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Archive | April, 2020

Illegal burn sparks 10-acre grass fire

A 10-acre grass fire spread across three properties in Courtland Township Tuesday. Here firefighters are shown at the home of Alice Allen, at 8860 16 Mile Rd. Post photo by L. Allen.
The fire was stopped just outside Allen’s barn. Post photo by L. Allen.

By Judy Reed

A Courtland Township resident will be fined after an illegal burn caused a 10-acre grass fire Tuesday, April 28. According to Courtland Fire Chief Steve Mojzuk, Courtland and several other fire departments fought the fire, which was called in at 5:52 p.m.

The first firefighter on the scene at 8860 16 Mile Rd noted the fire was about five acres or more with structures nearby, including a barn. Additional fire departments were called in to help battle the blaze and to keep it from getting to the barn. Those included Oakfield, Cedar Springs, Spencer, and Maple Valley.

According to Chief Mojzuk, Deputy Chief Green was in charge at the scene. They determined that the fire started on a neighbor’s property at 8940 16 Mile. Mojzuk said he was burning household trash—mattresses/box springs, shingles, etc. and left it unattended. The fire then swept across the property to the 8860 address—the home of Alice Allen, who with her daughter Lois Allen, started our newspaper.

Lois said her mom didn’t notice the fire at first. She looked out the window and wondered why it looked foggy, then realized it was smoke and saw the firefighters trying to put out the fire. They kept the fire from getting to the barn and the shed next to it was only slightly charred. The fire also spread to the neighbor on the other side of Allen.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 7:41 p.m.

This was not the first time Alice Allen’s land was ravaged by a fire from the same neighbor, according to Lois. Several years ago a fire was started by a discarded cigarette and it spread to her property and burned down her barn.

Mojzuk noted that Courtland has an ordinance in place to bill for recovery fees if they are dispatched to an illegal burn. “We don’t usually do it but with a fire this big, and with what he was burning—all of it illegal—and the fact he left it unattended, he will be getting a fine,” explained Mojzuk. “If he had called to get a permit, we would have told him those things are illegal to burn.”

He said they figure out the cost of the fine by counting the number of trucks and firefighters at the scene.

Mojzuk had this advice for anyone thinking of burning:

  • First, call your local fire department about a permit.
  • Burn only leaves, brush and wood. NO trash, cardboard, roofing, tires, etc.
  • Have a hose on hand in case it’s needed.
  • Attend the fire until it’s done, and then douse with the hose.

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Sand Lake man jailed after high speed pursuit

From left to right is Deputy Green with K9 Remi and Sgt Bailey with K9 Dak. The K9s apprehended the suspect after he fled his crashed vehicle. Courtesy photo.

A 35-year-old Sand Lake man was arrested Monday, April 27, after he led police on a chase on back roads that reached speeds of 80 mph.

According to the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office, they were dispatched to assist the Grant Police Department in a vehicle pursuit. The Grant police attempted to stop a vehicle and it disregarded the officer’s lights. The vehicle continued east on 112th St where speeds reached 80 mph. 

The crash and foot chase occurred on Stanton Rd near Newcosta (W. County Line Rd).

Eventually the driver of the vehicle crashed on Stanton Rd. near Newcosta (W. County Line Rd) and fled on foot. The Newaygo County Sheriff’s K9 team was deployed after the stop. After a lengthy track through the woods and several swamps the suspect was apprehended by both K9s. 

The suspect is a 35-year-old male from Sand Lake. He was lodged at the Newaygo County Jail on charges of parole violation, fleeing and eluding and possession of methamphetamine. He was lodged pending a formal arraignment.

The following departments assisted in the investigation: Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office, Grant Police Department, Michigan State Police, Michigan DNR, Central Michigan Enforcement Team and the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office.

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House explodes in Spencer Township

A house in the 15000 block of Meddler had an explosion in the basement Tuesday.
Photo by J. Reed.
Spencer Township Fire Department responded to the explosion on Meddler. 
Photo by J. Reed.

Firefighters and police were called to a house in Spencer Township Tuesday evening, April 28, after an explosion.

The event occurred around 6 p.m. in the 15000 block of Meddler, near 19 Mile Rd.

According to a police officer at the scene, firefighters said the explosion came from the basement and caused a lot of damage to the back of the house.

There were two people in the house at the time, and one of them was to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

A fire marshal was expected to be called in to determine the cause.

No other details were available at press time. We are waiting for a return call or email from Spencer Fire, and will update this story when we know more.

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Coffee in the parking lot

Russ Austin having coffee with friend DM White. 
Photo by Kathy Austin
DM White chatting with friend Russ Austin. 
Photo by Kathy Austin

Many like to have a good cup of coffee and talk with friends. But that hasn’t been possible for weeks due to the stay-at-home order.

Longtime friends Russ Austin and DM White wanted to share the new “norm” around here—parking lot coffee! Both sit in their car and roll the window down and talk while sipping a cup. Russ said he had to confess they were only 5’10” apart. 

Russ is a local builder and DM is a retired postal carrier. 

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Virtual LifeWalk 20/20 Vision for Life

From Alpha Family Center

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in place, Alpha Family Center is hosting a virtual LifeWalk this year. Although we will not be gathering together for this year’s fundraiser, there’s nothing saying we can’t still have fun while raising funds for Alpha.

Our theme for this year’s LifeWalk is “20/20 Vision for Life”. Hosting it virtually means those who participate will need to use social media, phone calls, and emails to connect with their family, friends and co-workers to request their pledge of support. The virtual events runs from April 27 through on Sept 1, each participant who collects $500 or more in donations and/or pledges will earn a chance to win this year’s Grand Prize (TBD). We will announce the winner of Grand Prize on Alpha’s Facebook page after September 1, 2020. 

Our goal this year is to raise over $20,000. Together we can make a difference for LIFE! 

Go to our website www.alphafamilycentercs.org to print off a pledge form. 

A prize will be awarded to whoever demonstrates the most fun while fundraising.

Some suggestions on how to make fundraising FUN!

  • Challenge another individual, family or a church to see who can raise the most for Alpha. Include something fun that the losers have to do and share the photos with us. For example, get a pie in the face, color their hair a wild color, shave their head, or eat something extremely strange. Get creative and share the fun with us.
  • Host your own private LifeWalk event; include some of the fun things you would normally see at a LifeWalk. Maybe dad dresses up like a clown, face painting, bake cookies, wear matching t-shirts, a balloons release, and remember a time of prayer.
  • Decorate your bikes and have some family fun on your own LifeRide.
  • Make up some creative signs showing support for LIFE and go for a walk around your neighborhood. Don’t forget to make it fun! 
  • Hold your own LifeRun and award a medal to whoever wore the funniest running outfit.

Email us your photos of how you made this year’s virtual LifeWalk FUN! Email to: alphafamilycentercs@gmail.com. You may be the winner of a special prize!

When you contact your supporters let them know of all the giving options available this year

Giving options for Virtual LifeWalk 20/20

  • Mail: Make checks payable to “Alpha Family Center” with your name and LifeWalk written on memo line of check. Mail to: Alpha Family Center P.O. Box 450 Cedar Springs, MI 49319
  • Alpha’s website: www.alphafamilycentercs.org Event page and look for link for FundEasy and click on it to make a donation to LifeWalk 20/20.
  • FundEasy: If you are collecting pledges you will need to first register and create your own personal FundEasy page for your family, friends and co-workers to donate to. Go to Alpha’s Facebook page. There will be a LifeWalk 20/20 Vision for Life! FundEasy post, click on that to register. Once you are registered then others can begin making donations to your page.
  • Monthly Pledge (1 year commitment). For example if you usually donate $120 but want to make a $10 payment each month for one year you can. Simple make checks payable to “Alpha Family Center” with Monthly Pledge written on memo line of check. Mail to: Alpha Family Center P.O. Box 450 Cedar Springs, MI 49319
  • Faith Pledge: pledge any amount and pay by Sept. 1, 2020. Make checks payable to “Alpha Family Center/LifeWalk 20/20” with Faith Pledge written on memo line of check. Mail to: Alpha Family Center P.O. Box 450 Cedar Springs, MI 49319 before Sept. 1, 2020

Mail your completed pledge forms with any checks you have into:

Alpha Family Center, 

P.O. Box 450

Cedar Springs, MI 49319

Alpha has decided to begin the conversion process from a pregnancy care center to a pregnancy medical center and had hoped to begin raising the additional funds needed to do so during LifeWalk. By making the conversion to a medical center we will have the ability to provide FREE ultrasounds. We understand the important role ultrasounds play in a woman’s decision when faced with an unexpected pregnancy. Ultrasounds have proven to change minds and save lives as women see and hear their babies. If anyone would like to make an additional contribution directly to our Ultrasound Fund “Vision for Life” we would greatly appreciate your support in this life saving effort.

Alpha’s Virtual LifeWalk “20/20 Vision for Life!” T-shirts are available to purchase this year. Prices are $10-$12 and all profits from the sale of T-shirts will go directly into the “Vision for Life” ultrasound fund. T-shirts may be purchased when you register as a participant through FundEasy or in person at Alpha. The final T-shirt order will be placed on September 8th. You will be notified when your T-shirts are available for pickup.

To register for this event or to download a pledge form, go to https://www.alphafamilycentercs.org/Events and scroll down the page for the links.

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Governor Whitmer Extends Stay Home, Stay Safe Order

Directs residents to wear homemade masks in enclosed public spaces and lifts restrictions on activities like lawn care, golfing, boating

LANSING, Mich. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order 2020-59 last week, extending her Stay Home, Stay Safe order through May 15. The new order will require people to wear homemade face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces. It will also lift some restrictions on outdoor activities and allow some workers who perform previously suspended activities to go back to work.

“Data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. That’s good, but we must keep it up. Social distancing is our best weapon to defeat this enemy,” said Governor Whitmer. “With new COVID-19 cases leveling off, however, we are lifting some of the restrictions put in place in the previous order. I want to be crystal clear: the overarching message today is still the same. We must all do our part by staying home and staying safe as much as possible.”

“The numbers we’ve seen in the past week have shown a plateau in positive cases, but Michiganders must continue doing their part to fight this virus and protect their families,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “The governor has taken a number of critical steps to protect Michigan families, and this order today will allow that work to continue. We will keep monitoring the data closely and work with our partners across state government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The order will require people to wear homemade, non-medical grade face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces. It will also require employers to provide at least cloth face coverings to their employees. People won’t have to wear face coverings when they’re taking a walk in the neighborhood, but when they go to the grocery store, they should be wearing one. Under the order, however, no one will be subject to criminal penalty for going without a mask.

The new executive order will also allow some workers who perform previously suspended activities to go back on the job. Landscapers, lawn-service companies, and nurseries can return to work, subject to strict social distancing. Retailers that do not sell necessary supplies may reopen for curbside pick-up and for delivery. Big box stores can reopen closed areas, like garden centers. And bike repair and maintenance can come back online.

At the same time, the order will ease up on some restrictions on members of the public. It will, for example, allow motorized boating and golf (but no golf carts), consistent with sound social distancing. It will also permit individuals to travel between their residences, though such travel during the epidemic is strongly discouraged. And it will clarify that state parks remain open, as they have been throughout the emergency.

The governor’s actions today are in close alignment with other Midwest states. On April 16, Governor Whitmer announced that she and Governors Mike DeWine (OH), Tony Evers (WI), Tim Walz (MN), JB Pritzker (IL), Eric Holcomb (IN), and Andy Beshear (KY) will work in close coordination to reopen the economy in the Midwest region. The governor is committed to continuing to work closely with other governors to protect families and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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Warning siren testing to begin Friday

Kent County Emergency Management and City of Grand Rapids Emergency Management will begin conducting monthly testing of the outdoor warning sirens on May 1 at 12:00 p.m. The tests will continue the first Friday of each month, May through October, at 12:00 p.m.

The purpose of the outdoor warning sirens is to alert residents of an imminent hazard and to prompt them to find shelter and seek further information. Two examples of imminent severe weather include a tornado warning for Kent County or a storm in Kent County with sustained winds at or above 70mph. Both are potentially dangerous situations and should prompt residents to take shelter in the lowest level of a building, such as a basement, or an interior room that does not have windows.

The testing of the outdoor warning sirens is also an excellent time to discuss plans for severe weather with your family and in your workplace. Plans should include what actions are prompted by those alerts/warnings, ways for family/friends to communicate, a safe and familiar place to rendezvous if home is not accessible, etc.

If you do not hear the siren testing on May 1 at 12:00pm, and believe you should have, complete and submit the online google form at http://bit.ly/kcwarningsirens or you can contact your local township or city office. 

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Initial auto insurance rate filings exceed anticipated savings under the new law

(LANSING, MICH) Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that Michigan’s auto insurer rate filings approved by DIFS will provide savings to Michigan’s drivers, that not only equal, but exceed, the law’s required reductions of average statewide per vehicle premiums. In its review, DIFS rejected Personal Injury Protection (PIP) filings that used any rating factors not permitted under the new law, such as sex, marital status, home ownership, or zip code, requiring companies to resubmit each filing with prohibited factors removed. For the first time, all filed rates were reviewed by outside independent actuaries to confirm compliance with the law.

“This is great news for Michigan drivers and their families,” said Governor Whitmer. “Last year, we worked across the aisle to pass a historic, bipartisan auto insurance reform to bring down costs for drivers everywhere. It’s great to see that it’s paying off for Michiganders, especially during a time when drivers may need extra money in their pockets. I look forward to continue working across the aisle to ensure lower rates for Michiganders.”

Under the new auto insurance law, which takes effect for policies that issue or renew after July 1, 2020, Michigan drivers will now have a choice in the amount of PIP medical coverage to purchase on their policy. These choices equal or exceed the highest benefits in the country, and Michigan is the only state where unlimited PIP medical continues to be an option.

PIP Medical coverage pays allowable expenses for medical care, recovery, rehabilitation, and some funeral expenses, and typically represents almost half of an individual driver’s premium. Even when adjusted for statutory increases in Bodily Injury coverage (BI), the filings continue to show savings better that what the law required. Pursuant to the new law, rate reductions are shown as statewide averages and are required for eight years. Auto insurance premiums are very individual to each consumer and may vary based upon such things as driving record, miles driven, and coverages selected. 

As of April 24, 2020, the initial six filings approved represent a quarter of Michigan’s auto insurance market. The aggregated data shows that the average, statewide PIP medical reductions exceeding the statutory requirements as follows. 

Early on, there were concerns raised in the media that PIP Medical reductions would be negated by statutory increases in BI Coverage limits, but that is not the case:

“These filings show statewide savings exceeding the law’s requirement at each PIP coverage level,” said DIFS Director, Anita Fox. “Michiganders can also choose a coverage that best fits their family’s needs and budget, and can expect savings for each option.”

DIFS continues to operate its dedicated, no-fault hotline with calls being answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Drivers can also call 833-ASK-DIFS (275-3437), email at autoinsurance@michigan.gov, or visit: www.michigan.gov/autoinsurance for more details on changes to the law, a schedule of weekly town halls, and instructional videos on how to fill out new forms.

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Over 1 million michigan workers affected by COVID-19 now receiving unemployment benefits

UIA has added staff and resources to quickly disburse more than $1.6 billion in unemployment benefits to Michigan working families hurt by COVID-19

LANSING, MICH. The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has provided benefits to 1,018,315 Michigan workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19. The agency also disbursed more than $1.66 billion in payments since March 15. The most recent U.S. Dept. of Labor report showed 1,178,021 Michiganders filed unemployment claims between March 15 – April 18. Most workers who have not yet received unemployment benefits will be eligible in the coming weeks once they complete the federal requirement to certify their claim.

“We are working hard to provide emergency financial assistance to those affected by COVID-19, with more than 1 million Michiganders receiving benefits,” said Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “While Michigan’s unemployment system appears to be outpacing the rest of the country in paying benefits, much work remains for those who still need help completing their claim. We will not rest until everyone receives the benefits they are entitled to.” In conjunction with the federal CARES Act, Michigan was among the first states in the nation to begin sending the additional $600 federal payments in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and make the unemployment application available to self-employed workers and independent contractors through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In a recent Detroit Free Press report, Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst of Washington, D.C., nonprofit National Employment Law Project, said the state has been uniquely responsive to the crisis. Michigan is one of the few states already issuing the additional $600 pandemic benefit handed down from the federal government, she said. Evermore credited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for improved access to benefits.

Added Capacity The UIA has extended its call center hours and added hundreds of customer facing staff. The agency has also built in new tools to its online system connecting more than 100 staff to resolve technical issues like locked accounts.

Historical Demand In the weeks preceding the pandemic, the UIA received around 5,000 new weekly unemployment claims. During the Great Recession, the weekly high was around 77,000 in 2009.

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Motorboat ban rescinded following MUCC suit

From the Michigan Conservation Club

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that the arbitrary and unconstitutional ban on motorized boats has been rescinded. 

Although neither the word “boat” nor “motor” ever appeared in Executive Order 2020-42, law enforcement officers, under direction from Gov. Whitmer and Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger, have written tickets citing anglers for violations of the executive order specific to motor boating.

The governor’s announcement and signing of the new Executive Order 2020-59 comes two days after a judge agreed to hear testimony regarding a temporary injunction filed by Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC). Members of MUCC have been ticketed for violating “Frequently Asked Questions,” which appeared on the DNR and governor’s websites.

MUCC filed an initial complaint in United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan on April 19. On Tuesday, MUCC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. Judge Paul Maloney acknowledged that the boating ban “confusion puts members of MUCC in a precarious situation” and set a formal hearing for April 29.

MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter said the organization’s members, supporters and stakeholders were instrumental in helping to prevent further wrongful prosecution of anglers and boaters. 

“The MUCC lawsuit placed discernable pressure on the governor’s office and DNR to reconsider the unconstitutional and ambiguous language that was being enforced,” Trotter said. “The grassroots power of MUCC proved that individual anglers’ voices can be heard and that they do matter.”

The new order explicitly states that outdoor activities, including boating, are now allowed while “remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.”

MUCC thanks Gov. Whitmer for her willingness to reverse her position after giving careful consideration to the arguments presented by responsible sportsmen and sportswomen. Legislative leaders, from both sides of the aisle, also demonstrated strong support for anglers and boaters across the state. 

MUCC attorney Aaron Phelps, a partner with Varnum LLP in Grand Rapids, said anglers and boaters have a right to clearly understand the criminal penalties they are subject to, and Whitmer’s reversal is a step in the right direction.

“Our case was very straightforward—Michigan boaters and anglers may not be threatened with criminal charges based on an arbitrary interpretation of a poorly written executive order,” Phelps said. “To do so violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and we are pleased that our federal lawsuit was well-received by the governor.”

Charter guide, avid angler and owner of Teachin’ Fishin’ Lance Valentine said MUCC’s actions reinforce the organization’s worth and value to the angling community. Valentine was one of the first industry leaders to call for action from MUCC.

“Anglers need a group like MUCC to lead the charge in Lansing and be the watchdog over the DNR, legislature and governor’s office,” Valentine said. “My livelihood is at stake, and I feel better knowing someone has anglers’ best interest at heart when we can’t be there.”

Whitmer’s announcement came on the eve of the state’s treasured walleye and trout opener. Launches across the state were expected to be busy, and anglers should remember that further orders by the governor could explicitly prohibit motorized boats and public access if social distancing measures are not followed.

Professional anglers Mark Zona and Kevin VanDam said this is anglers’ chance to prove they understand the seriousness of this health crisis and are able to keep that top of mind while recreating responsibly.

“The lakes, rivers and streams of Michigan will again be buzzing with anglers tomorrow thanks to MUCC and their concern for the rights of anglers and hunters in Michigan,” Zona said. “Anglers need to be responsible and prove that they can properly follow all safety protocols related to social distancing.”

“Fishing and our freshwater resource is at the heart of who we are as Michiganders,” VanDam said. “This collaborative effort could not have been achieved without MUCC, Michigan anglers, industry folks and the businesses that make communities throughout Michigan thrive.”

President of the Lake St. Clair Walleye Association and MUCC Fisheries Committee Chair Tim Muir said his club members were looking forward to hitting the water.

“The walleye fishing is really heating up, and I can’t thank MUCC enough for helping to get anglers back out on the water,” Muir said. “I’m excited to be able to fish this season and am thankful for a group like MUCC that truly represents not only anglers but all sportsmen and sportswomen in Michigan.” 

Please stay in or near your vehicle as you wait to launch your boat and observe the recommended 6-feet social distancing measure at all times.

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