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Archive | June, 2021

Michigan drops mask, capacity restrictions after 15 months

By Scott McClallen, The Center Square

(The Center Square) – After 466 days of enacted widespread restrictions on Michiganders to slow the spread of COVID-19, most restrictions, including capacity restrictions and the mask mandate, ended Tuesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, when Michigan confirmed its first two known cases of COVID-19, and three days later, ordered K-12 schools closed and banned gatherings of 250 people or more.

Whitmer enacted the most severe restrictions in the 12 Midwest states and kept them the longest, as neighboring Indiana and Ohio reopened months before Michigan. Those far-reaching orders included threatening criminal charges for operating a motorboat, visiting a secondary home, and banning stores larger than 50,000 feet from selling gardening supplies.

The reopening announcement follows Michigan ranking dead last nationwide in COVID-19 economic recovery. Michigan was the only Midwest state with COVID-19 restrictions.

Whitmer’s ditched her “Vacc to Normal” plan that aimed to drop COVID-19 restrictions by July 1, which was preceded by a plan to keep restrictions until 70% of Michiganders 16 and older received their vaccine.

About 61% of Michiganders have received a first vaccine.

“Because the rates are so low right now, we’ve got an opportunity to drop a lot of these mandates that we have all had to abide by, so people can feel the freedom that comes with 61% of our population getting vaccinated,” Whitmer told CNN Tuesday. “When we get to 70%, we’ll all be much safer.”

Although many restrictions ended, Whitmer hasn’t yet ended the state of emergency, citing a need to protect vulnerable populations in corrections, long-term care, and agriculture.

Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, welcomed the economic reopening but pushed for Whitmer to end the state of emergency.

“Listening to the people in our community, I know everyone is more than ready for our lives to return to normal,” Frederick said in a statement. “It is time for the governor to end the statewide emergency declaration and move away from one-size-fits-all orders to a place of true partnership as our local public health experts and communities take the lead on remaining mitigation needs.”

Although stores can open at full capacity, business owners told lawmakers last week they’re in “survival mode” because of rising prices, scarce labor, and supply chain struggles. Many blamed boosted $300/week federal unemployment benefits extended through September as a reason they can’t find workers.

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Woman pleads guilty to lesser charge

This version corrects a story we ran last week

By Judy Reed

A Cedar Springs woman, charged with embezzlement from the Cedar Springs Junior Ball League, pled guilty last week to a lesser charge than she was originally given.

On Monday, June 14, Kathryn Merritt, 38, entered a plea of guilty to embezzlement of less than $200.00 from a nonprofit corporation, which is a misdemeanor, and carries a maximum of 1 year in jail. She originally was facing a felony, and up to 10-years in prison on a charge of embezzling more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.

The investigation got underway last year when Amy Gillette, president of CSJBL, filed an embezzlement complaint. Gillette told investigators that she retrieved bank statements and reviewed deposits and withdrawals, noting several financial discrepancies. 

 Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Price wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Merritt was interviewed “and confessed that the card was used by her to make purchases that were not approved.’’

The unauthorized transactions topped $24,300, court records show.

Sentencing is August 3. According to Gillette, Merritt is required to submit a lump sum payment of $10,000 at sentencing, an apology letter to the players, families and sponsors, and monthly payments for two years.

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Three injured in Courtland crash

A local man ran a stop sign at 15 Mile and Myers Lake Avenue last weekend, which resulted in injuries to three of his passengers.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred about 7:24 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, when a westbound Lexus sedan disregarded the stop sign at 15 Mile and Myers Lake Avenue and collided with an Acura SUV that was southbound on Myers Lake Avenue.

The driver of the Lexus, a 20-year-old male from Cedar Springs, was not injured. Three passengers in the vehicle sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. They were transported to a local hospital for treatment. The driver of the Acura SUV, a 53-year-old female from Hudsonville, and a juvenile passenger, were not injured.

Courtland Fire Department/EMS assisted on scene. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor.

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Two injured in Tyrone Township crash

A person who stopped at a stop sign in Tyrone Township Saturday night ended up being part of a three-vehicle crash and had to be pried from his vehicle.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred about 8:22 p.m. on Saturday, June 19, at the intersection of 20 Mile Rd and Red Pine Dr. 

The investigation by the deputies showed that a Volkswagen Passat that was westbound on 20 Mile Rd disregarded the stop sign. It collided with a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that was northbound on Red Pine Dr. A Ford F-150 pickup truck that was stopped at the intersection (eastbound 20 Mile Rd)  was struck by the Chevrolet Silverado because of the initial collision.

The driver of the Volkswagen Passat, a 27-year-old female from Ravenna, was not injured. The driver of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, a 60-year-old male from Grant, was also not injured. The driver of the Ford F-150, a 39-year male, and his juvenile passenger from Cedar Springs, sustained non-life-threatening injuries. They were transported to a local hospital for treatment. The driver of the Ford F-150 had to be extricated from the vehicle.

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Alcohol is suspected to be a factor, though not related to the inital collision.

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Grill raffle winner

The American Legion Auxiliary, Glen Hill Unit 287, of Cedar Springs would like to congratulate Steve Gerencer. Steve’s winning ticket for our Grill Raffle was drawn on June 19. Pictured is Steve with our Unit President Missy Townes, and his new grill. The Unit held this raffle to help with our Veteran’s programs.

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Summer reading fun

Spiderman at the Heart of Cedar Springs park celebrating reading with families at the Cedar Springs Public Library. Courtesy photo.

Have you signed up yet for the Cedar Springs Library’s summer reading program? Experience the fun and shenanigans both in person and online! Today, June 24, they will have a live animal program at the amphitheater from 2-3 p.m. Bring a blanket to sit on. If it’s raining, the event will be held inside the library. Sign up for the summer fun at the library or online at http://cedarsprings.readsquared.com/.

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Michigan stepping up speed enforcement

State aims to stem troubling rise in speed-related fatalities

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago, law enforcement agencies across the nation have reported an alarming rise in speeding and fatal crashes.

To combat this disturbing and dangerous trend, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Region 5 Office are partnering with five other states on a regional traffic safety campaign. As part of the “Great Lakes, High Stakes” campaign, more than 30 municipal, county and Michigan State Police (MSP) law enforcement agencies will focus on speeding drivers between June 19 and 27.

Nationally in 2019, 9,478 traffic fatalities involved crashes in which one or more drivers were speeding.

“Despite the fact that there were less miles traveled in 2020, the fatality rate rose—and speed may have been a key factor,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the OHSP. “We’ve said for decades that ‘speed kills,’ and the alarming data for 2020 confirms that the faster you drive the greater your risk of dying in a crash. We hope increased enforcement over the coming weeks will help change these dangerous driving behaviors and save lives.”

While Michigan has seen a 22-percent reduction in traffic crashes—245,432 in 2020 compared to 314,377 in 2019—there has been an increase in fatalities. Crash data from the MSP Criminal Justice Information Center indicates 1,083 people died from crashes on Michigan roads in 2020, a 10-percent increase over 2019, with 985 deaths reported. In 2020, there were 200 speed-related fatalities on Michigan roadways compared to 185 in 2019, an 8-percent increase.

Also in Michigan, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, in 2020:

■ Out of male drivers involved in all traffic crashes in 2020, 6.4 percent were speeding.

■ 15.2 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding.

■ 11.2 percent of drivers in the 15- to 20-year-old age group involved in crashes (4,650 out of 41,685) were speeding.

■ Out of all drivers who were drinking in crashes, 15.1 percent were speeding.

Recent insurance industry studies show that about 112,000 speeding tickets are issued each day, or about 41 million per year. The average fine for a speeding violation is between $115-$135.

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Michigan Youth Challenge Academy class #44

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) held a virtual graduation ceremony for the more than 100 cadets of class #44 on June 19. Family, friends and community members were invited to watch the ceremony live on the MYCA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MYCA.MICH/.

The National Guard Youth Challenge program is a cost-free alternative education program which offers at-risk youth the opportunity to change their future. Of the 106 anticipated graduates in this cycle, 95 are earning their high school diploma while the remaining cadets will earn their General Education Development certificate or continue their academic pursuits towards earning their high school diploma.

“These young men and women pushed themselves through a rigorous 22-week self-development program to better their futures and they should be extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Their grit and determination will help prepare them for any challenge that may come their way.”

The graduating class consists of cadets from across the state, hailing from 36 different counties. As part of the curriculum, cadets participate in drill and ceremony formations, meet physical fitness standards, attend to academics and participate in community outreach.

“As part of their Youth Challenge experience, these cadets have provided a total of 2,884 hours of service to their community, averaging 27.2 hours per cadet,” said Anica Simmons, deputy director of the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy. “Their volunteer efforts provide additional opportunities for career exploration as well as enhancing community-needs awareness and understanding the importance of giving back.”

Candidates for the Youth Challenge Academy are 16-18 years old and are at risk of not graduating high school. Because of the voluntary nature of the program, applicants cannot be mandated to attend by parents or the justice system. The next class of cadets will begin on July 18, 2021. Graduates of the Youth Challenge Academy are eligible for the Job Challenge program if they are physically and mentally capable of participation. The program focuses on career preparation and continues to provide opportunities for academic accreditation.

Both the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy and the Michigan Job Challenge program are free to participants and there is no requirement for military obligation. Interested parties can call 800-372-0523 or visit www.Michigan.gov/MYCA for more information.

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Catoosa still remembers

By Judy Reed

The scene of what remains of an area restaurant in Catoosa, OK after a tornado ripped through the small town of 3,200, leaving destruction in its wake in the spring of 1993. 
Left to Right: Former Catoosa Chamber of Commerce Director Glen Taylor and Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh in 1993 at Catoosa. 

We recently received a letter from former Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh, who was City Manager here from 1991-1996. He currently serves as Township Manager in Meridian Charter Township. In the letter he sent, he recalled an event that linked Cedar Springs with another small town—Catoosa, OK—850 miles away.

“On April 24, 1993, the little town of Catoosa, Oklahoma was hit with two Saturday afternoon tornadoes that devastated the community,” he wrote. “In the span of minutes, the town suffered 10 deaths and massive destruction. Although it has been 28 years, Cedar Springs residents may recall that after hearing about the disaster, the Red Flannel City jumped into action. City officials raised funds through various means to assist the Oklahoma city of 3,000 residents. After just two weeks, Cedar Springs had raised $7,250. Mayor Jerry Hall was instrumental in the efforts as he served as the Director of Public Works. The next challenge was getting the funds in the hands of Catoosa city officials.

“American Airlines donated airline tickets and two city representatives presented the check to Catoosa officials. (It was Frank Walsh and Cindy Miller, head of the Chamber of Commerce.) Three months later, Catoosa officials visited Cedar Springs and officially named the two communities “Sister Cities.” It was a heartwarming experience at the American Legion Hall.

“Last month, while visiting nearby, I spent the afternoon in Catoosa,” wrote Walsh. “I stopped by the local Historical Museum. It was amazing that the museum volunteer remembered the 1993 act of kindness. It was apparent that Cedar Springs had left a lifelong impression on Catoosa. It was memorable for me to see the community in a much better place than May of 1993.

Following my recent visit, I left Catoosa with a genuine smile knowing that kindness and compassion will never go out of style.”    

We found a couple of old articles from 1993, talking about how Cedar Springs stepped in to help Catoosa start to rebuild, along with a couple of photos. Their population has now more than doubled to over 7,000 people. 

We hope that the people of Cedar Springs retain that same kindness they showed Catoosa by helping each other and their neighbors both near and far.

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Bicycle struck by vehicle

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a personal injury crash where a bicycle was struck by a vehicle in Algoma Township.

On Tuesday, June 15, at 10:41 a.m., deputies from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Indian Lakes Rd NE and the White Pine Trail on a bicyclist that was struck by a vehicle. Police said that the bicyclist, a 30-year-old female from Boston, Massachusetts, entered the roadway from the trail and was struck by an eastbound vehicle who had the right-of-way. The vehicle, a Hyundai Accent, attempted to avoid hitting the bicyclist but was unable to. After the collision, both the vehicle and bicyclist went into the ditch. The bicyclist was temporarily pinned underneath the vehicle. Several witnesses helped to lift and push the vehicle off the bicyclist.

The bicyclist was transported to Spectrum Hospital with injuries, including head and facial lacerations and leg pain. The driver of the Hyundai Accent, a 69-year-old female from Cedar Springs, and passenger, a 33-year-old female from Cedar Springs, were not injured.

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Michigan’s endangered pollinators: how you can help

Rusty patched bumble bee feeding on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Photo by Kim Mitchell; USFWS.

From the Michigan DNR

When we say “pollinator,” the image of a honeybee probably pops into your head. But many other species are essential pollinators, too. Plus, the honeybee is not a native bee! They were brought to America by European colonists in the 17th century. There are more than 450 species of native wild bee in Michigan and around 4,000 in the U.S. So, while honeybees may be the face of the “save the bees” movement and our first idea of a pollinator, they are not the only ones in trouble.

The rusty patched bumblebee, the first wild bee to be listed, in 2017, as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is of particular concern for conservationists. Bumblebees are a keystone species in most ecosystems, meaning that they are necessary for native wildflower reproduction, creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife and pollinating many different crops. Because of their ability to buzz pollinate, these bees are very effective pollinators. They rely on hydrangea, locust trees, goldenrod, blueberry bushes, spotted Joe-pye weed and bee balm for food and shelter.

The yellow-banded bumble bee is a USFWS species of concern, and, while not listed as endangered, is relatively rare. They rely on goldenrod, which can be found in abundance in Michigan. Sometimes considered a weed, this plant provides much-needed nutrients to many different species. Instead of mowing over goldenrods or cutting them back, let them grow.

Epeoloides pilosulus, a kind of cuckoo bee, so named for laying their eggs in other species’ nest to offload rearing their young, was once found throughout the northern and eastern U.S. and southern Canada and was believed extinct until a specimen was found in Nova Scotia in 2002. Michigan State University researchers found a single specimen in 2018, after a 74-year absence in the state. This species relies entirely on fringed loosestrife, a sprawling perennial with yellow flowers that is not related to the invasive purple loosestrife.

The Poweshiek skipperling and Karner blue butterfly are two endangered butterflies found in Michigan. The skipperling, a small orange, brown and cream butterfly, has declined rapidly in the past 50 years due to habitat loss. Once common on native prairies of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, this species is thought to now be concentrated in only six populations on earth, two of which are in Michigan. It relies on the grass species prairie dropseed and mat muhly to lay its eggs and black-eyed Susan flowers for food.

The Karner blue butterfly is entirely dependent on the wild lupine. Because of habitat loss, it now only is found in remnant oak savannas. The thumbnail-sized butterfly lays its eggs on or near lupine plants, and its caterpillars feed only on lupine leaves and flowers. This butterfly benefits from DNR prescribed burns, which help wild lupine thrive.

All these rare pollinators would greatly benefit by passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

There are many other endangered and rare pollinators in Michigan. All are important for our local ecosystems, and their decline has troubling consequences. Losing these species also means losing natural biodiversity and disrupting local environments. Many of the factors driving their decline are human-caused, like intensive farming, climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss.

So, how can you help these important, endangered or rare species? Get involved. Community science is one of the best ways to help revitalize these populations.

Learn how to identify native pollinators and report your observations.

Become an MSU pollinator champion.

Get involved in local habitat restoration and protection projects.

Plant a pollinator garden with the key plants these species rely on. Even a small patch of pollinator-friendly greenery is helpful.

Questions? Contact Dan Kennedy at 517-896-2602.

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Gypsy moth feeding season nearing its end

Help stressed yard trees now and remove egg masses this fall

From the Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Caterpillar: Gypsy moth caterpillars have paired blue and red dots down their backs and tufts of hair on their sides. Photo courtesy of Karla Salp, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org.

Gypsy moth caterpillars have been busy this spring in areas across Michigan. As these now large caterpillars near the pupal or cocoon stage, tree defoliation is at its peak.

In highly infested areas, the caterpillars’ munching is audible, and round pellets of frass, or waste, rain down throughout the day and night. Oaks, aspens, willows, and other host trees may be nearly leafless, or defoliated, by their feeding.

The hairy, yellow-faced caterpillars with pairs of red and blue spots down their backs can be found on buildings, vehicles, equipment or anything that’s been outside for a while.

Widespread invasive gypsy moth outbreaks in Michigan became apparent in the mid-1980s. Suppression programs in the 1990s and 2000s introduced predators, parasitoids and a fungal disease called Entomophaga maimaiga to aid the naturally occurring nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV) in controlling populations.

NPV and the fungal disease have important benefits—they are specific to gypsy moth populations and do not affect people, pets or beneficial insects like pollinators or insect predators. In addition, they remain in the environment, continuing to help control gypsy moth populations every year. The fungal disease spreads best in moist springs, so this year’s drought conditions may have slowed its activity.

These suppression efforts have continued to keep gypsy moth populations largely in check since the 1990s, naturalizing gypsy moth infestations into Michigan’s forests. Today, gypsy moth outbreaks are cyclical, peaking approximately every seven to 10 years. In these years, the virus and the fungal disease are spread more easily through dense populations, eventually causing a crash.

What to do right now

Pupae: By late June, caterpillars are reaching their pupal or cocoon stage, seen here. Photo courtesy of Karla Salp, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org.

After six to eight weeks of feeding, caterpillars build cocoons. This inactive stage should be beginning now in the southern Lower Peninsula and in one to two weeks in the northern Lower Peninsula, providing a natural end to the nuisance.

If trees have been defoliated in your yard, water them frequently to help them re-flush and produce a second set of leaf buds for the year. Healthy forests will re-flush on their own with little to no long-term impacts.

Remember, some decline is natural. Removing old or stressed trees from the ecosystem is critical to allow for more vigorous regeneration to take their place.

While caterpillars prefer leaves, if forced to, they will eat needles on pines, spruces and other conifers. These trees cannot re-flush, so remove caterpillars when possible to prevent tree loss.

The window for effective pesticide application has passed, but if caterpillars remain a nuisance on your property, there are a few inexpensive but effective things you can do to protect individual trees.

Make a tree trunk trap: Cut a band of burlap 18 inches wide and long enough to go around the tree trunk and overlap a bit. Tie a string around the center of the band to make a two-layered skirt around the trunk. When caterpillars climb trees daily to feed, they will get caught in the band. Scrape them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them.

Use a safe and easy spray: Soap and water mixed in a garden sprayer can be applied to caterpillars climbing on trunks, decks or siding.

Gear up: It’s best to wear gloves when coming into contact with caterpillars, as their hairs can cause a slight allergic reaction in some people.

For additional helpful tips, visit Michigan State University›s Integrated Pest Management gypsy moth webpage at CANR.MSU.edu.

What’s next?

Approximately two weeks after cocooning, adult gypsy moths will emerge for a short mating cycle. Females are white with brown to black markings and do not fly. Males are gray to brown with dark markings and will fly to locate females. Females produce a single, fuzzy, tan to brown egg mass that can hold over 200 eggs.

Egg masses: Gypsy moths’ brown, fuzzy egg masses should be removed from trees, structures and equipment and properly destroyed. Photo courtesy of USDA APHIS PPQ.

Egg masses will persist until next spring when the hatch begins. To lessen impacts next year, it is important to look for, remove and destroy egg masses.

Look on trees, buildings, outdoor furniture and playsets—anything that’s outside.

Use a scraper or hard plastic card to scrape egg masses into a container of soapy water.

Let them soak overnight, then bag and dispose of them.

Alternately, egg masses can be placed in a fire and burned.

Note that just scraping them onto the ground will not kill the eggs, and egg masses will still hatch next spring.

It’s important to check for and remove egg masses from cars, equipment and anything that has been outdoors before you pack up for your travels.

Leave firewood at home; it’s a common source for spreading gypsy moth.

To find out more about invasive gypsy moth life stages, identification and management, visit Michigan.gov/Invasives.

Michigan’s Invasive Species Program is cooperatively implemented by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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