing she likes least about her job has to do with elections. “I detest the electronic poll book,” she said. “By the time you get the instructions, it’s out of date. Clerks don’t have a lot of patience the week before an election, and when you are trying to get the computer to work and it’s not, it’s stressful.”

Christensen said she would miss the people the most. “I’ve made some great friends here in the office, and met some great people who come in as well,” she said. “But I’ll also miss the routine. You always plan out your work for the day, but some days you don’t get any of that accomplished. The work is always interesting.”

She said she learned the most from her early bosses, Amber Bailey and Frank Walsh. “Especially Frank. He has stayed a friend,” she said.

Christensen said she’s learned something from all of the City Managers she’s worked for. “You kind of learn to meld your ways with their ways. You pick up the way they do things; even if it’s not the way you would do it. Of course, I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind,” she said with a chuckle.

During some of the tough times, Christensen said she has consulted with her son, Benjamin, who is a City Manager in Greenwich, Connecticut. Benjamin actually worked for Cedar Springs before his mom did—both in the front office and on the DPW crew. “He created the city’s first webpage,” she noted.

Christensen said she plans to relax this summer, and then possibly look for part time work. She said she might also go back to writing, or do some scrapbooking.

She said that the city would temporarily hire someone to take the minutes at the meetings, and handle the upcoming election. A new City Manager will hire the new permanent clerk.

What does Christensen have to say to the residents of Cedar Springs? “I think it’s a great community. There is a lot going on in the future, and I am excited for the possibilities. I hope everyone gets engaged, and is comfortable with what is going on, and knows what is going on,” she said.

Christensen’s last day on the job is June 30.

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$200,000 grant will help restore wetlands


 

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

Cedar Springs and Sparta to benefit

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced more than $4.3 million in grants to protect Michigan lakes and streams from pollution, and a group working on projects in Cedar Springs and Sparta received a portion of it.

Trout Unlimited received $239,449 to restore wetlands, and to protect a 50-acre property with a permanent conservation easement in the Rogue River watershed, as part of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

Specific wetland activities include restoring approximately 5 acres of wetlands in the Cedar Springs and Sparta area. Two wetlands will be restored in Cedar Springs, both on City of Cedar Springs property. One is a half acre by the fire barn, where the new library will built (between the firebarn and Cedar Creek) and two acres at North Park, just east off of Main Street (between Oak Street and Cedar Springs Mobile Estates).

Two wetlands will also be restored in the Sparta area—one acre on the corner of M37 and Main St, and 1.5 acres off of Phelps, on private property.

Once restored, these sites will play a huge role in reducing sediment in Cedar and Nash Creeks and helping to stabilize water temperature by controlling stormwater runoff.  In addition, identification and prioritization of historically lost wetlands will be done and potential wetland restoration areas in the entire watershed will be quantified for future projects.

A second portion of the project is the completion of a conservation easement, permanently protecting approximately 50 acres in the watershed. The 50-acre conservation easement is located just east of Sparta, off of Division, on private property.

This property is directly adjacent to 124 acres of permanently protected land. The area just outside of the property is experiencing development pressure. The conservation easement will eliminate all development in this area, as well as provide buffer zones to the waterways and wetland areas.

These grants will help restore impaired waters and protect high-quality waters by reducing nonpoint sources of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants. Nonpoint source pollution is runoff that picks up both natural and human contaminants as it moves across the ground and eventually deposits it into waterways.

This two year project will begin in October 2016 and will be part of the current Trout Unlimited Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. This project is a multi-year collaborative watershed restoration project. Local foundations, businesses and other donors have contributed funds towards the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

A Trout Unlimited Project Manager and Project Coordinator work to improve existing river conditions through restoration actions, work with local governments to improve municipal planning, and increase capacity to help ensure advocates for long-term protection of the Rogue.

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City Council fires assessor, hires interim City Manager, City clerk resigns


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council fired their assessor, hired an interim City Manager, and received the resignation of their City Clerk, all during the course of a special meeting on Thursday evening, May 26.

The Council has been in disagreement with City Assessor Jason Rosenzweig, over six parcels of city-owned property that he says the city should be paying tax on. The Board of Review upheld Rosenzweig’s assessment, and the Council will be appealing it to the state. Michigan property tax appeals can be filed after the March Board of Review and on or before June 30 of the tax year involved.

In Thursday night’s meeting, Rosenzweig spoke to the Council. He told them that the Council has no authority to terminate him because under the City’s charter all employees are placed under the City Manager. He quoted sections from the Charter that say the Council cannot request the employment or dismissal of an employee.

“The Mayor broke the law when he visited me yesterday and asked me to resign,” said Rosenzweig.

He added that he is not a contract employee because he has never received a 1099, and holds office hours. He also noted that under his employment agreement, it states that 30 days notice should be given by either party. He said that he could sue the City for missed wages, and the Council for misconduct in office.

“I am following the law,” he told them. “The state tax commission told me to look closer at the properties. Your own attorney gave me an opinion that I am doing my job,” he said.

Rosenzweig then offered to resign, if the Council agreed to pay his salary for the rest of the year, which he said amounted to about $11,000.

City Council members listened, then went forward with the resolution to fire Rosenzweig.  Mayor Jerry Hall said that their City attorney drafted the resolution and felt they had the authority to dismiss him.

The resolution states that the Council believes the actions of Rosenzweig, in placing certain city-owned properties on the tax roll, were not properly analyzed or communicated to Council, and that according to the city’s charter, the assessor serves at the pleasure of the Council. It also said that under due consideration, the City Council had lost confidence and became dissatisfied in his performance as City assessor, and his termination was effective immediately. It directed the City manager to take action to effectuate the resolution.

The Council decided to leave the hiring of a new assessor up to the new City Manager when hired.

The hiring of an interim City Manager was next on the agenda. They introduced Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, who had recently retired from the City of Wyoming as Deputy City Manager, and was previously City Manager in Wayland. “I truly believe in local government, and when the Michigan Municipal League asked if I’d like a shot at being the interim City Manager in Cedar Springs, I said yes,” she told the Council. (See article introducing her on page 3).

Longtime City Clerk Linda Christiansen has been acting City Manager since November. She was visibly upset at the development. “This week is the first time I heard about this,” she told the Council. “I feel very disrespected. I feel like 22 years of my life has gone down the toilet. I will be retiring July 1,” she added, and gave them her letter of resignation.

Christansen had previously said she would stay on until a new City Manager was found.

Members of the Council tried to assure her that they were trying to alleviate the pressure of doing two jobs.

“We were dumbstruck,” said Mayor Jerry Hall. He explained that they had said at last month’s meeting that they wanted to get Christiansen some help. “With the work piling up, and elections coming, we thought maybe it was time to take some pressure off so that she has time to train someone before she leaves,” he explained. “It was not our intent to have her resign. It was to help her, not replace her. If the other manager had taken the job, this wouldn’t be happening. We just thought we needed to get someone in to help her.”

The Council voted 6-1 to hire VanDuren, with Councilmember Perry Hopkins being the lone no vote. He said he had too much respect for Christiansen, and later said that if she couldn’t handle both jobs with the election coming, that should be up to her.

In her resignation letter, Christensen said it had been a privilege to serve as City Clerk. She has worked for five City Managers; along side five treasurers/finance officers; three DPW directors, several fire chiefs; and countless employees, police officers, mayors and city council members. “With all we have shared good times and not so good times; but no  matter what we were going through at the time, we all pulled together working as a team to make Cedar Springs the best it could be under whatever circumstances we were facing,” she wrote.

The Council set another special meeting date of June 6 to review candidates who have applied for the City Manager job. They will review the candidates in closed session and choose the top ones they wish to interview in a public meeting.

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Meet Barbara VanDuren: new interim City Manager


Barbara VanDuren

Barbara VanDuren

By Judy Reed

The new interim City Manager for Cedar Springs is someone who likes to spotlight the good things going on in a community. And she hopes to bring some positive things to Cedar Springs.

Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, was hired last Thursday evening and started work this week at Cedar Springs City Hall.

She retired in 2015 as deputy city manager for the City of Wyoming, a community of 72,000 people, with a budget of $105 million and 350 employees. She was responsible for economic development, downtown development, and working with local governments and citizen groups for the betterment of West Michigan. She held that position for 15 years. During four years of that time, she also taught undergraduate public administration courses in local politics and administration, and public personnel policy.

Prior to that, she was City Manager for the City of Wayland from 1996 to 2000, and assistant city manager before that for three years.

Cedar Springs is her first interim assignment. “When I retired 18 months ago, I thought I might like to try it,” she remarked. “A couple of communities called, but I was busy at the time and couldn’t do it.”

It’s not the first time she’s seen Cedar Springs. She and her husband, John Crofoot, live in Wyoming, but are avid bike riders, and sometimes ride the White Pine Trail to Rockford and Cedar Springs. “The White Pine Trail is a beautiful trail,” she said. They belong to a trail riding group, and do some recreational biking on the weekends. This fall they plan to take a bike tour through Vermont. “It was one of those things on my bucket list for when I retired,” she explained.

The couple has two grown children, Eric and Kevin. Both are married and live in the Grand Rapids and Grandville areas. They also have a 5-year-old grandson, Elliot.

Other than bike riding, VanDuren does promotional work for the City of Wyoming, by producing 1-1/2 minute commercials about good things going on in the city. The commercials are called “Wyoming Moments.”

“I have always seen positive things happening that don’t get publicized,” she explained. “But I think that local government and schools have a heart for their city, and it feels good to be on the other side and tell those stories.” She works with WKTV on those commercials and they are also put on the city’s website.

So what is VanDuren’s mission here in Cedar Springs? “Well, I’ve only been here a week, but I would like to work on improving communication between council and staff, and getting council and staff prepared for a new city manager. And help, if I can, to bring in a new manager that’s just right for Cedar Springs. I would like to keep things moving in a forward direction,” she said.

VanDuren said that her door is always open if a resident wants to talk. She will usually be in the office Monday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The City Council will meet Monday, June 6, in closed session, to review candidates for the permanent position.

The former City Manager, Thad Taylor, left for a position in Manistee in November. City Clerk, Linda Christiansen was acting City Manager from that time until VanDuren was hired.

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