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Tag Archive | "Kent County"

Montcalm County deer tests positive for CWD


With archery deer hunting season underway, DNR urges all hunters to take harvested deer to area check stations

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is encouraging hunters not to feed and bait deer in Kent and Montcalm Counties after a deer taken by a youth in Montcalm Township tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. A nine-township core area is also being created within the two counties with special regulations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed Wednesday, October 4, that a 3-1/2-year-old female deer taken during Michigan’s youth deer hunting season in September has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

The animal, harvested in Montcalm Township in Montcalm County, is the 10th free-ranging deer in Michigan found to have chronic wasting disease. The youth hunter who harvested the deer opted to take the animal to a Department of Natural Resources deer check station and then submitted the animal for testing—steps the DNR strongly encourages hunters across the state to take during the 2017 deer hunting seasons.

“Because this family decided to bring their deer to a DNR deer check station, state wildlife managers were able to gain important information about chronic wasting disease in mid-Michigan,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, DNR state wildlife veterinarian. “As we move through the archery and firearm seasons, voluntary deer testing will be critical not only within the currently affected areas but also throughout the south-central Lower Peninsula and the entire state.”

With Wednesday’s confirmation of chronic wasting disease in the Montcalm County deer, DNR Director Keith Creagh has signed an interim order (effective Oct. 4, 2017, through March 29, 2018) outlining next steps as governed by Michigan’s CWD Response and Surveillance Plan. The order:

  • Creates a nine-township Core Area that includes Douglass, Eureka, Fairplain, Maple Valley, Montcalm, Pine and Sidney townships in Montcalm County, and Oakfield and Spencer townships in Kent County. Within the Core Area specifically:
    • Institutes mandatory registration of deer at a check station within 5 miles of the new Core CWD Area, within 72 hours of harvest, starting Nov. 15. (Available stations currently are at Flat River State Game Area and Howard City.)
    • Removes antler point restrictions for the restricted tag of the combo deer license within the nine-township Core Area.
    • Allows antlerless deer to be tagged using the deer or deer combo license(s) during the firearm, muzzleloader and late antlerless seasons.
    • Institutes mandatory submission of the head for testing of a road-killed deer within 72 hours of pick-up.
    • Allows disease control permits, effective immediately, for landowners with five or more acres within the nine-township Core Area.
  • Bans the feeding and baiting of deer in Kent and Montcalm counties, effective Jan. 2, 2018, and encourages hunters not to bait and feed in these areas immediately.

The DNR will work with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to make the order permanent, adjusting as needed in response to the evolving situation.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.

Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss, and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any known risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Since May 2015, the DNR has actively conducted surveillance for CWD. To date, more than 14,000 deer have been tested since the first positive case was found, with 10 cases of CWD confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer identified in Clinton, Ingham and (now) Montcalm counties.

As additional deer have tested positive for CWD within Michigan, the DNR has put specific regulations in place. Currently, there are two CWD Core Areas, which are deer management units (DMUs) 333 and 359. To review regulations related to those areas, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

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Sheriff Stelma named Sheriff of the Year


Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma (right) has been chosen as the first ever recipient of the Terrence L. Jungel Sheriff of the Year Award by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Terrence Jungel is on the left.

Larry Stelma, a long time Cedar Springs resident and Sheriff in Kent County for 16 years, has been selected as the first ever recipient of the Terrence L. Jungel Sheriff of the Year award by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.

The Terrence L. Jungel Sheriff of the Year Award is in recognition of Terry Jungel’s dedicated 20 years of service to MSA and recognizes a Sheriff who has made outstanding contributions to law enforcement and the criminal justice profession, demonstrates exceptional service to their community, and has contributed to the betterment of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association (MSA).

“There is no Sheriff in the State of Michigan that is more deserving of this Award and the recognition that comes with it than Larry Stelma,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon, who is the MSA Board President.

According to Sheriff Kirk Wakefield, of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, and the past MSA president that conceived the concept of the Sheriff of the Year Award, “Sheriff Stelma has been a mentor to many past and present Michigan Sheriffs. Larry is a very thoughtful, knowledgeable, and humble Sheriff. Larry is highly respected by all of his fellow Michigan Sheriffs.”

Stelma began his career at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office on January 3, 1972, as a deputy working various duties in the jail and eventually transferring to the road patrol. As a detective in the investigative bureau, he was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Combat Star for his efforts to save his partner when a domestic violence suspect shot that officer in the chest in 1980. In August 1981, Stelma was promoted to sergeant on the road patrol; in 1985, he was promoted to road patrol lieutenant; and promoted to road patrol captain in January 1997. In January 1999, Stelma was appointed to serve as Kent County’s Undersheriff. On January 1, 2001, he was elected by the citizens of Kent County to serve as their Sheriff. He has since been re-elected Kent County Sheriff for five consecutive terms.

The MSA said that under Sheriff Stelma’s leadership, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office has become one of the most innovative, strategic departments in the United States. “Sheriff Stelma has woven the Office of Sheriff into the fabric of the entire community. He does this through his investment in staff; he is always there to be the friend to lean on, the guiding voice in a time of need, the stern guidance in a time of uncertainty, or jovial congratulation in a moment of triumph.

“The Sheriff has been intricately involved in the Law Enforcement community for decades and has been a leader in significant initiatives. These accomplishments are possible due to a strong vision and through the development of unprecedented relationships with area police chiefs, county, state and national leaders and most importantly, the citizens. These relationships enabled new initiatives that have made the Kent County Sheriff’s Office the epitome of efficient and effective government.”

Two particular initiatives that have affected Cedar Springs include the city and Sheriff Department partnership on police services, and the school resource officer at Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Stelma was integral in the creation of the partnership between the City and the Sheriff Department in 2015, the first time anything like that had been done in Kent County. The Cedar Springs Police Department was dissolved, and the full-time officers were offered jobs at the Kent County Sheriff Department, and a chance to serve in Cedar Springs. Sgt. Jason Kelley oversees the Cedar Springs Unit, which currently works out of the former police area at City Hall.

Cedar Springs was not the first public school to employ a Kent County Sheriff Deputy as a school resource officer, but the Sheriff Department did partner with the district to help fund the program. SROs work to improve school safety by investigating school related incidents and take a proactive approach to improve security of the campus, staff and students.

Congratulations Sheriff Larry Stelma!

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Tornado confirmed in Kent/Ionia Counties


This covered bridge at Tyler Creek in Bowne Township sustained damage from Monday night’s tornado. It was built in 1955. Photo from Woodtv.com.

This covered bridge at Tyler Creek in Bowne Township sustained damage from Monday night’s tornado. It was built in 1955. Photo from Woodtv.com.

By Judy Reed

Tornado sirens sounded here in Cedar Springs and all across Kent County Monday evening, April 10, as severe thunderstorms rolled through.

N-Tornado2-pathThe National Weather Service in Grand Rapids confirmed that a brief EF-1 tornado formed and touched down in southeast Kent County about 8:36 p.m. and traveled about five miles into.

According to the NWS report: “Dozens of large trees were snapped or uprooted and three barns were heavily damaged. The damage began on 100th St just east of Alden Nash Ave and then continued to the east-northeast, crossing Wingeier Ave where a barn lost metal roofing. One metal section was carried 0.6 miles by the tornado and landed in a field. The tornado damage intensified as the funnel narrowed and crossed 92nd St in the vicinity of the Tyler Creek Golf Course, where a swath of trees were snapped and uprooted. Peak winds in this area were estimated at 90 mph. The tornado crossed Freeport Ave and Keim Road. It then crossed Hastings Road with peak winds estimated around 65 mph, taking down large tree limbs. The damage ended around Bell Road north of Keim Road.”

The tornado lasted about five minutes. It was the first tornado in Kent County this year. Last year there were two.

Next week (April 16-22) is Severe Weather Awareness Week, and according to Michigan’s Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, there were 16 tornadoes across Michigan in 2016. Michigan averages about 15 each year. Six of the 16 tornadoes occurred across the Upper Peninsula, a record for that peninsula. All of the tornadoes in Michigan were in the weak categories of EF0 and EF1 (tornadoes are rated from the weakest EF0 to the strongest EF5).

The August 20, 2016 tornado outbreak across southwest Lower Michigan was the most damaging and significant event across the state in 2016. Six tornadoes touched down from Bangor to Grand Rapids to Orleans, causing over $5 million in damages. The longest and strongest of the August 20 tornadoes touched down just southwest of Bangor and then tracked through the town. The 10-mile long EF-1 winds estimated up to 110 mph, caused the entire city to lose power and downed hundreds of trees. Multiple structures in Bangor were damaged, including the police department. The outbreak also produced two EF0 tornadoes in the metro Grand Rapids area. The first hit Grandville and Wyoming, and the second was in Grand Rapids. Both of these tornadoes downed trees, some onto homes.

Kent County has seen 35 tornadoes from 1950-2016, the second highest number of tornadoes in the state. Genesee leads with 45 tornadoes during that same time frame, and Kent is followed by Monroe County with 34, and Allegan with 33.

“Severe Weather Awareness Week is the time of year to learn what to do before, during and after severe weather occurs,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “That includes flooding, thunderstorms and tornadoes. By taking the initiative and learning about possible hazards, you and your family will be better prepared when an emergency or disaster happens.”

Spring and summer frequently bring fast-changing weather conditions that increase the potential for severe weather. Steps can be taken to prepare before severe weather strikes to minimize damage and ensure safe evacuation or shelter, such as understanding severe weather warnings and terms, preparing an emergency supply kit, making an emergency plan, and creating an emergency contact list.

To learn more about severe weather in Michigan and what you should do, download the Severe Weather Awareness packet at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/SWApacket_554981_7.pdf.

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Kent County announces Smart911 to help save lives


 

Residents can now sign up for free service that provides first responders with critical information

The Kent County Dispatch Authority is investing in the community’s safety by adopting Smart911.

Smart911 is a nationwide service that allows individuals to create an online safety profile for their household, which provides key information to 911 call takers during an emergency. This information enables faster and more effective emergency response by law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. When citizens who have signed up with Smart911 make 911 calls, their safety profile is automatically displayed to 911, providing dispatchers with an enhanced level of information that can assist in assigning the correct public safety responders.

Available for the first time to Kent County residents, this free service enables them to create individual and household profiles at www.smart911.com. Residents can add photos, detailed medical information, pets, cell phones, vehicle descriptions and other information that can be critical during an emergency situation.

“Smart911saves critical time in an emergency and has proven to save lives nationwide,” said Curtis Holt, chair of the Kent County Dispatch Authority. “The additional information provided in a Smart911 safety profile can save critical minutes in an emergency and help responders offer better services. Smart911 allows residents to link both home and work addresses to mobile phones, which can be passed on to responders in the field for a more detailed, rapid response. All information is optional, and each citizen has the ability to choose what they would like to include.”

Smart911 is currently available in 40 states and more than 1,500 municipalities across the country. The service has been credited with positively impacting emergency outcomes, including the recovery of a missing child, whose photo and physical description were immediately available to law enforcement units, as well as a heart attack victim, whose address and medical notes allowed responders to be dispatched to his location and provide timely medical assistance.

“The benefits of having detailed information on a 911 call from a cell phone are immeasurable,” Holt said. “Mobile phones do not provide an address to the 911 call taker. In situations like a weather emergency, seconds matter, and the additional information in a safety profile allows help to arrive better prepared.”

Kent County residents are encouraged to create their safety profile with Smart911 at www.smart911.com to ensure their information is available to 911. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete the secure online form that will be stored in the confidential Smart911 database. All information is kept private and protected and is only available to 911.

About Kent County Dispatch Authority

The Kent County Dispatch Authority was formed in 2007 to address issues that related to 911 services in the County. KCDA develops policies and procedures for administering 911, creates the annual operating and capital budget, establishes goals and objectives through a strategic plan for future technological or operational enhancements, distributes 911 surcharge funds and other initiatives to maximize efficiency of 911 services. For more information, visit www.kent911.org.

About Smart911

Currently available in 40 states and more than 1,500 municipalities, Smart911 allows citizens to create a free Safety Profile online for their household that includes information they want 911 and response teams to have during an emergency, such as their address, medical conditions, pets, etc. When an emergency call is made, a citizen’s Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the 911 call-taker. Last year, 25 million 911 calls were assisted by Safety Profiles. All information is kept private and secure, only appearing when the associated number calls 911.

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KDL board and Fire commission needs volunteers


 

Are you a citizen in northern Kent County that is interested in the Kent District Library? Or an elected township official interested in serving on the county Fire Commission?

The Kent County Board of Commissioners is seeking citizens who are interested in serving the community through appointment to the following Boards and Committees:

Kent District Library Board Region 1 – to fill an unexpired four-year term ending December 31, 2018. Applicants must live in Nelson, Oakfield, Spencer or Tyrone Township. The Kent District Library Board meets monthly at the District Headquarters, 814 W. River Center, Comstock Park, as well as at other participating libraries.

Fire Commission – to fill an unexpired two-year term ending December 31, 2018. Applicants must be a township elected official from a unit of government that participate in the Fire Commission. The Fire Commission meets monthly on the second Friday of the month (does not meet in April, July and October) at 8:30 a.m. at the Kent County Road Commission, 1500 Scribner, Grand Rapids (with the exception of the October meeting).

Applicants must complete an online application form via the County’s website at www.accesskent.com/boardappointments. Resumes and cover letters are encouraged and may be attached. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 28, 2017.

Please call the Board of Commissioners Office at 616.632.7580 if you have any questions.

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Sparta man arrested on CSC charges


 

Investigation involves child sexually abusive activity 

Tyler Ryan Lowis

Tyler Ryan Lowis

A 22-year-old Sparta man is in jail after police arrested him on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct and child sexually abusive material.

According to the Michigan State Police, their Computer Crimes Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) involving child exploitation.

ICAC then conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of a Tyler Ryan Lowis, 22, of Sparta. On November 14, 2016, a search warrant was executed at Lowis’ residence. Evidence was recovered that connected Lowis to child sexually abusive material and criminal sexual conduct.

Lowis was lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility on November 14 and arraigned on November 15, 2016. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office issued the charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree (3 Counts), Child Sexually Abusive Material, Manufacturing (3 Counts), and Using a Computer to Commit a Crime (3 Counts).

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Candidates in city/township races


 

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

CITY OF CEDAR SPRINGS

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

Rose Powell

Rose Powell

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

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

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

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

Jerry Gross

Jerry Gross

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

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

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

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

NELSON TOWNSHIP

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

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

Robyn Britton

Robyn Britton

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

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

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

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

SOLON TOWNSHIP

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

Fred Gunnell

Fred Gunnell

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

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

Mark Hoskins

Mark Hoskins

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

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

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

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

Christine Witt

Christine Witt

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Gravelin

Bruce Gravelin

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

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

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

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

VILLAGE OF SAND LAKE

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

President

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bette Towsley

Bette Towsley

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

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

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

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

Sand Lake Village trustees – 3 seats

Nyha French

Nyha French

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

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

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

Tonia Parkhurst

Tonia Parkhurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposals on ballot for all of Kent County:

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

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

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Kent County offering free radon test kits


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You can’t see, smell or taste radon but the radioactive gas can kill. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 20,000 Americans every year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) recommends that all homes should be tested for radon every few years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home. Testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home.

N-Radon2While supplies last, KCHD is offering free radon test kits to Kent County residents. “Testing for radon is an easy and important step in protecting the health of your family,” says Sara Simmonds, supervising sanitarian with the Kent County Health Department. “The kit is easy to use. Simply hang a filter inside your house for a few days, then send it in a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope for testing.”

Residents using the kits and the State of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality will both receive the results. Residents can use the information when deciding on how best to pursue remediation, and the state gains a better understanding of the locations and prevalence of radon in Michigan. For help understanding the test results, please contact the KCHD Environmental Health Division at 616-632-6900.

Radon occurs naturally in the ground. It seeps into buildings through cracks or openings in the foundation of floors and walls, around sump openings, or spaces around plumbing. It occurs in both new and old homes. Radon has been found in houses built over a basement, over a crawlspace or built on slab-on-grade. The EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a map of risk zones for the United States. You can view the risk maps by going online to http://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-radon-programs#radonmap. Kent County is typically categorized as having a moderate to high levels of radon.

The kits are available Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the:

  • Kent County Health Department, 700 Fuller Avenue NE, Grand Rapids KCHD
  • North County Clinic at 4388 14 Mile Road NE, Rockford
  • KCHD South Clinic at 4700 Kalamazoo SE, Kentwood

Only one kit will be given per household.

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Reduce, reuse still saves the bottom line


 

From Kent County Dept. of Public Works

For decades, several dumps turned into landfills collected trash with little understanding of what it could mean to the environment. Today, with environmental regulation and engineered design we manage waste safely and responsibly. Residents in Kent County will begin to evenly share the fiscal responsibility of managing historic landfills beginning in 2016.

The Kent County Solid Waste Surcharge was approved in 2015 by County Commissioners. Residents will pay exactly $1.68 per year for the one ton of trash each household is expected to dispose of in 2016. Commercial customers, who typically generate significantly more trash, will pay $1.68 per ton. Many trash hauling companies are sending informational letters and will add the surcharge to customers’ bills as “Kent County Solid Waste Surcharge” or “County Surcharge,” or provide the information on their website.

The funds will enable Kent County to monitor and maintain three closed landfills for 30 or more years, as required by state law. The now-closed landfills, in Kentwood, Sparta and Rockford, were opened and operated and, in most cases, ceased operation before monitoring and cleanup funds were required to be set aside to pay for long-term care of these facilities. Additionally, it will help pay for the operations for proper disposal of household chemicals such as pesticides, paints, cleaners, automotive care, used oil and other hazardous wastes.

Information on the Kent County Solid Waste Surcharge can be found at www.accesskent.com/WasteOrdinance.

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Flu illness on rise in Kent County 


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The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is seeing more cases of suspected flu reported from area emergency departments and health care providers, in comparison to what is typical this time of year. More than 10 percent of people visiting emergency departments in Kent County last week were suffering from flu-like illness, and 6 out of ten patients presenting with flu-like illness were under the age of 18. So far this season, there have been 74 confirmed cases of flu reported to KCHD, but not every person who is sick with influenza goes to a health care provider or gets tested, so the actual number of illnesses is likely much higher.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu viruses can spread when people with flu cough, sneeze, or even talk. Someone might also get flu by touching a surface or object (like a phone) that has flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, it can be deadly.

Signs and symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (very tired), vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Not everyone with flu will experience all of the symptoms.

The flu can have serious complications for children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with already-weakened immune systems. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age to protect against flu viruses. “We know there has been some mutation in the flu virus that was expected for this year when the influenza vaccine was produced,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “But the flu vaccine is still very useful and the best protection you can get against influenza. Even in those cases where people get the flu, the illness is not as severe as it is in those unvaccinated.”

Now is the time to get you and your family vaccinated. It can take about two weeks for the vaccination to become effective. The Kent County Health Department seasonal influenza program provides vaccinations for all individuals six months of age and older. The cost of the vaccine ranges from $39-$55; FluMist nasal spray (a live, preservative-free, four strain vaccine) is available for $41.

Children from six months through eighteen years who have no insurance, or who have insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, will pay a sliding scale administration fee of up to $15. The Health Department can only bill Medicaid and Medicare; private insurance is not accepted. Cash, check, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover are accepted. To make an appointment at any of our four clinic locations, call (616) 632-7200.

You can also schedule online at www.stickittotheflu.com.

 

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